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Isocracy and the Federal Election

So the the years have passed and Australia is in the midst of a Federal election again. Rather surprisingly, the opposition Labor Party actually looks like it has a chance of winning. This is partially by putting out policies that are so middling that its hard to find people that actually disagree with them, but also because of an surprisingly terrible Coalition campaign. In a week of utterly dunderhead moves, they Prime Minister started off by claiming that Labor's negative gearing policy would result in house prices collapsing and rents going up. I could not help but pen a few words on that subject on the Isocracy website, as it does touch on one my favourite issues in political economy - the public subsidies paid to the landlord class, and the relative impoverishment of those who are not part of it.

However the quest for panic-button responses did not stop there. A day later, the Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton created a new multipart paradox that asylum seekers would be simultaneously innumerate illiterate and illiterate in the own language, take the jobs of locals, and join unemployment queues - all of which also required a 'blog post. Then, later in the week, the election took a very surprising turn with the Australian Federal Police raiding a Labor Senator's office, staffer homes, and a newspaper in search of documents that had been leaked "commercial in confidence" from the National Broadband Network. Of course this has led to the campaign spotlight being turned on the trainwreck that is National Broadband Network and the questions of the government's prior knowledge.

All this aside, this coming Saturday the Isocracy Network will be hosting a meeting with Bruce Poon, the state convenor of the Animal Justice Party to discuss animal welfare issues in the Federal election (the Greens have a comprehensive policy, Labor has a few important remarks, and surprisingly, the Liberals have nothing at all). It is, of course, not a subject that will attract too much attention, human beings being what they are, but nevertheless important for Isocracy as we made freedom from suffrance as a central policy regardless of species. Hopefully Bruce will be able to provide a well-grounded theoretical framework for this issue as well as the practical implementations in public policy.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/211714.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: contemplative
  • Current Music: Big Night Music, Shriekback
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Animal Welfare Issues, RPG Sessions, HPC/Cloud Development

I've organised a meeting of the Isocracy Network for May 28th, with the Victorian convener of the Animal Justice Party. It's an issue of which I confess that I don't have enormous knowledge on, but recognise a general distinction for welfare based on sentience and awareness and rights based on intellect and consciousness (with a continuum in between). Animal welfare issues are obviously not going to be a major issue in the election, but nevertheless it will be good to hear the speaker, the issues, and to provide a theoretical grounding to the issue as a whole. Apropos, the Isocracy secretary has also started a reading and discussion group of The Jacobin.

Played Laundry Files last night, dealing with a incarnation of the The Slender Man, tied up with Cthulhu-mythos worship and graphics card development (Laundry Files is like that). Our Australian-setting variant does have a great deal of charm and would make a fascinating supplement in its own right for the game and perhaps even for some fiction. Tonight (indeed currently) playing Eclipse Phase Dance with the Devil scenario. I am still taking it easy after three days of a head and throat cold, so have joined the game via Skype - along with one player in New Zealand and another in Vietnam, as well as the two at the GM's physical location. There is something delightfully appropriate playing in such a fashion given the setting.

Although I've had a few days off work, the rest of the team brough the "bare metal" nodes online for testing on the Spartan HPC/Cloud hybrid system. This was very successful, and perhaps a world's first (albeit something that's not hugely difficult). Initial testing generated some results that were as expected; internode communication on the cloud nodes had ten times the latency as the traditional HPC nodes - and there is still further optimisation to make on the compilers to improve the general performance. Have also brought Brian May and imajica_lj on to the team to assist the authentication and cluster management respectively. All is very good in this part of the world.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/211486.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: sick
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Gaming and Hyperphantasia

Sunday's gaming session was GURPS Middle Earth; our GM has been running games around the Lake Town region using a European dark ages millieu, specifically the Baltic-Germanic regions. The scenarios have been taken from Harn, which actually has some of its own fascinating tie-ins with Middle-Earth - and which does quite well in portraying magic as an elaboration of reality rather than a replacement, not quite as subtle as magical realism, but along the same trajectory. Afterwards we had a brief meeting of the RPG Review Cooperative committee; not too much to report to be honest. With the exception of the library, which really has been quite a success with a couple of generous donations, the Coop had fallen into doing 'more of the same' in recent weeks, something which really must be amended if we're going to keep up some momentum. The absence of a couple of committee members on work-related activities hasn't helped.

Spent today off work, with a throat cold - didn't want to infect my workmates. Took it easy and have mostly recovered, so I should be fit for tomorrow. The most interesting event of the day was receiving correspondence from Exeter University's neuroscience research group concerning Aphantasia - I'm on the other end of the scale. When asked about a particular mundane subject my mental imagery is often more vivid than reality. It certainly explains my tastes in art (surrealism), writing and movies (magical realism) etc. On a philosophical level, I find that it is yet another nail in the coffin of those who argue that consciousness can be reduced to individual brains.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/211276.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: sick
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Universal Numbers, OpenStack Sydney, Asylum Ingress

Gave a presentation at Linux Users of Victoria on Tuesday night on Universal Numbers; a good turnout an some excellent questions. Rounding errors are tragically common in computing and lead to very expensive and sometimes fatal mistakes. Unums can prevent such mistakes, and is a truly revolutionary change in hardware, however the challenge remains to implement them in hardware. I was first introduced to them some two years ago by John Gustafson who initiated their development, and I have been quite remiss in not presenting such a talk already.

On Wednesday headed off to Sydney for the one-day OpenStack Australia Day conference. There was superb turnout (around 350) with over half the attendees interested in the tech stream rather the main stream (read: "managers") and a a result the techs were shunted away in the conference venue's dungeon. Nevertheless was pretty happy with some of the talks, in particular Shunde Zhang's careful and balanced explanation of StackBuffet and GUTS, and was of course very interested in NCI's tests of parallel computation in cloud environments (kudos for actually having the courage to say "Parallel jobs can run on the Cloud, but is it HPC? Not at the moment".

The Asylum was a hive of activity this evening for several Ingress players from different factions, although team Enlightenment certainly had the numbers. Took the opportunity to go out and meet the younger players some of whom have caught on to playing Pokemon Go, Ingress, and Geocaching simultaneously. As previously mentioned so much of my Ingress time from previous years has now been taken up by Duolingo, but when there's an Ingress party outside your front door it's an opportunity that shouldn't be missed.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/211010.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: awake
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French, Philosophy, Linux


Completed my second Duolingo owl on Saturday in French. I had set myself a rather optimistic goal of finishing it by the end of April, and with a rather Herculean effort on Saturday (starting at 7.30am, finishing just after midnight), I completed some 23 skills and probably around 90 lessons on that day. It was quite exhausting and the following day I froze when chatting to a fellow Esperanto speaker - by brain was full of French! In the coming month I am intending to complete as much as I can with German - not my strongest language and I suspect that I'll not finish that until the end of June.

On Sunday was a meeting of The Philosophy Forum with Rohan presenting on Leonardo Di Vinci, Tertiary Education, and Genius. The presentation needed some work but there was some good discussion. I neglected to mention last month's meeting which had Tim Harding speak on Determinism, Free Will and Compatibilism, which had a massive follow-up discussion on Facebook. I had to pen a few words myself on the subject, much to my annoyance as I find the partisanship on the subject when our knowledge is limited to be far too rude.

Today's work consisted on giving another course on high performance computing at UniMelb, along with Martin P., contributing with the use of the NeCTAR cloud. Tonight I'm working on a presentation tomorrow night for Linux Users of Victoria on UNUMS - computation without error.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/210464.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: busy
  • Current Music: Blue Daydreaming, Hedgehog
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Alien Day, RPG Sessions

Last Tuesday was Alien Day, which we 'celebrated' by attending a packed double-feature at the Astor. Reebok managed to embarrass themselves by releasing Ripley's stomper boots in a manner that Ripley wouldn't have bought. They are, of course, a great pair of films for both horror in the first case, and a highly quotable action film in the second. I think the third film is good in its own right, but the wheels on the narrative had pretty much fallen off at that point. After the film discussed whether as a biological specimen, the facehugger stage seems to be an unnecessary complexity. Next year I think I'll run a session of the somewhat maligned Aliens RPG.

Played Laundry Files on Thursday and Eclipse Phase last night. The former involved investigating the retrospective myth of the Slender Man, although we were a little distracted by a member's donation of library items. The latter session, with some juxtaposition, included both negotiations with an interrogation expert and attendance at a young socialite's new sleeve party (kids these days, eh?). That session also had an interruption in the form of a high-speed utility vehicle taking down a light pole outside the house. Both sessions were characteristed by a high level of social table banter, which is fine, but to be honest we didn't progress either story particularly far.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/210330.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: groggy
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RPG Review Developments, Shriekback, ANZAC Cheesequest

The fourth issue of the RPG Review Cooperative newsletter, Crux Australi, was released on Saturday. It includes a couple of very notable developments, the first being the establishment of a members library which has already received a significant additional donations. The other item of note was receiving an article from Lewis Pulsipher. On Sunday played a session of GURPS Middle Earth; a good mystery, a dash of magical realism, and a quick action-conflict scene to conclude.

This weekend I also penned a review of the latest studio album from Shriekback, 'Without Real Strings or Fish'. They've had several "good-average" albums over the past five years or so, but this one really hits the mark with a combination of their ethereal sounds alternating with powerful 'big band' post-punk chorus and lyrical content based around evolution and moral reasoning. It's not quite up there with their best earlier material such as Tench or Oil and Gold, but it certainly in the same ball park.

With a wry sense of aesthetics, caseopaya and I held a cheesquest event with ser_pounce and hathhalla on this publc holiday. Whilst a usual fare was on the table (Slovakian sheep's milk easter cheese, tilsit, gorgonzola, and vegan substitute), it was also necessary to have ANZAC biscuits with Turkish bread and hummus. In recognition of the Canadian forces (and our Canadian visitor), the biscuits were made with maple syrup rather than the traditional golden syrup. Afterwards we played Cards Against Humanity and watched a few episodes of the final season of Moral Orel which was a little disturbing.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/209996.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
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RPG Review Updates, Taxing Times, Easybuild

Three new articles added this week RPG Review, including my own piece on The Undead in Eclipse Phase. Have also elaborated on some proposals for extending the Rez Points system in the Eclipse Phase Companion. The fourth RPG Review newsletter will be released this weekend as well. Also, ran another session of Fear Itself on Thursday, which went as well (but even stranger) than the last session with the recursive scenario of roleplaying characters in a LARP (not unlike the very cheesy, Knights of Badassdom).

On the way back from the game funontheupfield made the observation that my spending habits had not changed from the time that since I was an undergraduate, with the exception of a couple of relatively minor 'trophy items' (I'm a sucker for nice pens, mechanical watches, and really old books). It was something that I believed myself but it was good to hear it from others. However, because life provides a narrative in the past tense, I received a not insubstantial tax return from the ATO for several years of returns (I admit I had been treating them like a bank). It was quite a welcome discovery, although now I have the issue of working out what do with this additional cash.

Work was pretty turgid this week, pretty much spent the better part of the least three days getting a greater software stack optimised and installed on Spartan, so when users come on-board there's a better range of applications. We're using what is perhaps a misnomer, EasyBuild, which essentially is a collection of Python scripts for primarily source-code installations. I am not convinced yet that it serves any greater functionality to standard configuration scripts. Both of course come with the usual issues of dependencies, missing libraries, and so on.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/209777.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Music: Jungle Of The Senses, Shriekback
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Eclipse Phase Double, Linux Events, Misc.

The past weekend included two sessions of Eclipse Phase. Friday night's game was the first chapter of Dance with the Devil, which was basically information gathering and not terribly exciting. Sunday's session in contrast was action-packed from the very start involving releasing psychotics in an asylum, hijacking a train, and shooting their way out of a starport. The consistent exposure of the combat system does make me wonder whether it could not be streamlined in the dice-rolling and made more descriptive in its effects. Later this week I'll write up some modifications to the system and add them to the Eclipse Phase Companion, after consultation with the other players and reviews on the game's forum.

Appropriately this Saturday was a Linux Users of Victoria beginners meeting with an talk by xanni_au on gaming with Linux, which will also provide the foundation for an article for RPG Review. An appropriate follow-up was at work today which was a day-long training session for some fifteen UniMelb postgraduates with NinjaDan providing the information for the NeCTAR cloud platform whilst I provided the information on the new Spartan HPC system.

On the aesthetic dimension, visited a local record store as part of Record Store Day, reverting to my adolescence by buying a few items from the early 80s. Later that evening caught up with Adrian A., who was visiting from the UK. A group of Perth expatriates made up the small crowd, visiting Penny Blue Bar, followed by the Nant Whiskey Bar next door, in Drivers Lane. It was a good night with a good collection of drinks. It must be said Melbourne does have a impressive collection of small bars in its various laneways and these were good choices.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/209502.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
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Secular Meetings, Bob Ellis, Gaming Updates, IT News

Attended the University of Melbourne Secular Society meeting on Tuesday which debated the often troubled relationship between Islam and the secular west and especially in relation with historical contexts and the prospects for change. Following evening was the annual general meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby at Parliament House with MLA Maree Edwards addressing the group on the Bendigo mosque issue. Afterwards we visited the Assembly where the state member for Yan Yean (who I used to work with) recognised me from the floor and, in perhaps most unparliamentary fashion, blew me a kiss (of course I reciprocated). At least some politicians haven't lost a sense of humour.

One person who had a great deal of humour about said profession was playwright and commentator Bob Ellis who recently died. I spent a fair bit of time in his company in the late 1990s, catching up with him in Hobart (ALP National Conference), Sydney, and Melbourne. It was in the former location that (after several drinks) a young journalism student introduced herself in a gushing manner: "Oh Mr. Ellis, I am so proud to meet you, I've read all your work" etc., etc. Bob, stood up, tucked his shirt in, shook her hand and responded with a boyish grin: "Don't worry dear, I won't get you pregnant". All this said, he was terrible at psephology; his political partisanship I fear managed to get in the way of pessimistic (but usually more correct) interpretations.

Last Sunday's GURPS Middle Earth game was cancelled so our group appropriately played the Lord of the Rings boardgame followed by the Lord of the Rings Trivia Game, both of which are really quite good. The former, a cooperative game, is known to be quite challenging, but we managed to destroy the Ring before becoming corrupted etc. In the latter, Michael C's., extraordinary knowledge on the subject left us all in utterly the dust. Of some (specialist) note is that the Yahoo Groups RuneQuest 3 list has moved to the RPG Review Cooperative - of wider interest is the horrid work required to extract the data from Yahoo!'s ugly and annoying format. Apropos last night was "season two" our Laundry Files game - where witchraft and computing has taken a very strange turn.

Work this week consisted of conducting a training course on Monday which was fairly well received, albeit with some teething problems with our beta-release cluster/cloud hybrid and a tag-team teaching agenda. Most of the rest of the week has consisted on keeping the clusters functioning and software installs. Today has brought some insight and amusement however with news of a person who deleted data from some 1500+ customers with a single command and a very honest IT job ad. Reminder to self: after recently having a bit of a chat with Peter Murray-Rest courtesy of some work-related activity several days ago, I must have a closer look at his journal aggregation and search project.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/209292.html.