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Programming, RPG Developments, Product Issues

I've had several late nights in succession this week and it all came to a head today when I was running my Introduction to Parallel Programming course. By the time I got to the debugging section (right at the end of the day) my head was in a complete fog and I found myself making trivial mistakes. On a related topic had an video interview with the University of Otago concerning my enrolment in the Master of Higher Education degree; they seem very keen on having me and especially as I already have a GradCert in a related subject, have many years of teaching experience, and involved in the International HPC Certification programme. Unusually for someone who spends a good portion on their time in the operations and administration side of the equation, I cracked out some old-fashion HTML/Javascript work this week as well, building all sorts of complex options for a fork of bjmoran's jobscript_generator, before falling back to a simpler version.

Which reminds me, yet again, that I really should get around to doing the Javascript programs for ship and world generation for Megatraveller. We played a session on Thursday night which went well for our team once again as we convinced a charismatic religious leader to take the opportunity to take control of a collapsing church and a society which had lost its faith in church, because there will still be such things in the far, far future. I'm looking forward to seeing how GM handles the rebellion, as we've managed to avoid it so far, and especially Hard Times, which must one of the most depressing RPG scenarios ever put into print. In other RPG-related activity, ticket sales for RuneQuest Con DownUnder 3 have slowed down to a crawl, which makes me nervous again about reaching the required number. At the same time I've asked a few of the old guard to contribute to the special issue of RPG Review whilst composing a couple of pieces myself.

I've had a couple of disappointing product experiences this week; actually one has been running for over a month, namely a purchase from laptop.com.au, which turned out to have the wrong specificiations (and broke shortly afterwards) and now the owner is insisting on a replacement rather than a refund. I've summarised the experience and have initiated proceedings at Consumer Affairs Victoria, along with the bank for a chargeback. The retailer in question has had form for years. The other product issue has been Ingress, which I recently noticed broke my 800+ day streak whilst I was in Perth. This is impossible as I hacked every day, several times a day, with glyphs and received items. Niantic support have been reading from a script making remarks about poor network connectivity etc (I'm on Optus Mobile). What is especially annoying is their insistence is that their software is perfect; despite the fact I suspect that they do not log hacks. It might prove the kicker for me to finally retire from Ingress - or kickstart my idea of "Operation Declare Victory".

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/258947.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: relaxed
  • Current Music: Toltec, Jon Anderson
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A Very Busy Weekend

Weekend was a full collection of various social activities, starting with attending an exhibition by old friends RJ Cameron and Denham Carr, At The Hard Edge exhibition (FB). Afterwards followed the lead of local artist Cameron Potts (former Sir John Sulman Prize winner) to their studio space in the back of a warehouse in Northcote, where there was also the tail-end and stragglers of a local indie gig. Dave Graney was in attendance, so I thanked him for all the music, and told him he was just too hip (referring to his 1993 hit). For a guy that's pushing sixty it's pretty good to see him make the effort to go out to see undergound indie gigs. Afterwards we stumbled back to Cameron's place for more music and conversation, and I finally decided to head home before the morning sun made an appearance.

Following day included an (thankfully) afternoon trip to Lachlan's Memorial Birthday gathering at the Imperial Hotel, which shows all the signs of becoming a nice tradition, and then on to the annual general meeting of Linux Users of Victoria, where xanni_au stepped down after four years as president, and imajica_lj returned to take up the role after ten or so years since their last tour in the role; not many people come back for a second bite of this cherry. I also announced that this would be my last year on the LUV committee, having held various roles since 2006. It's been a long and fulfilling trip, but with other items coming on my agenda it is about time I gave my activities on LUV over to someone else. Afterwards headed off to Brendan E's place where he showed us a good fan edit of a terrible film; 2012. Cut to around a third of its original length one still gets the main elements of the special effects and plot without loss of continuity. We also watched a few episodes of the dramatic thriller Utopia (not the Papers and Paychecks styled Australian show of the same name), which certainly is a captivating conspiracy.

On Sunday picked up several crates of RPGs which Ben Finney (aka Big Nose of Debian fame) was selling; some real classics in that lot. By the early afternoon caught up with strangedave who was visiting Melbourne, and discussed various matters regarding RuneQuest Down Under which I am pleased to see is doing quite well in terms of registrations. Because strangedave is on of the world's experts in matters RuneQuest and Glorantha he will be a key speaker at the panels planned for the conference. Afterwards I ran a session of Eclipse Phase, which followed on from the previous episode where the Sentienls saved several lobotomised bikini girls with machine guns from the insane L.R. Hobart and made their way to a re-sleeving facility in Belém, Brazil. It hasn't gone well for them as they are now trapped in the hospital's resleeving theatre with dozens of extractors and a hostile supercomputer wanting to make short work of them. Let's see how they get out of this one. After that was the RPG Review Cooperative committee meeting where we discussed various matters relating to the Con, but most importantly thrashed out our first draft of a Code of Conduct. As has been pointed out before, if you don't have one of these earlier, you will regret it later.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/258773.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: relaxed
  • Current Music: Periphery, Echo Season
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Gaming Updates, Academia Updates

It's been a busy week on the gaming front, with the most important even being the launch of tickets for RuneQuest Con Down Under III. It's shaping up will with guest speakers, panels, auctions, gaming sessions, larps, and all the Kryal Castle events, plus lashings of food, but I am of course in a mad panic until the requisite tickets are sold (I am hoping to hit the half-way mark by the end of the weekend). In addition to this there was our regular RuneQuest game on Sunday, plus my Exalted China on Thursday - and I finally caught up on a few of the write-ups which I had hitherto been neglectful. One very nice RPG-related event was a youngster in the US naming some dragons (FB link) after me as they were designing a world for Megatraveller.

Today was a class for Advanced Linux and Shell Scripting for HPC, and next Friday will be the same for Parallel Programming. I have also revived two old enrolments which I didn't follow through with a couple of years ago - one for the University of Otago for a Master in Higher Education, and one for the University of London for a Graduate Diploma in Economics. It's been a few years since I've picked up a degree and I really want to do these. I have this funny feeling that around my 60th birthday when I have ten degrees, speak eight languages, and have a financial buffer of several year's income I'll have sufficient self-confidence to seriously push myself forward in the workplace. In the meantime I just soldier on, hope that my ridiculous levels of productivity are even vaguely noticed by the powers that be, and have forlorn hopes that the people who make architecture designs are the people who have to work with the decisions. For what it is worth, went to the NTEU post-campaign celebration for our new agreement which was mostly a victory (direct action delivers the goods) at the Potter Museum of Art, which appropriately had an relevant exhibition on unions in the workplace.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/258517.html.
  • Current Location: UniMelb
  • Current Mood: drained
  • Current Music: Earth from Above, Nibana
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Lingering Malady, Courses, Genre Fiction

Annoyingly I still have the (hopefully) tail-end of bronchitis, which apparently includes a thumping headache, which isn't quite as bad as having trying to breath through lungs full of fluid. For me the most frustrating thing about all this is the dent that it's placed on my productivity and the unfortunate timing with several bigger projects that need attention. I have been fortunate in this regard that other people have stepped in and taken up some of the immediate tasks that require doing, so in part my concerns are more low-level anxiety rather than a complete disaster.

One thing I did manage to achieve was conducting a training day on Friday for Introduction to High Performance Computing Using Spartan. It was a full class and it went reasonably well, although there's a couple of bugs in my sample NAMD job which require fixing - probably just the wrong version of the application. I have courses booked for Friday's for the rest of the month, and probably for the rest of the year given how long the waiting list is. In other education-related matters, finished the extended Esperanto course on Duolingo yesterday and will see if I can get the same done for Spanish this week.

As usual, have had a regular gaming sessoin this week of Megatraveller. Session involved travelling to Neumann to either aid or prevent a scientist for applying a patch to an existing grey goo event, which would either save or destroy the planet (killing billions). By virtue of a pure dice roll at the end it saved the planet, fulfilling a prophecy of our own creation. On a related matter last night binged on Z Nation, which is hardly gripping and full of terrible plot holes (yet a good premise), designed for some amusing set-pieces.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/258080.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: sick
  • Current Music: World of Sleepers, Carbon Based Lifeforms
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Illness, Presentations and Writings, Gaming Plans

Visited the doctor on Monday to discuss my bronchitis and they were of the opinion that it's on its way to clear up. Now back at work, although being careful not to overdo it, and still prone to some coughing (and keeping a good arm's length form workmates). I am far from operating at 100%, and I suspect it will be several days before I am completely in the clear. Will be going in for blood tests as part of a general checkup and chest x-rays as part of the hemoptysis, although this is almost certainly part of the bronchitis rather than anything more serious. There are now four days of my life which were pretty much spent on the couch wrapped in a blanket and sipping tea with a rapidly emptying box of tissues next to me, whilst playing Supertuxkart and Torcs.

Among all this I have managed to step outside into the world for brief periods of time. On Sunday I presented at The Philosophy Forum on The Philosophy of Technology, which is a subject that I have had a long standing interest in. Take away message; technology has ontological and empirical priority over science which provides epistemological abstraction and rational predictions. On Tuesday night presented at Linux Users of Victoria on New Developments in Supercomputing, deriving from material from ISC and the HPC Advisory Council conferences. Of particular interest to me is the number of issues and challenges that Intel, that most mighty of chip manufacturers, has faced over the past year - and how competitors are positioning themselves. Also last week wrote a whimsically entitled piece for Isocracy on Killing and Eating Your Prime Minister following the circus that has been Australian politics recently.

Various gaming plans have been put on hold over the past few days, which I really need to get my teeth into. Final confirmations with Kryal Castle are being put in place for RuneQuest Con Down Under III, a LARP scenario has been received, Chaosium are providing prizes and an organised play scenario and so forth. Tickets will be on sale very soon, just as the final budget it put together. Plus there is the RuneQuest special of RPG Review coming up, plus I am hoping to hold some sort of dinner to celebrate ten years of the publication, and perhaps this can coincide with a new online RPG Review store. This is, of course, in addition to the usual actual play and various writings.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/257888.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: sick
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HPC Conference, Rick Matters, Movies, Illness

The HPC Advisory Council conference went well. It is small and relatively specialist, but the content and location was excellent. My own paper Exploring Issues in Event-Based HPC Cloudbursting was apparently well received at least according to people who told me so afterwards. Not all research comes to a thoroughly positive conclusion and sometimes it is handy for a research group to discover blockers on the way so others can avoid them in advance. I was particularly happy with Brian Skjerven's presentation on Hands-on HPC Containers and being pointed to XALT, a software usage metrics tool, as an extension to LMOD. Something to sink my teeth into next week when I'm back at the coal-face.

Just before leaving Perth I had a visit to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to seek confirmation on the sale of Rick's apartment. That was all confirmed without too much fuss and the following week visited his financial advisors to sign an agreement to implement their plan. Next step will be to clean out his apartment (and the mountain of books) and put the place on the market. At the same time Rick's relatives - Janet, Eileen, and Steve - are visiting for his birthday and we all had dinner with Rick's former neighbour Mel at the positively beautiful Abbotsford Convent, which is next door to where Rick is now housed. There is recognition that he's probably not destined for much longer on this earth so there was some discussion about what to do after the event. The sort of thing we should prepare for of course.

The plane trips to and from Perth provided the opportunity to watch a few movies, most of which were not great. The exception was Selma a historical drama about Martin Luther King Jnr and the famous march. There are some historical inaccuracies (such as the treatment of Johnson), but it is still very worthwhile viewing. Less successful was the Johnny Cash biography, Walk the Line which concentrated (quite well, it must be said) on his various home and tour dramas, but almost completely neglected the latter part of his life and his political views. Way down on the bottom of the pile was Guardians of the Tomb, a Chinese-Australia science fiction action film, which had all the potential (what's not to love with a quest for the elixer of life and pack-hunting funnel-web spiders?) and none of the execution (kudos to Shane Jacobson however whose wit was the film's only redeeming feature). On return to Melbourne went to see Jabberwocky at The Astor with caseopaya and Rodney B. It is aged quite well, and gives a fairly accurate portrayal of medieval life (even with a couple of anachronisms), and skirts a difficult line between being amusing and grim.

Among all this, I have come down with a chest cold, which has delightfully included hemoptysis. It is almost certainly bronchitis, but if I'm not better by Monday it's off to the doctor for me. The first inklings were on the morning of the departure from Perth, but it really kicked on Friday. Hefty doses of cough mixture and pills have allowed me for some semblance of normality on for low-level activities (such as listed), but there's no way I'm for anything too active. I have cancelled one dinner planned for tonight, and the Eclipse Phase session planned for Sunday. I will, however, go The Philosophy Forum to give my presentation on The Philosophy of Technology which I already know quite well and have already written the presentation.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/257730.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: sick
  • Current Music: The Origins, Aretha Franklin
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HPC Conference, Fremantle, RuneQuest DownUnder

I've crossed the continent to visit Western Australia for the HPC Advisory Council Conference. My own talk, which will be presented in a couple of hours, is Exploring Issues in Event-Based HPC Cloudbursting; short version, it is not as great in practise as the promise. Unlike my usual visits to the western lands, my visit it too short and my timetable too full to host my usual visiting dinner. My old mentor, Bruce T., collected me from the airport and we had a long lunch and long natter (especially on how the voting public is utterly punishing the Liberal Party after last week's leadership circus - and the results) at the still-gorgeous Dome Cafe in Maylands, before heading to Fremantle, Western Australia's old port town, staying at the renovated Esplanade Hotel which provides an excellent view over to the harbour.

Fremantle is a charming place, a little quiet, with a superb collection of late 19th and early 20th century buildings and historically famous for its migrant population, solidly left-wing politics, and understandably a very fine collection of cafes and bookstores. Bruce used to be a senior member of the Fremantle Society, who saved a lot of the historic buildings (which the private University of Notre Dame have since snapped up), helped publish a local newspaper, and was president of the local Labor Party branch in the 70s when John Troy was the MLA. As much as I like visiting Fremantle, the only time I lived there was a short period in my childhood. In hindsight, I rather wish I spent more of my time there in my undergraduate days. True there was much to be said about my old haunts in the inner urban areas of Perth city, but I do get the sense that there is a Fremantle-sized hole in my life experience.

Another planned event which is going great guns is RuneQuestCon DownUnder for November 11 at Kryal Castle. They offer quite an affordable convention price and dinner, which includes the usual functions at the castle, so our current plans are to combine both the outing to the castle but a variety of RuneQuest activity, which will include discussion panels, a gaming session, auctions, a LARP, and so forth. Whilst organised by the RPG Review Cooperative, it is also endorsed by Chaosium, publishers of RuneQuest and Glorantha-related material who will be generously providing a few giveaways as well. Unsurprisingly the next issue of RPG Review, the ten-year anniverssary issue, will also be a RuneQuest special.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/257528.html.
  • Current Location: Fremantle
  • Current Mood: busy
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Political Circus, Various Events

Australia has had an absolute political circus of a week with the bourgeois-liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull seeing off an attempted party-coup lead by hard-right minister Peter Dutton on August 21st, only to experience a second leadership spill two days later. This time Turnbull stepped down and surprisingly Scott Morrison has now taken up the role of Prime Minister of Australia; a more thorough account is provided by the good folk at Wikipedia. Turnbull had always been too willing to compromise with the crazy right-wingers of the Liberal Party and was so ignorant of the economic pain of ordinary people to ensure public support. It was, briefly, impressive to see how he fought back in the last days but it was all too late. As for the contenders, Peter Dutton is an obvious extreme-right dullard who is widely loathed, and Scott Morrison whilst slightly more pragmatic but has no public appeal, and also comes from the far-right of the party and comes with the same economic baggage. So whilst the liberal and conservative wings of the Liberal Party are at open war with each other (and the latter winning), the public are increasingly annoyed at a party that has no concern with their increasing levels of inequality, increases in the cost-of-living, wage stagnation, and their virilent anti-unionism. People are furious as their behaviour and the Tories are going to get smacked for six when the Federal election is finally called.

Whilst the circus was unavoidable, there were other events to participate in over the past few days. Notably delivered a training day on Parallel Programming on Wednesday which was well attended by an interested class. The evening beforehand I went wrote a couple more code debugging examples for Valgrind and the GNU Debugger which are appropriate for the class and will fine-tune those even further for the next classes - four have been set up for the coming month of September. Thursday started with yet another hearing at VCAT where an application was made to sell Rick B's house; given that there is no argument about the need and no opposition, it surprises me that this requires a court case rather than simply being an administrative procedure. Later that day participated in a session of Megatraveller where the PCs finally caught up with a nanite distributing scientist-gone-wrong only to discover that they were doing the right thing. The GM added in some major player-created plot elements as part of the chase which worked quite well. Finally, today attended a meeting of Linux Users of Victoria today with Wen Len presenting on Dual-Booting Windows 10 and Ubuntu, which was appropriately sub-titled "the fun, the pain, the joy". As he pointed out that actual process itself is reasonably easy - it's the planning that's painful. It's quite a busy few days, and next week in Perth will be busy as well. Still, perhaps one of the happiest moments of it all is that I received confirmation a short time ago that Kyral Castle will be available to host RuneQuest Con DownUnder on November 11th - so that's official. And guess who will be leading the organisation of that event?

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/257080.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
  • Current Music: Backcatalogue (1981-1985), Front 242
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RPG Review, Gaming etc, Work Activities

Finally finished and sent out RPG Review issue 39, a special issue of "The Far East". Turned out to be a really text-heavy issue with nearly all the material from myself and Karl B. Still, we ended up with a good range of material in my opinion; a balance over time of various RPG games in such a setting including Bushido, GURPS China, Legend of the Five Rings, and RuneQuest Samurai, various creature builds for Dungeons and Dragons, etc., and campaign stories for Gulliver's Trading Company, the Malay archipelago, and a fantastic version of the Ainu. It is also the first time that I have published my wild hypothesis that the Indonesian Borobudor and Prambanan temple were a friendly competition between Buddhism and Hinduism - and were defeated by the animist Merapi. One day I'll explore that more seriously. Speaking of which (not an intended pun there), Duolingo has started offering Bahasa Indonesian, a language which I have learned the basics and promptly forgotten at least three times. Maybe this time it will stick.

In actual play this week ran two games because I'm that keen. The Thursday night session of Exalted introduced the second story of the journey to the far west as the mighty heroes travel into the Kingdom of Ma Chu, although a lot of the session was spent on character upgrades. On Sunday ran as session of Eclipse Phase where the PCs had to deal with a rather delusional meglomaniac named Lachiesis Robespierre Hobart who operated an armoured yacht staffed by lobotomised bikini girls with machine guns, which kept watch over a three-kilometre long humanoid being built by AGIs on the mid-Atlantic Ridge. Naturally enough, they managed to defeat the dangerous captain, save the unfortunates, and are now heading towards Belém to find new morphs (and hopefully new brains). On a different sort of gaming, visited log_reloaded and Jase on Saturday night at their new digs and had a play with their HTC Vive kit; I ended up eaten by a zombie, but that's how such things go. Never enough bullets when there's zombies around.

I've had a very busy few days workwise as well. Managed to get my journal article (with German co-authors) in to the Advances in Science, Technology and Engineering Systems Journal on the final day. On top of this had two training classes to run, one Introduction to Linux and HPC and the second Advanced Linux and Shell Scripting for HPC. Both of these are from 4 to 5 hours long, so it pretty well takes out the day. There is still one more class to run on Wednesday, Parallel Programming. I still have to finish my paper for the HPC Advisory Council conference in Fremantle, WA. Given that I leave on next Monday, I'd better get a move on for that. Especially considering that shortly afterwards I'm also going to be presenting at eResearchAustralasia. In the meantime we have the system from Melbourne Bioinformatics to shift and attach to Spartan. Just as well I've made a good dint on the software installs a couple of months ago.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/256773.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: busy
  • Current Music: Stay Sick, The Cramps
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Gaming Writings and Activities, Work Activities

The past few days I have worked pretty consistently in getting RPG Review Issue 39 out with the "Far East" focus. It's almost ready, but there's still a matter of finishing off the final parts of layout and editorialising. It's amazing to think that we're close to ten years of this publication, which will be 640 pages in total when issue 40 comes out. Some sort of celebration will be due. In any case, in finishing off the final articles I've written probably close to 7,000 words in the past five days, including various game reviews, campaign summaries, editorials and so forth. Outside of this I've also had the opportunity to engage in a bit of actual play, specifically Megatraveller on Thursday night where we successfully defeated nanite-infected space zombies on a derelict ship, and RuneQuest on Sunday, where we defeated a blood-sucking vampire landlord, which really was a gorgeous metaphor. Mention must also be made that I managed to catch Kate R., who was briefly in town. She was one of the main organisers of MARS after I left Murdoch University and the last time we'd seen her was just over ten years ago. So we gave her a tour of the asylum and then went out to a local restaurant; "good food and even better company" was how she put it.

Workwise I have various papers and presentations piling up and various conferences that I have to prepare for; an article for the Advances in Science, Technology and Engineering Systems Journal due in a couple of days (mostly finished) and the Perth-based HPC Advisory Council for the end of the month. Given the relative brevity of my impending visit to Perth, I still have to consider whether to have my usual dinner gathering of old friends from the western lands. It's going to be doubly difficult given that I'll be sequestered in Fremantle as well and most of the old team are more in the inner north of Perth. I may have to delay such shenanigans for a later visit, which there almost certainly will be. I remember decrypt_era describing Perth as a black hole. To truly escape, you would have to go beyond the event horizon which can periodically suck you in.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/256609.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
  • Current Music: Wild Light, 65daysofstatic
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