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Federal Election etc, LJ Turns 20, Studies/Social

With the Australian Federal Election called some ten days ago I've been putting together a couple of paragraphs per day on the most news-worthy items. The governing LNP has had a very rocky start with various signs of political nepotism, corruption, and dumping four candidates; it's somewhat amazing that they can still scrape together c47.5%TPP under the circumstances. Meanwhile, drawing heavily upon my studies in public economics, I've published a piece on the Isocracy Network on The Idea Size of Governments, which will be followed up with a piece of voting methods and social choice theory (a recent discussion with the Proportional Representation Society suggests that they are currently insufficiently bold to get out of their demographic decline).

Livejournal has turned twenty! I first started making use of it a few years later, in 2003, as a means to stay in touch with people whilst I was in Timor-Leste. Apparently, I've made over a thousand posts in that time. Of course, like many people, various reasons (e.g., changes in policy) these days I typically cross-post to Livejournal via Dreamwidth. It's pretty much the same technology but I do wonder whether the forking will lead to the technological decline of the former over the latter (consider what has happened to OpenOffice vs LibreOffice, or even older, Mambo vs Joomla). Still, whatever the fate of LJ there can be no doubt of its extremely important role in social media technology, many features are still not replicated by Facebook, for example. Also, on-point, LJ continues to survive whilst others like Google Plus did not.

Apart from this, I've had my nose heavily in the books (virtual and literal) as I revise for my economics exams. Not just economics of course; some higher education study and my test to be a Software Carpentry instructor was held this week as well (I passed, natch). I've had a couple of social events, including a Megatraveller game on Thursday night, and Brendan E. and Dan T., visiting today (we were also supposed to have Asher Wolf as well - next time!). Work and social events mixed well this week with Dan and I having both breakfast and lunch on Lygon St with Ann B from the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, discussing the possibility of an HPC Educator's conference. Breakfast was French, lunch was Italian, and it does remind me of a gorgonzola-stuffed mushroom dish I made earlier this week; it called for breadcrumbs in the stuffing and it just so happened that a couple of days prior I had made a bread loaf with tomato and basil; You know what that would be like two days later as the flavours seep through. One day I'll do my "pauvre mais élégant" cookbook.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/271061.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Music: A Space Symphony, Martin's Garden
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RegEx, Studies, Entertainment

For a good portion of the past few days I've been working on a workshop on Regular Expressions, which are truly one of the greatest things imaginable when one starts with plain-text data and wants to build information. The workshops starts with a bit of the historical-mathematical aspects, revising some of searching with grep, subsitution with sed, and reporting with awk before moving into incorporating these in shell scripts. This is all parts of my introductory and advanced Linux workshops, which is what most people need. Then one delves into things like POSIX basic and extended regular expressions, grouping, backreferences, alternation. Then there's perl's own regular expression syntax which includes features like lookarounds, backtracking, named capture groups and even more - but for a four-hour workshop there are limits. The further one goes down this path the more complex the syntax becomes and more is tempted by the verbose, but clear, Simple Regex Language.

Naturally enough in the excess of spare time available, I've been continuing my studies and research. Research-wise there is another paper in the works for the HPC Certification forum in the Journal of Computational Science Education, plus there will be a BoF at the International Supercomputing Conference. Study-wise, most of the work has been in economics, but with a moderate amount for the higher education and information systems course. For the latter, I received a mid-term grade back this morning which I am less than happy with - it's a solid pass and all, but it's several percent below what I am used to and mainly because the tutor has assessed me on their criteria, rather than the advertised criteria. I will be putting in an appeal at the end of the course, regardless of what my final mark is. That sort of mistake needs to go on their record.

Speaking of records, last weekend was Record Store Day and caseopaya and I took the oportunity to visit Dutch Vinyl. There was quite a good selection of collectibles there with a moderate price-tag. I fell down the prog-rock path and picked up Hawkwind's Space Ritual, a truly great album for the original space rockers, and The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony, an early multi-media effort (art, book, music). It dove-tailed quite well with the weekend's session of Eclipse Phase which mostly involved debates of what to do about an increasingly powerful hive-mind of scientists and technicians who have acquired psychic powers and a double-agent within the group.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/270717.html.
  • Current Location: UniMelb
  • Current Mood: busy
  • Current Music: The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony, Dave Greenslade
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Current Affairs, Courses, and Illness

The Federal election has been called for May 18. The Coalition has started off quite impressively in terms of the corruption stakes, starting with a massive spending splurge (paid by the public) in a desperate measure to shore-up their declining chances, followed by a number of last-minute plum appointments. A pretty classic act from what must constitute one the most economically illiterate and incompetent governments in living memory (actually this would make an interesting empirical test). I suspect that the public is sufficiently frustrated by these clowns to give them the thorough thrashing that they deserve on election day.

All this aside, I've been under the weather for the past few days. I managed to deliver Introduction to Linux and High Performance Computing without trouble, but on the following day Advanced Linux and Shell Scripting I was feeling a bit out of sorts. It's one of the problems of being a specialist educator; if you're sick the class doesn't happen, so one makes additional effort to deliver even in conditions when they probably shouldn't. Yesterday I worked from home and concentrated in developing a new course on Regular Expressions in Linux but today I surrendered entirely took a day's sick leave. Despite this, I have been working away on economics and higher education studies. In addition, was invited over for dinner at nephew Luke's new abode and met housemate Jana, who has the delightful story of being saved from a house fire by her pet rabbits.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/270368.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: sick
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Matters Concerning Games, Carrots, and Economics etc.

The past few days I've had the opportunity to get stuck into my preferred pastime of RPGs; much of this afternoon, which should have been a session of RuneQuest but our GM was under the weather, was spent editing the Cow Orkers supplement for Papers & Paychecks - the word count is over 90% complete but that last few percent is slow-going as I'm taking out one word for every two I put in. Thursday night was our regular Megatraveller game where we not-pirates investigated the ruins of the old Sindal empire - and were set up on a cliff-hanger situation with psychic forces against us. Yesterday was our irregular cheesequest-lunch-gaming with ser_pounce and hathhalla, which provided the opportunity to play my reconstructed version of the old D&D scenario The Lost City, with a summary write-up of the session available. We also took the opportunity to watch two "lost" episodes of Moral Orel, a rather twisted WASP adult animation comedy; curiously did better apparently in Australia than it did in the United States. Maybe something to do with the irreverent Australian culture. The lunch also provided the opportunity to crack open my previously unused Oneida cutlery set which, (in a Morel Orel related tangent) is what remains of a 19th century Christian free-love commune that became a silverware manufacturer.

As part of the luncheon I made a carrot cake. One of our guests isn't great with wheat, so I made up some oat flour and used that instead. One could say it was a "carroat cake". It was pretty tasty, but I was surprised when I was told by hathhalla (who admitted being very fond of carrot cakes in general) that it was best thing they had ever tasted. For something that takes about ten minutes of preparation time that's quite a call. Anyway, this provides a nice segue to the wonder that was International Carrot Day! which is to be taken with good humour. I couldn't help but notice that their translation links for Spanish and French weren't operative, so I fired off an email to the owner of the site and shortly afterwards provided translations for the aforementioned along with Esperanto and German. So that's my double-carrot contribution to the international day.

Apart from this the usual requirements of work and study take up my time. I've had a few positive developments with the International HPC Certification forum, but will leave that until things are more set in stone. Tomorrow and the day after I have training courses to run - this time they were booked out in 42 minutes, which gives an indication of demand. I've been doing a lot of study on economics, specifically Public Economics and Macroeconomics, and mainly tax and fiscal policy respectively. The fact that the current government is defending thoroughly uneconomic subsidies (negative gearing, capital gains, franking credits etc) serves as a good example of the problems in public policy and class-based partisan capture. I still rather wish that I had the extra few months to complete this course which I feel is owed to me. Insofar that isn't going to happen it is fortunate that are holidays available later this month which I will take advantage of. I am not really optimistic I can make up the ground, but will do the best I can under the circumstances.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/270208.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: calm
  • Current Music: Hydroponic Garden, Carbon Based Lifeforms
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HPC and Linux Developments

Last night I gave a presentation at Linux Users of Victoria on Easybuild: Building Software with Ease, which had a surprising number of people turn up (around 40) on what I thought was a relatively obscure and deep part of the IT world, relevant mainly to the people who are in the HPC space. As I was the only speaker for the night (normally there's two, which also make the attendance surprising), I gave a longer than usual presentation and was able to cover the basics of why compiled software is more efficient than packaged, basics and advanced aspects of easybuild configs, easyblocks, and various elaborations. Whilst not exclusive, Easybuild was built with HPC systems in mind and it is in that context that I use it pretty much several times a day at least.

On another HPC-related matter, there is movement going around on the International HPC Certification Forum. Myself and a representative at Pawsey are fishing around with the Australian Research Data Commons to see if there is some coin available to fund development of HPC training, including developing examination questions for the International HPC Certification. Further, I had my first formal meeting for my other Otago University paper, Learning Theory and Practice in Higher Education, which has a stronger autonomous and research orientation - my project is implementing the International HPC Certification Exam, and the provision of a well-developed PRINCE2-style project plan seemed to impress, with some interesting discussion on the collection of metrics from history files to survey development of learners. I may try that next week when I run two days of coursework.

One aspect that my supervisor did raise was about encouraging intrinsic motivation in this space. I have ranted and raved about many times, but I was astounding lucky to have my hands-on computing experience in 80s with the CLI. Since then we've had around 30 years of the GUI by default and whilst it has lowered the bar for doing simple things, it has removed people from understanding the environment, caused a loss of performance, and, of course, hides the incredible power that one has with the CLI. Part of this came to the fore on Monday night, when I took the opportunity to write up Praise-Singing Popper Utilities. These are a suite of commands which allows one to manipulate and extract information from PDFs from the command-line. I mentioned them in a talk I gave last year on Linux and PDFs and the opportunity arose to give a practical example after some people at RK College were having issues with assignment submission. The system is only able to accept one file per assignment and some students had a multi-part assignment; some apparently overwrote their submission instead of exporting to a common file format and concatenating.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/269898.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: calm
  • Current Music: Meridian, Ascendant
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Project Management, Social Events, New Waver

Much of the past few days have been spent working on a rather onerous project management assignment for the hypothetical development of a Target UK branch, taking into account the interesting disaster that was Target Canada. The difficulty of the assignment was partially length, but also the required inclusion of a presentation and notes, which really wasn't necessary or appropriate. It wasn't helped by the course coordinator providing rather different suggestions on what the content should be in the assignment brief and in the class forums (if I ever do that, slap me with a fish).

Despite this still have managed to fit in a couple of social events this weekend, including attending Matt W's housewarming-cum-birthday in Carlton. A rather gorgeous modern two-story apartment with exceptional views of the inner northern suburbs. Good conversation and cheer from a gathering that started and ended relatively early (gone are the days when I'd go home as the birds were waking up, I suspect). The other gathering of note was today's gaming session of Eclipse Phase. The PC Proxies are having all sorts of external and internal trouble as war is hotting up, blackmail occurred and one of their party is revealed as a double, if not triple, agent, whilst at the same time arranging for a hive-mind community to potentially gain access to enhanced psychic powers. Sounds like an X-risk, right there. The session concluded with a Quentin Tarantino-like feel with a posse arranged with some itchy-trigger Sentinels.

Way back in the early 90s when I shared a dilapidated house with [dreamwidth.org profile] reddragdiva, I was introduced to a band called New Waver, whose EP Darwin Junior High really tickled my sense of cultural elitism. Since then they have do a magnificent set of altered covers, available on Bandcamp, Bohemian Suburb Rhaspody. Anyway, it was quite a pleasure to discover that the main force behind the project is now a lecturer in CompSci in the same building as I work in, so I spent a good couple of hours last week talking about culture and music with him - and I suspect more such discussions are around the corner. If only I had some artistic skill of my own I could contribute in a practical manner.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/269726.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Music: self-titled, Versus The Ghost
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SciFi, Studies et al.

Just finished a late double feature at The Astor Theatre with funontheupfield of a pair of scifi classics (and I do mean 'scifi', as distinct from 'science fiction'), Forbidden Planet and The Green Slime. The first is a nice psychodrama with some rather well-done special effects for the time, albeit with a couple of corny components (the heroine's dress could not get shorter), whereas the other had an excellent concept for the monster and all the makings of a good sf-horror flick, but had astoundingly bad special effects, and an utterly terrible romantic tension subplot. Still from such nonsense good works can arise, and I can't help feeling that a more contemporary production could give the core concepts some justice.

As can be expected studies roll at their usual pace. Today, before rushing off to the cinema, gave a two-hour guest lecture to the postgraduate course Cluster and Cloud Computing. There were around 300+ people who had to put up with my voice for that period, and they managed to get some good questions in at the end. On-topic also discovered that I had another (short) paper published in the Journal of Computer Science Education on Towards An HPC Certification Program. Appropriately have been doing more work on that regard with the head of the education and training program from the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre.

It comes on receiving my grade for last term's course for my MSc, a first/distinction which I should be happy with. I've also managed to get a good part of my mid-term assignment done for the next part of that course as well as doing some of the weekly work for the MHed, and making good progress for the GradDipEcon - who would have thought I would finish the microeconomics component first? Finally, I must mention I caught up briefly with claudine_c; it must be close to thirty years now that I've known her, initially through the UniMelb French Club (of all things), then through Linux Users of Victoria, and once I managed to get her to give an address at the Unitarian Church on her work in India. We keep finding our paths crossing in a good way every few years.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/269552.html.
  • Current Location: Carlton
  • Current Music: Bohemian Suburb Rhaspody, New Waver
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Software Carpentry, Cow-Orkers, Study Updates

After five years on the waiting list I finally have had the opportunity to attend instructor training for Software Carpentry, with the downside was that the training sessions were being held remotely in the U.S. - so for two days in a row day started at 2am in the morning and I would make it through as far as I could during the rest of the day. As for content it was pretty good overall, even someone who has done plenty of adult education like myself still found plenty of material to work with. There is a bit of post-training work to do before certification (including making an improvement to an existing course), but it's largely a matter of procedure now.

With the most boring task yet to do to complete my Kickstarter pledge for Cow-Orkers in the Scary Devil Monastery, i.e., critter statistics, I've finally forced myself to head towards the final line on this very late task. There are just a few thousand words to go on content, around 61K out of an aimed 65K completed, which I really can get done in a day or so. But I have just discovered that the line-count is too long and, as a result, I may have to take some material out. Squeezing all the content that one wants in the right page count is quite a pain.

Despite these brain and time-consuming activities, I have managed to get some more economics studies done. I am almost finished with the first round of intensive studies for Public Economics and have had a flurry of activity in Macroeconomics as well. The next few days I will switch to Microeconomics and Econometrics. The latter really worries me; I think I'll need another year to get that course complete. In addition to this, I rattled off the weekly short essay for the MSc InfoSys without much effort (it was project management content that I am already familiar with), and likewise with the MHEd on adult learning. Mid-semester assignments for the latter two courses are due quite soon so next week will have significant dedication in that regard. At least my sleep patterns seem to be reasonably well back in sync again - it's quite remarkable how little sleep I can get away with, and it's been like that since, well, since my adolescence, which was a quite a while ago now.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/269090.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
  • Current Music: Terra Nova 2, Epicuros
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Christchurch and Life Goes On

Last Friday I attended a pleasant gathering at The Black Cat, quite a Melbourne icon of some Perth visitors, hosted by Jason M. and Megan M., which involved quite a collection of recent and old Perth migrants (and others), some of whom I hadn't seen for literally decades. Yet despite the animated conversation and good spirits, there was a sombre mood in the background as we inevitably reflected on the events in Christchurch that day. There is a great deal of distaste left in my mouth witnessing numerous politicians, including the Australian Prime Minister, who have vilified Muslims for years and then expressed horror when an extremist massacres people of said faith. For one Sky News reporter, who had lived a double-life for too long, this was a time to leave. I try to be sensitive to personal contexts and not to elevate them (as even good media is want to do), but I do have a heightened visceral reaction to this. As many readers will know, the South Island is a special place for me, and home is where the heart is.

Life, however, goes on for the living and even mine as I try to pack more in a couple of lives in my allocated time. The following day would have been my 1,000th day-streak on Duolingo - and I forgot with the last leaf for the day as I was distracted by macroeconomics of all things. Thank goodness for the streak-freeze. As it turns out I've taken to writing short essays as I'm working my way through my economics courses, looking at market concentration in various industries, monetary policy and money, and - coming soon - the ideal size of government. Another area of interest is in the next couple of days I'll be taking the course to become a credited Software Carpentry instructor, something that's been on my bucket-list for five years. Unfortunately, the classes are in the U.S. and I'll have to attend by video-conferencing and do so from 3 am in the morning to 11 am. Nevertheless it was too good an opportunity to miss out on, and a couple of days working ridiculous hours will just be the price I have to pay.

Ran Eclipse Phase on Sunday with the PCs now in the role of Proxies managing a team of Sentinels. Dealing with a direct existential risk one group decided to enhance an existing intra-Transhuman conflict rather than take a peaceful but even more dangerous option. Another Proxy has the interesting task of receiving two jobs from competing factions, one to kidnap a group and the other to prevent it. The other Proxy has the issue of having to extract information from the equivalent of a minister of internal security. It's all quite challenging and as yet unresolved, but in terms of rising tension, there's plenty of that. Afterwards, there was a committee meeting of the RPG Review Cooperative which went well, following by dinner with nephew Luke. I took the opportunity to introduce to some material of Radio Birdman and, in somewhat related news, have discovered that one of the main people behind the musical act New Waver works in the same building as me. I was quite a fan of what they were doing in the late 1990s, so the opportunity to meet up is tempting.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/268825.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
  • Current Music: Another Language, This Will Destroy You
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Publications and Teaching, Social Events, Living Multiple Lives

A pleasing result of the week was the publication of Chimera and The Cyborg with colleagues at the University of Freibug on HPC/Cloud hybrid systems (and more). Today (and tomorrow) I've been teaching a c50 person group of postgraduate mechanical engineering students on HPC and Linux, and to be honest, I thought they would have more of a background on the latter. I am sympathetic on what must be a steep learning curve, as today we combined my usual introductory and advanced courses in a single six-hour session, which was pretty gruelling for me and it would have be very hard for those unfamiliar with the basic content.

Despite time pressures, I have taken the opportunity to attend to a few social events this week. Gaming-wise there was Megatraveller last week, with Lexoccultum tonight (mid-17th century western Europe plus supernatural). Last Sunday was our regular RuneQuest game where we continue to push aside increasingly challenging opposition. Plus, visited Brendan E., on Sunday (as we'd missed each others birthdays), and he treated us to a couple of SF-action films, Oblivion and Spectral. The gender-roles in the first were irksome and the science behind the second was flimsy, but this aside, both sit into the mixed to good range. Which, interestingly, is where I put the Jesus & Mary Chain concert we attended at The Forum on Tuesday. It was well-performed, but I wasn't really taken by setlist, which was a really curious combination of choices.

There was once a movement that said we should have 8 hours work, 8 hours rest, and 8 hours recreation. The sense of balance is notable and subtracting the rest component it basically argues that there should be a 50%/50% work-life balance. Of course that doesn't include transit time to work, the prevalance of unpaid overtime (call it "wage theft"). but nor do is include weekends either. By these metrics I am currently running on (0.5 work + 0.5 associations + 0.5 GradDip + 0.5 MSc + 0.25 MHed) = 2.25 full-time lives. Although to be fair, a lot of the the latter two is material I am familiar with. I just hope I can keep it going for a couple more months as to complete degree number five. All the degrees, you see. Actually, my intention is retire with ten; putting "lifelong learning" intp practise. Maybe then I'll actually be confident enough to write more.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/268626.html.
  • Current Location: UniMelb
  • Current Mood: tired