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Epicurean Additions, Work Missions, Miscellany

Two Epicurean additions this week, which is becoming a habitual Friday evening event. Firstly, faux canard à l'orange, which I really didn't think would work but it did, which was consumed with a time-honoured favourite cocktail of sidecars (gin and cognac versions). The evening was appropriately finished with a viewing of Agatha Christie's, The Pale Horse, ho-hum another story of the personal violent crimes of the lackadaisical English ruling class. Give me the roughness and depth of Georges Simenon's characters any day. Mind you, Simenon actually associated with such people so I guess he was engaging in some artistic immersion. He was a rather colourful character, larger and even less probably than his own literary creations.

Our workplace has established a "culture working group" following a staff survey that showed that there were a few gaps in paradise. A very prominent one was a "low articulation of mission", so I've taken up the task of finding out what staff think our mission actually is - and unsurprisingly, every single person surveyed thus far has a different idea. Which shows quite clearly that (a) there is a low articulation and knowledge of what it actually is and (b) staff weren't involved sufficiently, to begin with. In any organisation, no matter what its size, it is important that there is a shared understanding of the mission (what an organisation does) and the vision (where it ideally sees itself in the future); this really is Management 101 stuff and it worries me that it has been overlooked. Appropriately, I collected a certain stiff piece of carboard this week from the POB (MSc in Information Systems Management), along with an abstract for a book chapter on quantitive approaches for high-throughput on HPC/cloud hybrid systems.

This week was included Reo Maori day, so I spent a little bit of time working on that, along with continuing work on my book, Esperanto for Anarchists. The limited cycling adventure of the week saw me visit All Nations Park, notable for the small Northcote cemetery and outdoor gym equipment. This week also saw the global COVID-19 figures increase to thirty million cases (up from twenty million just over a month ago), and now almost one million dead. Here in Melbourne, we're still restricted to 5km from home with stage 4 restrictions, which all makes sense. On August 7 our daily cases of COVID-19 (14-day average) was it 459.8; we were on the verge of something very bad. So we took a hard line; as of September 15, we're down to a daily case average of 49.6 and it's still falling. This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/302716.html.
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Mentoring Project, Suppressed Science, RPG Characters

Most of my weekend has been developing the outline for a trial HPC mentoring project for the University of Melbourne. With a waiting list of several hundred researchers for my courses, even as I conduct them with two days of workshops every fortnight it is clear that the number of requests is greater than my ability to deliver, hence the need for a mentoring project. Not to mention that there is a new workshop in development, Mathematical and Statistical Programming in HPC, in development and kindly sanity-checked by a senior lecturer in the subject. Whether the project itself is actually accepted by positional management is another matter entirely, but curiously the outline is only indirectly for them; it is also a major assignment for my MHEd paper, Academic Leadership in Higher Education at the University of Otago. Which is something that I must sing their praises for, their papers and assignments have combined theoretical foundations with necessary and actual practice every step of the way. So if the University of Melbourne, or Australia for that matter, doesn't grasp the initiative and obvious advantages, there will be another place with a long white cloud that will.

The issue does bring some current thoughts to the matters of "suppressed science", and I don't mean in conspiracy theory sense, but as an actual, evidence-based conspiratorial practice. It does strike me as a little weird that many people do latch on to highly improbable conspiracy theories that lack probability when there is much greater evidence for the actual suppression of facts and usually of greater importance (Technology Review provides a good article on how to talk to conspiracy theorists, and one which I need to improve on myself). Of course, conspiracies do exist, as nine impressive examples by Business Insider points out. But really, one needs to look at means, motive, opportunity, probability, and knowing the actual science to determine the likelihood (and asking them if you don't know it yourself). Because without these steps, ultimately bad public policy results and that kills people and other life. Australia is currently having a flurry of such issues with environmental scientists saying their work is being suppressed. It is like that some people think that managing perceptions is sufficient to alter reality; or at the very least, maintain their positions of power and wealth; but the dead are many.

On a much lighter note, I have been made into an RPG character! Captain Lev Lafayette is a sample character in a recent publication, The Secret of the Silver Hedgehog, "he once was accused of being a Blanquist and called his accuser to a duel, first knocking him down for daring to suggest for daring to suggest he would replace one elite with another". Included as other pre-generated characters are participants in a Middle Earth campaign that I played in some years ago, which included an ally named "Ed Hogg" (a pixie were-hedgehog), which itself turned out to be the nom-de-net of another person whom I had encountered in RPG circles on usenet some twenty years prior. There is something quite beautiful about this recursive storytelling. This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/302503.html.
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Esperanto and Anarchism, Work and Study, Health and Pleasure

Earlier this year I made a start on a combination study-guide, Esperanto for Anarchists which, as the name suggests would include both a self-paced learning guide on Esperanto but with anarchist content inspired by the synthesis from the times of Republican Spain, "Paroli Esperanton estis iam esenca parto de anarkiismo". I have recently dusted off the project and whilst I still have a long way to go I am making good, if somewhat haphazard, progress. The book is increasingly also an elucidation of traditional anarchist (i.e., libertarian socialist) principles so it is a self-paced guide in that regards as well. I rather wish my brain would give an appropriate title that would combine both aspects in a satisfactory manner. I'm still hoping to have the project completed by the end of the year.

Our workplace is currently doing a "culture review" following some rather interesting survey responses indicating a need to improve employee participation and articulation of mission. I have joined the working party a little enthusiastically, but do mean to apply what I do know (which isn't much) about organisational psychology to the project. Hopefully, I will learn more in coming weeks as I start preparing for my my graduate studies in psychology next year at the University of Waikato. Not much for the rest of the week however as I have two days of workshops to conduct and I'm currently working on a new one on Mathematical and Statistical Programming for HPC. The following Monday I have a major assignment due for my masters in higher education on developing a mentorship programme for HPC researchers which, fortunately, I have already completed a third with a presentation to a symposium on the subject a week ago.

Following reviews from psychologists, I have finally posted my essay on Dealing with 'The Thing': Can Stoic Philosophy and Project Management Help Anxiety?, which at least a few people have said that they are finding personally useful. Good! That's why I wrote it. Moving from mind to body, my physical regimen continues with gradual success, with now consistently good blood pressure, and a significant drop in heart-rate to an "athlete's" level (c50 bpm, resting), which is quite remarkable for one in their mid-autumn years. Not to let one's culinary desires go astray I have actually developed a healthy cheesecake - replacing a standard recipe's call for cream cheese and sugared biscuits with whey protein and yogurt and oat flour with almond essence. This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/302207.html.
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Work Activities, Entertainments, Health Matters

The past few days have been particularly productive, work-wise. I managed to craft two abstracts for potential presentations at eResearch Australasia, one on the recent architecture changes to Spartan, and another on curriculum development for the international HPC Certification Forum. Another activity that has taken a modicum of time has been installing the main components of the Genome Analysis Toolbox with de-Bruijn graph (GATB) software suite. The specific component that a researcher wanted was annoying to say the least, with hard-coded dependency paths and assumptions of where other software was installed on a system. It is a rather unfortunate and common situation to encounter otherwise excellent software but which nevertheless shows insufficient consideration for system operations.

It is not all work and no play, however. Friday night is the start of "uncontrol day", and it began with the cocktail of the week, this time Espresso Martini, and watching The Magnificent Seven (available on Youtube). To be honest, I rather over-indulged on the martinis and have been rather worse for wear today. A walk around the bat colony on the Yarra River and a cycle up to Darebin Creek has helped clear the head somewhat. In other entertainment, I've knocked over The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a young-adult novel of a clever youngster with "some behavioural difficulties" (i.e., Asperger syndrome, although not specified as such in the novel). It was a rather charming read, and gave good insight from a first-person perspective to the mind of those with such conditions and have met with approval from medical experts.

In just over the past year, my weight has dropped some 25kgs; since April alone, some 18kgs. I still have a few more kgs to shed (around 3-5 will be enough), but I am now concentrating on building muscle mass, which has meant a change in diet to being more protein-rich. It seems to be working so far. All of this has been quite a year for me to learn about nutrition. But I've also learned a great deal about the operations of the mind, and I have been particularly taken of late by an article on the ABC featuring comments by several neurologists on what is happening to our mental states under various levels of movement restrictions; our executive functions skills are poor, we're sleeping more but poorly, and our dopamine levels are not being fed through social activities. Being mindful of all this should help us in our own thought-processes and reflections on our moods, which of course includes my own. Communication that is both deep, serious, and carefully-considered can help train the mind to control the circumstantial moods of the brain; and that is something which I think we can all benefit from. This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/301936.html.
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Workshops and Conferences, RPG Updates, Friends

Late last week held two days of workshops, Regular Expressions with Linux and From Spartan to Gadi, the latter teaching researchers how to get on and use NCI's main system, Gadi, the most powerful supercomputer in Australia (and number 24 in the world). Like all the workshops I give they can be quite content-heavy, so a process of adding extra documentation will be a priority for the early this week (NCI, it must be said, really need to update their documentation). Planning on returning to my more usual fare next with Introduction to Linux and HPC, and Advanced Linux and Shell Scripting for HPC. Also have submitted a draft PID for a HPC mentorship programme for researchers that I have in mind (and tied in with my studies at Otago University). I have also just submitted an abstract for eResearch Australasia on the developments of the Spartan HPC system; I think I'll put a second one in for developments in the international HPC Certification programme.

The past few days I've also had the opportunity to delve into the gaming hobby; a CyberDarkspace session on Thursday, a D&D5e session on Saturday, and my Eclipse Phase game on Sunday, plus another scene for my much-neglected HeroQuest Glorantha story on the same day. The CyberDarkspace session ended a particularly good plot arc, but there was general agreement that we should continue that. The D&D5e game was short term, and I confess I had troubles getting into at first because D&D does bore me. But my interest perked up in the latter half of the session. As for Eclipse Phase, that involved burying the PCs deep in the Baikonur Cosmodrone with an evil supercomputer as the surface was nuked; I mean, I may as well turn it up, right?

All this aside, the most memorable experience of the past few days has been the response to my f-locked post on Friday. I don't know what I expected, but the outpouring of solidarity, understanding, and love on the posts and through DMs was overwhelming and inspiring. I want to thank everyone who reached out, you really all have made an incredible difference, and far more than you could possibly know, and indeed it has generated many grounds for self-reflection and cautious optimism. Whilst on the topic of self-reflection, I have to mention that last week I managed to get to have a video-conference with a very old cyberpunk friend who goes by the nom-de-guerre Molly Millions (yes, the William Gibson character) and on Friday night a smashing good video-conference night of drinks and conversation with Holly M., Luke M., and Louisa G. The greatest power of the Internet from a human perspective was always how it brought people together. With video-conferencing it has just raised the visceral component up another level. More bandwidth please! This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/301606.html.
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Course Preparations, Counselling, Life Choices, RPGs

I'm running two day-workshops later this week, including one for those transitioning from Spartan (our UniMelb HPC) to Gadi (the NCI flagship system, #24 most powerful in the world). This will be the first time I've run this workshop. The day after that is a course on regular expressions, the awesome tool for discovering patterns buried deep in text. This is one I've done before, albeit once. The latter has a degree of appropriateness given an article I power-produced this morning entitled "Process Locally, Backup Remotely" inspired by the use of perhaps the most trivial regex tool; grep.

I feel even more productive than usual, and I know that this is because of an on-going bout of driven dysthymia. I have attended two counseling sessions in the past week to discuss associated matters related to the topic, one organised through work which was less than useful as it was more about burnout and pitched at a high level. Still, others got something out of it. The other was a one-to-one session which was just the sort of thing that I needed. I know that I haven't been in a very good place for some weeks now, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Using the old Victorian method of not naming names, but rather providing initialisation, I would like to really reach out to "the kindness of women" (and they have all been women) who have really been there for me over the past several weeks, including EH, LG, AH, PA, and most recently JW.

Which does lead me to consider the life choices taken by people. Of course, my libertarian side deeply respects the right of people to make their own choices in life, even completely wrong choices, and even destructive choices, and long as they have ownership of them. But I do shake my head in some wry despair when people seem to forget that life is a one-shot adventure, and when excellent opportunities present themselves, they're worth taking! But of course, that does require the ability to recognise such things for what they are; and if when one has a tendency to think in the short-term, to decide on feelings rather than reasons, to consistently fail by not completing one's own goals or promises made to others, etc., well, they're going to find themselves in the same sort of place in five years time that they're in now, or worse. And maybe wonder then what they missed out on.

Whilst on the topic of commitments and adventures (even if imagined), I have been doing a lot of RPG related activity over the past several days, including games of RuneQuest, D&D5th, and Cyberpunk 2020. In addition, RPG Review 47 has been released with the special topic of "In Sickness and In Health", which includes my formal resignation as President of the Association and Editor of the journal, pending for the end of the year. The opportunity is there for someone to take up the role of what has been a fairly successful group and publication. But there has to be change with growth, and that goes with the organisation - and myself. This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/301093.html.
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Indulgences, Work, Valedictions

I feel like apologising for my last entry on account of it's self-indulgence, but the nature of LJ/DW always has been a one well-suited for "dear diary" entries. There is no doubt I am blessed with good and true friends who offered words of comfort and advice, and even some with a more professional background who provided helpful advice outside of such forums, including one relative newcomer to whom I was so impressed that I must, like Captain Louis Renault and Rick, declare "I think this is a beginning of a beautiful friendship". The root cause of the problem is far from being resolved of course, and the experience and strategy remains the same; awake with feelings of despondency and fear, redirect the energies of those feelings to what I know is true, and can control and continue to remake the world; "so it goes" as Kurt Vonnegut would say. And appropriately, ever onwards, I have given considerations to the continuum of needs, wants, and virtue with an essay on Lightbringers, which seems to be creating some resonance among those who care about such things.

Work has been a challenge this week with two workshops early in the week, "Parallel Processing on Spartan", an introduction to parallel architectures, OpenMP, MPI, and debugging tools, followed by "GPU Applications and Programming", which covered various scientific applications designed for GPUs, an introduction to the OpenACC pragma-based language, and the CUDA programming language. I was less happy with the latter workshop and I feel I need to develop more and tighter content for it. Much of the rest of the week involved writing a new course about using the Gadi Supercomputer at NCI. the most powerful system in Australia. Apropos all this, I received a "thank you" (and citation) in a recent paper "The effect of variation in moonlight on nocturnal song of a diurnal bird species", which was a nice surprise. It was quite a beautiful study and the practical assistance I provided was actually quite a joy to engage with.

Valedictions are given this week to the tireless work and community arts advocacy of Paddy Garritty who passed away in the past week from COVID-19. I was never close to Paddy, but we worked together on a number of projects, and I see that he was an honourable and dedicated man to a fairer and more beautiful world. Plus he had a wicked sense of humour; everyone who knew him had a Paddy story of that nature so here's mine: In 2002 or thereabouts I organised a "Labor Left Activists Conference" at Trades Hall, which was basically Pledge Unions officials and allies in the ALP. One of our sessions, rather daringly, touched upon issues related to censorship, health and safety issues etc in the sex industry which a small group (smell?) of FARTS took exception to the libertarian socialist line that was being advocated. At the end of the conference, it was time to pay Paddy for use of the hall and, having passed over the cold hard cash, he dropped to his knees and feigned performing oral sex on me. Certainly the sort of experience one doesn't forget. Valedictions Paddy, you cheeky warrior for what is right and just. We'll miss you terribly. This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/300957.html.
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A Co-pilot for an Alien in The Tempest

Every morning I wake in tears. Tears of depression with a sense of loss and failure in the past, knowing I could have, should have, done better. Tears of anxiety with the sheer scale and difficulty of what confronts me in the future. But then I take into account the success of the past, the promises that have been made to me for the future, and the arms I have for the present. These provide foundations and pillars of stability as I confront the requirements of the day that have already been broken down in their details and dependencies because I plan. Thus, I compose - nay, steel myself, and encounter the world with grim determination. "To the darkened skies once more and ever onward". This is what it's like to be in depths of The Tempest of Romanticism and Stoicism, even with numerous advantages the hand of life has dealt me, not the least certain advantages of birth "this thing of darkness I acknowledge mine". In extremes, the outwardness of serenity is matched with the inwardness of inner turmoil. A former partner once referred to me as a spirit-level on my ability to keep my head regardless of circumstances, and that is the Stoicism you see.

Some of the inner turmoil is generated by the realisation that I have of what must seem to be an alien psyche to many others; "it's almost like you're not of this world", a very dear friend kindly remarked recently, and they are not the first to say such a thing. They meant it as a compliment, of course, to cheer on my successes. I am very cognisant of my existential condition and determined that when my time is up I will be a spirit for the living, not a ghost of the past. As a result, I work very hard on improving myself (mentally, socially, physically) so that I can do my part in healing the world. For this is the path to eudaimonia, the greatest source of happiness. A modest level of financial security and societal integration is necessary and a priori of course (as the Peripatetics argued against the Stoics). But those who think after this that the path to happiness after this is through even more possessions, property, and status, are sorely mistaken. Ultimately nothing provides greater happiness than to know that you have done good for others, and even better still as effective altruism and that you will continue to do so, quite literally to be possessed by a good (eu) demon (daimonia).

I do not pretend that this is easy, and a life of simple pleasures, isolated from the troubles of the world, as the Epicureans advocated, must be enticing. But it is not my path, and despite my enjoyment of the sensual, never has been. Multiple people in recent months have also told me that I am a difficult match; which is an interesting two-fold comment. On one level, yes, I know that I am difficult to match with. With bouts of driven dysthymia, a passion for technical challenges, practical political activism, a love of the highest arts, and an ever-increasing multitude of formal qualifications (yes, I know that I am on the verge of becoming of the most qualified people in the country, if not the planet), that is hard to match with. But this is not the sort of match I am interested in, I don't want or need a match that represents either mirror or a complement or a compromise in my life. It is the other sort of match that I would be interested in, the one who seeks to become the best version of themselves, and actively seeks eudaimonia.

This too is a difficult match; I am not after an anchor in a safe harbour, that is not my Weltannäherung although I certainly understand the appeal. I have learned that I can be happy in own company ("Si vous êtes seul quand vous êtes seul, vous êtes en mauvaise compagnie"), however I know I would have even greater delight with a co-pilot in the tempest that is to come. The contemporary comedian Daniel Sloss describes such as experience as finding your missing puzzle-piece which, if you find such a person, you can make the centre of your life. More lasting I believe is the notion of the notion of the soulmate from Plato's Symposium, the discovery of another who have the same spirit for life as you do, sometimes paraphrased as "Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies". Sloss, perhaps, could have described this as discovering that another who is making the same puzzle, your big picture, and you each discover you have the missing piece held by the other. But have you ever tried to find a missing puzzle-piece? Where are you my co-pilot, my soul-mate, my missing puzzle-piece? This roaring silence devours me; and I'm crushed by the absence of you. This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/300552.html.
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    Script of the Bridge, The Chameleons
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Isocracy, Aesthetics, HPC Writings

There's been a small flurry of the articles on the Isocracy Network in the past few days; my own contribution, just posted, is a comparison between New Zealand and Sweden for dealing with the novel coronavirus. Wes Whitman has contributed a piece on the economic policies of James Meade, a rather under-rated 20th-century economist. Finally, there is new contributor Derek Wittorff on "The Radicalism of Systems Theory". All bodes well for tomorrow's annual general meeting of the Isocracy Network which will be held over Jisti.

Today I also completed a massive, three-thousand-word, review of The War of the Worlds, including the original book, the radio drama, the musical version, and the most recent film; I couldn't resist adding a little bit of discussion of coronavirus into the mix as well. On a different aesthetic orientation, there is my own health and personal body sculpting, as I've remained at consistent weight for the past three weeks, and there are still several kilograms I wish to shed. As a result, I am also doubling-down on the exercise I do and have built myself a small collection of industrial-EBM tunes to listen to as I do so.

Work-wise my usual tasks have taken a step back this past few days as I've made some major revisions to the parallel programming (OpenMP, MPI, OpenACC, CUDA) programming courses that I'll be conducting on Monday and Tuesday next week, along with courses on regular expressions and running jobs on Australia's peak HPC system the fortnight after that, then there's an additional course on mathematical programming in an HPC environment (Octave, R, Mathematica, etc). All-in-all it's been many thousands of words written and re-written over the past several days, all of which will provide lasting content. It's almost as if words have a deep and special meaning to me; that words, especially matters of promising and forgiveness (as Hannah Arendt famously pointed out) have redemptive power to the human spirit. There is much more I could say about that, but that will have to wait a few more days. This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/300471.html.
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Psychic Ruminations, etc.

In recent days I've set myself up to undertake a graduate degree in psychology. My initial interest was the University of Adelaide, but increasingly I am looking across The Ditch to bonnie New Zealand, where of course, I am completing my sixth degree right now. The timetable is to start the middle of next year. My thoughts are not such much to do counseling, because I know myself well enough that others are better than that. My art in this regard the written word and noble deed and that is the path that I am best suited for. As part of this process, I finished my essay on project management, Stoic philosophy, and The Thing, which is currently being reviewed by a couple of people with appropriate qualifications before I distribute publically. I am ever cautious with giving advice on these matters, without it being checked by people who know what they're doing. Nevertheless, I felt sufficiently brave to post a selection on Facebook on a public post.

The reality is that Stoicism is damn hard work. Developing the internal discipline to redirect the energy of one's depressive or anxious feelings to virtuous behaviour and rational cognition takes a lot of effort and the feelings of the brain fights the cognition of the mind every step of the way. It's like the brain wants you to feel depressed or anxious, and goodness knows I have some powerful reasons for the latter at the moment, the main of which I believe that I must and will keep in confidence. Another challenge that I am confronted with is the relationship between Stoicism and Romanticism; I am very thankful that Mick B., has pointed me to Simon Swift's chapter on Stoicism and Romantic literature, noting the contributions of Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Fitche. A Romantic Stoic? It is an interesting possibility and would allow one's feelings to be redirected to productive writings. It is perhaps in that spirit that I penned a piece on "Misunderstanding Machiavelli", which includes what I think is a novel contribution that "The Prince" is actually a long-term insult to the Medici family. Usually, the dedication is interpreted as flattery, but the book itself recommends rejecting such overtures.

In the spare time, I had this weekend at the Willsmere home finally, after many years, had an electrician visit and so our powerpoints are all safe and the place has new and improved lighting. Have managed a little bit of visual entertainment with a few episodes of the new "The War of the Worlds" series, and quite a clever low-budget psychological science fiction thriller film, "Coherence". In traditional story-game style, today engaged in further explorations of life as a sapient duck with a session of RuneQuest, and the cap-stone of the weekend has been my second Chinese language lesson with Shupu W., who really has been super-helpful. I might even finish the Duolingo tree this time! This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/300101.html.