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Wellington to Dunedin

My last days in Wellington included catching up for lunch with Art P., Kay J., and Tim J., to discuss various matters ranging from NZ politics to science fiction. Promotion of The Locksmith is appropriate in this context. After that went to Te Papa, NZ's national museum, a visit which was particularly notable for the Terracotta Warriors exhibition, and their quite literally larger than life Gallipoli exhibition. Appropriately, the following afternoon I went on the Weta Workshop combination tour which was worth a visit, but not something I would return to in a hurry. The morning after however was a regular event on my visits here, the Wellington Cable Car and Museum, along with the well-appointed botanical gardens. Inside there is the Carter Observatory and Space Place, which I hadn't been to for several years and is well worth regular visits.

That evening took a flight to Dunedin and paid the notoriously overpriced taxi fare and stepped in my home for a few days, Balllymena House. This is an increasingly dilapidated old Victorian era building which creaks and wobbles as you make your way around, but it's comfortable, inexpensive, and the family-staff are very helpful. Have carried out some of the more official purposes of my visit, firstly being to check on my Masonic Lodge; tenant Dominic S. (of the The 3Ds fame) loves the place and has made the main hall into a music studio. My other required activity here was complete enrolment matters with the University of Otago. A few thousand dollars later, I now have a student card for my Masters of Higher Education degree; the first tutorial is on Friday.

In less requisite activities, I have purchased a small mountain of shirts from the local SaveMart; run into a chap from Byron Bay who also considers it to the finest clothes store in the AU-NZ region. As for today, spent a good few hours making my way through the Otago Museum, which has excellent Pacific Island culture sections, a good maritime history collection, and an impressive nature section. Curiously, it also has a good Greco-Egyptian antiquities collection (including a mummy). As always, I find Dunedin to be one of the most delightful and charming little cities imaginable; any excuse to visit.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/267412.html.
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Social Media Reflections, More Wellington Explorations

Earlier this week I found out via Facebook that two friends, Michael H., and Mark R., from different social circles, had died. It struck me, in part because I had been at the conference all day, and was suddenly confronted with this news with all its immediacy. I cannot say I was particularly close to either but both were the sort of people whose company I enjoyed; great minds, big hearts, and a well-tuned sense of the absurd. What struck me was the realisation that in pre-social media times, weeks if not months or even years could have passed before I would have received this news, and how it cuts in the other direction as well. Connectivity is often stronger, more organic (to use Durkheim's classic dichotomy), and especially lasting. Once upon a time you could meet someone, form a friendship, lose contact, and in ten years even their name would be forgotten. Now we have the extension of our mind, recorded in digital, replicated on servers worldwide, "Google never forgets", and our digital footprints in the sand are not washed away, but rather become a source for recollections by ourselves and others.

Meanwhile, I am still in Wellington. Multicore World has finished, with the last day of formal proceedings followed by a round-table workshop (I stayed for half of the latter, wanting to see a bit of the city during business hours). From the last day's talks I was particularly impressed with Jeffrey Vetter from Oakridge, talking about their future supercomputers and heterogeneous memory architectures, on which he has a very good paper. With retirement impending Mark Seager of Intel gave a heartfelt presentation on being part of a 34-year journey, which he points out included witnessing a 100Bx computational performance improvement in that time.

My journeys on the half-day I had free included a visit to the NZ Labour Party to rejoin (that makes four social-democratic and democratic socialist parties I am a member of in AU, NZ, DE, and FR), followed by a trip to the Wellington City Museum, which is a truly superb little institution. My favourite of the many stories the place tells is the short documentary of the Tragedy of the Wahine, overlayed with the hauntingly beautiful sounds of Adagio in G Minor. I have said in the past that this is possibly the most powerful short documentary I have ever seen, and I still hold to that - and that was before I found out that I had been on the said boat several weeks prior to its sinking, in utero.

Technically, I am officially on holiday from now until and the coming week. I do suspect that I am going to continue at least some work as that is my nature; I have software installations to complete and impending courses to teach. Nevertheless, I also have my own studies to pay attention to. This morning I handed in a massive mid-term assignment for my MSc, and next week I'm off to Dunedin to attend the opening classes for my MHed. Which means whatever spare time does fall my way I will be making the most of.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/267111.html.
  • Current Location: Wellington
  • Current Mood: contemplative
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Wellington and Multicore World

The past few days I've been in New Zealand for Multicore World, a small but quality conferences which has a great schedule. I was been particularly impressed by James Ang's presentation on heterogenous hardware design for lead researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, taking a cue from Eric von Hippel's "Democratizing Innovation". Sean Blanchard from the Los Alamos Ultrascale Systems Research Centre gave a fascinating talk on the dangers of cosmic rays on memory (who knew?), whereas Ruud van der Pas gave a great presentation on NUMA and a satirical take on a new language, OpenWOUND. Finally, John Gustafson of National University of Singapore, gave an update on the UNUM/posit project, inconsistencies in math libraries, and especially how its cost-efficiency can seriously help the Square Kilometre Array.

The conference has been held in Shed 22 on the Wellington waterfront, which had just beautiful warm and clear summer days. Which is just as well, because I've had bugger-all opportunity to explore, with a conference timetable that runs from around 8:30 to 20:00, my day's journey has been from the "hotel" to the conference hall and back again. This said, I did get the opportunity to have dinner with Janet E., and Doug on the Monday night which was absolutely delightful. I do have Saturday off before heading to Dunedin and am hoping to catch up with the handful of Wellington people I know for lunch. The "hotel" I am staying at is actually Victoria University student accommodation before the new semester, which is clean, modern, with nice views and an absolute steal at a mere $30/night (no, that is not an error).

In between the conference and working through the enormous list of R extensions that I'm installing, I've also been finishing various assessment components for the MSc in Information Systems that I'm doing. This includes a video review of a webinar on social media strategy; the assignment required that it be a video, but apparently, assessment will be based on content, which is just as well with my non-existent video skills. In addition, I also finished a review of two White Papers on Enterprise Resource Planning software, which you would think would be a prime candidate for an information systems perspective. In both cases, I am somewhat surprised by the lack of quantitative evaluation and a systems perspective in subjects that are really screaming for it. Despite (or perhaps) my background in social inquiry and my existing degrees in business, the absence of objective facts and systemic logic in such areas is really quite ridiculous.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/266811.html.
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All Work and No Play

It's been several days since my last 'blog entry and for good reason; I've buried myself very deeply in my various studies and work has been relatively tedious. Most of my readings this week have been in microeconomics, public economics, and information systems. The microeconomics studies, true to form, are typically "here's an idea under perfect competition which doesn't exist, and now for all the alternatives that make up for those assumptions". It would be interesting if economics could ever reconstruct itself to start with reality and then map a path on how to reach the ideal. As for the public economics material that is really a combination of micro and macroeconomic policy from a government perspective. On that topic, I have a fair bit to say about the franking credit issue which attracted some media attention this week, but that will have to wait a few days. Dawson and Lyons have provided a summary of history and effects stating "other taxpayers are funding cash payments from the ATO to shareholders living off investment income who do not pay any income tax", and therein is the problem. It is outrageously stupid policy and should have never been introduced in the first place.

As far as studies in information systems is concerned, that's resulted in a sizable essay on The Disciplinary Vagaries of Information Systems" where I explore why information systems cannot get out of being a multi-disciplinary subject and why there is no systemic generation of meaning. I have two more assignments to finish this course which will be done in the next week, namely a review of two white papers on ERP systems and a review of social media marketing which I have developed new levels of cynicism over, especially when the promoter spruiks the idea of "the buyer's journey" as similar to Joseph Campbell's monomyth in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Yes, the mythology of facing mortal danger in supernatural realms has been reduced to a shopping expedition.

As far as work is concerned, I've volunteered myself to update our R packages on the HPC system, which is the tedious job of checking the CRAN repository, downloading the new file, changing the checksum, modifying the build script, and rebuilding the application. It needs to be done (as does the extensions for Python and Perl), but one also has to somehow retain the power of concentration through what is a spectacularly dull sequence of events. At least it will keep me busy during next week's conference in New Zealand where I will be visiting Multicore World for several days (having picked up accommodation at Boulcott Hall at the ridiculously cheap price of $30/night), before heading to Dunedin to check on my secret South Pacific base and visit the University of Otago. The latter part of my journey is meant to be an actual holiday.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/266619.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: blah
  • Current Music: This is Happening, LCD Soundsystem
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Which Corruption? Various Updates

There are currently two unbelievably bad matters of corruption and mismanagement facing Australia that have been subject to a Royal Commission in the past week. The first was into the banking and finance sector, and various cover-ups and predatory activities. The Federal government, on no less than twenty-three occasions, blocked motions to have an investigation. When Commissioner Hayne handed down his report, the incumbent treasurer (my local member) tried to turn it into a photo opportunity. In response, commissioner Hayne showed what I think was dignified restraint. For his part, the Prime Minister is still trying to block the Commission, warning against any "rash" responses. Which is, of course, code for "we're going to ignore the recommendations, business-as-usual, lalalala".

The second that should be attracting more attention is the gross negligence of the Murray-Darling basin, the largest water system on the driest continent. You would think that this would bring down any government in a civilised country, but not Australia (not so civilised, apparently). Over a year ago it was reported that the scheme was for the benefit of cotton farmers, with the minister positively crowing that he had taken water out of the environment into agribusiness. Now the drought has hit, there's a million dead fish (some up to a hundred years old) and cotton executives have turned themselves in for millions in fraud. It stinks the high heavens, although I don't think that's where those responsible are heading.

Whilst I quietly seethe at this unbelievable combination of corruption and negligence and the inevitable results, I'm still trying to have something akin to a life in my spare time. I was supposed to be teaching this coming week, but that's been canceled because of an administrative error outside my control. I had an animal weirdness magnet hit me yesterday in two parts, the first having to carry a dead dachshund off the road; it had just been run over, and there was heavy traffic. Intervening between the body and the cars, I moved the poor thing to a side park where a neighbour of the owner took over. Then, returning home we discovered that Gremory rabbit had been dug up the previous night, presumably by a local fox.

Apart from that I've been plodding away with various coursework and installs at work, including a submission for the IEEE conference in Prague. I've been working away at the mountain that is my economics material (mostly macro this week), along with some assessable requirements for my MSc, which I've pretty much completed. There has been some opportunity for gaming, and ran both Exalted China and Eclipse Phase this week. In addition, I have made some pretty good sales on Traveller material, reducing my stock of items on said game system to just a handful of books. Plans are afoot for another RPG Review BBQ event, given that we didn't have one for the AGM; March 3 is looking like a probable candidate.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/266258.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
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Arcanacon and Related Matters, Linux and Conferences

Firstly, I was deeply touched by the condolences sent regarding our departed Gremory rabbit, which ends a long-line of lagomorphs and rodents as companion animals. We've made a start on collecting his worldly possessions (food, hay, toys) to find a fellow creature that may benefit from them. I shall also ensure that Gremory (along with all his fellows, Dantalion, Murmur, and Astaroth) receive character write-ups when I start on the Australian supplement for the edition of Bunnies & Burrows next month.

Apropos, much time in the last few days was spent at Arcanacon and related events. It really all started with a group of us heading out to the deco Sun Theatre in Yarraville to see a special screening of The Call of Cthulhu for ser_pounce. The screening included additional "making of" footage and a questions and answers session with the producer and co-writer. It was really quite enjoyable and merged well with the following night's launch of the Australian Role Playing Industry Awards at the Water Rat in South Melbourne. This was a great opportunity to catch up in-person with Sarah Newton a fellow game-designer whom I've known for quite a while via social media.

After this was Arcanacon at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, making a return after several years. There was probably close to 275 people attending all up, with the RPG Review Cooperative managing the second-hand games stall and running games of Papers & Paychecks. Only a couple of sessions of the latter ended up happening, but those who participated had a great time and even bought copies of the game. As for the stall, we had several contributors of stock which helped make it one of the most popular places to visit during the Con. Accolades are due to Andrew McPh, Andrew D., and Karl B., in particular for helping out at the stall. Karl also chaired a panel on GMing at the Con. I suppose the next step after this is the Easter convention, CONquest.

In other activities, I've been working away on my Regular Expressions course and have organised for three HPC courses early next month before heading to New Zeland for a couple of weeks to go to Multicore World. Today I put in a poster submission to the Platform for Advanced Scientific Computing (PASC) Conference in Zurich in the middle of this year on public revenue modelling. In the next couple of days I'll also make a tutorial submission for an IEEE conference in Prague on cloud engineering.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/266143.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
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Valedictions Gremory Rabbit

Last week I reported that Gremory rabbit has been unwell and required a couple of vet visits. There were some minor signs of improvement this week with him tucking into some greens and fruit, supplementing his primary diet of critical care. But he obviously wasn't improving enough and tonight, having returned from Arcanacon (more on that in a few days), he was wheezing and not being particularly active, and shortly afterwards (having hopped to the next room), he was dead. Thus ends some nine years of having Gremory in our lives, with another period with previous owners. I can only assume by his behaviour that he derived from some contentment in life, whether it was chomping down on a fresh carrot, or lying in the sun with a gentle breeze. He never seemed particularly stressed, which one imagines is how a rabbit prefers the world. What was once a very extensive menagerie of rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, cat, turtle, and fishes have had its mammal selection reduced to just cats - and their staff of course.

The reduction, of course, isn't due to any dislike or disinterest in our furred friends, but simply because if one wishes to engage in more extensive and worldly journeys some of the more exotic companion animals can make matters much more difficult. In part, there is the motivation of making the life of these creatures a little longer and more comfortable. As Alfred North Whitehead once suggested; to live, to live well, and to live better, whilst nature presents itself red in tooth and claw. From their own part, our companions are well-known with the correlation of their presence in reducing depression and anxiety, the two most common mental afflictions of our species. We must, one supposes, seem god-like in the power that we have over their lives. But with that comes our moral responsibility show benevolence in return, and forgive their unknowing transgressions. Some may say, "it's only a rabbit", to whit one recalls Jeremy Bentham: The question is not, Can they reason?, nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/265884.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: contemplative
  • Current Music: Return the Gift, Gang of Four
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51st Orbit Weekend, Arts and Gaming

Sunday was my 51st orbit around the sun and, as is my want, I actually needed reminding of the day by a work colleague late last week. This is a rather regular occurrence for me as close friends will testify. Indeed, it wasn't until virtually the last moment that I decided to do anything for my 50th, and just as well I did, it turned out to be a great night. Whilst I'm not really into birthday celebrations myself I am, always, overwhelmed with by the number and quality of people who take the time to send me wishes on this day. Somehow I've ended up with a truly remarkable and invigorating circle of friends from various branches of life that I have an interest in.

As for the day itself, I treated it pretty much any other alternate Sunday - ran a session of Eclipse Phase where the Sentinels found themselves promoted to probational Proxy Agents to deal with an escaped mad AI and de-escalate a war. For characters that had been operatives for the past couple of years of play, the switch to management and recruitment was an interesting alternative challenge. Apropos the previous day was our semi-regular CheeseQuest with hathhalla and ser_pounce. We played Cthulhu Wars that day, a real monster of a game (pun not intended), where the Elder Gods are in conflict to take over the world (obviously). In this instance, the crawling chaos led by Nyarlathotep just pipped yellow sign of Hastur. Despite the size of the game and the quantity of pieces, it was pretty easy to play and quite well paced. I just can't imagine myself owning a game physically that size. Finally on-topic I've added some 150 or so classic Traveller books to the RPG Review store, all in preparation for Arcanacon this weekend.

The other big event of the weekend was going to the MC Escher exhibition at the National Gallery of Victory. In my younger years I was quite taken by his works which combined mathematical approaches to perspectives (resulting in impossible objects) and tessellations. In many ways it was a combination of seemingly contradictory approaches of cubism and surrealism, both of which he was a contemporary. Alongside this major exhibition was the pop and lighthearted Julian Opie, which included a fun and interactive "kids studio", which unsurprisingly was full of adults.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/265610.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
  • Current Music: A Brief History of the 20th Century, Gang of Four
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Rabbit Issues, Other Activities

Gremory rabbit is one very sick bunny. He hasn't been eating (or defecating) for a few days now which, as you can imagine, is very poor form for a grazing herbivore. We've taken him to the local vet, twice, including the on-site rabbit specialists, and they're not sure what is wrong; it's not the usual rabbit issues gastrointestinal stasis or a dental disorder. All his vital signs are fine (good protein levels, blood sugars, etc), with of course the exception of weight loss. We've been force-feeding him critical care, painkillers, and ranitidine. He's a rather old bunny (around eight years) and it's rather like he's just decided he's had enough; this morning he was just holding the critical care in his mouth rather than swallowing it. I cannot help but think that my next journal entry will be about the end of Gremory's fairly unexciting life (which is just how a rabbit prefers things).

Apart from the rabbit issue it's been a very productive week. I've powered my way through my second MSc course finishing most of the readings and lectures before the six-week course has even begun. This accumulated knowledge from past studies is being put to good use. All my enrolment issues for the MHEd at Otago University has been sorted and I'll be heading down to Dunedin attend a tutorial in person next month after attending Multicore World in Wellington. I've made good progress on a new course I'll be teaching on regular expressions (grep, sed, awk, perl etc) which hitherto has been crammed into a one-hour component of my shell scripting course. Further, I have put up a mountain of GURPS books on the RPG Review store, with plenty selling in the first day. Another 5500 words has been added to the Papers & Papychecks supplement, and last night played the simple card-laying Building an Elder God, followed by Cthulhu Gloom.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/265451.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: worried
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Various Gaming, Academia, Writings

The start of the year has been pretty productive just a couple of weeks in. I've had a flurry of activity over the past few days, making extremely good progress on the Papers & Paychecks supplement, Cow-Orkers in the Scary Devil Monastery. I was especially happy with my decision to make western dragons basement-dwelling advocates of the gold standard with a taste for young maidens ("Technically, I'm a ebevore", they say). If I had them wearing fedoras it would be too obvious. Write-up for last Sunday's Eclipse Phase game is done, and on Thursday we had another session of Megatraveller following our successful acts of piracy against the Aslan. Tomorrow is RuneQuest Questworld.

I've been making good progress marching through my MSc in Information Systems and the Grad Dip in Economics. Received a rather acceptable 85% for the final assignment in the former (a proposal for an immersive online learning platform). The latter is one of those horrible and archaic subjects where everything is determined by a single exam (who does that in 2019?) which might actually benefit me given my capacity to cram. Have been trying to install gretl from source on the HPC system (packaged version was easy on the laptop) and have discovered some very interesting ways it handles LAPACK. Apropros such things have also had a little rant which generated some interest on Simple FOSS versus Complex Enterprise Software; summary version; simple but hard FOSS that is interoperable is better than complex but easy feature-rich closed-source software.

For the Isocracy Network I've put out a couple of 'blog posts both directed at individuals who prefer to let ideology take precedence over facts, namely Mark Latham on Drugs (there is such beauty to the variance the English language allows), The Fame Geoff Kelly Deserves (I've been sitting on that one for a while). I have also been busy on Rocknerd as well, with two reviews - one of the The The concert in Melbourne a couple of months back and another of Gary Numan's Savage (Songs from a Broken World). Finally, I spent a few days going over the French translation of David Gerard's Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain, noting only a couple of major errors, a few suggested improvements, and a couple of cases where the translation improved the original (surely not!).

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/265164.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: busy
  • Current Music: The Violin Concertos, J.S. Bach