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A Quieter Week and Elections

The week after the RuneQuest-Glorantha Convention has, unsurprisingly been a lot less exciting, but still with a fair bit of gaming activities after hours including a session of Megatraveller last night, and some tinkering on Papers & Paychecks. I've also sold off a good half of my Cyberpunk 2020 collection which is well over fifty books. I've also picked up Mark Morrison's latest gem, Reign of Terror which is surprisingly short (96p) although the production qualities are very impressive. Clearly, because we haven't done enough RuneQuest in recent weeks this Sunday we'll have another session. Actually I'm also planning a RQ session with nephew Luke; last week was his birthday and we went out to a local Thai restaurant (as we did last year, being creatures of habit).

Apart from that it's been plodding along with Duolingo with various "German to X" lessons. I'm finding myself quite stuck on Das Gerundium. I completed French-to-German recently, albeit with some difficulty, but I'm finding it a lot harder in the other direction. Pourquoi? Ich wisse nicht. In addition, I've made a start on my MSc assignment, specifically on suggested improvements to the Square Kilometre Array sensor systems. Workwise, there has been a lot of software installations this week particularly in the realm of various R and Python packages, neither of which are really enjoyable in the HPC space for reasons of sanity (an issue I have raised in the past). Today I spent a good portion finding out which projects were over-quota, or had a special quota, and applying a script to set a normal quota for the rest.

Election fever is in the air, and of course in the United States, the election-night pundits have proven to be more than a little wrong with the "blue wave" actually being quite real as the weeks have worn on. Here, the Victorian state election is coming in up just over a week, and whilst current Premier Daniel Andrews should win in a canter (popular, socially progressive, economically successful), the opposition under Matthew Guy has made undeserved mileage out of law and order issues even though offense rates per capita are roughly the same as four years ago and are declining. The matter wasn't helped by a lone-wolf madman. Among Liberal leaders of the past, Guy really is of the hard-right variety, the party now thoroughly controlled by religious nutters. It would be an absolute disaster if he was to be elected. Hopefully, Victorians will have the good sense to give Andrews a second term.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/262190.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
  • Current Music: Ache, Foetus
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RuneQuest Glorantha Con Down Under at Kryal Castle

I have just returned from the day of RuneQuest Glorantha Con Down Under III at Kryal Castle, the closest thing that Australia has to a real castle. From all accounts so far from the fifty plus attendees the event went very well, starting with panels on the new edition of RQ and secrets of Glorantha, along with game sessions of Khan of Khans, Pendragon, 13th Age Glorantha, and RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha. In addition to this, there was the usual stream of Castle events, and we all stopped our normal session to watch the joust (other Con attendees visited other facets of the Castle's exhibition). In the evening session, we started off with a game of Twilight Trollball followed by a rather impressive buffet BBQ and a freeform game, "All The King's All". Full conference attendees also received a free copy of RPG Review Issue 40, and many received the last few copies of the Mimesis Roleplaying Journal which I was involved in more than twenty years ago. The Abbey Tavern was the ideal place on the Castle grounds to hold the event and special credit must be given to the staff who were kind, professional, and provided veritable mountains of delicious food.

There are many people to thank for this conference and first off the generosity of Michael O'Brien and the Chaosium team must be stated. They collected gold coin donations from their surplus stock, had a giveaway game for the last leatherette copy of RuneQuest RPiG in Australia, the Argan Argar Atlas Collection. The White Bear and Red Moon book I donated for future Conventions sold for over $3KAUD, so that buyer is thoroughly appreciated as is the purchaser of the RuneQuest 6: Adventures in Glorantha book which sold for over $800AUD. All of this goes into a special fund run by the RPG Review Cooperative for future RuneQuest and Glorantha conventions. Susan O'Brien is thanked for her awesome work in running Khan of Khans, along with the panelists and GMs, David Cake, Pete Tracy, Justin Akkerman, Martin Dick, Hugh McVicker, Mark Morrison, Darius West, Garry Fay, Brian P, and Andrew Bean. Everyone was delighted with the conference badges by Daniel Tosello, and there was great support provided Erica Hoehn, Robbie Cameron, Michael Cole, Ivan Rajic, James Haughton, and Rodney Brown. Heck, there was a lot of people who helped out and whilst I had my own level of blood, sweat, and tears in the project, the aforementioned deserve accolades for their contribution. Chaosium, however, has instituted a new award; The Greg Stafford Memorial Award for Gloranthan Fandom, and yours truly is the inaugural winner. When the award was presented Andrew Bean said: "You went on a heroquest and brought RQ Con Down Under back from the otherworld. Greg would be proud." Kinder words could not have been spoken. For much of my life I've been questing for Runes, and on Sunday I received the most magical of all; the Greg Rune.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/261963.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: accomplished
  • Current Music: Greatest Hits, Lisa Gerrard
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Digital Innovation, Gaming Updates, Misc.

In my massive amounts of spare time that I have available, I've started my MSc in Information Systems Management and have completed the first two major online components (a reflective biography based on Drucker's argument of self-management) and a review of technological innovations of the past decade. Plus, of course, there has been a small mountain of reading. I have hoped that the course would be more agreeable thus far, much of the material is heavy on the business and observational side of the equation and less on the empirical. I've dragged as many conversations as possible in the course forums towards the latter, especially comparing predictions to reality. The first marked assignment will be on Sensors: exploring the opportunities and challenges for business. I suspect I'll do something related to the Square Kilometre Array, as that satisfies the criteria of being related to physical sensors, has the challenge of data processing, and I can even argue business opportunities, all of which are criteria for the study. Plus I have a few connections to the project.

The past few days saw the formal preparations for RuneQuest Glorantha Con Down Under fall into place; a total of 53 registered attendees, which is a pretty good number and a surprise last-minute game added to the schedule by a local Pendragon author, Garry Fay (Blood & Lust, The Spectre King), so that means RuneQuest Glorantha, 13th Age Glorantha, Pendragon, and Khan of Khans, all providing a pretty solid gaming stream to go alongside the panels, castle stream, auction, trollball, keynote and freeforms. Of course, I doubt very much that I'll have much opportunity to do anything of the sort myself. Still, I have managed to get a game of Megatraveller and RuneQuest Questworld in this week. The latter was particularly good fun with a new player in the group who named his Dwarf character Mark Almond; the obvious pun has already lead to some character development.

In work-related events I had a little win this week with an DNA application software project, pychopper taking up my suggestion on having numbered releases. There is many, too many, software projects these days which don't bother with old-fashioned things such as numbered releases, which make it a little annoying to track changes in application development. Yes, one can, and sometimes has to, track by commit ID. But who enjoys doing that? Plus, I've been meaning to post about IBM's recent purchase of Red Hat, but needless to scale of the purchase is pretty epic. Finally, and completely off-topic, today I finished the French to German tree on Duolingo. Most probably next course will be German to French.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/261803.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: busy
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PAX AU, RPG Review, HPC Matters

Spent pretty much the entire weekend at what is probably Australia's biggest gaming event, PAX AUS. It's an all-encompassing variety show for electronic games, tabletop games, lectures and workshops, lot of vendors, and a proportionate number of consumers to match. My own role was running sessions of Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest, which went very well even if designed for beginners. Both games proved to be quite deadly, the Cthulhu game because that's what the plot demands, and the RQ game because, well, RQ is simulationist when it comes to such things. A couple of people who attended the RQ games ended up registering for RQ Glorantha Con Down Under III, which even looks like it might break even!

The 40th Issue of RPG Review has also been released; ten years of keeping this little 'zine going has been a pretty awesome experience, in both the traditional and comtemporary meanings of the word. This particular issue is a special for RQ Glorantha Con Down Under III, and contains appropriate articles including a collection of quotes from the recently departed Greg Stafford, a big article on prehistorical animals for RQ in Australia and New Zealand, the regiment of Lunar marine ducks, a review of system changes through the various issues of RuneQuest (significantly reduced from the 15000 word document I have on disk) by yours truly, and much more. This will be the first issue that has also been produced in print as well, albeit only 100 copies.

Tomorrow I'm running another HPC class, this one on Advanced Linux and Shell Scripting for HPC. Other work-related events for the past couple of days included catching up with arjen_lentz for lunch today, who has recently been appointed the CEO of the MariaDB Foundation. Also the day previous had the first videoconference meeting with representatives from several Australian and NZ HPC centres interested in the International HPC Certification Forum, and a couple have even offered to join the board.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/261379.html.
  • Current Location: UniMelb
  • Current Mood: bouncy
  • Current Music: The Theme: The Rhodes Elegy, Klaus Schulze
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RPG Updates, Work Updates, Misc. Updates

Most evenings this past week I've spent on finishing articles and doing layout for the 10th anniversary issue of RPG Review, the 40th issue and a special for the RuneQuest Glorantha Con Down Under. I've actually reached the point where I'd rather my review of game systems of the numerous editions of RuneQuest was actually smaller rather than larger (it's currently twelve thousand words), but much will depend on how everything else fits in, and what spare time I have (in advance, I know that will be very little). In Cooperative news, with content by Karl B., we've published a diversity survey. In actual play this week run Exalted Journey to the Far West on Thursday night which involved a battle with wild boars with human faces, apparently envoys of King Wumu of Chu</i>. Chief suspect is the moody Consort Yuan, who has invited the Solar PCs to dinner in her dilapidated siheyuan. Finally, Pax Australia is on this weekend, and I'll be running RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu.

This week at work we had a planned outage on our HPC system for various upgrades, which fortunately was the day after the large union march which a number of. Despite extensive testing, I suggested and carried out a last minute review of various changes to the planned scheduler upgrade, which revealed that we really should go on version further ahead, which we did. There was a bit of data shuffling on our high-speed scratch disk partition and testing of our recompiled OpenMPI versions of which which involved me writing several scripts, making extensive use of shell expansion and heredocs. A range of invitations has been sent out to introduce various HPC educators in Australia and New Zealand on the International HPC Certification Programme, which will correlate nicely with the BoF at Supercomputing next month. Finally, spent a bit of time working through the review comments for the co-authored paper between our UniMelb team and the University of Freibug team for Advances in Science, Technology and Engineering Systems Journal.

As I've started hitting the peak level on various languages on Duolingo I've found this week that revision is consisting of cross-over between languages that I've already worked on. After all, why revise one language (e.g., English to German) when you can revise two simulatenously (e.g., Italian to German)? It's been a valuanble process not only for revision purposes but also because the crossovers seems to contain at least a handful of worlds that are not included in the from or to English courses. It is also quite likely to keep me busy for at least an additional month or two, without having to venture out of my comfort zone of standard Romance and Germanic tongues. Finally, to top things off I seem to have done my back in somehow. The past couple of days I've been in serious discomfort and some pain my lower back. Gives me good insight to those who experience it regularly because it really is a little unpleasant (and annoying enough for me to 'blog about it).

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/261226.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: sore
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Political Updates: Isocracy AGM and Wentworth

Main feature of the weekend was the Isocracy Annual General Meeting at the Kathleen Syme Centre with Professor Clinton Fernandes from UNSW speaking on Australia's foreign relations with East Timor and especially the Australia-East Timor spying scandal (the meeting also had a second NSW visitor, John August, a key figure in the Pirate Party of Australia). Clinton was erudite and incredibly sharp as usual and I believe left a good number of those present thoroughly impressed with his knowledge and perception of the supposedly arcane worlds of foreign affairs and spying. From the former the main takeaway message is that democratic governments are much less powerful than private corporations, and as a result to the latter the need to encourage public representatives to protect individuals such as "Witness K" who have pointed out that a conservative government (with corporate bidding) has engaged in activities contrary to international law. The meeting also raised a few hundred dollars for our Syrian correspondent, Om Amran, to help them through the winter months. Prior to the meeting had lunch with Holly C., and Luke M., which is always a pleasure, and afterward we continued discussion a local Syrian cafe.

Whilst the meeting was going on, interstate with the Wentworth by-election, which seems to have been one by independent Kerryn Phelps. I have just written a lengthy (700 word) blog post on the subject, pointing out that the gaffe-prone conservative government of Australia is managing to be annoying everybody they come into contact and were particularly on the nose in Wentworth which is a wealthy, small-l liberal electorate - and one which the party (in its various guises) has won since Federation. The fact that the Liberal Party has lost this is not to be underestimated (it sufficiently impressive that someone has even pulled out an old meme and produced Downfall variant. As a great moment of synchronicity, the Liberal candidate, Dave Sharma, was a legal adviser to former foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer - whilst Australia was conducting the illegal spying operation on Timor-Leste. One can but hope and work towards the possibility that October 20 marks the day of the beginning of the end of Australian conservatives, and likewise the beginning of the end of persecution of those who have pointed out the country's illegal activities against a developing neighbour.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/260979.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
  • Current Music: Rendez-vous, Jean-Michel Jarre
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eResearchAU, Academia, Gaming Updates

I've spent the entire week at eResearchAustralasia at the Pullman Hotel, and after five days of lectures and workshops my brain is a combination of full, fried, and tired. Actually, this year's conference was pretty good, with a good balance between technology and collaboration. Attended the pre-conference workshops; one the first day there was collaboration between AU and the EU, which made me realise that the people of the continent are preparing for a hard Brexit and want us onside, which suits me fine. The second day was more of a sysadmins and HPC day which was almost like an AA-meeting of how we all have the same stories of dealing with users, data etc. From the main conference program balanced my attendance between technical tools, eresearch engagement in training. My own presentation, on the use of GPUs for marine population samples went well. Was a little surprised and disappointed at the end of the day by one eResearch provider's CEO claiming that they had to keep their training material private for their business model. They apparently haven't thought hard enough about this.

Whilst on the topic of thinking hard about a subject I have been accepted into the London School of Economics for a Graduate Diploma of Economics, because clearly having four degrees is not enough. I'll be doing this concurrently with a Masters of Higher Education at the University of Otago (I enrolled in the wrong course three years ago and it's taken me that long to get things together to give it another shot). On top of that, I'll consider an offer from another British University of a Masters in Science, specifically on Information System which sadly will require two weeks on-campus in Switzerland (or Manchester). Obviously, it is not too crazy to do three postgraduate degrees simultaneously, especially when I have this overriding meta-narrative consideration of the relationship between higher education, information technology, and political economy. I think in the long run I will be satisfied with ten degrees, although I know that sometime within the next five years or so I'll be due for a change in intellectual orientation towards more aesthetic issues that combines my pre-existing studies in legal and moral regulations, followed by organisational and factual inquiry. Maybe when I'm in my seventies I'll do a Divinity and History double-major and upload my brain just in case I've forgotten to write anything down.

In the vast quantities of spare time I've had this week I've worked primarily on RuneQuest Glorantha DownUnder and the RuneQuest system review article for RPG Review, which now has hit a remarkable nine-thousand words. At this rate I could do an honours thesis on RuneQuest! Further I've translated the Le Monde article on Greg Stafford for RPG Review and was pleasantly surprised to be told that my translation was "perfect". Perhaps my French, at least in written mode, isn't as bad as I think it is? I have been heavily helped in this forthcoming issue on a massive article from Zoe Brain on the Mucky Ducks (yeah, RuneQuest is "that duck game") along with an equally-sized piece from William Noble on Australian prehistorical animals for RuneQuest. In actual play this week our regular Megatraveller game was cancelled so, for the first time is twenty-five or so years, we cracked open the old MARS Illumanti set and cranked up this delightful game of conspiracy. It was a close affair with all players being one turn away from their victory conditions, but with my Discordians making it to the cut first by managing to control a sufficient number of groups, although it was a close call when the Servants of Cthulhu running the UFOs failed to destroy the convenience stores via the Semiconscious Liberation Army. Crazy situations, well-balanced, easy-to-play. No wonder we used to love it so much.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/260618.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: relaxed
  • Current Music: Periphery, Echo Season
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In Memory of Greg Stafford

Many of my RPG gamer friends have been in a degree of shock over the past few days with the news that Greg Stafford had died unexpectedly. Of course, this is (despite the popular culture acknowledgement of Dungeons & Dragons a bit of a niche hobby), and Greg's passing wasn't exactly spread around the world by the mainstream media, with the single very notable exception of Le Monde. Let me elaborate on just two reasons why this, however, should be more widely recognised.

Firstly, the fantasy world of Glorantha. There are many modern imagined worlds out there and a few which have gained popular culture recognition. Tolkien's Middle-Earth, C.S. Lewis' Narnia, Terry Pratchett's Discworld, Moorcock's Young Kingdoms each of these showed some genius as these authors all show considerable skill. But Glorantha is truly something special because Greg Stafford was a mythologist and a practicing shaman. As a result, at the very heart of Glorantha is mythical thinking which arguably makes it the greatest fantasy world ever created. Even more so, because Glorantha is so big, it is a world whose story has been created by many as a shared imaginary universe, which continues to evolve to this day. The fact that this was then built into an RPG (RuneQuest) that incorporated playable realism and a simulation of the mythological thinking by Steve Perrin and friends is worthy of note, but then also with the HeroQuest RPG which Greg co-authored as the first major "narrativist" RPG, where player buy-in to story creation had priority.

Secondly, the Pendragon RPG and in particular the supplement The Great Pendragon Campaign. Greg Stafford had a superb knowledge of the various sources of the Arthurian legend, and the Pendragon RPG represents the first game where character personality traits become an integral part of the physical mechanics of the game and a moral outlook of the world. That in itself is a very worthy contribution to game design. But more importantly, at least in my mind, is what Greg Stafford did to the story of Arthur. It has been well-recognised for hundreds of years that the volumes of stories that make up the Arthurian legends are both syncretic and anachronistic. Stafford took all of these works and constructed the most comprehensive single narrative that has ever been written of Arthurian legend and worked the technological and social anachronisms to fit into the moral rise of the Arthurian court, its decline, and fall. The result is that The Great Pendragon Campaign will be recognised by future scholars as the most important book ever written on Arthurian legend.

As many will know a couple of months ago I started publicising a RuneQuest Glorantha Down Under Con III, after some twenty years since the last one was held. I have been pondering in my head what do in Greg's memory (I was fortunate enough almost ten years ago to interview him in RPG Review, and ten years prior to that I believe he was also at the last RuneQuest Glorantha Con at the University of Melbourne). Over the weekend I did little else than work on RuneQuest Glorantha material. But I have come to a decision; through the RPG Review Cooperative, I am going to set up a Trust Fund for future RuneQuest Glorantha Conventions in Australia and New Zealand, because I believe that's what he would have wanted. To help provide the initial finances for such a fund I am donating my copy of White Bear and Red Moon for auction, Greg Stafford's first published game from 1975, set in Glorantha. Only eight hundred of these were ever produced, and they were hand stapled. In a sense, this is almost a priceless piece of art that I am surrendering - but if it can be used to promote future gatherings which will be in recognition of Glorantha, then this indeed is the worthy sacrifice to Greg Stafford's memory.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/260523.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: determined
  • Current Music: Canyon Trilogy, R Carlos Nakai
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eResearch and Course, Gaming Updates

The eResearchAustralasia Conference is next week, and I'm presenting on the University's collaboration with Nyriad in New Zealand. It's all rather old news in some regards, but there's follow-on activities. Fortunately, my paper was pretty well already written and it was more of a case of getting information out rather than putting information in. I am also taking the opportunity at eResearch to promote the International HPC Certification programme and have arranged for a online meeting of Australian practitioners. Finally in even more work-related activities ran an Introduction to Linux and HPC course on Thursday to a pretty switched on group; handed out some nanoseconds and was helped by Martin P., who has provided a second set of eyes in picking out various spelling and formatting errors in my material.

Last night was our regular Journey to the Far West Exalted game, where I had the opportunity to introduce the historic personage of Ma Yin along with a fantasy version of the famous four-goat zun. I gave each of the goats a personality (grumpy goat, wise goat, hungry goat, horny goat), and put in in the court as a food-serving goat, a mobile sapient table, a little like Rincewind's luggage from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. In other gaming activities, I've been plodding along with a couple of RPG articles and trying to extract monies out of people who are planning to attend RuneQuest Glorantha Con Down Under. Will make various preparations in place for this Sunday's upcoming session of Eclipse Phase; the Sentinels have been on the post-Fall wasteland of Earth for several sessions now.

I am feeling particularly run down at the moment, and almost certainly due to the several major activities that I have on at the moment, which leads, as a result, to late nights - not helped by Mac The Cat who has a touch of wanting to stay out to all hours with the warmer weather. I am hoping at next week's eResearch conference there will the opportunity to revitalise myself through social interaction (as extraverts are want to do) and hopefully at least bring to a closer conclusion some of the projects I have on the boil at the moment. Because at the moment, I'm exhausted - and I know that is when I am most likely to make errors of judgment.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/260286.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: exhausted
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Convention, Reviews, RuneQuest

On Saturday made a trip up to PopCon in Ballarat. I think we spent as almost much time in the car as we did in Ballarat itself, and the person we intended to give a surprise visit Dr. Nic Moll of Owlman Press wasn't there due to a family emergency, although the artist of his work, Adam Gillespie, was there. We had a bit of chat and meandered around the fairly well-organised, if small, con. Ballarat has a population of around one hundred thousand compared to Melbourne's estimated five million, so one should not be too shocked to discover the disparity between event sizes. As we made our way back home received a 'phone call from Brendan E., whom we were planning to have dinner with. The ranting old man had tried to jump a fence and in the process broke his wrist - so the visit was delayed the following day where we went around to offer both sympathy and a ribbing; we also watched an episode of Utopia (UK, 2013), which remains deliciously intense.

Over the past few days I've written a couple of reviews and an article. I have my continuing saga with the dodgy laptop people now expressed as open prose in the 'blog entry Not The Best Customer Service (laptiop.com.au), which now acts as a review of said company. In the Rocknerd side of things, and coming in about two months late, I have gotten around to writing my review of Blue Man Group in Berlin. Presumably my review of The The will not take nearly as long. Finally, as an article I have composed the relationship between Justice, Emotions, and Reason, arguing that it is rational to advocate for justice and against discrimination and unfairness. The emotions that it brings forth are from deeply-considered convictions rather than deeply-ingrained prejudices.

In all the extra spare time that I have, I've been mostly working on RuneQuest related matters. Having completed a system review of 1st edition RQ, I've turned my attention to 2nd edition which is a lot more time-consuming as I'm looking for differences (there isn't many). Further, I'm working on a new edition of Questlines which will double as RPG Review Issue 40, the 10th anniversary issue. Caution is necessary as I'm picking up more than a couple of references in articles about the sapient ducks which inhabit the default gameworld. Too many ducks could spoil the broth (hmmm, maybe Glorantha needs a small state called Freedonia). Just as well these hobbit-substitutes did not intervene in the actual game on Sunday, that involved Broo (and puns were abound). Still, I am sure it's only a matter of time.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/259996.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: morose
  • Current Music: Movement, New Order