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Wine Events, HPC Events

It's been a few days of wine-based events, starting with the South American Masterclass on Friday at Union House, featuring samples from Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. There was nothing particularly terrible or spectacular about the selection, with a fair glera and a reasonable malbec. However this pales in comparison with the wine tour we took over the weekend as the Westralian side of the family are visiting. With a small and personalised tour to the small vineyards of Mornington peninsula, we dropped into the Paringa, Panton, Pier 10, and had a pretty substantial lunch at Merricks General Wine Store. Half on taste, half on sympathy, we picked up a few bottles, the relentless laws of economies of scale and capital development will the doom of almost all such places over time - and the success of one or two. Tonight we finished with a dinner at Long Grain.

Still, it hasn't been all play over the past few days. Prior the dinner I gave a guest lecture on the Spartan HPC system to the masters-level course ENGR90024 Computational Fluid Dynamics. More significantly, I've been asked to join the development of an International HPC Certification Program with HPC educators from the University of Reading, Universität Hamburg, and Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin, and others. At the moment it is all very nascent with but a poster presentation for the Frankfurt International Supercomputing Conference and a mailing list, but from such small acorns mighty oaks can grow. It is not as if there isn't sufficient demand for such a group and whilst there have been attempts in the past, if they get PRACE onside that will make a great deal of difference.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/248979.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: calm
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Sysadmin Training Day, Gaming Updates, Syrian Thoughts

Hosted a Sysadmin Training Day for new and interested Spartan and GPGPU sysadmins and power users; was expected around a dozen people and ended up having close to twenty. It went really well, with others making very worthwhile contributions. I get the sense there is good potential for a working team to come out of this - and just in time, I completed two internal courses at work, Mentoring Others and Building and Managing Teams. Despite being short, both had utterly superb signal-to-noise ratios, and with immediate practical use - much better than most of the facilitated courses that I've been to over the years.

I haven't bee well enough to get out much this week after hours, and as result have only played Eclipse Phase via video conferencing. Nevertheless my writing output has been pretty consistent; finally managed to give a summary for the Eclipse Phase Rimward and Return story which ended in a TPK, and the fourth chapter of the Dungeons & Dragons Vassals of Giselbert historical fantasy which was very heavy certain incidents of Germanic history. In addition, have taken the loose reigns of RPG Review 38 and have written reviews of the classic Star Trek Basic Game by FASA, as well as ICE's SpaceMaster. Both reviews are close to 2000 words apiece. Apart from that I've been making ample usage of the new "crown" system in Duolingo. Hopefully, I'll finish the Dutch tree before I step on the plane.

Recent events in Syria have proven interesting to say the least, starting with the suspected chemical attack in Duoma, followed by Russia using veto in the UN Security Council on a investigation on who could have carried it out, then the US-led strike against suspected chemical weapon facilities, then the medics are intimidated, the inspectors are prevented on reaching the site, and when the finally try to, they are shot at. Meanwhile, there's an amazing amount of complete nonsense in social media about these events, most of which comes under the category of tribalist fake news (people like to believe they are 'in' on a conspiracy). A steafast committment to deliberative analysis remains the boring, but accurate, method of evaluation.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/248723.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: sick
  • Current Music: An 1, Plastique Bertrand
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Matters of Health, Work, Rick, and Time

After spending a couple of days fighting off a cold, I have finally succumbed and decided that I really need to spend a day or two at home. So here I am wrapped up in several layers with Mac the cat and the laptop to keep me entertained as I doze in and out of a foggy delirium. Still, it is not nearly as a bad as the poor state that co-worker Martin P., has found himself in. A few weeks back he was admitted to hospital with loss of taste and fading vision; turns out he had a tennis-ball sized brain tumour on his frontal lobe. He has a mighty scar, like Frankenstein's monster, and is in very good spirits, despite having issues with short-term memory. We both took some delight in the discovery that a brain sample is being used on our Spartan HPC which of course he has done a bit of work on. It will make a great talking point for the next course.

On work matters, I think I have seen my desk once this week. Monday I worked from home whilst dealing with some Rick B. matters and Tuesday I had off as time-in-lieu. Yesterday I was at one of the University's internal management development courses, specifically 'Authentic Leadership'. It wasn't bad, but not really as challenging as I would have liked it, although I do speak from a privileged position - after all I did do a trimester course on the subject as part of my MBA. In other work-related matters, had a very good meeting with the internal staff teaching group (curiously linked with the above) on website accessibility. They were quite open to the fact that they had problems, and appreciated the irony that their anti-discrimination learning module was, in fact, discriminatory.

The Rick matters this week consisted of a one-hour meeting with his financial advisers (we're going to have to sell his flat), a quick visit to his lawyers, taking him for a check on the state of his facial skin cancer (all good), and finally organising access to his accounts. Having paid some $30K of my own money to cover his expenses, it is good to have turned that corner. There was a meeting with VCAT this week as well as UnitingCare had initiated proceedings due to my refusal to pay the full-rate until the Dept. of Human Services had made their assessment, which I told them every time they contacted me on the matter. Well, the Tribunal wasn't going to put up with their nonsense and despite them bringing three of their managers to the party, I walked out with guardianship intact, plus an opportunity to open the will (one wouldn't want to automatically sell it if it had already been bequeathed). As for UnitingCare, well, whilst I can be magnanimous in victory or loss, there is also a side of me that is vindictive towards those who negotiate in bad faith.

This week also witnessed a visit to The Astor with caseopaya and [personal profile] funontheupfield to see the film A Brief History of Time which they were showing in honour of the recently departed Stephen Hawking and donating part of the proceedings to MND Australia. The film covers both life and cosmology, and is hard to dislike on that basis, and often is quite funny. He was, at least in his early university days a somewhat indifferent and rapscallion genius. Notably, at this stage missing his estranged first wife, Jane Wilde, although notably it is remarked that without the combination of MND and Jane he probably wouldn't have achieved what he did. Also found Holly and Luke after the film who had been in attendance. I also took the opportunity to re-read the book - it has been some twenty-five years since I last turned those pages, and despite the title it's not just about time, but rather cosmology in general.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/248554.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: sick
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Syria Updates, MLK anniversary, Social Events

I have written a lengthy (3000 word) piece on the Isocracy website about the current situation in Syria, Peace without Justice in Syria, which follows on from a piece over five years ago, Peace with Justice in Syria. To give a summary form, I think that in the coming months we'll see an effective breakup of the country, in fact if not officially recognised. Turkey and the Turkish FSA will take control over Idlib and the north-west, Rojava will be backed by NATO forces and may even declare independence, and sporadic skirmishes will continue. The hopes of the revolution, at least in the short-term, have been dashed by actual facts, and the two most important facts have been the massive Russian intervention on the government's side, and Turkey acting as both the biggest supporter of the FSA, and the biggest opponent of the SDF - which effectively ends the revolution, for there is no way they could take the Assad regime down whilst the FSA and SDF were not working together.

It is the second piece on the Isocracy website this week, the first being a statement on guaranteed minimum income which was approved by the committee. Out of aesthetic and respectful reasons, I ensured that it was posted on 18:01, April 4, Memphis Time - exactly fifty years after Martin Luther King Jnr, was assassinated, and follows on from the address to the local Unitarian church I gave recently on Remembering Martin Luther King, Jnr. His is a message which I think is still highly relevant today; not only for matters of social justice (ending racial discrimination, opposition to imperialist wars, and the abolition of poverty), but also in terms of political strategy (use of non-violent direct action in liberal democracies). I confess to being highly moved by his speeches, and am a little disappointed that apart from a few articles, there wasn't the groundswell of interest on the fiftieth anniversary of his death. The past, I suppose, is another country.

I've been to a few social events this week, which is a little more out of character. It actually started last weekend with a lovely dinner with Holly and Luke in Richmond, with a decidedly Mexican orientation; I brought a bottle of mezcal to add to the style, quite a tasty smokey flavour. During the week also caught up with Damien and Jacqui at the pleasant Water Drop Restaurant in the city, who were taking caseopaya out for a belated birthday. On Friday went to Charmaine's birthday drinks at the Daddy Bar in Brunswick, and last night visited Brendan E., where we finished off the last season of the The New Legends of Monkey (I have, with some cultural appropriateness, just finished the first book of Dream of the Red Chamber). There was, of course, a gaming session as well among all this, specifically, our second playtest session of the Jane Austen inspired RPG, Good Society.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/248105.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: pensive
  • Current Music: The Unforgettable Fire, U2
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The Long Weekend

It is a peculiarity of being a country founded with a majority Christian faith that our holidays (holy days) are of that faith. Contemporary scholarship acknowledges that whilst there is no physical evidence of the historical Jesus in all probability there was such a person, although what they taught or did is up to a lot of debate. There is passing mentions several decades after his death and the gospels are at least a hundred after the fact. Be that as it may, we do have Christianity, warts and all, and we do have our easter holidays, where we celebrate what is almost certainly myths regarding death and resurrection (Western Christian) aside fecundity and birth (Germanic pagan). Whilst as a secularist I would prefer if we just had an extra 10 holidays a year at whatever time we wanted as appropriate to our individual beliefs (or desire), the gothic side of me derives some pleasure from the fact that we have a ritualised death holiday.

The weekend also happens to be caseopaya's birthday, "not quite a fool" as I like to remind her. This year I took her for a holiday to Lake's Entrance, a relatively distant small seaside resort and fishing port, notable for being alongside the Ninety Mile Beach, and close to Buchan Caves, both of which we visited. The latter is located near the Snowy River, famous primarily for the poem by Banjo Paterson, and we took a trip alongside it through the national park. The poem is primarily set in Australian Capital Territory as rivers don't respect state borders, and I take some delight in the fact the eponymous River Man's pony that is part Timorese.

Lake's Entrance also has a comfortable cinema which is nestled among its squash courts. We took the opportunity to see Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water, which has surreal cold war science fiction, an exotic romance, and rather impressive mise-en-scene throughout. Less impressive was Winchester, which we watched at the motel the night before which was fair in narrative, characters, and setting, yet didn't excel in any of the above. Next movie night I'm looking forward to at The Astor is a special screening of A Brief History of Time

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/247872.html.
  • Current Location: UniMelb
  • Current Mood: tired
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Italian, Cheese and Other Quests, The Blacklist

It's been a while (over a year), but I have completed another Golden Owl on Duolingo, this time in Italian, which wasn't even on my list of priority languages. I basically just want enough to order food on Lygon Street, although the course did seem to emphasise food, death, love, and some cosa nostra implications. Many decades ago I did some at junior high school and didn't really grasp it at all. This time however, I found it a lot easier - Duolingo is apparently a better teacher than Mr. Rousseau was, and certainly language acquisition theory has improved a lot since then as well. All I really recall is the expectation that we would read and translate Le Avventure di Pinocchio. All said, whilst there is still a sense that I would like to get a good grasp of at least the major international languages, there are quirky experiential and aesthetic choices on my agenda as well. I confess I'm having trouble deciding whether the next Golden Owl will be Portuguese or Dutch. Probably the latter as I intend to visit in a few months.

Last Saturday Damien and Jacqui came over for our semi-regular CheeseQuest event; I made a mountain of hummus variations (spicy, sour etc) and then a mushroom gnocchi. We finally finished our Complete Lessons Collection of Moral Orel and then went on to play a session of D&D Charlemagne's Paladins which involved a visit to Irminsul, a meeting with King Widukind, and the discovery of Charlemagne's Massacre of Verden. They may have rescued their kidnapped bishop, but now they are far less certain of their loyalty to Charlemagne. They'll have plenty of opportunities to upset the history as it has been writ.

One of the side-effects of being a social gamer is that apart from cinema visits for classics and arthouse, I don't usually get much time to engage in television shows etc. Indeed, it has only been very recently that I found myself making use of NetFlix, and binged my way through Altered Carbon. I had, almost by accident, caught a few episodes in the past of The Blacklist which I enjoyed, especially with James Spader's utterly superb performance as a powerful cultured criminal informant. Now, over the past month or so, I've binge-watched four seasons and have caught up with the actual series in production. It's all a little out-of-character for me, but does explain, at least in part, a lack of my typical writing output.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/247552.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: calm
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Academia, Politics, Gaming, Urban Planning

It's been a busy week on the academic front, with a paper submitted for the International Conference on High Performance Computing & Simulation on the issues around "cloud bursting" in HPC, followed by another for the International Conference on Advanced Computing. In addition, I was invited for my annual guest lecture in the master's level course on Cluster and Cloud Computing; a long lecture this time (about 2 hours) although the 200 or so students seemed pretty engaged with plenty of interesting questions afterwards. A curious conclusion to the week was the discovery I had been published in an IEEE journal last year, based on the request for a follow-up publication.

In after-hours activities caught up with Paula and met Verity B., at the New International Bookshop who had contributed chapters to a newly edited volume of "Wobblies of the World". Although I am not in attendance, tonight there is a tribute benefit for Simon Millar, a trade union activist who recently died. Simon and I were housemates some thirty plus years ago in Perth, and his sudden passing was really quite unexpected. Apart from our mutual interest in left-wing politics, Simon also was a gamer. He probably would have been amused by the unlucky TPK on Sunday running Eclipse Phase, and equally so by the character contortions from Thursday night's session of Exalted.

On topic thoroughly amused by an RPG designer who takes the opportunity to justifiably criticise the design of New Orleans. Rubbish maps by fiction authors for their imagined worlds are a pet hate of mine, and to see reality itself turn this on this head is quite delightful. It also says a great deal about the town planners of said city. It does bring to mind however a discussion that I had recently that my next career should be in the arts (because it would fit the Socratic triad). I wasn't sure exactly what aesthetic endeavour I would engage in, but something that would suit my existing studies would be urban planning. But that's several years in the future of course.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/247494.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: cranky
  • Current Music: Best of Friends and Relations, Hawkwind
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Films, Wines, and Intellectuals

Monday evening we went to The Astor to see Liquid Sky, which I hadn't seen in about thirty years or so. It is a decidedly B-grade film in terms of production and acting, but does a good presentation of the glam-punk fashion scene of the time, and has a superb plot. April is looking like a challenging month there with Eraserhead, Dune, Inception, and Interstellar all playing. On a related level, played Eclipse Phase on Friday night (we were completely hosed due to an ill-thought snap decision) and will be running another session on Sunday.

University House hosted another wine masterclass on Friday, this time German Riesling. It was a good overview of the only region of Germany I really know by experience, although try as they might there is nothing astounding about any Riesling, sweet or dry. It's the rice congee of wines. Appalling if bad, but usually satisfying and shouldn't cost more than $10 a bowl. I'm rather looking forward to the next event of South American wines; I am, of course, familiar with Chilean varieties, but I must admit I have no experience of Brazilian.

Current Affairs has published a superb critique of Jordan Peterson, outlying a method that combines banality with obscurity, with a fundamentalist's dogma. It is a far cry from, for example, Noam Chomsky's declaration that public intelectuals need to "expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions", of Habermas' "courage to take normative stances and the imagination to adopt novel perspectives", even in the age of the Internet, or Foucault's claims to universalism mixed with a Gramscian proletarian-orientated "organic intellectual", which develops in a very different form in Hannah Arendt's refugee-cosmopolitan experience. Looking a the world, it should be clear that the intellectual world needs more of this ilk, rather than that of individual self-help texts raised to political ideology, as offered by Peterson.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/247123.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Music: The Xenon Codex, Hawkwind
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Some Computer and RPG Updates

A good portion of work over the past few days has consisted of building OpenFOAM/5 and Paraview with its amazing dependency chain; only the last components are yet to be done. In much better news, we've finally managed to satisfactorily resolve the network issue we'd been in having with the new GPGPU partition. As a sort of IT reminiscence or self-therapy I've started writing tales of some old computers that I've owned in the past; starting with an Alpha Micro named "Murphy". Future systems will probably include PDP-11, an Apple II, and a Dauphin DTR-1; the latter I still own, and it works (even though the disk drive has long since departed to silicon heaven).

In my ever-continuing quest to combine intellectual games with cultural studies, ran an initial session of Exalted: Journey to the Far West on Thursday. Merging mythic China with the game is relatively easy, although even with multiple rulebooks in the house character generation was still somewhat onerous. The game is verbose with a detailed background, and combined the two make for some heavy going. Juxtaposition playing Carcassonne with a neighbour the night before was notable! On-topic, today is RuneQuest Questworld and tomorrow will be the continuing story of Bishop Giselbert's Four Vassals. Apropos, and cause of much joy, Cyanide Studies has been authorised to produce a computer game of the Paranoia RPG. "Stay alert! Trust no-one! Keep your laser handy!"

I have been struck by reports worthy of ridicule of late. The Sun, never a particularly worthy paper, has raised the ire and mockery of many by arguing with shock that "snowflake students" are claiming that Frankenstein's monster was misunderstood and a victim. It's like they've missed out on two centuries of literary criticism. Worse still is the fact that The Times has made a similar claim. This is just stupid; but on the stupid and dangerous level is the discovery that a fleet of 52 carriages ordered by the NSW government at a cost of $2.3 billion, can't fit through the Sydney train tunnels. I suspect a project plan developed by people who don't actually use trains themselves.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/246827.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: content
  • Current Music: From Here to Eternity, Giorgio Moroder
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Truth and Justice, the Way of the Gourmand, and RPG Review

It seems to me that justice and truth are related, even if rationally incommensurable in their content. I recently wrote an example of this relationship based on a short Internet debate this week; The Gaseous Truth in Syria. It was one of a few related experiences on the subject. On Sunday I gave an address to the local Unitarian church on Remembering Martin Luther King Jnr, where I outlined his religious origins, civil rights activities, political strategy, and his concern for economic justice. I am toying with the idea of promoting the latter as an Isocracy-initiated campaign. On that topic last night I went to see a presentation by Ed Dodson at Proposer Australia; Ed is visiting from the United States and is responsible for the School of Cooperative Individualism. It was a lengthy presentation, but gave me some good insights on how "geo-libertarian" opinions developed in the United States Georgist movement.

University House also hosted a burgundy wine tasting yesterday, with Victor Pepin from Bouchard Père et Fils. The presentation was absolutely great, the wines were good, and prices unsurprising, and tempting with the House discount. Still, it's hard to justify when one already has a hundred reasonable bottles or so in storage. Apropos such epicurean delights, for various reasons I've spent a couple of days this week working from home, and whilst the opportunity has presented itself I've found myself taking the opportunity to bake all sorts of fruit cakes, corn breads, tomato bread etc. It's quick to set up, the results are delicious, and it makes a nice change of pace over building HPC software.

I should also mention that RPG Review Issue 37 has been released. It has fewer but longer articles with own contribution being several reviews of appropriate games to the subject of 'Cosmology, Gods, and Religion'. I have a few more up my sleeve and will have to get on to those soon. It is also opportune to announce my retirement as editor of the 'zine after some ten years at the helm (bar one issue). The reins (and the reign) is now being passed to Andrei N., whom I'm sure will do an excellent job for an upcoming science fiction issue. In actual play this week I've managed to run a session of Eclipe Phase and play Megatraveller. Tonight at the Willsmere estate a neighbour has organised a boardgames night - I'll be bringing along Carcassonne, and tomorrow night is the first session of Exalted Journey to the Far West.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/246557.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: busy