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A Throne of Lies, RPG Updates

In a result which seems to have surprised pretty much everyone, the conservative Liberal-National government was re-elected on Saturday in Australia. As many others are doing, I've done my part in going over the entrails, but really the results come down to one basic fact, which I raised as an alert a several days prior; people were lied to, as Australia has no laws regarding truth in advertising when it comes to election campaigns. Trapped in my own bubble of being a politically engaged boffin who fact-checks everything by nature and training, I completed under-estimated how important this will be, and how democracy can be broken under such circumstances. As The Australian heralds the re-elected happy-clappy PM, as the "Messiah from The Shire", the trending hash-tag on Twitter is #LiarFromTheShire. I suspect it's the latter that's going to stick, especially given on the opening day of work a key promise of tax-cuts is broken. Curiously, Donald Trump has perhaps inadvertently revealed the issue by comparing the re-election of Morrison with his own election and the Brexit referendum. Yes, those elections were carried out with a fully informed voting public, too.

Whilst I have a new item in my political agenda that I now desperately want to see implemented, my highly structured life and leisure goes on. Of some note was our final session of RuneQuest Questworld on Sunday which came to an acceptable conclusion; the GM wants to shift to the most recent edition and its Glorantha setting. Later that evening was the monthly committee meeting for the RPG Review Cooperative, which reminded me that I have to get RPG Review 42 out this week ("Wilds and Wilderness" subject), especially considering that it's already about eight weeks late at least. For my own part, I have review articles on the old Avalon Hill boardgame, "Survival", and the AD&D supplement Wilderness Survival Guide. Not to mention I still have around 5,000 dull words (monster statistics) of the Cow-Orkers supplement for Papers & Paychecks. Also, this weekend coming will be possibly the final session of Eclipse Phase, or maybe it will stretch out for a couple more depending on actions. After this, we have slotted in place a truly interesting retrospective of playing Cyberpunk 2020, which is a real blast from the 80s. Must be said, I'm rather looking forward to it, and I'll find myself in the strange position of not GMing a regular game.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/272433.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: melancholy
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Election Fever

The Australian Federal election is today, and it increasingly seems that we'll have a change of government. Labor has been pretty brave in this election, ignoring the traditional "small target" strategy and has certainly suffered for it, upsetting some powerful media figures, the real estate industry, and opening themselves up to a scare campaign to retirees on franking credit reforms. The wisest economic minds have come out in favour of Labor, but when your economic policy is about targetting recent-seeking and maximising utility (which means more money to the poor), you're going to put some people off. But despite all this, the opinions polls have remained consistently in favour of Labor throughout the campaign and as the end draws near there's even a bounce further to their benefit.

For the own part, the Coalition has run a largely negative campaign focussing on claims of Labor's taxes and claims that they can't manage money, which is curious given that they've doubled net government debt. The major policies came out in the budget preceding the election which the major ticket is a $77bn tax-cut for those earning $180K+ pa and more. Certainly their record (astounding list compiled by Matthew Davis</a>) is nothing to crow about; a succession of leadership challenges, a current prime minister who mocks climate change by bringing a lump of coal into parliament like it's a pet rock, and an parade of questionable contracts with their donors, and their trite slogans have been brilliantly mocked by The Weekly.

Almost on cue to generate a sense of pro-Labor nostalgia, Labor's longest-serving former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, passed away on Thursday. The media was positively gushing with tributes of this "larrikin" prime minister, famous for holding the world record downing a yard-glass of beer. But it was the deep changes to the Australian economy and legislation which were his more significant achievements. Australia's universal health-care system, Medicare, is certainly one that is highly recognised. Tariff reform helped provide the international diversity of goods we enjoy. Social welfares expenditures were almost double the OECD average, and a slate of anti-discrimination legislation was implemented. Yes, Hawke did engage in a neoliberal agenda as well; union membership plummeted and with 'free riders' now the norm and there was a 'race to the bottom' with company tax cuts. But if you want to see a difference between the two, compare the UK's Thatcher with Hawke. When Hawke died, there is a collective sense of the loss of a favourite. When Thatcher died, people danced in the streets.

For my own part, I went to the impromptu memorial celebration at Trades Hall last night, having just missed Bill Shorten across the road at the pub (did catch up with Liz and Karl, which was awesome). Earlier in the week, I completed my letter-box run with Labor advertising (education and climate change pamphlets). Labor is lucky to get 20% of the vote where I live; it is well-to-do, to put it mildly, and something that was drilled into me as a child was that Labor was the party of the poor. I found myself reminiscing of where I started in life and where I've ended up, and how so few of the people in my locale have experienced poverty. They don't know the endless struggle of looking over basic utility bills and wondering how they will be paid. They don't know of hiding in a room in complete silence when the rent-collector is banging on the door because this week, again, there just isn't enough money to pay. They don't the shame of surreptitiously hiding your homework and claiming that you forgot to do it, because the task was to do a floorplan of where you live, and yours is 1/5th of everyone else around you. They don't know the indignity of begging a charity for a food parcel, just so there will be something on the table at Christmas. I do know those experiences, and whilst they are long in my past, they are deep and old scars.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/272290.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: sick
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A Week of Scattered Activities

Apart from the structured environment of work, my most focussed activity of the past week has been the Federal election which I've been watching with a serious and slightly nervous eye. As usual I've been recording major events on my Isocracy 'blog every couple of days, although one item that hasn't been added (can't be too parochial) is the local cross-preferencing between Labor, the Greens, and an independent ex-Liberal which means that the blue-ribbon Tory seat of Kooyong is likely to fall to the Greens. It's well deserved really; Frydenberg's economic management as the national treasurer has been appallingly bad, and there's nothing good to be said about his party's record on climate change, refugees, or LGBTI rights, which are major issues in this solid liberal seat.

On Saturday I hosted the annual general meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby, which was addressed by Terry Laidler, who spoke a on the Cardinal Pell sex-abuse case and the hierarchical power structure within such organisations which leads to such behaviour and cover-ups being depressingly common. There was a lengthy discussion after Terry's address (it was remarkable that he attended, given that his brother had died the day before) concerning the Lobby's immediate activities - equal taxation of commercial activities owned by religions, and a submission to the mental health Royal Commission.

Other activities included finishing my final assignment for the penultimate course in my MSc in Information Systems, glad to get that out of the way. I've been particularly uninspired by this particular course, now only one unit (and a thesis and residency) to go. Also confirmed this week that I am now an official Software Carpentry instructor, after being on the waiting list for five years; good to finally get that done.

I ran a game of Eclipse Phase on Sunday as the Proxies and their Sentinels try to hunt down a "Thing-like" beast which doesn't have the obvious signature of the famous monster. Hunting monsters of a different sort on Thursday played in a session of LexOccultum which included various investigations before a cliff-hanger encounter with a werewolf; this mini-campaign to be concluded next week presumably with The Big Fight(TM). This week I'll put together the very late edition of RPG Review Issue 42.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/272108.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: relaxed
  • Current Music: Unyt, Scann-Tec
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Respecting Reality

The German side of my common-law in-laws includes the CEO a B2B furniture company of some note. Their corporate slogan has the wonderfully pragmatic slogan, "Respecting Reality", which is in rather short supply these days. Well, today I decided to do some of that myself, and defer my exams for my graduate degree in economics. I went over some of the exams for previous years and realised that I would a seriously uphill battle to complete them at the standard I want. Which is not surprising really. Due to various enrolment and course material delivery issues, I didn't actually receive all the material until late November last year. So you can imagine my surprise when in mid-January I received an email announcing that exams would be in May. Ahem, I might be a pretty smart cookie, but when you've haven't done second order differential equations for almost thirty years, it might take more than a few months to get back into the swing of things. So, following the suggestion of the University, that degree is delayed for a year. At least I've made a start on it, and following the first exam, an essay on The Ideal Determination of Government.

Apart from that, and respecting a different sort of reality, attended Robbie and Eddie's wedding on Saturday night, held at the somewhat famous Tolarno Eating House in St. Kilda. It was a fun night to say the least, in fact downright astounding and my very best wishes and congratulations to the beautiful couple. There was great opportunities to catch up with a wide range of old friends, many of which I've known for the better part of twenty-plus years - sardonic political radicals, rockers and ravers, stoner Buddhists; you know what I mean, the people who make this world colourful and interesting, who have never succumbed to the lure of filthy lucre, and have steadfastly avoided being deadening greyness of conformity. As you would imagine with such a crowd the music for the night was pretty damn fine, and I've had Born Slippy.NUXX as an earworm for a couple of days. Which is all very well, as caseopaya won the ballot to see The Cure at the Sydney Opera House, and we'd previously booked to see Underworld at the same venue. I'm rather looking forward to it.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/271634.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: chipper
  • Current Music: Dubnobasswithmyheadman, Underworld
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Economics Studies, Various HPC Matters, Other Events

Today was my Public Economics exam, which is probably my strongest subject in this degree and I think I went pretty well. Of course, Public Economics is probably my strong subject in this area because I am fascinated by how unrealistic mainstream economic models are, and what goes wrong when they are applied without due consideration. Issues such as imperfect competition, asymmetric information, externalities, and rent-seeking are the norm, not the exception. Coming up soon is exams in macroeconomics and microeconomics which I suspect will be a lot more difficult for me, especially with the minimal time I have had available to do these courses. The microeconomics subject is particularly heavy on the analytic side which will require a lot of preparation over the next few days - which means skipping a couple of gaming sessions.

In the meantime I have completed the first draft of a paper for Open Philosophy on the problems of reproducibility in computational simulations (it's a special issue on the latter subject), along with the proposal to the Australian Research Data Commons to help establish a workshop-forum and data repository of HPC educational material and delivery techniques. Also worth mentioning that after five years on the waiting list I finished the last component to become a certified Software Carpentry trainer. Finally, have also completed a piece of formal assessment for my higher education degree by writing up the rationale for the International HPC Certification Forum. This is an interesting report, whereby the components are put together piecemeal, reviewed, and then recompiled into the final submission.

My daily 'blog of the federal election campaign continues, although it has slipped to every second day or so as the train-wreck continues in slow-motion. Also, received a midnight 'phone call from a locum at Rick's care facility to say that he had blood in his urine, which is usually not a good sign. There was no associated fever so he was kept under observation. I dropped by the following day to check on him, but and I haven't heard anything else since so one assumes all is well. Any worries I may have need to be put in the "cannot do anything about it" category, especially with the presence of various worries that I can act on.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/271398.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
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Economics Studies, Federal Election, and More

Surprising absolutely nobody, I have spent nearly all of the past several days preparing for my impending economics exams and, as is my want, have created an rather impressive set of study notes which, if I worked on them could be a textbook in their own. To be honest, I am still uncertain of taking the exams this year given that I started a few (up to five, depending on how you count it) months behind, and whilst I have learned a great deal in the subject it is not something that I had undertaken for almost 30 years. Despite this my biggest weakness here is not conceptual but rather mathematical - I simply don't have the experience or practise.

Despite having my nose almost entirely buried in books, (which is not an unusual state for me, it's just a question of depth), I have continued with my almost-daily 'blog of the Australian Federal Election. Major events of the campaign include a "Watergate" scandal of epic proportions, of which the former Deputy Prime Minister sounds like he had "a few drinks" prior to a Radio National interview on the matter, the multi-millionaire mining magnate preferencing the government, and the Labor opposition providing pathways from casual to full-time work.

It hasn't entirely been "all work and no play" however. Last Sunday played a session of RuneQuest Questworld, where our GM has placed us in the old "Griffin Island" region, and we successfully defended a town against some rather overwhelming odds. Last night played DungeonQuest for the first time (and somehow I survived in this rather deadly game), along with a session of Munchkin Cthulhu. In a further attempt not to go stir crazy visited the doctor a couple of days ago due to a stubborn skin infection in my lower leg (probably a minor case of cellulitis). The doctor's first reaction was "Oh no, this could be diabetes!". I felt like responding, "Nah, I'm just old and overweight", which of course is true, and my blood-sugar levels were quite normal. Almost forgot! Earlier this week received a "Ruby Feather" in Duolingo, with 7050 points for the week, which was #1 for the Asia-Pacific-European region, and maybe even the world? I don't need to do that again

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/271271.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Music: Here Come The Warm Jets, Brian Eno
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Federal Election etc, LJ Turns 20, Studies/Social

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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