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Rat Madness, Gaming Events

Earlier in the week I noted that the coming Lunar new year would be the Year of the Rat; specifically a metal rat. Because 2020 is also famous for being a cyberpunk year, this obviously meant it would be the Year of the Stainless Steel Rat. Which means I've started plans for an appropriately named cyberpunk convention. This was the beginning of a descent into a madness. January 17 was the first anniversary of the death of author Sam Savage; in his honour I decided to add over a thousand words to my previous entry on Wikipedia for his most famous novel, Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan_Lowlife, the story of a highly literate rat that acquires sapience through eating Finnegans Wake, obviously rereading it in the process. As my review from 2008 argued, this is a terribly morose story, indeed "This is the saddest story I have ever heard", to use the appropriate quote and I have bought multiple copies to literary friends. Then the following day was the anniversary of the death of Bishop Hatto, who has a cruel legend of burning peasants alive, and then being attacked himself by an army of rats which, through the Victorian Secular Lobby, has become a day of reminder to religious organisations and their unfair tax benefits and public subsidies etc. Further, I have started what will become a public environmental campaign with a citoyen in Canberra for the establishment a memorial to extinct Australian species - it begins on February 18, a day already announced in memory for the extinction of the first mammal due to climate day, the Bramble Cay melomys. I have this mental image of erecting a giant stainless steel rat in Canberra, which has multiple levels of appropriateness. I haven't even had pet rats for years, but I think I might some weird mental version of rat-bite fever.

There has also been a number of gaming events in the past few days as well. I am currently composing this at Arcanacon, which at least has a few hundred people in attendance. It's a diverse and accepting event, of various nerdy ventures and makes for a good opportunity to catch up with a number of people from the community, many of whom I only see at such conventions. The RPG Review Cooperative has a second-hand games stall for members, which has seen a lot of interest from member-vendors and the conference attendees. The day previous was lunch and gaming with Jacobin B., and Damien B., where it was a bit of dual birthday lunch for myself and Damien. Gifts were exchanged and I made various dips, a vegan version of chakhchoukha, and a cherry cake, and then run a session of Dungeons & Dragons for our irregular Charlemagne's Paladins story, where we continue with a third session of the The Lost City of Cyrenaica. Further, on Thursday night was our regular session of Megatraveller, where we played the "lawful" side of a space-pirates game, which hurtles towards a character and profession admixture like Burroughs' Nova Express. Pretty impressive work by our GM to run two sets of characters in the same setting in different sessions towards the same end-point. In addition to all this I have been making progress on Imagined Worlds, my pending book on geography and astronomy for speculative fiction and RPGs in particular, making use of a famous essay Crimes Against Mimesis, but now applied to geography, and also for RPG Review 45, which was technically due at the end of December; the last issue of the year is always late.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/287313.html.
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Bad Timing, NZ Visit and Academia, Gaming Agenda

A couple of days ago I had a case of bad timing. In the late 90s/early 00s I used to occasionally chat with a colourful character on Brunswick Street, bedecked in leathers and studs. He stood out in a crowd, and was pretty well known around the traps as a result. Denny C's band even wrote a song based on his public presence. I bought some of his art (regrettably, since lost). It turns out he was a poet, named Grant McCraken and had been a coordinator of the poetry sessions at the Dan O'Connell for the past two decades. Jus Godden recent posted on Facebook that it had been 26 years of the Dan poets group, and tagged Grant. "Oh awesome", I thought to myself. "I'll send him a friend request, it's been literally decades". Bad timing on my part; he died that day. Let that be a lesson in the age of the Internet. If you liked the company of a person in the past, make an effort to track them down sooner rather than later. I have happy memories of being in the company of the crusty ol' cowboy. I wish I had kept in touch.

I've found myself registered for Multicore World, a conference that I was the MC for several years and now find myself as an attendee. As usual, I expect to have extremely high-quality speakers and modest attendance, which is what you get at the pointy end of this discipline. So in February, I'll be making a journey to the fine land of New Zealand, first to Wellington and then, because I'll need to re-enroll for my MHed, down to Dunedin to Otago University and also to ensure that my not-so-secret South Pacific base is in good working order. On that note, I'm now most of my way through my MSc dissertation. My new supervisor, despite prior assurances, is just as obsessed with structure rather than content, which leaves me wondering whether the content is perfect or they don't understand it. I suspect the latter. In my own work I'm smashing my way through some software for our new build system, going in order of the most commonly used applications.

Apart from that, I've been making a lot of preparations for my dice-rolling hobby; Arcanacon is on this weekend I've been getting together a few hundred gaming books ready for potential sale. I will only be in attendance on the Sunday, as Saturday is Damien B's birthday and apart from a necessary birthday feast, I'm also planning on running a session of Charlemagne's Paladins. In addition to that, tomorrow night is our regular session of Megatraveller which, after a couple of years of play, is coming to a close. I also received an invitation to the ARPIA awards, but alas will not be able to attend that either; according to the printers Cow-Orkers In the Scary Devil Monastery should come in physical form on that day, so I have to be ready to collect.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/287204.html.
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Software Economics, Brandy, Writings

I've spent a good portion of my free time in the past week doing an extensive literature review for my MSc dissertation in information systems. As literature reviews should do, it addresses a core concern of my inquiry: a major conflict between business and economics, as both academic disciplines and professional practice; in former, there is an attempt to reduce competition to gain a monopolistic advantage (even if theorists like Porter call "competitive advantage"), whereas the latter argues that such behaviour harmful to productivity and economic welfare as a whole. Even after reviewing various business models for free-and-open-source software, the solution is not yet clear. Capitalist investors are less interested in innovation or even a general increase in economic welfare than they are in the acquisition of economic rents, "information landlordism" if I may coin a phrase. Schumpeterian rents might be an alternative theoretical model in non-general software products (e.g., proprietary bespoke extensions) but any sort of copyright regime does set up an institutional perverse incentive for extensions. In any case, it provided for some appropriate background thoughts as I smashed by way through the GNU Octave dependency tree, before getting tripped up at the end with an MPI build of Gnuplot; a little annoying.

Making use of a generous gift voucher from Damien and Jack B for my birthday last year, caseopaya and I went to Whiskey and Alement. I have to be in a particular mood for whiskey, and this was not the time (it rarely is, I have litres of the stuff at home). The bar was crowded and noisy, just what I don't want in such an establishment, but they did have a good variety of whiskeys and non-whiskeys and quite reasonably priced, as long as one doesn't account for the somewhat bland and pricey wines that we started with. I ended up having delved into Delord Armagnac ('83, if that makes much of a difference) and a Grout Calvados, both of which were absolutely superb, whilst caseopaya stuck to her favourite gin. It certainly did remind me that I need to get some Calvados into my otherwise pretty well-stocked home bar. Delicious stuff, and only further strengthens my affection towards the Breton people.

Apart from that, I am continuing my new year's objective in publication writing, which was not an easy target. As the days progress, I am increasingly aware that any sort of reasonably staggered publication schedule requires temporal concentration on particular works, which is not something that I am particularly fond of, and I suspect most other people on the planet are the same. When one's brain is overflowing on one subject, it is a release to concentrate on something else for a while (or eat, or do housecleaning, etc). Worse still, one gets into their head crazy ideas about additional publications, which may have aesthetic value, but would be require something else being delayed in its stead. On that note, I am considering a contemporary-cum-cyberpunk supplement for Papers & Paychecks, based on my own tangental pub, Emails & Direct Deposits. This is, after all, the most appropriate year for such things to come out.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/286896.html.
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The Country Is Still On Fire, A Taste of Honey

What can one say, the country continues to be on fire; 27 are dead now, more than 2,500 homes destroyed, 8.4 million hectares destroyed, and half a billion animals killed. The Gaurnat Report in 2008 grimly predicted all this, but of course the latest round of conservative governments have shelved and reversed the carbon price, which actually worked. Conservatives are now saying it's not Australia's lacklustre action on greenhouse gas emissions it's fuel loads; yes, and a climate of increasing hot and dry weather that these "fuel loads" are becoming kindling. NSW Liberals are beginning to turn on the Prime Minister as, of all things, the Tories attempt an advertising campaign in the midst of a national disaster. So much more I could say on this subject, but in a nutshell, this weather is abnormal, the abnormality is caused by climate change, and the Federal government's response has been rather weak at best.

In my own world, I had a midnight rush to emergency myself a couple of nights ago. After cleaning out the pantry I found some honey, which I thought would go just lovely on toast. After all, processed honey lasts forever, right? Well yes, it does. Except when it is infused with lemon, for example. After two episodes of vomiting and incredible pain from stomach cramps, I picked up the offending package to discover it had expired five years ago; caseopaya rushed me to emergency, where they said, "what are you doing here?" and sent me across the road to the 24-hour pharmacist for painkillers and buscopan which relieved the symptoms successfully. Still feeling pretty green around the gills the following day, I took some sick leave. Today, I feel like I'm mostly recovered in entirety.

Which makes it opportune to report on events since advent of the new year, which started with a visit the Heide Museum of Modern Art. It has some fairly good Australian-styled modernist pieces, some atrocious installations, and a quite brilliant exhibition by Jess Johnson. Played DungeonQuest and Khan of Khans at the following evening's gaming session (and survived DQ, again, albeit just), and then run a session of Eclipse Phase on Sunday. Significant effort in publication already this year with Supercomputing with Linux now up on Smashwords and Cow-Orkers in the Scary Devil Monastery, now available on drivethrurpg.com. Have kept to my committment of one thousand words a day on publications, mostly on Imagined Worlds, Esperanto for Anarchists, and Sequential and Parallel Programming. In addition, have finished the committee reports and financial statements for the RPG Review Cooperative, as we're having our annual general meeting this Sunday, and have written up around 1500 words for my MSc dissertation, wading through the literature review. Not a bad start to the year, I think.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/286512.html.
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Memoro MMXIX, Praedico MMXX

As is my wont, the New Year brings a marker for reflection of past activities and preparation for what lies ahead. Juan Cole provided a timely reminder this year with the FitzGerald translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam on the New Year: Think then you are To-day what Yesterday You were–To-morrow You shall not be less. The artificial marker in place and we reflect and we prepare every day and not just on the passing of yuletide. The transaction is entered daily, the accounts monthly, the quarterly plans in place; life's accounting, and an accounting of life. Is it so surprising to find that now I am making five-year plans, rather than a single year? Between one's desires from a fecund imagination and the sober recognition of the constraint of time, objectives are pushed further into the future.

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In summary 2019 was an excellent year for me personally, even if the political landscape is less than satisfactory. I didn't get everything done, but I managed to get a lot done; some things to completion and some things at least in part. I've achieved publications, run a conference, paid off two mortgages and did some renovations, had holidays in New Zealand and Europe, and have ended up with a significantly improved financial state and somewhat better health. In 2020 I know that if I want to achieve more there are three main trajectories; (a) if I want to do something new, I have to retire something, (b) efficiency can be achieved through increased planning and combining multiple projects into single projects, and (c) getting other like-minded people involved in matters of common interest. On top of all this, I have set a personal agenda of writing 1K words per day for publications - anything else on top of that (including lengthy LJ/DW posts like this one) has to be considered an optional extra. Let's revisit this in a year's time and see how I've gone.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/286367.html.
  • Current Music
    Backcatalogue (1981-1985), Front 242
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Minutes to Midnight

The last minutes begin to count down for 2019. I've spent the past few days at home, and will be doing so tonight in the fine company of caseopaya and with Mac the cat. I've downed some nice French champagnesparking white, made a delicious dinner, and when the clock strikes midnight I'll have a glass of armagnac, which I haven't touched in almost two years. I don't mind spending time at home; I like my home, both the physical building itself and contents, and the surrounding landscape of Willmere estate. Plus, there has been a couple of days where it has been unbearably hot; up to 44 degrees C (112 F, for those who use the old language). I remember in my adolescence in Perth people remarking that Melbourne "was a nice place, but it's too bloody cold!". I bet they don't say that anymore; Australia, is on fire.

In the next few days, as is my wont, I'll compose a reflective piece on the past year and make a few tentative predictions of my plans for the coming year. Such plans are ambit at best and I do set myself far too many tasks. One of which this year was completing the supplement for Papers & Paychecks, Cow-Orkers in the Scary Devil Monastery. I planned to have that finished in 2018; instead, I finally finished it to satisfaction today, sent to the printers, sent out PDF copies to the backers, and put it up for online purchasing on drivethrurpg.com; so that's at least one objective complete. For what remained of the day, I started working on getting a print copy of Supercomputing with Linux organised. So, I have been pretty busy, even a little manic really. I've realised that I've been skipping meals, and have lost a couple of kilogrammes as a result.

But it has been a good year; an excellent year even, at least from my personal experience. It's even been an excellent decade, again from my own experience. But I know this is not usual. Technology is keeping our society afloat at the moment, as there's an increasing disparity between the well-off (of which I must count myself these days), and those who are less fortunate. I can look over the numbers, and I can see the ignorant appeal of the dangerous and extreme nationalisms. Let's hope that in 2020 that we can reverse that.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/286126.html.
  • Current Music
    Kontinuum, Klaus Schulze
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Yuletide Events

Insofar that traditional Yule was from December 22 to January 2, it is appropriate to take stock right in the middle of it all. Plus, I'm on an actual holiday, of sorts. Universities in Australia miss out on all sorts of state-based holidays but get a break between Christmas and the New Year to make up for it. Of course, I have done anything but have a break. There is a neurotic psychological imperative deep within me to get as much done from my own personal agenda before the year is done, much of which (as caseopaya is want to tell me, is work of my own choosing. This is true of course, and I should moderate any levels of stress that come from it, and rather derive satisfaction in the engaging in vita activa, the highest form of human endeavour according to Hannah Arendt, in its own right. In any case, this does mean that I have been writing like a possessed demon the past several days, including throwing away a lot of text that isn't needed for various publications (as Ken Thompson once said, "One of my most productive days was throwing away 1000 lines of code").

There was, of course, some Christmas events, primarily an orphan's Christmas, as it is called, from assorted migrants from Western Australia, including namely Brendan E., nephew Luke, and [personal profile] funontheupfield. As one who enjoys playing host, I had a thematic natale, being a three-course Italian meal, with antipasto, a parmesan and garlic loaf, salmon with pesto with a tomato sauce, gatto di patate ("cat's potatoes"!) and, of course, a tiramisu, this time with added cherries, all with matched wine; I even printed out menus. It was a pretty good day all up, and people had the opportunity to delve into many matters of conversation. Like many people in Australia at the moment, there was broad agreement around the table on how our Prime Minister took taking an overseas holiday whilst the country was on fire. I've taken the opportunity to pen a few works on the subject, Smoko The Saviour Has Returned!.

The following day we trekked off with Brendan E., to visit our mutual friend Kerrie H., in her new abode, that's very well located in terms of amenities. She's had a bit of a rough year with a shortage of spoons (the metaphor of D&D spell slots is even more appropriate), and our company was appreciated as we helped give the place a bit of a tidy up. Anyway, I get the impression that with new-found employment that they will satisfy at least one part of the triad of happiness, and that they've turned a corner somewhat. Also, they're not far from us now, so we can check-in with greater regularity. A little remiss on our part for not doing so this year.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/285748.html.
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A Player of Games

The past several days I've been a fair bit of my spare time doing games writing, the sort of writing where you take old stuff out and put new stuff in and your word count for the document hovers around the 65K mark, which is what it was when it started. I've been pondering doing a book about the history of cartography, geography, and astronomy, with plenty of side-bar material for authors of fantastic and speculative fiction. It is a pet hate of mine to see the basics of this subject dutifully ignored (rivers that go over mountains for example) it is extraordinarily common in such literature. Obviously something to consider more deeply for the year 2020, but certainly something on that agenda. Besides, I have a few ISBNs which I need to use up.

I have had plenty of opportunity for actual play as well in recent days. On Sunday ran a session of Eclipse Phase which resulted in a total party kill, a nice way to end the year. Of course in EC being dead is not quite being dead, so their opponents popped their stacks and have morphed them into their own exsurgent bodies; if you can't beat them, join them. A couple of days prior was in a session of Lexoccultum, which has a great setting (a low-fantasy version of western Europe in the 18th century), although the ruleset is a little on the complex side. Neglected to mention the week prior we finished our scenario for Star Wars: Force and Destiny with a satisfactory conclusion; afterwards played a session of Khan of Khans.

Finishing off work for the year has also been quite satisfactory. There was a staff-based unofficial lunch today where I made one of a giant tiramisu, which coupled well with an awesome baked cheesecake made by a co-worker. In actual work, I'm pleased to say that I finished all the objectives that I had at the start of the year, including running over twenty HPC workshops, and doubling the range and content of helper application scripts (I finished with Delft3D and SQLite). Despite the end of year, there was user requests to do right up to the last moment, including a massive data transfer and some genomics software installs. With the exception of running some things in the background, that should be it for the rest of the year. I'm rather looking forward to the opportunity to spend time on my own projects.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/285479.html.
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Panem et circenses

With regard to circuses, I dived into the Duolingo Latin course and completed it in four days. OK, it's in beta and as a result is heavily truncated compared to other courses. But even so, I normally would put aside a month of dedicated time to complete a tree. I must confess I was heavily helped by prior exposure to other romance languages, especially Italian and Esperanto. I am obviously going to have review everything a few more times as most of my successful answers were more due to recognising the right word in a sentence, rather than expertise in the various cases. That will come with revision, which I could probably do alongside Russian revision, given that languages love of cases.

In another circus-related activity, I've been slowly shifting all my various philosophical essays to the Lightbringers site that I operate. That's a process that I started literally several years ago, and only finished today. Sadly, I have also discovered that there is a number of missing presentations that I do not have hidden away online on historical sites (even using the wayback engine). This includes presentations to The Philosophy Forum on The Causes and Prevention of Violence, The Causes and Prevention of Violence, and The Philosophy of Education and Development, among others from around 2010. Hopefully I have a backup of them somewhere.

Bread-wise, work has seen the introduction of a new build system, still based on EasyBuild, but with stricter use of the modules hierarchy available in LMod. It is especially tricky during the tranistion period as we've needed to set up both side-by-side, with the eventual plan of shifting everything to the new system. There are some advantages, I will admit, although it is experiencing some infrastructure teething issues. Anyway the practical upshot of this has been that a lot of software that we already have installed is being re-installed to the lastest compiler versions, which of course is pretty time consuming at this stage, but will pay off in the longer run.

It is that time of year where various organisations, business and otherwise, are winding down and having their celebratory events. Our own workplace has two (one official, one unofficial) activities slated and whilst I'll put in an appearance at both of those, I'm making a deliberate and wilful effort to avoid any others this year. Whilst others are winding down, I'm increasingly ramping up to a mad panic and I try to pretend to get at least a portion of my year's aims and objectives towards a semblance of completion. If I am not too harsh on myself, I've actually done most of what I set out to do, and with additional actions replacing those I did not. But I am like this most Decembers, and I really shouldn't expect this one to be any different.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/285389.html.
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Isocracy AGM, Duolingo Progress, Coursework

Isocracy AGM was held today; a smaller-than-usual gathering, although we did have person dialing-in as well. Discussed Nicolò Bellanca's "Isocracy: The Institutions of Equality", and noted that in most cases the programme developed by the Isocracy Network had a greater level of exactness, detail, and coherence. But that is to be expected, we've been working on it for quite a while. There was widespread discussion about various suggestions in the book, especially matters of federalism, economies of scale, and so forth. The discussion continued on (and went on a wider range of subjects) when the official meeting ended and we continued at the local coffee shop. Next items on the agenda include submitting our paperwork to Consumer Affairs and writing a submission on homelessness to the Victorian parliamentary inquiry.

Finished the English to Russian tree on Duolingo earlier tonight. Still not feeling very confident of my abilities in said language at all and a lot more revision is required. I will also do the Russian to English tree as well, which seems to help reinforce some core concepts, and I suspect it is more developed that the other way around. In any case, it is my only "golden owl" of the year, bringing my total to 13. I remain amazed at users like ClaudioAg1! who have completed 43 trees. Worse still (for me) I have discovered that Duolingo now also has Latin. I'll finally make use of those old textbooks on the subject that I've barely looked at over the last 25 years or so, despite their old-world charm, and have a close look at Damian Conway's famous Lingua::Romana::Perligata Perl module, written due to Latin's strong lexical structure, although it seems to me that consistent positional languages have certain ease-of-learning and consistency advantages over the use of inflexions (English adjective order is quite a wonderful example).

Speaking of coursework, my Linux and HPC workshops took up most of the work time for the latter half of last week, with the Introduction to Linux and HPC class being full to the rafters, followed by Advanced Linux and Shell Scripting on the second day. Both of those had some excellent questions from some pretty switched on researchers. The third course, Regular Expressions using Linux had to be cancelled due to attendance numbers, which was a real shame given the amount of effort that's been put into it. The researchers who did attend pleaded for me to run the course again next year, which I certainly will. It is too important a subject, especially for various bioinformatics subjects.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/285115.html.