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Various Cultural Musings

Watched Synchronicity last night; a 1980s-styled science-fiction movie involving time-travel experiments. Fairly well done, a tricky plot (albeit along the lines of "time travel will have given me a headache"), and was excited by its use of Tachyon Radiation Poisoning, albeit not by that name. Apropos such science fiction trajectories my submission to Your Whispering Muse was not successful. I am not overly surprised - they only took up several of the three hundred submissions, and mine was a rather late and rushed one - and dealt with explorations that they previously had left deliberately blank. On that point however, ran a session of Eclipse Phase today, with the PC sentinels making a successful ingress to a corporate offices engaging in dastardly research.

Working my way through the Italian tree on Duolingo, and should have finished by the end of the month, as planned. Duolingo continues to prove itself as a useful immersive learning tool; I have found that I've picked up more Italian in the past couple of months than I did in a year of junior high-school. Whilst Portuguese is nominally planned as the next language, where I already have a little background in, I may find myself doing Dutch on account of a possible visit to the Nederlands later this year. The biggest linguistic challenges I have for the year are standard Chinese and Russian, both of which have little connection to my west European specialisation.

Apropos the Chinese connection, I've made the first post for the retelling of Journey to the West, which will be simultaneously more mythic and more historical. The first post also summarises much of a review of Exalted which I've written (about 2500 words worth), but that needs a bit more editing before I submit it to RPG Review and rpg.net. It's a rather frustrating game in terms of the actual presentation and some of the mechanics but with a reasonably good setting and system overall. I still need to finish my "Cthulhu vs Stormbringer" article before finishing RPG Review 37, and then I get a start on with new issue.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/245895.html.
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Academia, Gaming, Culture

I've been preparing a few papers for the 2018 European tour, including one on "Issues In Event-Based HPC Cloudbursting" for the International Conference on High Performance Computing & Simulation in Orléans, and a full-day tutorial on "Andragogical Techniques in High Performance Computing Education" for the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt. With abstracts already submitted for the Advanced Scientific Computing conference in Basel, Switzerland, and the Human-Technology conference in Enschede, Netherlands, I am hopeful that at least a few of these submissions will be accepted in what is already looking like an extensive and rewarding journey. Of course, I'm rather looking forward to catching up with the Stuttgart side of the family again as well.

It's been a good few days gaming-wise as well; Sunday was our regular RuneQuest Questworld game, which has included other 'gateway' locations such as Elderad and Griffin Island - neither popular supplements but we're making good use of them so far with the players providing the direction of the story. Last Thursday we wrapped out our game of FATE Red Planet, a rather cheesy utopian space opera of utopian socialism. I have also submitted my review of Hunter Planet to rpg.net, previously in the most recent issue RPG Review. In that matter, have been working hard to get the final pages down for the increasingly late issue 37, which includes a hefty review and summary of second edition Exalted, which is a rather challenging game system.

Nevertheless, as is my want, I have a cunning plan to use Exalted as means to integrate my desire to expand my cultural knowledge of classic Chinese literature, specifically sì dà qíshū, the four extraordinary books. Hopefully by combining the stories into a new version of Journey to the West I will gain an appreciation of the texts combined - and it may even reinvigorate my off-again, on-again interest in contemporary Standard Chinese - and on a completely different cultural tangent I've been doing something quite rare, paying attention to a television series, specifically Altered Carbon, which I am enjoying quite a lot. I can certainly see how it influenced Eclipse Phase.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/245738.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
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This Week Has Seven Days

I've entitled this post after a current affairs show that seemed to be aimed at smart kids in the seventies, and just so incidentially because it has been seven days since my last update, and because I've been listening to a certain Comsat Angels album. Actually the latter is terribly inappropriate for me; a seven day weekend? By morning of day one I'd be going stir crazy. If there's no peace for the wicked, I must be one of the most wicked people on earth (silence from the peanut gallery, if you please!). Still, I have had the good fortune, as it were, to work from home today as I was required to chaperone Rick B., to the skin cancer surgeon for the removal of a facial lesion. A fascinating procedure to witness and remarkably quick; all done in twenty minutes - the journey from the aged care centre and return took as long, and the wait for taxis was utterly abominable. Outside of this time I've taken the opportunity to write up my KPAs for work this year as well as establish what is effectively a project management database of staff and tasks.

Yesterday I gave a brief presentation on Spartan's training program at an ANDS workshop at Monash University. There was a couple of good presentations on adult education which led me to scribble a few notes, but I was slightly horrified at the discussion on university websites where the key speaker was making what I consider to be some basic mistakes (as beautifully elaborated by a certain XKCD comic). It seemed to be an well-meaning error, but it was another example of an endemic style-over-substance unfortunately common in many university marketing approaches. Far less acceptable is the brand policy of the the University of Melbourne. I feel slightly sickened and angry just reading this sort of bullshit.

More happily, I have had some pleasant social occasions over the past few days. On Monday we went to see Silent Running at The Astor, which is a terribly flawed yet also glorious film. If I were, in any sense, involved in the film industry I'd be pitching for a remake. Maybe I should just write it myself? On related matters, I made an eleventh-hour submission for the Eclipse Phase Whispering Muse submissions, interviewed Terry K Amthor for RPG Review, played two sessions of Eclipse Phase, and one of Megatraveller. Finally, in Rocknerd news, published my review of The Chameleons, which proves I'm a tragic fanboy. My review of Mark's autobiography is still being worked on.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/245486.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Music: Seven Day Weekend, Comsat Angels
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Puppet and Work, RPG Sales and Gaming

The past few days my time has been heavily taken up with Puppet training, courtesy of my employer. It's one of those tools that I use on occasion but haven't ever had the opportunity to sit down and investigate in real detail over several days. The principle is, of course, excellent - use of a declarative language (with imperative components for conditional statements and branching) for automated deployments - which of course has implemented by other configuration tools (e.g., Ansible, Chef, Salt). It has its quirks, such as different relationships which do the same thing which is not, in my opinion, a good design. But all this said I'm actually enjoying the course a great deal, even if I'm in the other end of the classroom for a change. More tangential was catching up with Liz B., and Karl B., at a rather fascinating presentation on Epilepsy and Brain Machine Interfaces by some visiting Japanese professors with the curious discovery that amputees who use mental control of robotic limbs still experience phantom pain.

In other work-related activities, I've blogged my attendance at the European two conferences last year (ISC and TERATEC: A Tale of Two Conferences, using mostly the same content as my talk to Linux Users of Victoria late last year. As a related issue, this Sunday was the annual Linux Users of Victoria Penguin Picnic. It was a little warm for the traditional BBQ so we actually spent it indoors at InfoXchange with cold foods, and we took the opportunity to play some Munchkin as well. It was a good follow-up to our regular CheeseQuest with hathhalla and ser_pounce the previous day where we managed to get through two chapters of Mice and Mystics.

In other gaming-related news there's been a flurry of activity on the RPG Review Cooperative Quicksales store following the posting of some new items. Whilst the RPG Review Cooperative library has been fully entered (at 677 items) there is really no need for my personal collection to be six times that size. My personal investments in quality RPG games has been quite successful and it really is time to share some of those choices around. As for RPG actual play, the only event this week was a game of Megatraveller which involved our group capturing space pirates (of given that we're space pirates too, the morality of our actions is entirely partisan). Still, there will be more Megatraveller action this week, followed by some Eclipse Phase, and if I work hard on it tonight, I should get my Whispering Muse submission completed.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/245024.html.
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Fiftieth Orbit Gathering, Gaming Updates, Courses



My fiftieth orbit gathering was apparently enjoyed by all. In hindsight I could have organised a larger group in a bigger venue. As it was India At Q did a brilliant job, and it was a great opportunity to catch up with close friends old and new. One of the more amusing comments I heard on multiple occasions was "You have such interesting and intelligent friends!" - the speaker overlooking the fact that they are one of those interesting and intelligent people. I was in very good spirits in this company and some even managed to convince me to give an impromptu speech which apparently wasn't terrible. I did drink a fair amount and the evening concluding with sipping armagnac. The following morning my head reminded me of exactly how much I had.

Nevertheless, I recovered enough to run a session of Eclipe Phase the following afternoon where the Sentinels are travelled to Luna to find out exactly what Cognite's Overlord Unit (aka Dr. Revolution) is really up to. It had been a pretty heavy SFRPG game few days, with playing Justin A's Eclipse Phase on Friday evening, and Megatraveller the night before (anothe session of Megatravaller is planned for tomorrow night. Posthuman Studios is having an "Open Muse" publication, and I'm very tempted to submit something. I might even find some inspiration from Ursula K. Le Guin who passed away today. Like many others I was particularly taken by The Dispossessed, The Left Hand of Darkness, etc, but most of all, her essays The Language of the Night. EDIT. Neglected to mention the utilitarian calculation in The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, which was the basis of a Pathfinder Planescape campaign that I was part of for many months.

The past three days I've been conducting training courses for the University of Melbourne researchers (and one from Victoria University). They have been the usual trio which are well established (Introduction to Linux and HPC, Advanced Linux and Shell Scripting, and Introduction to Parallel Programming), but the content never remains static with updates after every time I run the training days. I do have a tendency to try to push more and more information into each iteration, although it is clear that new courses (e.g., GPGPU programming) will need to be organised. Even after all these years they are no less tiring to run however, even with the interesting and inquisitive questions from participants. But providing researchers the systems and ability to conduct their computational tasks is a powerful internal motivation, and one which drives me every day.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/244793.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
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The Fiftieth Orbit Around The Sun

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of when a mewling bastard was thrust into this watery pale blue dot located in the Orion Arm of the immediate galaxy. In Invercargill no less, if you could find cold and dark in distant corner of the world, whose few charms include the howling winds of the Southern Ocean mixed with a Scottish brogue. Despite all this, I have nevertheless arranged to have a dinner with some of my oldest and closest friends tonight at a local Indian restaurant. I narrowed the number down to 25, partially in disdain of marking the 50th as something overwhelmingly special (as is the recent trend), because half of 50 seems right, given that they are assuredly in two minds about me at the best of times. Alas, [personal profile] funontheupfield will not be present as he'd already planned a camping trip - to Stewart Island ironically. Yesterday he sent a photograph of my birth town which, by chance, included the old maternity ward where I was born (which actually does have some local historical interest).

Such days are meant to provide opportunities of reflection of one's life choices and some have even suggested advice for the younger generation. Being born of European heritage in a first world country is a hell of an advantage in life, even if one starts on the bottom rung of such societies. Much of the argument for equality comes from the deep structural and pervasive injustice that continues to punish individuals and damages our aggregate collective potential. Engage in guilt free and harmless Bohemianism in your youth (whilst you still can), and transition to Epicureanism as you age (you'll need to) and don't forget the aesthetic dimension. Develop a useful and enjoyable technical skill for an increasingly complex society - not only does it provide a living income, it also means you have an increasing ability and opportunity to avoid working for unpleasant places and people. Travel, both locally and to foreign lands, and immerse one's self in natural beauty and cultural diversity. Be generous, kind, and understanding of your own preferences and those of others. Live life to the fullest and with the greatest quality, because you will have one foot in the grave soon enough, wondering where your time went.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/244729.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: sick
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The Chameleons, AGM/BBQs, Schlock Movies

Many decades ago, whilst living in the notorious dilapidated goth-punk duplex that was The Accelerated House, I was fossicking through Jay Nova's record collection and decided to play Nostalgia by The Chameleons. That was the beginning of a great love for said band, and whilst I engaged in some correspondence with frontman Mark Burgess in 2002, I had given up on the possibility of ever seeing them live. Well, that changed on Friday night, and damn they were very good indeed (as were, I must add, were the support act, Panic Syndrome). Managed to have a chat with Mark after the show and apart from the obligatory signings (including of a toy SUSE chameleon I had brought along), he was pleasant and friendly - which contrasts quite strongly to his maudlin lyrical content. Something of note was the number of younger fans that the band still attracts. In other Rocknerd news, I have just published a review of last year's concert with Snog and Severed Heads where my biggest complaint is that they could have made the concert longer, in a better locations, and taken more of my money.

Much of the rest of the weekend was dealing with RPG Review Cooperative activities. This included food preparation for the Annual General Meeting (yours truly has ended up as coop president again) and the conduct of the BBQ itself. We were planning to have it at Studley Park but the combination of crowds and the fact that half the BBQs were broken meant we ended up at Bellbird picnic area instead - which was devoid of people and with functioning equipment. It was a great afternoon, a good turnout, and the business side of the meeting went along painlessly. We've done extraordinarily well for an association that's only a couple of years old with publications, journal, and a rather massive library. The following night was another Cooperative advertised event, another visit to the Astor Theatre, this time to view the pure schlock, yet curiously popular, cheap Italian horror movies from the 1970s - Suspiria and Zombi 2.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/244257.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: chipper
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Gatherings, Conferences, The Chameleons

Less than two weeks into the new year and I find myself engaging in various social organisational activities and conference preparations. This Sunday is the annual general meeting and BBQ of the RPG Review Coooperative at Studley Park which, it must be said, we've had a stupidly good year for a small club, expanding our library to several hundred items, and getting Papers & Paychecks released. Two weeks after that will the Annual Penguin Picnic for Linux Users of Victoria. In between all this I also have organised a small dinner for the nearest and dearest in Kew for my fiftieth orbit around the sun.

There has also been preparations for the Grand Tour of 2018. At the moment the trip will start in Paris for the TERATEC conference, then across to Frankfurt for the International Supercomputing Conference, down to Basel Switzerland for the Advanced Scientific Computing conference, then to Freiburg's HPC centre, then Stuttgart to visit family and their HPC centre (including the remarkable Department for the Philosophy of Science and Technology of Computation), and then to Enschede, Netherlands, for the conference on Human-Technology Relations. I have abstracts ready to go for for the PASC and Human-Technology conferences, the former on GPU improvements for calculating marine population numbers and movement, and the second for natural language and interfaces improvements in the command line. There is a strong temptation to finish the trip with a ferry across the Channel to the UK.

Speaking of the UK, it is finally hitting me that tomorrow I get to go see The Chameleons, who are - in my carefully considered opinion of course - one the finest of post-punk bands that ever graced this watery world. To this day one finds people who are just a bit overwhelmed in discovering them for the first time. My plan over the next two days is work through their back catalogue in preparation for the concert, as I've been working through Mark Burgess' very readable autobiography A View from a Hill. It also serves a gentle reminder that I have a couple of reviews that I need to finish for Rocknerd.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/244179.html.
  • Current Location: UniMelb
  • Current Mood: chipper
  • Current Music: The Fan and the Bellows, The Chameleons
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Memoro MMXVII, Praedico MMXVIII

The New Year brings an opportunity for reflection on past activities, and planning for the year to come. For once I am going to be careful not to take up too many new tasks but rather concentrate on those things that I still have outstanding. It's been a good year overall, and I'm hoping that this coming year I'll tie up a few loose ends.

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And that's about it for reflecting on the past year and preparing for activities for the coming year. I have prepared myself for a more stable year, designed on completing outstanding objectives rather than taking up new ones. Excelsior! Labor omnia vincit!

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/243791.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: contemplative
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Return from Perth and New Year's Day

Managed to catch up with lunch (Fremantle) and dinner (Perth) on the 28th with a number of old friends, including darklion, strangedave, thefon, [personal profile] ariaflame, [personal profile] fred_mouse, grailchaser, Murray W., Andrei N., Bruce T., Jason F., and Michael J., Brian G, (and I'm sure I've missed someone...). The gathering was at two Italian restaurants which meant good food and in the latter case allowed me to attempt a few mangled phrases in their native tongue. The day also saw the collection of the last boxes and history of the MARS library for the RPG Review Cooperative, another 60kg of games. The last day in Perth included a visit to the Fremantle cemetery for the solemn moment to inurn Maria H's ashes. The last two days back at home have been spent formatting Supercomputing with Linux for the printers.

New Year's Evening was a quiet one at home, with a clink of glasses at midnight and that's about it. Inevitably the New Year brings into reflections of the ever-optimistic plans of the previous year. Whilst my natural tendency is to beat myself up over not achieving everything on the list, I should feel some degree of satisfaction with completing a good portion and few other things besides. After all the year has seen my get two books in production, including "a thirty-year joke" in Papers & Paychecks, attending no less than eight conferences (and presented at half at them), many international and interstate trips (finally I visit Paris), and some modest improvements in the various associations that I have responsibility for. Attending three funerals and having a friend develop rapid dementia were significant challenges in the year. As I get older it is inevitable this will be more common. I will, of course, engage in a more thorough review of 2017 and plans for 2018 in the next few days, but already I am planning not to do so much new, rather complete outstanding items.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/243645.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: contemplative
  • Current Music: A Final Hit, Leftfield
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