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Memoro MMXVIII, Praedico MMXIX

Antonio Gramsci once wrote a quite brilliant essay on why he hates New Year's Day. He argues against it being a fossilised point, and would rather have a situation where: Every day I want to reckon with myself, and every day I want to renew myself. I admit that I am sympathetic to this point of view, however as much as one wants to do this, there is also value in graduated and longer-term planning and reflection. A daily reflection and plan, and monthly reflection and plan, quarterly, yearly, five-yearly, decal, until one's entire life is reflection and planning and, to borrow from Hannah Arendt, promising and forgiveness (if only to one's self). So dutifully, I look over the activities that have been in 2018 and that are to come for 2019.

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This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/264804.html.
  • Current Mood: contemplative
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New Year's Eve

Thus 2018 comes to a close, and as is my want I have a mad rush to complete the various things on my agenda most of which (as caseopaya likes to point out, are things that I set myself through various voluntary associations). On this topic, RPG Review Issue 41 has been released with an emphasis on solo gaming, such as the various Endless Quest and Fighting Fantasy books that were enormously popular in the 80s. I so happened to play through the first FF book, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain on Ian Livingstone's (the author) birthday, which he liked. My big contribution to the latest issue of RPG Review is a choose-your-own-adventure for Papers & Paychecks which involves an attempted escape from a North Korean prison camp. In case you haven't noticed there is part of me which has a grim and wry fondness for gallows humour. As it is I've contributed several thousand worlds to the current issue, including RPGaDay, various reviews (including the ill-fated HeartQuest), and the aforementioned adventure.

Also of note on the gaming side of things is various efforts to finish the Papers & Paychecks supplement, and alas "not this year". I'm several thousand words short of the sixty plus thousand required, despite making a concerted effort over the past week or so, putting the finishing touches on scenarios like Keep our Borderlands, Palace of the Electrum Princess (old D&D players should have a chuckle at these), and a fantasy bestiary. What I hoped to be completed by this week will have to be completed in the first week of the new year, c'est la vie. Finally, our regular Megatraveller session was canceled on Thursday as a couple of players weren't available. Instead, we played Munchkin Cthulhu, Star Munchkin, and Guillotine. I just missed out on winning the latter and did quite convincingly on the former two; it all comes down to strategy, in my opinion with that game. Also, just arrived, Munchkin Deluxe Pathfinder; can't wait to give that a run.

And you would think that reality couldn't trump my sense of the absurd. Well, where do you think I get it from? The Immigration Department is sending a North Korean refugee (he is a naughty drug dealer) back to said country, where they acknowledge that he will probably be executed, but this is "not insurmountable". Meanwhile, BHP wants to drill for more oil and says that if there is an oil spill that would be a boost for local economies. By that reasoning so would any and all disasters and especially war. It would seem that BHP doesn't understand opportunity costs, which was well-portrayed manner years ago by the broken window fallacy.

Anyway, there are scant few hours to the end of the year. I will drink French champagne (OK, sparkling white), and watch the fireworks over the city from our prominent viewing location. I will muse about the opportunity costs of such celebration in typically a Swiftian perspective (how many dead children does it cost?). In a few day's time, I'll do a more thorough review of 2018 and plan, optimistically, what I can do for 2019. Because that is my modus operandi, it's how I push myself. I'm rather looking forward to it. Happy new year to all.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/264544.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: contemplative
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Midsummer Festivities

Not exactly being particularly Christmas people and not doing the family visit to Perth this year, caseopaya and I instead caught up with Brendan E., and Kerrie H., on the allocated day. Being the person with some vague semblance and interest in cooking my role for the afternoon was pretty well set, with Brendan providing increasingly strong gin and tonics. The fare was relatively simple; salmon steaks with sour cream and dill, with rösti, plus a tiramisu with added cherries. The afternoon was spent chatting although we were convinced to watch Megladon, which could have been a good comedy if they deliberately tried to make it worse. Returning home we watched The Beyond, which was a low-budget, faux-documentary, which was fairly sound thematically.

It was actually the third tiramisu I had made in as many days, including one for the regular Eclipse Phase gaming group on December 23, one for an unofficial work function on December 24 (a few hours of chatting and watching the National Lampoon Christmas Vacation), and of course the Christmas variant. They are devastatingly simple to make (my original recipe comes from frou_frou), and well-received. Apropos, I have also heard mentioned that northern hemisphere students visiting Australia that they find the "traditional Australian Christmas feast" (i.e., the heavy, hot, and imported from the UK style) to be amusing and perplexing the first time they encounter it, and increasingly unpleasant after that. Fortunately, I think there has been a cultural shift over the past twenty years or so that has seen the North European Christmas feast fall out of favour.

Yesterday was a trip to the Astor Theatre with ser_pounce and hathhalla to watch Die Hard which is a Christmas movie of choice among those who don't want it to be Christmas thematically, but are happy for it to be the setting. A very good combination of action with comic relief, plus an opportunity to practice one's German. Speaking of which, another Golden Owl approaches, only two more branches to go for the Esperanto from Spanish tree. I should have it finished tonight.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/264390.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Music: Bloodflowers, The Cure
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Continuing Themes

Many people like the approaching end-of-year, "it's good to wind-down, there are holidays" etc. I inevitably find myself a little manic as I want to get more of my unending list of things completed by the end of the year. Busy people never have enough time. Just as in the last post I'd produced around ten thousand words of content in a few days, this post also sees several thousand words completed in the past few days mainly in various gaming subjects again, such as Papers & Paychecks and RPG Review 41, but also for Exalted China and Eclipse Phase based on two game sessions this week. The Exalted China episode, entitled The Hanging Garden, was very much in the classic mythic Chinese style with a tragic romance, a hungry ghost, and a jealous warlord. Today's Eclipse Phase game evolved escaping from the clutches of the malicious Chinese supercomputer, 'Mogwai', from Vostok base in Antarctica, thus the scenario title, The Devil in the Icehouse, which also involved planned Dyson Spheres and a future Shkadov thruster.

Apropos caught up with Yaoping G., for lunch this week. We shared a conference session earlier this year on the philosophy of technology in the Netherlands, and we have a mutual interest in science fiction (her paper on The Man in the High Castle is a worthy read). Apart from such intellectual meeting of minds, the other major social event of the past few days was the annual Willsmere Christmas party. We did catch up with a few locals and took some time hanging out in what was supposed to be children's petting zoo. Of course being big kids we stayed for quite some time with visiting sheep, goat, rabbits etc. Finally, despite my own protests to the contrary, it looks like I will finish yet another Golden Owl before the year ends - specifically Spanish to Esperanto. It turns out that I have several three-quarter finished trees in my cross-language efforts and many of these are coming to an end, which contributes to what will be a very productive 2018.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/264171.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: sick
  • Current Music: Flowers, Icehouse
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Thousands of Words, Eight Years On

The past few days has seen me write over ten thousand words for a variety of projects, mostly scenarios for Papers & Paychecks, articles and material for RPG Review Issue 41, write-ups for Exalted China, unexpectedly completing another Golden Owl for Duolingo (Italian to English) and, as a complete aside, a small number for my final tutorial discussion on "The Internet of Things" for Digital Innovations, where I took a pretty dark turn on the subject. The combination of artificial expert systems, militarisation, and miniaturisation is an issue that has troubled me for some time, and I am yet to encounter a convincing argument that says that with each step in military technology we bring our own species-extinction a little closer. I have also written a few paragraphs on a new Norwegian comedy, or more to the point, how Norway can have such a comedy show by having an equivalent of a mining tax, and Australia missed out.

In happier events, yesterday was the eight-year anniversary of caseopaya unofficially tying the knot. We had a pretty delicious dinner at Estivo, a local restaurant with an excellent reputation (even if the decor was a little modern for my taste) and sadly downed our last bottle of 2012 Glenlofty Shiraz-Viognier, but of course there are plenty more other bottles in the cabinet. Postage being what it is my half of the gifting exchange has not been delivered yet, but I am the recipient of some adorable French hedgehog cufflinks. In many ways, the event encapsulated much about our relationship; Epicurean, functional, content, and low-stress. There are some aspects of more wild and passionate affairs of my youth which I can reminisce with both happiness and hysteria, and I certainly wouldn't want to begrudge such experiences to others - I'll be damned if I become one of those grumpy old men who complains about young people having fun.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/263728.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Music: New Space Music, Brian Eno
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Linguistic and Academic Pursuits, Gaming Updates

I had a little flurry on Duolingo this week, completing two more skill trees; namely Portuguese and Französisch (French from German). Both of these had been on the back-burner for a while, so it is not really surprising that they were eventually completed. When I look over my personal objectives in terms of languages this year I didn't really make much headway in Russian and Mandarin, which was my plan, but have done a lot of cross-referencing between the central and west European languages, which wasn't high on the agenda. But it does make sense seeming that I have familiarity with such tongues and head in that direction with significant regularity. In any case I'm now on the Golden Owl Hall of Fame. I don't think I'll be finishing any more skill trees this year.

Have just submitted my Digital Innovations end-semester assignment, which is basically an argument for a combination MOOC MMORG VR for studies in history and mythology. It's something that I've felt would be worthwhile for a very long time, but requires a commitment to the gamification of an educational experience and a multidisciplinary team. I also received my grade for the mid-semester assignment, and was feeling a little grumpy that I'd lost a couple of percent on aesthetic matters (in a science degree no less), but then realised I'd received the highest grade possible, so I'd best just shut up (even internally) about it. On the other side of the lecturn, this week I also gave a training day on Advanced Linux and Shell Scripting for HPC and had an interesting experience at work with GCC 8.x and Python 2.7.x which was sufficiently interesting for its own blog post.

On the gaming side of things this week played Megatraveller last night which involved many negotiations with the Aslan to engage in ritualised warfare on 'preferred planet X' rather than our homeworld. Took some delight in describing the nibbles and drinks at the soiree for the lion-like people (lots of salmon, dried chopped liver chips, brandy Alexanders, actinidia polygama for toothpicks etc). Space opera can be weird and silly a lot of the time. Still in the science fiction realm, ran Eclipse Phase last Sunday with the Sentinels visiting Halley's base in Antarctica and making their way, if inexpertly, to Vostok base where some three hundred mind-controlled transhumans have been taken. Finally, have made some work on the next issue of RPG Review based around solo and one-on-one play.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/263506.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: calm
  • Current Music: Interstellar Full soundtrack Deluxe Edition, Hans Zimmer
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IT Issues, Presentations, Social Activities

The biggest issue this week in the Australian IT world was the passing of the Access and Assistance bill, which has the IT industry fuming for good reason. It came on a chaotic last day of parliament where this, and a bill to get children to appropriate medical facilities of Nauru were dominant issues. Minister Christopher Pyne made a particularly disgusting tweet, which he then deleted, and my response to him was picked up by Gizmodo.

In other IT issues I conducted training early in the week with an Introduction to HPC and Linux, with a good attendance. Some fellow staff members think that I'm a bit crazy running courses through December, but when you have a waiting list of some six hundred people (yes, you read that right), you have to take every opportunity. Still on the IT agenda visited Anthony L., after work on Tuesday to deal with an old and dying RAID system. It is at the point where I recommended Payam Data Recovery. Here's a pro-tip; don't expect disks in regular use to last six years.

Must also mention that last Sunday gave an address at the Unitarian Church, The End is Nigh: Failed Stewardship of Planet Earth, where I discussed religious apocalyptic visions, real problems with the environment, and the importance of political action.

A couple of social activities in the week; the semi-regular CheeseQuest went well, and we started playing the classic D&D scenario, The Lost City, which should keep us busy for a while. Today, we had a vendor-sponsored "coordination and review meeting", i.e., lunch at Le Bon Ton. which is thoroughly misnamed, but good for what it is; I don't think any of the staff spoke French, let alone any New Orleans variety.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/263414.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: listless
  • Current Music: Singles Going Steady, The Buzzcocks
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The End is Nigh, Graduate Studies, Weekend Plans

Tomorrow I am giving an address at 11 am the Melbourne Unitarian Church entitled The End is Nigh: Failed Stewardship of Planet Earth. Putting it together has been an interesting exercise, ranging from an investigation into various (failed) predictions of earth's apparent demise from religious prophecy to a somewhat more secular investigation into the effects of global warming and the various forms of environmental destruction and the existential threat that poses to human and non-human species. The address correlates quite nicely (and without any pre-planning) with strikes and protests by school students who are understandably frustrated with political inaction. "Protest and survive" was a rallying slogan when I was their age in the early-mid 1980s and the issue was the possibility of nuclear war; it remains just as important and realistic now.

The past few days have also seen significant progress in my MSc in Information Systems studies and having finally received the relevant course material (lost in the post), I'm making some headway in the GradDip in Economics. My weakest point in the latter will be econometrics, an area which I have managed to avoid in most of my life as a student, but a comment by Tim R., in a different context suggests that the best way to learn it will be to program it, which will work nicely as I have planned to write a training course for high-performance computing usage for economists.

A rather full weekend is planned with ser_pounce and hathhalla coming around in about ten minutes for our regular cheesequest followed by a session of D&D which, as is my want, is based on a historical fantasy version of the era of Charlemagne. For this scenario of retrofitted the classic Moldvay scenario The Lost City, placing it in North Africa as they search for the lost Eagle of the XIXth. Tomorrow nephew Luke and his housemate Nick are coming over for dinner; I am considering firing up a game of RuneQuest for them, having given Luke a copy of the game for his birthday a few years back (and he is yet to play).

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/262943.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: busy
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Election Results, IT Events, and Other Events

The Victorian state election delivered a thumping victory to Daniel Andrews and the governing Labor Party. Whilst as the prepolls are coming in the margin of victory is not nearly the same as it was on the night, it is still pretty incredible that some of the safest Liberal seats in the state are now marginal and the rusted-on National party seats in rural Victoria are being taken by independents. Yet, it is as it should be. The Labor Party, whilst far from perfect, delivered what it promised to do, showed a genuine commitment to infrastructure development, made some principled socially progressive decisions, and promised to do more of the same in health, education, and transport. The opposition campaign, almost always negative, focussed on ill-conceived "law and order" policies and religious appeals, simply couldn't carry in either what were the marginal "sandbelt" seats or even their supposed core supporters of Deakinite-liberals in the eastern suburbs. I shall write more about this on the Isocracy Network website in coming days, especially the attempt by conservatives who, incredibly, argue that the opposition's campaign was not right-wing enough.

Two IT events of note have occurred in the past few days. The first was on election day when I went to a farewell lunch for Chris Samuel who is leaving the country and is on his way to NERSC. I thank Chris for putting me on my career path of high-performance computing and for offering many words of wisdom along the way. An unfazeable fatalist, Chris has exactly the right demeanor for a profession that is often somewhere between the extremely challenging and almost incredulous; and that's just the users. The other event was the Victorian Directors of IT Forum which was held today. I'm not a Director, but I get invited along anyway and whilst a lot of it is at a very high-level, I was particularly interested in the presentation by Trish McCluskey and David Day from Victoria University on the "block curriculum" approach.

Ran a session of Eclipse Phase on Sunday where the Sentinels made their necessary resleevings as part of their journey to Antarctica, specifically the beautiful Halley Research Station (Youtube). Next week we're taking a break (shock!) from our regular gaming agenda, which would have been RuneQuest. I get the idea that some people are a bit RuneQuest-ed out, if such a thing could happen. It is perhaps just as well; next Sunday, December 2, I'm giving an address at the Unitarian Church on "The End is Nigh: Poor Stewardship of Planet Earth", where I compare some of the crazy apocalyptic fantasties of religious metaphysics to crazy probabilities of anthropogenic climate change of secular reality.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/262744.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: sleepy
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Liberal Problems and General Updates

Tomorrow is election day here in Victoria and, if the final day opinion polls can be believed, the result should be a re-election of the Daniel Andrew's Labor government, which has navigated a path between some impressive economic metrics whilst at the same time being socially progressive, with all indications that this agenda would continue. For his part the opposition leader, Matthew Guy has appealed to religious fundamentalists and knee-jerk reactions on crime issues; I have penned some words on Isocracy on Matthew Guy's Criminal Lies. All of which underscores a problem was once a more moderate, albeit centre-right, Liberal Party with strong Deakinite leanings. Immediate previous leaders - even with their personal failings, the conservatism, their superciliousness, - such as Denis Napthine, Ted Baillieu, even Robert Doyle - were not as dangerous as the current Liberal leader. His appeals to hard-right populism and he stated opposition to evidence-based policy makes him the worst Liberal choice for over fifteen years.

Apart from rising stress levels over the election, the rest of the week have been quite enjoyable. I've had a very productive few days putting together a paper and poster on the Square Kilometre Array, as an example of sensor and signal processing technologies. Gaming-wise had a very enjoyable one-off of Call of Cthulhu last night with the participation of one our regular player's father ("So, what are these roleplaying games all about then?"). Much to his credit he picked up the key tropes right away and really enjoyed the night. RuneQuest session last Sunday was further fire-and-sword mission with a mighty haul in reward. The day prior was a meeting of Linux Users of Victoria where Andrew Worsley provided a rather different approach on introducing shell scripting, which was followed with a visit to Anthony L., to fix up some Mac and RAID issues, and then finally to Brendan E.'s place where we were treated to another episode of Utopia (UK). Finally, a minor item, I sprained my big toe of all things during the week and on Tuesday was reduced to a few hobbling steps around the house. Mostly recovered now, a bit tender, but also makes one realise how dependent they are on such an extremity.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/262562.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: calm
  • Current Music: Interstellar, Epicuros
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