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Blue Planet II, Studies, Rick Matters

Just returned from seeing the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra perform Blue Planet II which was filled to its 5,500 capacity seating and presented by Joanna Lumley. There can be no criticism of the extraordinary footage nor its interaction with the musical score. It was also a little bit of a reward for finishing my end-of-semester assignment for Information Sytems which basically developing a scenario for UK technology businesses wanting to expand into continental Europe with technical and organizational integration issues and also, of course, with Brexit looming. I presume others have noticed that the first workday of Brexit is April Fool's Day.

In other studies, my intensive for economics rolls on. I've made an appeal of sorts on the fact that I've missed out almost a trimester's worth of study time due to delays in my enrolment and receiving materials, but I am pessimistic of anything coming from that. The University of London is far too élite for anything quite so student-centric. On the other hand, it turns out I was a little mistaken about the University of Otago in my last post. It was not them, but their bank which had applied an additional transaction fee (that is, my bank charged one going out, their bank applied one going in). One day, there will be a revolution and a very special wall set aside for the banks. Still, Otago lifted my block as soon as they realized what was going on, although they should get into the habit of not attempting to charge others for their bank fees. In future I'll probably be using something like Transferwise.

Another big event of the week was receiving an offer on Rick B's flat. I had barely put the apartment up on Facebook to advertise an upcoming auction when the offer came in, so that's very good news. The money from the sale of the apartment will go to paying his nursing home fees. It's quite a relief given how long it has taken not just to get the place cleaned up and so forth, but also to receive approval from VCAT to be even allowed to sell the place in the first place. Now the only issue to sort out is the means-tested fees as determined by the Federal government which inexplicably rocketed at the end of last year with no change in his financial circumstances. For anyone who has had administer another person's financial and medical affairs under the Guardianship and Administration Act you have enormous sympathy; the bureaucratic overhead is quite a nightmare.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/268419.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: relaxed
  • Current Music: Blue Planet II - Soundtrack, Hans Zimmer
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Economics, Other Studies and Other Events

The rolling study machine continues on with daily (or at least, travel time to-and-from work, and evenings) intensive studies in economics dominating. I think I might have gone off the deep-end when I started suggesting that due to diminishing and eventually negative returns of utility in all goods that indifference curves would eventually be circular. This is the sort of mad speculation that one engages in late at night, but it just goes to show that economics isn't all dull. Not at all dull in the wrong way when you have an economy that has just slipped into recession, as my local Federal MP and national treasurer Josh Frydenberg, has been called to task for continually misrepresenting Labor's fiscal policies. Little wonder that the LNP is spending $1m to save his sorry arse in what is supposed to be a safe seat.

In other study news I received my mid-semester assignment result back for my MSc in Information Systems with quite acceptable 80% grade. That was cause for some elation, but it has been significantly soured by the University of Otago suspending my access to the elearning tools because of an alleged $25NZD debt - basically they took my fees (over $4K I might add) decided without reason to deduct $25 and now claim I have a debt, but with no feasible means of making a payment. I am nevertheless continuing this MHEd course courtesy of working directly with the course co-ordinator who is a lot more reasonable in comparison. Seriously though, it is like Otago University is making every effort to prevent students from participating. Hopefully, this will all be sorted out soon. On the other end of the teaching experience, next week I'll be organising a two-day course for High Performance Computing for Mechanical Engineering, which is like my standard courses but with an emphasis on various engineering applications and OpenFOAM in particular, horrible software that it has become.

I haven't just been doing work and study, however. Last night attended a meeting of Linux Users of Victoria with Adrien Close talking about ZeroTier, which looks mighty fine for people who don't like to muck around with tunneling and IPSec whilst on the road, and Enno Davids on some recent less than ethical events in the IT world over the past several months (Australian Census, encryption access, Supermicro, TCL phone data redirects). Further, despite the heat, the RPG Review Cooperative managed to hold its annual Fruit Bat picnic at Bell Bird Park which had a few visitors from Ballarat as well. Finally, last week Mac the Cat ended stuck 6m up a tree; I eventually managed to coax him down with food at 10.30pm to a knot at 4m and then drag him home. A couple of night's later he turned up with a young ring-tailed possum in his mouth, so I guess that's how he got stuck in the first place. We try to have a sunset curfew for Mac, because cats are murderers, and sometimes he gets away with it.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/268041.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: annoyed
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Teaching and Learning

A good portion of the past week has been taken up by running my usual set of day-courses, Introduction to Linux and High Performance Computing, Advanced Linux and Shell Scripting, and Parallel Programming. The classes were quite full, indeed the first two almost down to standing room only, and I discovered that the booking organisers had oversubscribed, which is always playing with fire. Sure there's usually a few that can't make it, but it's a worse situation if someone turns up and there's no room for them. From the other side of the table engaged in a tutorial and one-on-one session with the senior lectuerer for my two courses for my MHEd at University of Otago today. Due to the wonders of international time-zones had to start the tutorial (via video-conferencing) at 7am. As the courses do what they say on the box, with the Critical Reflections course (the Kiwis call it a "Paper") asking for reflections. The first week has been What Makes A Good Teacher?, next week's is Evaluate Your Past Performance - plus there is peer review among the group. For the other course, Learning Theory and Practise, I essentially gave an outline and explanation of the International HPC Certification project and provided a write-up of why this is an important change to implement.

In a couple of weeks my end of semester assignment will be submitted for the MSc in Information Systems at Salford, which will mark my half-way point in that degree. The last group project on collaborative learning in a cloud environment was a little irksome to me as someone with a modicum of knowledge in education theory and cloud technologies, reading a number of posts which were basically regurgitating the spruiking of cloud-provider marking. A limit of my temper was reached when one individual tried to insist that you can't SSH into a system on the cloud; at that point I just gave some examples and left the conversation. Finally, there is a small mountain (and I mean mountain) of economics textbooks next to me which I will get through over the next two months for the GradDip in Economics. I have finished the extensive studies for all four course and from now I'll engage in intensive studies. "All work and no play" (well, a little bit of play, to be honest), will lead me to posting a lot about economics over the next eight weeks or so. Who the hell assesses a course on a single exam these days anyway? Favourite error I've picked up on so far - referring to Population variance of a discreet random variable. Whilst econometrics can be subtle, I am pretty sure it is more bounded as "discrete" rather that quiet as "discreet".

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/267868.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
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Dunedin and Studies

With an hour to go before being collected by shuttle to Dunedin airport and then en route to Wellington and Melbourne, it is opportune to review the past few days which have been dominated by the subject title. On the sightseeing side of the journey I took the opportunity to visit the Dunedin Chinese Garden which, despite several prior trips here, I had never been to. It was a pleasant environment and includes a good documentary of said people in the early days Dunedin (gold, market farms and laundries, and terrible discrimination) which match experiences elsewhere. I was very fortunate to have an impromptu musician playing a huqin which was a highlight. Afterwards made my way to the Art Gallery which has a small selection of early modern European and Australian material, some awful abstract expressionism, and a exhibitions on contemporary Chinese art which didn't interest me, but the Artificial Wonderland by Yang Yongliang (cyberpunk-industrial landscape in digital media with traditional style) left a strong impression.

On the study and university side of the equation, attended my first tutorial in-person for Critical Reflections on Higher Education, followed by a lunch with Jim C., and David E., at the rather nice Otago staff club. We chatted about the restructuring that the University IT services are experiencing and how this does leave open the opportunity for a good eResearch program. Jim C., also received a hand-delivered copy of Papers & Paychecks. A couple of evening's prior I dropped in to visit the local university RPG club, OURS and deliver a copy to those said folk as well and played a couple of rounds of Red Dragon Inn. Another related venture was a long meandering walk from the city to St Clair beach via South Dunedin and St Kilda, suburbs which I hadn't really explored before. I spend the better part of a day there, watching the surfers as the tide comes in, whilst at The Long Dog cafe. It was a curious observation I made of myself - whilst others had come here to surf, others to visit the seaside cafe and chat with friends, I had come here to study advanced macroeconomics, such is the madness of 'lifelong learning'. This said I have completed an extensive content review of all course material related to this postgraduate economics degree which now gives me two months to complete an intensive review, with a strict timetable in place.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/267711.html.
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Wellington to Dunedin

My last days in Wellington included catching up for lunch with Art P., Kay J., and Tim J., to discuss various matters ranging from NZ politics to science fiction. Promotion of The Locksmith is appropriate in this context. After that went to Te Papa, NZ's national museum, a visit which was particularly notable for the Terracotta Warriors exhibition, and their quite literally larger than life Gallipoli exhibition. Appropriately, the following afternoon I went on the Weta Workshop combination tour which was worth a visit, but not something I would return to in a hurry. The morning after however was a regular event on my visits here, the Wellington Cable Car and Museum, along with the well-appointed botanical gardens. Inside there is the Carter Observatory and Space Place, which I hadn't been to for several years and is well worth regular visits.

That evening took a flight to Dunedin and paid the notoriously overpriced taxi fare and stepped in my home for a few days, Balllymena House. This is an increasingly dilapidated old Victorian era building which creaks and wobbles as you make your way around, but it's comfortable, inexpensive, and the family-staff are very helpful. Have carried out some of the more official purposes of my visit, firstly being to check on my Masonic Lodge; tenant Dominic S. (of the The 3Ds fame) loves the place and has made the main hall into a music studio. My other required activity here was complete enrolment matters with the University of Otago. A few thousand dollars later, I now have a student card for my Masters of Higher Education degree; the first tutorial is on Friday.

In less requisite activities, I have purchased a small mountain of shirts from the local SaveMart; run into a chap from Byron Bay who also considers it to the finest clothes store in the AU-NZ region. As for today, spent a good few hours making my way through the Otago Museum, which has excellent Pacific Island culture sections, a good maritime history collection, and an impressive nature section. Curiously, it also has a good Greco-Egyptian antiquities collection (including a mummy). As always, I find Dunedin to be one of the most delightful and charming little cities imaginable; any excuse to visit.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/267412.html.
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Social Media Reflections, More Wellington Explorations

Earlier this week I found out via Facebook that two friends, Michael H., and Mark R., from different social circles, had died. It struck me, in part because I had been at the conference all day, and was suddenly confronted with this news with all its immediacy. I cannot say I was particularly close to either but both were the sort of people whose company I enjoyed; great minds, big hearts, and a well-tuned sense of the absurd. What struck me was the realisation that in pre-social media times, weeks if not months or even years could have passed before I would have received this news, and how it cuts in the other direction as well. Connectivity is often stronger, more organic (to use Durkheim's classic dichotomy), and especially lasting. Once upon a time you could meet someone, form a friendship, lose contact, and in ten years even their name would be forgotten. Now we have the extension of our mind, recorded in digital, replicated on servers worldwide, "Google never forgets", and our digital footprints in the sand are not washed away, but rather become a source for recollections by ourselves and others.

Meanwhile, I am still in Wellington. Multicore World has finished, with the last day of formal proceedings followed by a round-table workshop (I stayed for half of the latter, wanting to see a bit of the city during business hours). From the last day's talks I was particularly impressed with Jeffrey Vetter from Oakridge, talking about their future supercomputers and heterogeneous memory architectures, on which he has a very good paper. With retirement impending Mark Seager of Intel gave a heartfelt presentation on being part of a 34-year journey, which he points out included witnessing a 100Bx computational performance improvement in that time.

My journeys on the half-day I had free included a visit to the NZ Labour Party to rejoin (that makes four social-democratic and democratic socialist parties I am a member of in AU, NZ, DE, and FR), followed by a trip to the Wellington City Museum, which is a truly superb little institution. My favourite of the many stories the place tells is the short documentary of the Tragedy of the Wahine, overlayed with the hauntingly beautiful sounds of Adagio in G Minor. I have said in the past that this is possibly the most powerful short documentary I have ever seen, and I still hold to that - and that was before I found out that I had been on the said boat several weeks prior to its sinking, in utero.

Technically, I am officially on holiday from now until and the coming week. I do suspect that I am going to continue at least some work as that is my nature; I have software installations to complete and impending courses to teach. Nevertheless, I also have my own studies to pay attention to. This morning I handed in a massive mid-term assignment for my MSc, and next week I'm off to Dunedin to attend the opening classes for my MHed. Which means whatever spare time does fall my way I will be making the most of.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/267111.html.
  • Current Location: Wellington
  • Current Mood: contemplative
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Wellington and Multicore World

The past few days I've been in New Zealand for Multicore World, a small but quality conferences which has a great schedule. I was been particularly impressed by James Ang's presentation on heterogenous hardware design for lead researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, taking a cue from Eric von Hippel's "Democratizing Innovation". Sean Blanchard from the Los Alamos Ultrascale Systems Research Centre gave a fascinating talk on the dangers of cosmic rays on memory (who knew?), whereas Ruud van der Pas gave a great presentation on NUMA and a satirical take on a new language, OpenWOUND. Finally, John Gustafson of National University of Singapore, gave an update on the UNUM/posit project, inconsistencies in math libraries, and especially how its cost-efficiency can seriously help the Square Kilometre Array.

The conference has been held in Shed 22 on the Wellington waterfront, which had just beautiful warm and clear summer days. Which is just as well, because I've had bugger-all opportunity to explore, with a conference timetable that runs from around 8:30 to 20:00, my day's journey has been from the "hotel" to the conference hall and back again. This said, I did get the opportunity to have dinner with Janet E., and Doug on the Monday night which was absolutely delightful. I do have Saturday off before heading to Dunedin and am hoping to catch up with the handful of Wellington people I know for lunch. The "hotel" I am staying at is actually Victoria University student accommodation before the new semester, which is clean, modern, with nice views and an absolute steal at a mere $30/night (no, that is not an error).

In between the conference and working through the enormous list of R extensions that I'm installing, I've also been finishing various assessment components for the MSc in Information Systems that I'm doing. This includes a video review of a webinar on social media strategy; the assignment required that it be a video, but apparently, assessment will be based on content, which is just as well with my non-existent video skills. In addition, I also finished a review of two White Papers on Enterprise Resource Planning software, which you would think would be a prime candidate for an information systems perspective. In both cases, I am somewhat surprised by the lack of quantitative evaluation and a systems perspective in subjects that are really screaming for it. Despite (or perhaps) my background in social inquiry and my existing degrees in business, the absence of objective facts and systemic logic in such areas is really quite ridiculous.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/266811.html.
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All Work and No Play

It's been several days since my last 'blog entry and for good reason; I've buried myself very deeply in my various studies and work has been relatively tedious. Most of my readings this week have been in microeconomics, public economics, and information systems. The microeconomics studies, true to form, are typically "here's an idea under perfect competition which doesn't exist, and now for all the alternatives that make up for those assumptions". It would be interesting if economics could ever reconstruct itself to start with reality and then map a path on how to reach the ideal. As for the public economics material that is really a combination of micro and macroeconomic policy from a government perspective. On that topic, I have a fair bit to say about the franking credit issue which attracted some media attention this week, but that will have to wait a few days. Dawson and Lyons have provided a summary of history and effects stating "other taxpayers are funding cash payments from the ATO to shareholders living off investment income who do not pay any income tax", and therein is the problem. It is outrageously stupid policy and should have never been introduced in the first place.

As far as studies in information systems is concerned, that's resulted in a sizable essay on The Disciplinary Vagaries of Information Systems" where I explore why information systems cannot get out of being a multi-disciplinary subject and why there is no systemic generation of meaning. I have two more assignments to finish this course which will be done in the next week, namely a review of two white papers on ERP systems and a review of social media marketing which I have developed new levels of cynicism over, especially when the promoter spruiks the idea of "the buyer's journey" as similar to Joseph Campbell's monomyth in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Yes, the mythology of facing mortal danger in supernatural realms has been reduced to a shopping expedition.

As far as work is concerned, I've volunteered myself to update our R packages on the HPC system, which is the tedious job of checking the CRAN repository, downloading the new file, changing the checksum, modifying the build script, and rebuilding the application. It needs to be done (as does the extensions for Python and Perl), but one also has to somehow retain the power of concentration through what is a spectacularly dull sequence of events. At least it will keep me busy during next week's conference in New Zealand where I will be visiting Multicore World for several days (having picked up accommodation at Boulcott Hall at the ridiculously cheap price of $30/night), before heading to Dunedin to check on my secret South Pacific base and visit the University of Otago. The latter part of my journey is meant to be an actual holiday.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/266619.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: blah
  • Current Music: This is Happening, LCD Soundsystem
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Which Corruption? Various Updates

There are currently two unbelievably bad matters of corruption and mismanagement facing Australia that have been subject to a Royal Commission in the past week. The first was into the banking and finance sector, and various cover-ups and predatory activities. The Federal government, on no less than twenty-three occasions, blocked motions to have an investigation. When Commissioner Hayne handed down his report, the incumbent treasurer (my local member) tried to turn it into a photo opportunity. In response, commissioner Hayne showed what I think was dignified restraint. For his part, the Prime Minister is still trying to block the Commission, warning against any "rash" responses. Which is, of course, code for "we're going to ignore the recommendations, business-as-usual, lalalala".

The second that should be attracting more attention is the gross negligence of the Murray-Darling basin, the largest water system on the driest continent. You would think that this would bring down any government in a civilised country, but not Australia (not so civilised, apparently). Over a year ago it was reported that the scheme was for the benefit of cotton farmers, with the minister positively crowing that he had taken water out of the environment into agribusiness. Now the drought has hit, there's a million dead fish (some up to a hundred years old) and cotton executives have turned themselves in for millions in fraud. It stinks the high heavens, although I don't think that's where those responsible are heading.

Whilst I quietly seethe at this unbelievable combination of corruption and negligence and the inevitable results, I'm still trying to have something akin to a life in my spare time. I was supposed to be teaching this coming week, but that's been canceled because of an administrative error outside my control. I had an animal weirdness magnet hit me yesterday in two parts, the first having to carry a dead dachshund off the road; it had just been run over, and there was heavy traffic. Intervening between the body and the cars, I moved the poor thing to a side park where a neighbour of the owner took over. Then, returning home we discovered that Gremory rabbit had been dug up the previous night, presumably by a local fox.

Apart from that I've been plodding away with various coursework and installs at work, including a submission for the IEEE conference in Prague. I've been working away at the mountain that is my economics material (mostly macro this week), along with some assessable requirements for my MSc, which I've pretty much completed. There has been some opportunity for gaming, and ran both Exalted China and Eclipse Phase this week. In addition, I have made some pretty good sales on Traveller material, reducing my stock of items on said game system to just a handful of books. Plans are afoot for another RPG Review BBQ event, given that we didn't have one for the AGM; March 3 is looking like a probable candidate.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/266258.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
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Arcanacon and Related Matters, Linux and Conferences

Firstly, I was deeply touched by the condolences sent regarding our departed Gremory rabbit, which ends a long-line of lagomorphs and rodents as companion animals. We've made a start on collecting his worldly possessions (food, hay, toys) to find a fellow creature that may benefit from them. I shall also ensure that Gremory (along with all his fellows, Dantalion, Murmur, and Astaroth) receive character write-ups when I start on the Australian supplement for the edition of Bunnies & Burrows next month.

Apropos, much time in the last few days was spent at Arcanacon and related events. It really all started with a group of us heading out to the deco Sun Theatre in Yarraville to see a special screening of The Call of Cthulhu for ser_pounce. The screening included additional "making of" footage and a questions and answers session with the producer and co-writer. It was really quite enjoyable and merged well with the following night's launch of the Australian Role Playing Industry Awards at the Water Rat in South Melbourne. This was a great opportunity to catch up in-person with Sarah Newton a fellow game-designer whom I've known for quite a while via social media.

After this was Arcanacon at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, making a return after several years. There was probably close to 275 people attending all up, with the RPG Review Cooperative managing the second-hand games stall and running games of Papers & Paychecks. Only a couple of sessions of the latter ended up happening, but those who participated had a great time and even bought copies of the game. As for the stall, we had several contributors of stock which helped make it one of the most popular places to visit during the Con. Accolades are due to Andrew McPh, Andrew D., and Karl B., in particular for helping out at the stall. Karl also chaired a panel on GMing at the Con. I suppose the next step after this is the Easter convention, CONquest.

In other activities, I've been working away on my Regular Expressions course and have organised for three HPC courses early next month before heading to New Zeland for a couple of weeks to go to Multicore World. Today I put in a poster submission to the Platform for Advanced Scientific Computing (PASC) Conference in Zurich in the middle of this year on public revenue modelling. In the next couple of days I'll also make a tutorial submission for an IEEE conference in Prague on cloud engineering.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/266143.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired