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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.

Wellington and Multicore World

Feb. 13th, 2019 02:29 pm
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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.

What does "all" mean?

Feb. 12th, 2019 10:22 am
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What was the title

Feb. 9th, 2019 03:23 pm
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of that SF novel where it turned out mass murder was the solution?

All Work and No Play

Feb. 9th, 2019 11:35 pm
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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.

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