Shards of Time

Aug. 18th, 2017 09:39 pm
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It's been a strange and disruptive past few days, and one which I am at peace with a certain resilience to stich things together and still have the opportunity for other actions. Initially the most serious problem was the discovery early Tuesday morning that Spartan had crashed. I quickly diagnosed it as a networking issue; the home, project, and scratch directories had all been lost and along with it, every running job screamed and died. As others came on board and I fielded users, we eventually narrowed it down to what appears to be a bug in a Cisco switch that was sending duplicate packets. Congratulations are due to Nhat, NinjaDan, Linh, and Mark M., for their efforts here. Making good of the opportunity we restarted all the nodes with a kernel upgrade as well, which were intending to do anyway, and brought nearly all the partitions online. Overall the detection, investigation, and recovery took the better part of two days, and I cannot help but be impressed by how calm and smoothly the operations ran under such apparent disaster. Arguably the degree of panic in situations like this is an indication of experienced versus inexperienced sysadmins.

The following day went to the hospital to visit Rick and also to see the social worker and doctor to discuss his situation. I signed myself up to pay for his transitional care until VCAT approves my application to receive power of financial attorney in addition to medical attorney. Six months ago he was giving presentations on the admixture of modern humans with archiac hominids, and the peculiar differences between reptilian and mammalian brains. Now, due to rapid onset dementia, he doesn't know what suburb he'd lived in for the past thirty years, the fact he has a brother, or where he was born, and his vocabulary has been reduced to probably less than a dozen words. He'll be spending his days staring out the window or at the television in his room, and that's all there is to it. I'll visit his flat and see if there's any music for him, based on prior studies. It's terrible witnessing such a clever and diverse mind disappear so quickly.

There have been other activities in the past few days. I have preparing heavily for the Isocracy AGM on Wednesday evening which will be addressed by Kos Samaras, assistant state-secretary of the Victorian ALP, speaking on The Reawakening of the Working Class. My own latest written contribution to Isocracy in the past few days has been a piece of the advantages of proportional representation. On Wednesday night we caught up with old university science fiction friend and now Greens activist, Tom S. and friend to see the director's cut of Dark City, the noir SF film which still well holds over the years. Finally, to finish things off last night went to a meeting of Free Software Melbourne at Electron Workshop; whilst it was supposed to be a games night we were distracted by the presence of Margaret Gordon, a documentary maker who wanted to know more about this Linux thing.

Eulogy For a Puppy Cat

Aug. 14th, 2017 11:22 pm
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In early June 2004, some ugly political things happened at PACA/AAR, an animal rescue organization. It culminated in a post I made on LiveJournal on 22 July 2004 which not only explained the mess, but introduced our new foster kitty, Sean. I had met Sean at Kitty City, a cage-free area of a local pet store's storage area, and given the sudden life-and-death need for fosters, [personal profile] callicrates and I decided to help out, and Sean was the one I picked. He was about 8-10 months old, so I made his birthday officially October 31st 2003, the date as befit an orange cat. The women who had fostered him for part of the time told me she named him "Sean" because it was a good Irish name for a redhead.

Early on we discovered that Sean had a drinking problem. He would wait until someone put a glass of cold water on the floor, then knock it over. Over the years he would do it several times; pretty much whenever we forgot to mention his proclivities to guests or forgot ourselves. I may have told him, as a joke, that he was going back to Kitty City while he was still a foster, but by then he had charmed his way into Andy's heart as well. In October 2004 we switched him to foster-to-adopt and then promptly adopted him.

In Kitty City, Sean had been somewhat shy and was often hiding. The first few days he was at our house he was the same, hiding under the bed when I tried to introduce him to guests. Once he was used to us, he became quite the conversationalist. He was a very expressive kitty, and could talk about many subjects for seemingly infinite amounts of time. He also made a lot of sounds other than, "Meow," leading to one of his nicknames: Our little Wookiee. I would not be surprised if he had been a Wookiee in a former life. One sign that he had grown up was that he grew a mane, and thus also became our little lion.

Another of his endearing qualities was what we called being a knight in shiny armor. For that trick, he would wait until an empty soda sleeve (The "Refrigerator-size" 12-packs) was on the floor, then dash into one end so he his head popped out the other, giving the box an appearance of having an adorable orange face and a floofy orange tail. When not in armor he loved playing fetch, with his ball or string. He would patiently wait for one of us to throw the object, then pick it up and trot back, dropping it near one of us so we could throw it again. After he loved the ball to death he would occasionally play fetch with foil balls, when he wasn't playing soccer with them.

Andy's Dad made us a beautiful headboard for our bed. Sean decided he wanted to be in the Kitty Olympics, and would use the top of the headboard as a balance beam. He also began earning himself the nickname "Sir Prancealot" prancing back and forth on the bathroom sink as we did our morning getting-ready rituals. He always wanted plenty of pettings and praise, and would return the favor with purrs. He loved climbing on Andy's shoulder like a parrot, making him our parrot-lion.

He hated his kitty carrier and would never enter it willingly, though he would sleep on top of it if one of his sisters was in it. He was fascinated with things he could pick up in his mouth and carry around, especially if he could meow while doing so. He had a very loud meow, and it was indescribably funny the way it sounded when muffled by whatever he carried. His most common carries were balls, toy mice, and the air bags which replaced styrafoam peanuts. No matter how long the chain of air bags he would bring the whole thing in trailing behind him. He did this in the daytime, but especially loved doing it at night. Sometimes he would even leave a mouse on the bed, or drag all the "Air mousies" up onto the bed. We always told him what a brave hunter he was. We never had to worry about mice or air mousies when he was alive.

Although floofy and appearing to be an average-sized kitty with huge paws, under all the fluff he was actually tiny and very light. He was always thin, enough so that every time we took him to the vet for his annual checkup or his asthma, the tech would note it to the vet. His whiskers were very long; I imagine they were the size he would have been if he'd not been so thin. As far as I could tell, he simply didn't have any particular interest in eating. We tried using a special kitty inhaler for his asthma but he would have none of it. He was super-gentle, never using his claws or biting or scratching, but no matter what we tried, even both holding him, we never did get that mask on his face.

Sean was a very affectionate kitty, though he rarely let me hold him like a teddy lion. He would often sleep on Mount Mommy or Mount Daddy when we were in bed for the night, earning him the nickname of "Mountain Lion." He was also a little scamp of a voyeur, though he pretended not to be. He hated going to the vet, but once there he purred constantly and kissed the techs and the vets. He loved being chased, so much so that he would turn around and make sure we caught up to him so he could run away again. After meeting our kitties, especially him, my Sister-In-Law and her Significant Other adopted kitties of their own. He was a favorite of my Mother's and Sister's; Pamela even joked about kidnapping him so he could marry her kitty.

In late June of 2016 I took him to the vet to get his teeth cleaned, then went on some errands. When I got home the vet had left several messages on the machine -- they had found something in his nose and he wanted to biopsy it while Sean was still under. Fortunately when I didn't call back he decided to do it anyway. When Sean got home, for the first time ever he his under our bed and would not come out. Andy managed to coax him close enough to pet him, but otherwise he would not interact with us. The next day he finally came out and resumed being his usual affectionate self.

On July 6th, the vet called back with the verdict. Our little guy had nasal adeno-carcinoma, a particularly virulent cancer with a survival rate often not exceeding four months, once diagnosed. Andy and I had discussed what we would do if he had cancer, and determined that if he did, we would go for palliative care and quality-of-life. When the Vet gave us the news he said that the only thing which could treat the carcinoma was radiation, but that there were no pet radiation services nearby; the nearest was in Colorado. I think he was very relieved when I told him of Andy's and my decision. The radiation would only have bought Sean a few months, and he would have to be in his hated carrier for hated car rides, after which we would let someone hurt him, and he wouldn't know why.

After his diagnosis Sean had a rough patch. We weren't even certain he'd make it for two weeks, let alone four months. I ordered and then expedited a Cuddle Clone for him because we really wanted to see him next to it. By the time it arrived he seemed to be doing better, and we continued to spoil him silly. Then I noticed he could not keep his kibble down. I took him to the Vet again, and the Vet prescribed some high-calorie high-fat gooshy food for him. Although Sean had never seemed to like canned food, he did eat this. At first it was a learning process to figure out when and how to feed him, but eventually we settled in to a routine of putting him in the bedroom (Or closing the bedroom door if his sisters were already there) and letting him eat until he meowed to be let out or he took a nap on the bed. Within a few months he would even let me know when he was hungry.

Despite the prognosis, Sean held on for over a year. As with all cancer patients, he had good stretches and some bad days. I can remember at least two occasions where Andy and I told him it was ok for him to go if he needed, but he bounced back. I started keeping track of when he did his favorite things and when he ate, so we could hopefully notice once he started declining. He had to go in to the vet several times: once for a antibiotic and a cortisone injection, and the others two just for antibiotics. At those last appointments he was down to six pounds and change, and six pounds even on the very last.

We noticed on around July 24th that he was spending more time just laying still on the bed, especially in the afternoons and evenings. He was still eating in the mornings and playing with his mice and air mousies in the mornings. We decided to call the Vet for potential euthanasia. They no longer did house calls but gave us some numbers to try. We finally went with Lap of Love, a national network of veterinarians with a listing for a local vet. The Vet came over and did an exam and confirmed our worst fears -- I had been hoping out the faint hope that she would say he could live a little longer in hospice, but she said he was ready to go. She injected him with a cocktail of a dissociative, a euphoric, and several painkillers, then waited for him to fall into a gentle sleep. We moved him to the bedroom and spent a long time crying and petting him, and then she gave him the euthanasia. Andy noted how quickly he stopped breathing, and believes he had been holding out for us.

It's taken me this long to be able to type this up. Sean was such an integral part of our lives, and each day we discover new ways in which we miss him. He was so affectionate and silly and soft and sweet. He greeted us at the door like a little puppy might, and when I went out in the mornings to water the tree he would sit and watch me until I came in. Sometimes when I'm loading the dishwasher I still look for the spoon I used to stir his food. Andy even misses how Sean used to sit on his keyboard and manage to get his games into modes he didn't know existed. I want so much to be able to cuddle him like a baby again. Having to let him go devastated us, and we can only hope somewhere he's prancing around with cloud mousies and being hugged and scritched and loved as much as we loved him.

Andy took this picture of Sean under the Christmas tree in December of 2015.
Follow this link for full size Christmas Kitty

The mountain lion plays King of the Hill on Mount Mom.
Follow this link for full size Find Your Own Spot

Follow this link for full size Sean-In-A-Box

Our little parrot-lion
Follow this link for full size Parrot Lion

The picture isn't fuzzy -- reality is.
Follow this link for full size Reality is Fuzzy

A profile picture of Sean facing left.
Follow this link for full size Sean Portrait
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The past couple of days have seen two of my proposed presentations accepted by two difference conferences. One is for eResearch Australasia on andragogical methods in teaching high performance computing, which I'll be helped by an HPC educator from Goethe University Frankfurt, and the second being the IEEE eScience conference in New Zealand on cluster-cloud architectures which I'll receive assistance from the HPC group at the Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg. In addition, Friday was a particularly good workday as we held a workshop for about a dozen various HPC systadmins from around the university, as part of the massive upgrade to the Spartan system from being a relatively small and experimental system, to one of the most powerful in the world. I effectively have been given the coordinating role for this group and already several good ideas have come out the workshop for improvements and preparations as we integrate a six-rack GPU partition to our existing infrastructure. Apropos I am off to NCI in early September for their HPC course and will be taking the PRACE online supercomputing course to see how they do things.

Yesterday we visited [ profile] hathhalla and [ profile] ser_pounce for our irregular CheeseQuest and the next chapter of Mice and Mystics, which was not at all successful for the noble rodents. Afterwards played game of Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu, which we prevented the destruction of the world with one turn to spare - it's notably a very quick game. On returning home completed a review of Hunter Planet which will soon be going into RPG Review. I've just been in contact with the original author about my ideas for rules revisions (most of which I tested over 25 yeares ago) and a new scenario implementing Peter Jackson's Bad Taste. I'm also currently writing a version of GURPS Autoduel to fit with the Mad Max series, all of which are contributions to the now late issue of RPG Review.

It is good to able to return to a moderately normal set of topics in life. Previous posts of deaths, funerals, and loss of cognitive functions have been quietly uspetting, despite a calm personal exterior. About twenty years ago a person, who didn't know me that well, was engaged in conversation about motivation and emotions. He used the phrase 'Still waters run deep' to describe me. I appreciated the accurate encapsulation, and indeed have tried cultivate that part of my character (not always successfully). As an obvious variation, I am certainly not the silent type and express my considered views with some abandon. But it is the considered views that I express. I will either ask a question if I don't know something or I will make proposition if I am fairly certain of something. It is part of my recognition (and I do lay claim to coining this phrase) that deeply considered convictions are better than deeply ingrained prejudices, even if the emotional response is the same.

Funerals of a Feather

Aug. 9th, 2017 11:18 pm
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Last day in Perth was dedicated to spending at Erica W.'s funeral at the Fremantle Cemetery. It was, of course, an opportunity for the living to catch up and express their sorrow at the loss of this marvellous and talented woman. There was, of course, humorous anecdotes, sound advice from the departed, and genuine outpourings of grief. I particularly feel for Lucas, her husband of the past seventeen years, who was very close to her in both the personal and professional sense. A sensitive soul in his own right, these must be very difficult days for him. The celebrant also mentioned that in several locations around the world smaller services were being held in her honour, a tribute to her scope and talent, and finished with a recommendation from the departed: Get weird!.

The day after my arrival in Melbourne was Lachlan's funeral at the Renowden Chapel at the Springvale Cemetery and Botanical Gardens (whoever thought of that combination had their head screwed on right). The inclusion of Lachlan's top-hat on the coffin was a particularly beautiful and sad feature. Again, almost in mirror form, included some frankly hilarious stories and reflection on those deeply honourable features of his personality. As Lachlan was in the habit of calling for birthday drinks, due in around a month, [ profile] damien_wise and myself have stepped up to the task of organising one more celebration for this great individual.

It is a curious twist of the tyranny of distance and time that Erica W., and Lachlan S., never met each other. If they did, I am certain that they would have gotten along famously. With similar sensibilities, and quite clearly similar tastes in fashion, I have a mental image of Erica taking great delight in designing an outfit for Lachlan who, true to his style, would have worn it everywhere. I know there is a handful of people who knew both of them (including [ profile] caseopaya). But I was the only one who was present at both departures. I feel like a curious trans-Nullabor bridge, a gregarious nature that has been blessed with the opportunity to know the spirits of two kindred individuals who should have met in life but never did.


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