Washington … finally!

Well, I’ve been to Washington more than once, but I finally found the time to actually check out the city (the flight arrived Sunday noon and the first thing on the agenda was Sunday evening :-)). It’s a very nice city. It’s very nice for walking around and well connected by subway. I did miss the Pentagon though (well, next time :-)). Here are some pictures:
The workshop was at the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Agency). That was somewhat strange … it didn’t quite look like a hotel but it has an attached hotel (in the large building) and meeting rooms. Kind of cool and highly guarded (one has to check in with security first ;-)).

The white house — it looks much larger in the news. It’s actually really tiny in reality.

The strange guy talking (insulting) trash in front of the house is of course not missing. The Secret Service was also around and didn’t remove him … weird.

They were just standing there.

And of course, the snipers on top of the house ;-). I was expecting that they are hidden better … well.

Heavily armed cars :-).

This is clearly stolen from Berlin (Siegessaeule)!

The Washington monument. That looks actually much much smaller on TV. It’s really huge in reality. One can go up for free … if one stands in a lint at 8:30 am :-(. How stupid …

Of course, the flags are not missing … the thing in the back is the Lincoln memorial. Quite a bit of a walk.

The WWII memorial, Indiana and Illinois.

The infamous Lincoln.

Korean war memorial, this is really well done.

The capitol on the other side of the Washington memorial.

Nice city!

Indianapolis Airport Backscatter X-Ray Fun

When I was travelling to Washington today, I had a fun experience at the Indianapolis airport. Well, the first real fun thing is that this stupid CLEAR thing is dead (this was where you could buy yourself into a priority lane at the security checkpoint). Well, the second nice thing was that preferred (status) customers can now use the retired CLEAR lane (yeah, I was at the top of the line ;-)).

However, the TSA officer directed me to a line that lead to a Backscatter X-Ray scanner. So first, I don’t really mind the scanner too much … well, kinda … it takes nice pictures of your girlfriend.

However, there was a huge sign “We respect your privacy and the use of the scanner is optional”. Well, so I decided to not follow the 300 lb guy in front of me (I am wondering if the officers checking the scans get extra pay). The “normal” metal detector right next to it was empty anyway. So what I did was just walk by the officer at the scanner and said that I’ll just use the metal detector instead. Wow, what followed was really unexpected. She shouted “code 5” at me (as if I knew what that meant) while I proceeded through the metal detector. This apparently meant that I had to go through a manual search … because I refused to use the backscatter x-ray … so much about “optional” and “respect privacy”.

The manual search was really funny. The guy apologized for every single time he touched “sensitive areas” and explained that he would use the back of his hand *lol*. Of course, I kept complaining and eventually talked to the boss of the checkpoint (without much success). He even mentioned that backscatter will not be optional after the testing period. I’ll check Chicago next week but I haven’t seen them there yet.

Update: Btw., Europe is *not* better. Well, at least when you travel to the US. I was going back from Italy through Amsterdam where they had the same things at the gate! Yes, at the gate. Because apparently there are some silly US rules that they have to have a higher security. Refusing to go through was even funnier. So I had a family in front of me and they made the grown-ups go through the scanner while the children were just led through the metal detector (which was closed and they had to turn on for every single use). Well, ok. So I told them that I have concerns about my privacy and health and didn’t want to go through (remember, it’s Europe and there should be some laws … I hope). So they started discussing and showed me the screen of the thing. Well, how could I know what happens to the pictures that were *not* on the screen??? Then they started to explain me that this scanner would work with sonic waves … however, the label clearly said “backscatter” so I didn’t quite trust them. Then I asked why children don’t go through that thing and the answer of the “checkpoint lead” was *very funny*: they’re too small and the scanner can’t reach them. The next thing was that they wanted to deny boarding … fine. I demanded to talk to an airline representative what to do about it and suddenly I got my manual search. They said something in Dutch that I didn’t get … but the search was very thorough. I also had to take my shoes off while everybody else who walked through the scanner that “can’t scan children because they’re too small” did not take their shoes off. Well ,I started arguing again but all I got was “that’s a US regulation”. Very funny. So small terrorists, it’s not rocket science how to game those rules ;-).

Update2: I had four more of those “refusing to go through backscatter” at different US airports … and I have to say that I never went through one. However, I got a private search every single time I refused. And I heard that they’ll be mandatory soon … they also reached Germany (Hamburg) :-(. Well, well, there goes our freedom due to our fears.

Update3: My server is suffering from the fefe effect, so I apologize for any waiting time :-).

Update4: The picture above is apparently a fake — never trust BILD! Sorry, only in German. (Thanks Hanno)

American Food (again), HFCS, and more fun

Those who know me know that I’m usually careful about nutrition. I visited some friends in Indiana last week and my host (Nick) invited me to home-grown squashes, turnip greens and zucchinis. Man, I’m jealous … it inspired me to finally begin my herb garden project. And here it is, my first american herb garden:

Ok, it’s a single Basil plant. But hey, I have harvested three times in the last week (two salads and spaghetti). I also seeded parsley and am planning to extend it next week if I have time (a second pot).

The one thing I like most about food here right now is that all watermelons are awesome and cheap! Not like in Germany where 4 out of 5 melons taste like cardboard and cost a fortune. I even tasted a yello watermelon last week – looks very weird (like yellow text marker):

But tastes very very nice!

Hunts sells a new Ketchup brand since last month:

I’m sure that the HCFS mafia, aehem, the Corn Refiners Association does not like this very much. There are also two recent studies that seem interesting: High Fructose Corn Syrup Linked to Liver Scarring, Research Suggests and
High-Fructose Corn Syrup Prompts Considerably More Weight Gain, Researchers Find. And the corn mafia^W^WCorn Refiners Association is quick at pointing out flaws (1, 2) in the studies :-). This is close to ridiculous. Only one thing is better: http://www.sweetsurprise.com/. I mean if everything would be ok, why do I need to advertise that nothing is wrong ;-). This page is generally very entertaining with regards to its independence (check “Science and Research” for anything negative, i.e., the two studies cited above; so far about “full list of results”). The wikipedia page is also worth a read. I’m simply amazed!

LSAP’10 (HPDC’10) + Argonne Visit

This week, I attended the Workshop on Large Scale Application Performance in Chicago. I was shocked when I arrived at HPDC (sidenote, I took the train again and it was great!): everything seemed to be about Cloud or Grid or a combination of those (+Life Science). I still don’t fully understand what all this stuff is about and what the fundamental scientific problems are. Well, the workshop was very good! I really enjoyed Barton Miller’s keynote about his MRNet research. It’s good work! I also enjoyed listening to the other workshop papers. My talk went really well (I was a bit over-time but that wasn’t bad). We (Timo, Andrew and me) even got the best paper award for our work! That was nice and unexpected.

All-in-all, it was a really good workshop!

I visited Argonne the next day and gave a talk about Next Generation Collective Operations. This was also very entertaining and it was great to be there. I had some really good conversations with some folks. Thanks for inviting me! I completely forgot to take a picture …

AMP’10 and SC’10 PC meeting

This weekend, I attended the Advances in Message Passing workshop and the Supercomputing 2010 PC meeting. AMP was in Toronto and the SC meeting in New Orleans. Well, and the schedule was suboptimal. I had to leave AMP early and catch the last flight from Toronto to New Orleans (7pm). But AMP was clearly worth it! It had a couple of very interesting papers and our own contribution fir very well too! I gave the talk together with Jeremiah (which was an experiment ;-)) — and it was a complete success!
The hotel was also funny, it was inside a shopping mall, here’s the view “outside” the window:
Too bad that we had to leave early. Btw., I spent less than 23 hours in Toronto … and two of the in the US immigration! Yes, the US immigration is *in Toronto* (wtf!). And of course, we didn’t arrive two hours early at the airport … man, catching the plane was really close (they delayed it by 20 minutes because we were not the only ones who had that problem). This is really weird …

The SC meeting was very nice. I met many friends and colleagues and had many good discussions. New Orleans is not really the nicest place I have been to. I tried to save money and stayed in the “Bourbon Inn” — well, on Bourbon Street. I did not know what Bourbon street meant when I booked the hotel :-/. Well, it meant no sleep until around 3am :-(. The street is full of night- and stripclubs … kind of odd when you walk back to the hotel after a full day of meetings. Well, I survived (and saved $150). Also, taking the bus to the airport was an adventure. I also survived this one :-). Bourbon street (the camera didn’t really work because it was *extremely* humid!).

Late Post: IPDPS’10 PC Meeting

I guess I have to mention the craziest PC meeting I attended so far: IPDPS’10. Cindy Phillips, the PC chair scheduled the meeting for Friday 12/6/09 in Albuquerque (a while ago). We met at 6:30am at the hotel (I flew in late the day before and didn’t get too much sleep … which wasn’t really too good. The meeting had only minimal breaks scheduled (10 mins breakfast, 30 mins lunch, etc.) and we started out very slow with the good papers (and spent way too much time on clear accepts – as usual :-)). Well, the conference also received a record-submission of more than 500 papers … my track (Software) was the heaviest. The meeting was very professionally managed by Cindy, good job! However, the number of submissions was just overwhelming. If we assume a 9 hour meeting, we would have about 1 minute per paper which seems very unrealistic. We spent on average more than three minutes and sometimes much longer. Well, it was evening by the time we were down to the complicated “middle-field”. All in all, the meeting took longer than 17 hours and was extremely exhausting. I think we made good decisions and selected a good program. It should have been a two-day meeting though ;-).

However, IEEE made up for my stress and gave me a certificate of appreciation :-). See

U-C is crazy … Strange Accident on Elm and Springfield

The second strange thing since I moved here two months ago. Well, I was working as usual … and suddenly heard a really loud bang. My reaction was to check the weather (online) if there was a thunderstorm. Nope … ok, more working. Then I heard several Police sirens, and they stopped nearby. Of course, I checked and saw police cars next to my apartment. Eleven at night is not the typical time to socialize with your neighbors but everybody was on the street. There was a car wreck, a complete wreck! And some eye witnesses who told me that the crash happened probably after a pick-up which was speeding down Springfield (guessed >80 mph) apparently chased by a Sheriff hit another pick-up in the side. I was told that the driver of the one truck ran away naked (?) but was caught soon after. The other guy was pulled out of the second truck by the rescue unit. We hope he survived. Here are some pictures …

The truck on the right seems to have caused the accident.

Someone being arrested.

The truck was missing the back axis (!). The thing on the right is the tool-box and a wheel and an oil can were about 50m (!) away.

Some links:

Welcome to Blue Drop!

We got our POWER7 780 (MR) System on Friday and I just logged in :-). I’m alone on something like this:

htor@bd01:~> w
 20:49:12 up 1 day,  1:01,  1 user,  load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00
htor     pts/0     20:35    0.00s  0.04s  0.01s w
htor@bd01:~> cat /proc/cpuinfo 
processor       : 0
cpu             : POWER7 (architected), altivec supported
clock           : 3864.000000MHz
revision        : 2.1 (pvr 003f 0201)

processor       : 1
cpu             : POWER7 (architected), altivec supported
clock           : 3864.000000MHz
revision        : 2.1 (pvr 003f 0201)
processor       : 127
cpu             : POWER7 (architected), altivec supported
clock           : 3864.000000MHz
revision        : 2.1 (pvr 003f 0201)

timebase        : 512000000
platform        : pSeries
model           : IBM,9179-MHB
machine         : CHRP IBM,9179-MHB

It’s SMT=4 though (so “only” 32 cores) but with sweet 128 GiB memory. With 4 FMAs per cycle, that’s 983.04 GF/s, nearly one TF in a single “rack” (that thing below)!

I particularly like the name … we all hope that the drop will quickly fill up a bucket full of water(s) :-).

(credits: Steve Kleinvehn, original)

Not an April fool’s joke …

Wow, the weirdest April 1st ever. I was just biking to UIUC and saw somebody jumping from one of the tallest buildings in Urbana-Champaign. Around 9:10am, he decided to jump from Burnham 310 (an 18-story apartment building) right when I was biking by (like every morning). I didn’t really see which floor he came from as I only heard him screaming. I believe I heard at least 2 seconds of scream with a Doppler Effect. I had enough time to locate him while falling down and hitting the flower-bed with numb noise about 20m away from me (I biked on the other street-side). I stopped in shock (there was another guy much closer who seemed also shocked, and a police car). Before I decided to go and see if the person was alive, I heard the ambulance (it took less than 60 seconds to arrive, amazing). From all I could see, he hit the ground head-first (seemed like from a height of 50m) so I wouldn’t expect that he was alive. I left the site after the ambulance arrived but I’m available for a police interview if needed (I don’t really know more than I wrote here though).

Update: it seems like the man survived even though he jumped twice (landed on the smaller building and jumped again).

Update 2: the man (a Civil Engineering Ph.D. candidate) died in the hospital.


Two pictures from the building:
and the broken window:

My new office

A month flew by (literally, it’s hard to believe that it’s already more than a month) since I started my new position at UIUC/NCSA. I really like it. We found a good apartment, Urbana-Champaign is much better than I imagined (the campus is really beautiful, especially at night), and the best is the really really good supply of fresh fruits and vegetables (shopping is more interesting here than in Bloomington due to the larger choice). I also like my office (I’m still not really settled down, but I’ll get there eventually). Here are some pictures:

my desk

the view from my office is the (very nice) parking garage

And the best thing here is that there is a fitness room just 40m from my office! It has a lot of nice weight-lifting equipment and even a shower (perfect):