Tuesday Mar 31, 2009

PPCES 2009, Aachen, Germany, March 23-27, 2009

The RWTH Aachen University in Aachen, Germany, organized and hosted the first "Parallel Programming in Computational Science and Engineering" (PPCES) HPC tutorials series. It was held March 23-27, 2009. I participated as well as presented several times throughout the week.

This tutorial was a natural follow on to the "SunHPC" workshops held from 2001-2007 and the combined SunHPC 2008 and VI-HPS event in 2008. 

This first PPCES tutorial week was very well attended and the group also actively participated. Many of the talks have been recorded and will appear on line.  I'll add a link when they are available.

Below I include some pictures of Aachen, with its beautiful historic old city.

Parts of the outer wall are still present. This is the Pontwall, near the Pontstraße, where one enters the city from the A4 (Aachen-Laurensberg exit). The second picture was made on the backside, facing the city.

Pontwall, Aachen

Pontwall, Aachen

The market square is the most prominent place in the old city. There are several restaurants and shops, but literally the most visible building is the huge and beautiful town hall. Below a picture of this building as seen from the square, plus a shot taken at the back side.

Aachen Town Hall

Aachen Town Hall, view from the back side

The huge cathedral is a true landmark and on the UNESCO world heritage list. It is also the burial site of Charlemagne. On the first picture below it can be seen on the left. The second picture has a more up close view. The third picture was taken from the other side. There is a small square between the town hall and cathedral. That's where this picture was made.

Cathedral is seen on the left Aachen cathedral up close

Aachen cathedral as seen from the other side

The picture below was taken in one of the small streets near the big market square. It was taken on the only day the weather was relatively good while I was there. It was somewhat chilly and windy, but shielded from the wind one could sit outside, as shown by the people at the end this street.

Small street near the market square

This fountain is very funny to see and a great attraction for children in particular. It is very fascinating to them that you can turn the hands around. This fountain is in another fairly narrow street, connecting the market square and cathedral. On busy days it can be really crowded here.

Fountain near the cathedral

The picture below was made while I stood on the small balcony in front of the main entrance to the town hall. On the left you can see one of my favorite places there. It is a fixed stop each day I walk to the RWTH.

View on the market square, standing on the stairs of the town hall

One of the nice other things about Aachen is the choice of restaurants.  One of my favorites is the "Best Friends" restaurant in the Pontstraße. It offers a variety of Asian dishes and I really enjoyed the Bento Box. The picture below was made when I went there with a couple of friends. No comments necessary I think.

Best Friends restaurant in the Pontstrasse

Dieter an Mey and his team at the Computer Centre of the RWTH always do a great job in general, but they also select really good places for the social dinner.  We've been at the Kazan restaurant a couple of times before and have never been disappointed regarding the food and the service. Below a picture made of the restaurant, followed by a live in action picture, shot by Agnes Mendes from the RWTH.

The Kazan restaurant

The social dinner

Tuesday Mar 17, 2009

Houston, March 7-14, 2009

I was in Houston, Texas, the week of March 7-14, 2009. The purpose of this trip was twofold. I was going to visit Barbara Chapman's Computer Science group at the University of Houston, as well as give an OpenMP class at Texas Instruments. In this blog I would like to share my impressions and pictures made during my stay there.

I've been in Houston several times now, but I continue to be amazed to see the indoor ice skating rink in the middle of the huge Galleria shopping mall. Given how hot and humid it typically is outside, it is fascinating to see people skating inside. In good US tradition there is a food court around the rink. It actually makes for an entertaining view while eating.

Ice skating rink at the Galleria Houston

I stayed in a nice hotel in Sugar Land on the South West side of Houston. The hotel is along the Southwest Freeway. The name of this part of Houston is kind of charming. It dates back to the days of sugarcane plantations. Below two pictures of the hotel, as well as two from the town hall.

Lobby of my hotel

Lobby of my hotel

Sugar Land Town Hall

Sugar Land Town Hall

It is always a pleasure to visit the University of Houston campus. I like the way it has been organized, as well as the lawns, the trees and the walkways. Below some impressions. The second picture shows the Philip Guthrie Hoffman Hall, the home of the Computer Science department. The third picture has the library on it.

Main entrance UH campus

PGH Building

UH Library

Main entrance to the UH campus

Barbara and I met several times. I also had an interesting discussion session with her students and staff members. Also the social side of this visit was not overlooked. Below a picture of the joint dinners we had. The first one was made at a dinner we had in a local pub called "Cafe Adobe" in Sugar Land. The second one was made in the "Mo Mong" Vietnamese restaurant on Westheimer.

Dinner at a pub in Sugar Land Dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant

Wednesday evening we went to Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show.  This is a very big and lively event that was held March 3-22, 2009, in the Reliant Stadium. Prior to going there we went for dinner at a Texas Barbeque place on Kirby Street. Below a picture of the restaurant, as well as a group picture. 

Goode Company Texas Barbeque on Kirby Street

Group picture at Texas BBQ

Next to the BBQ restaurant was a place I recognized from a previous visit to Houston. It is called "Goode's Armadillo Palace". There is a huge armadillo in front of it and I could not resist to make a picture of it.

Goode's Armadillo Palace in Houston

This was my first rodeo experience. Quite entertaining and very efficiently organized. There were short sessions with various contests. With some of those you had to be really quick to watch. It could be over in a few seconds, but that is after all the whole purpose of these contests.

Below a picture of the stadium, plus an early evening view on Houston. Our seats were very high up. The upside was that the outside view from there was really nice. The boots shown in the third picture attracted a lot of attention from people that wanted to have their picture made together with these boots.

Reliant Stadium in Houston

View on Houston from the stadium

Texas boots

Below are four pictures made at the show. On the first one can clearly see how the bull is mastered by the cowboy. The second one is not so fortunate, as he is about to fall of his horse. Luckily he did not seem to have any serious injuries. The third picture shows the wagon races. Quite spectacular. It reminded me of what the definition of "horsepower" stands for. On the fourth picture the podium for the concert is wheeled in. 

Cowboy wins

Cowboy loses Wagon races

Preparations for the concert

The last picture shows the Texas Instruments building where the OpenMP training was held. The turnout was really impressive and I very much enjoyed the discussions, as well as conversations with the attendees. They had really good and detailed questions.

TI building 


Saturday Feb 21, 2009

HPCVL, February 14-21, 2009

February 14-21 I was in Canada to give two classes on parallel programming at HPCVL. The first session was held at the HPCVL facilities in Kingston, ON. February 18 I travelled to Toronto, ON. The second class was held February 19-20 at Ryerson University. I'd been at HPCVL (Kingston and Ottawa) mid august 2008. Back then it was  still summer. Quite warm and sunny with a lot of outdoor activities. This time it was really winter still, as demonstrated by the pictures below. In Kingston I stayed in the same hotel as before, the Holiday Inn Waterfront. I had a very nice corner room on the highest floor with a great view on Lake Ontario.

The 2 pictures below are taken from my balcony. The water is frozen, but there is a pathway for the ferry. On the first picture you can see the Royal Military College on the other side of the bay. The second picture has a close up of the ferry.

View from balcony 

Ferry as seen from my balcony

The next two pictures are taken from the little park facing the harbor on Ontario street. On the second picture my hotel can be seen. It is the yellow building on the left. My room was on the 5-th floor, in the top right hand corner.

Harbour view 

Downtown KingstonThe following two pictures are taken in the downtown part of Kingston. The first one was made with my back facing the harbor. On the second picture you can see a small ice skating rink. A very nice idea. When I made this picture the ice was just cleaned and there are no people back on the ice yet, but this changed a few minutes later. The rink was pretty full with people then.

Harbour and hotel view

Downtown Kingston The last picture of Kingston is a beautiful sunrise. I was up early and saw this view while working on my laptop in my room. I went out on the balcony to shoot this picture. It was pretty cold, but worth doing. Note that the moon is still visible.

Sunrise in Kingston

The 4 pictures below were taken in Toronto. The first picture shows the building where the class was held. The second picture shows some more detail of this street. The university is very close to the Toronto Eaton Center with a big mall and office buildings. This center is on the left on the third picture. I thought the fourth picture is funny. This squirrel was very curious and I could not resist making a picture of this little animal.

Ryerson University - Building where class was held 

Street impression

Yonge Street

A very curious squirrel

Saturday February 21 I travelled to the San Francisco Bay Area for a week with meetings. I had a connecting flight through Chicago and the weather got pretty bad. Our plane had to be de-iced twice. When we were on the runway to take off, we had to return to the gate for the second de-icing. Given the weather conditions it was pretty impressive we were able to take off after all. The 4 pictures below give an impression what it was like.

View from my seat De-icing the plane

Getting ready to take off In the air!


Saturday Feb 14, 2009

Schloß Dagstuhl in Germany, February 1-6, 2009

I was very fortunate to be part of a seminar on "Combinatorial Science and Engineering" held February 1-6, 2009, at Schloß Dagstuhl in Wadern, Gemany. In this personal section of my blog I share my experiences on the location and the event. In the work part I'll comment on the scientific aspects of this trip.

It was definitely a very interesting experience to be there. Schloß Dagstuhl is not only beautiful, as the pictures below hopefully demonstrate, it is also relatively remote. Especially if you don't have your own transportation. 

Attendance is by invitation only and the groups are always small. The remoteness of the location is on purpose. The idea is to encourage attendees to get to know each other better and also to stimulate discussions. The agenda also allows for enough hallway conversations, or to just go to the coffee room and have a chat with whomever might be there. All meals are on site and everybody is supposed to attend. Table seating is arranged and rotates among the attendees.

This approach certainly worked for me. I've met quite a number of people and had numerous fruitful and pleasant conversations. 

These are two pictures of the main building. This is where some of the guest rooms are (mine was on the newer, modern side to the left on these pictures). The coffee room and restaurant are in the old part of the building. 


One late afternoon I walked up a nearby hill and took an overview picture. You can clearly see the old and new part on the right. The library as well as the conference room we used are in the yellow buildings. The guest rooms are in the square surrounding it.

The reason I walked up the hill was because I'd seen the ruins of a castle and wanted take a closer look. This place has an interesting history and goes back to the year 1270.  More information can be found on this web site.


Picture of Ruud

Ruud van der Pas is a Senior Principal Software Engineer in the SPARC Microelectronics organization at Oracle. His focus is on application performance, both for single threaded, as well as for multi-threaded programs. He is also co-author on the book Using OpenMP

Cover of the Using OpenMP book


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