From Frankfurt to Paris

Jun. 25th, 2017 07:57 am
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Last day in Frankfurt caught up with Nia A., from the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre to discuss the developments of HPC training in Europe and possible collaboration between Australia and PRACE. Afterwards we had some time to spare so took the opportunity to visit the Museum für Kommunikation which had a exhibition on the Golden Ratio and an amusing installation art piece of sheep made from 1980s telephones. This was followed by a lengthy visit to the massive Städel Museum which holds a mighty collection of late gothic, renaissance, baroque, modern, and contemporary artworks, including greats such as Hieronymus Bosch, Rembrandt, Eugène Delacroix, Monet, Degas, Picasso, etc.

The following day was the journey from Frankfurt to Paris with what was meant to be an easy four-hour trip, turned into an eight-hour epic with various delays due to severe storms in Germany. To their great credit the rail staff did a remarkable job at re-routing everyone to arrive at their destinations with a minimum of delay. Eventually arriving at the quite charming Hôtel De La Paix, we had sufficient time before the late sunset to catch a meal and make a visit to Champ de Mars and a certain awful tower (as French artists and intellectuals called it at the time). Actually, it's not that awful at all (except for inspiring a rush of phallic envy, and does accord some fine views apparently. It reminds me a lot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge which, in the scheme of things, is of a similiar time and period.

Yesterday visited Versailles, home of the palace and gardens, the stuff that generates revolutions. The former had excessive queues, so spent the day meandering around the latter and city itself, including a visit to the Royal Stables (still with a fine collection of horses) and Musée Lambinet, which included a fine collection of revolutionary-era objects and paintings. As an oddity for the day at the old antiques market found an extremely good condition of United States Live by Laurie Anderson, something I've wanted to add to my collection for some time.
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Final day in Stuttgart included a long walk through Rotwildpark, a thoroughly beautiful location, and a visit to Schloss Solitude which by good fortune had its rooftop open to visitors commanding some superb views. The journey back to Frankfurt was quick and uneventful and once again checked into the Hotel Colombus where, alas, a top floor has been allocated. In the rather warm conditions that is being currently experienced in western Europe it is a little unpleasant.

The main purpose of this European visit is, of course, the International Supercomputing Conference. The event is just the right size, and with a good combination of medium to some very low level presentations ("low level", as in dealing with the technical details). Of some note was the announcement at the conference that the United States has been edged out the top three supercomputer systems, with the delicate suggestion that the current administration may wish to revisit their committment to advanced research. Among the vendors the can be little doubt that NVIDIA's Volta architecture attracted much deserved attention especially with its performance, energy efficiency, and capability for artificial intelligence - the latter being an interesting focus among a number of presentations.

There has been some more social activities as well; I was subject to a film interview by Dell on the sort of HPC work conducted at the University, and had dinner with a number of their staff at the well-reviewed Immer Satt. I have also had the opportunity to catch up with several individuals from my last visit to this part of the world, including colleagues from Stuttgart and Freiburg Universities as well as establish contacts with well people from Auckland University of Technology (quite a trip) and GENCI (Grand Equipment National de Calcul Intensif) who I will be visiting in Paris this Friday.

From Frankfurt to Stuttgart

Jun. 17th, 2017 09:39 pm
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After the necessary recovery day from the flight (along with some weird sleeping hours as my body-clock adjusted), the next day was a visit to Frankfurt University. The technical and scientific research groups are located in an outer suburb which nevertheless is only 15 minutes by train from the city centre. The day was spent in conversation with their Center for Scientific Computing Team team then attending their introductory class in cluster computing conducted by Anja G., which is an especially comprehensive overview, albeit without a hands-on component. I have spent considerable time going through their lesson plan and slidedeck providing feedback, as well as updating my own standard content from their insights.

After this was the trip to Stuttgart to stay with relatives, about an hour's journey on the fast IC trains. The following day was a holiday, so we we took a tour of the city and especially around the Schollplatz. Visits to (and from) the Stuttgardians are always a pleasure; they're switched-on, savvy, and highly considerate of the needs of others. The children are polite, funny, and absolutely fascinated by Australian animals, which makes buying gifts a breeze. Additional time with them was quite accidental as the person I was supposed to visit at the local university had fallen ill, so we instead took a visit to the Trippsdrill Theme Park, which apart from the usual fare also integrates local history of Swabian life especially from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Following day started with a visit to downtown Stuttgart where I teased a person in a kangaroo suit (complete with joey) by chatting to them and putting on a very broad Australian accent with colloquialisms. It was a conclusion of some animal events from the past day which included a small finch that stunned itself after flying into a window and a visit by a red squirrel. Further down the road a woman was offering "Free Hugs" in the middle of the mall, so obliged this pan-handler. Afterwards we visited the Ritter Sports chocolate museum, which of course the kids loved. They had an absolutely appalling abstract expressionist art exhibition. When will people learn that such art (loosely defined), the enemy of realism and surrealism, was actually a CIA plot? The day has ended with dinner at for all at Das Pilum, an Italian-Swabian restaurant in former military barracks (the grounds date to Roman times).

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