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An exhausting day

The Supercomputing talks started with one called "Cosmology's Present and Future Computational Challenges". He showed some pretty flythroughs of thousands of millions of galaxies, very pretty videos of filaments of galaxies in the universe, with superclusters of galaxies where the filaments cross.
Measurements of the rate of cosmic expansion show that after the expansion slowed down billions of years ago, it now seems to be speeding up again.

I went to the annual Dreamworks talk, which is usually good fun. They were talking about how the workflow has always been they've started working towards giving artists real-time feedback when they want to tweak a frame – showing fully lit and rendered scenes immediately, rather than the typical 2 hours.
To get real-time renders would need a speed up of 5 orders of magnitude, and "interactive" re-rendering would need 3 orders of magnitude. He went into some details of the optimisations they've been using, which were quite interesting. They got awarded an INCITE project on a big supercomputer, and basically achieved a distributed re-rendering system, which is being used in the creation of Kung Fu Panda, a film being released next year.

Next was a guy talking about developing jet engines. I didn't know that the air in jet engines was hot enough to melt the aerofoils – they have to guide where that air goes pretty carefully. But his talk was billed as being about how to make jet engines greener, but he didn't really mention that, that I noticed.

I then spent two gruelling-but-rewarding hours at the booth. It's fun, enthusing about our parallel language to people who're interested in parallel computing, because I think it's genuinely a superb product.

I got told off by my manager for doing my own thing last night :/ Nobody had told me if there'd be any gathering, and they didn't know themselves until it happened. But he said I should have been hanging around the booth as the day ended so that I could join them wherever they went, since a large part of the point of this gathering is team-building.
I don't know... in a way he's right. It's lots of fun to be with MathWorkers who I don't normally get to see. But at the same time, I do value the chance to do my own thing, especially when I've got a novel to write.

On the free gifts front, I have two rather funky tie-dye T-shirts from Microsoft, who had a very impressive Austin Powers lookalike giving them out and proclaiming that "Microsoft's supercomputing software is groovy, baby!" But the T-shirts are pretty cool. 4/5. I also acquired a sproingy foam rocket from NASA with a butilt-in rubber band: so you can flick it for over 100m, even straight up in the air. It's exceedingly cool, and makes me wish I was still in the Assassins' Guild. 5/5.

I was a bit worried by how slowly the novel-writing's going. Then I looked at my wordcounts spreadsheet, and noticed that last year I only wrote 8400 words over the seven days of SC06. I ought to be able to easily beat that, given how I'm doing so far – I've decided I'm going to aim for 10000 over the 7 days. (Pro rata, over all of November I need to average 10000 every 6 days. But SC is a busy time.)

Best word used today so far: perspicacious, or possibly ascertainment. I was rather pleased when I discovered an unexpected benefit of introducing a very loquacious and circumlocutive character: I'd made him that way because it was fun and it helped establish his eccentricity, but I should have realised it's also great for boosting the word count :)

Now I'm off for some forced socialising with colleagues. :/ Thankfully MathWorkers are actually quite fun people for the most part, so it will be enjoyable; it's just being told I ought to do it that I object to. After that I hope to have time to write another few hundred words (to beat my 800 so far today).

EDIT: And I was running so far to get to the final shuttle bus from the conference centre to the hotel, having stayed a couple of minutes posting this entry, that my laptop fell out of my bag, hit the ground, and the CD tray smashed :( Oh well. By the time I next get internet access, at 9am tomorrow, I'll be feeling much less stressed than I am right now.



( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 15th, 2007 05:25 am (UTC)
A little story on one guy's approach to enforced "fun": http://skippyslist.com/2007/07/09/cephalopod-surprise/

Hope the laptop isn't too harmed... Is it one where the CD drive is removable or is it integral to the laptop?
Nov. 15th, 2007 06:58 pm (UTC)
Bwahahaha, that's magnificent!

Must find a way to include unexpected squid in tonight's socialising.

The CD drive doesn't look very removable :/ But its mechanism for holding itself closed was broken, so it kept swinging out at undesired times.
Nov. 15th, 2007 08:13 am (UTC)
Hmm... forced socialising is a tricky one. It happened a few times where I used to work. On one occasion I was forced to go to a social which I was pretty unhappy about. When I got there it was OK, and although I wasn't bouncing around the restaurant with joy I didn't complain or look down or anything. Afterwards I was 'properly' told off for not enjoying it!

In principle I don't think employers should expect employees to do anything out of official work hours. In practice of course it doesn't work like that.

Some small flexibility is probably a reasonable expectation, but it seems quite wrong to be told off for not doing so.

BTW this is the kind of thing that leads me to lock work related posts... you don't want some MathWorker to google you and find you grumbling (especially if you say anything more).
Nov. 15th, 2007 07:02 pm (UTC)
Afterwards I was 'properly' told off for not enjoying it!
Aargh, that's so rubbish!

In principle I don't think employers should expect employees to do anything out of official work hours. In practice of course it doesn't work like that.
MathWorks are generally pretty good about that. There are a number of work curries etc during the year, most of which I can't go to because my social life is so absurdly busy anyway. They don't tell me off for missing them. Things are a little different on a conference.

BTW this is the kind of thing that leads me to lock work related posts... you don't want some MathWorker to google you and find you grumbling (especially if you say anything more).
I can see the point, but I try to take into account that my journal's public. I don't think I've written anything above that I wouldn't want others to know I'd written (even my manager).
Nov. 15th, 2007 08:44 am (UTC)
Argh! Compulsory socialising sucks. Especially when you're abroad and not on your normal time zone. And especially when you're trying to write a novel. It would be bad enough if there was a specific event you were supposed to go to, but to expect you to hang around the booth on spec in case something happens?! Wah.

Is it worth asking your boss to spell out what's required of you while you're here? Because it sounds like you got told off for not doing something you didn't know you were supposed to do.

On a more positive note, the sproingy rocket sounds very cool :)

Hope you have a fun social, and a relaxing and productive time afterwards.
Nov. 15th, 2007 07:07 pm (UTC)
Thanks :)

I lost the sproingy rocket!! :(:( I fired it straight up into the sky, and it flew so high that it got stuck in the giant warehouse's rafters!
...So I returned to the NASA booth and talked to them some more and got another one :) And then another MathWorker who'd seen me playing with it went off to get about six, for his kid and for other MathWorkers who wanted them. So now I have two :):)

The social was actually very fun and relaxing. I didn't get any words written, but I got a plot framework figured out that I can now be placing plot events into. I want to write 2612 words between today and tomorrow, which will take me to 10k over the course of SC07.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )