… on Projects I’m Working On

I think it’s sometimes useful to write about projects (or just things) that are currently ongoing. It’s nice to get feedback about what you’re doing, and also, there’s no better way of learning something than by explaining it to others (people call this the Feynman method of learning, after Richard Feynman, but I think people have been doing it for a very long time.) In any case, here’s a brief rundown of the projects I’m currently working on.

1. datasci.watzek.cloud

This project falls under the “Watzek DI” umbrella. Throughout my other recent work with Jeremy and Jens, Jupyter has been somewhat of a constant. Jupyter is a component of our BLT architecture and I view it as one of the most important new ways to interact with scientific computers; as a “gateway,” I’ve found it makes even people unfamiliar with computing on that scale feel at home. Our paper “Jupyter Notebooks and User-Friendly HPC Access”(obviously) made heavy use of Jupyter notebooks. In December, we had a guest on campus, Doug Blank from Bryn Mawr College, and among his specialties is the use of Jupyter. We’ve noticed that there is some energy on campus around Jupyter, from people in Econ and Political Science looking to find a nice, friendly interface for people to access our HPC resources all the way through to physicists using the entire output of out BLT system all at once, through Jupyter. One thing we haven’t been able to do as well is provide people with a nice sandbox they can interact with our Jupyter servers though without any complex VPN connections. However, now, LC-affiliated people can access a free Jupyter and RStudio installation at https://datasci.watzek.cloud. We’re looking to continue developing this as a resource for the school, so if there are  any more features you would be interested in, please let me know.


2. Task-Aware HPC Scheduler

My next large research project (which I have finally begun work on) is one for which I’ve had an idea for quite a long time. A few years ago, I came up with the concept of a scheduling system for an HPC computer which would have a deeper understanding of what kinds of tasks are running on it. That was (and still is) an incredibly vague goal, but I thought it would be interesting and potentially have an impact on the way people design schedulers. This project has gone through many iterations already, simply because it needs to be enough of a well-formed challenge to get started with. Now, I’m going to back up and try and explain the problem.

Imagine you are operating a computer cluster. It has no scheduling system. You’re a sad sysadmin who spends all your waking hours telling your users which cores of the computer cluster they can use at what times. They have different CPU allotments, different needs, and there are infinite more tasks waiting in line after them. How do you decide who gets to use what parts of the machine? This is obviously a very difficult thing for a computer to do, and what generally happens now is essentially a combination of 1. certain users have priority over others, and 2. whoever has been waiting in line the longest gets to go next. This considers nothing about the tasks themselves.

An interesting approach to this problem (and one that I am attempting to make progress towards) is to attempt to learn about how the task is likely going to behave, using that information to plan out what the best way for all the users to share the computational resources which are available. The specific ways that I am attempting to do this are to guess how a task will be constrained (for example, certain tasks are memory constrained while others are processor constrained), and attempt to run tasks which are differently constrained together. For example, if a task is memory constrained, it might be a good candidate for being run with a CPU constrained one, as the CPU one doesn’t need much memory and the memory one doesn’t need much CPU.

3. Increasing BLT Visibility/Broadening HPC on LC Campus

We in the DI/LC HPC initiative are very interested in getting “non-traditional” HPC users involved with HPC on campus. We have a large number of HPC users who are biologists, physicists, mathematicians and computer scientists. This is essentially expected, as these are the kinds of people who have ready made tasks which can be slotted in on the HPC system. What we’re interested in doing now that we have a reasonable number of users is attempting to broaden our horizons and get people who don’t fit the “HPC User” archetype on board. Some examples of this are political scientists, economists, and other social scientists. There are many types of people who may have an HPC use case, like massive economic or political datasets. We would like to get these people involved with the HPC initiative to a) hopefully make their lives easier, and b) so that we can build a real HPC community on campus and share our stories about how we’re using HPC (which is becoming an ever-more important domain) to solve problems in all kinds of fields rather than just the ones traditionally associated with HPC. As part of this initiatives, we are trying to “Collect” examples of interesting HPC uses. Some of these include the LIGO gravitational wave code, datasets about rents in the San Francisco Bay Area, topic modeling, and procedural generation of text that “sounds like” certain authors wrote it.

Please let me know if you have interesting ideas for how HPC can be used (or demonstrated) in a fun way which would be interesting to humanities-type people, artists, musicians, social scientists, and anyone else who is interested in a) computers and b) something not traditionally used in HPC.

5. Getting Good at Basketball

This last one is sort of a joke, but sort of not. My friends and I have started a basketball team called the Supreme Court and I would like to actually be at least a serviceable member of the team. I’ve been playing basketball every day since the semester started and honestly I already feel physically much healthier. I can run for much longer without feeling tired and I feel like I have a lot more energy. Plus, basketball is just fun to play.

… on New Blog Posts!

Hello Everyone,

I’ve decided I’m going to update the blog (much) more often. I like sharing with my friends and I’ve completely failed to do that even remotely recently. I’ve used the age old excuse “I’m busy doing things,” but I can definitely make time for the blog, so I will begin to do so soon. I’ve got not actual content for this specific post, but I just wanted to prove that I’m not horribly inactive. Look forward to more posts soon!

As always, thanks for reading,

Ben Glick

… on Socialization

Before I get to the topic of this blog post, I want to say thank you to the 92(!!) people who read my first post. That’s an incredible number of people who decided to take time out of their day to read about my train affinity. Thank you all so much. I really appreciate it.

Now, on to the wonderful topic of my experiences with socialization. Most of you know that I am rather chatty. I talk a lot, and people often tell me that it’s a defining characteristic of interacting with me. This is, of course, quite accurate and a lot of the time I spend in groups or otherwise interacting with people in social settings is spent by me talking. However, what most of you don’t know about my talkativity (I don’t think that’s a word but I’m going to go with it) is that I really don’t like it about myself, and I have a hard time controlling it.

It’s an interesting situation when something that people consider to be a defining characteristic of you is something that you kind of wish wasn’t true of you. I know we all have parts of our personality like this, and that’s okay. People can see different things in us than we can see in ourselves, and we may not always like it. None of this is to say that I don’t like talking or anything like that, but it really does annoy me.

In order to figure out why it bothers me, I probably need to figure out why I do it at all. I don’t really have an answer to that question. I think it has something to do with my general sense of nervousness and my social anxiety. Whenever I’m around people, especially people who I haven’t spent much time around, I get nervous that they won’t find me interesting, or that they won’t like me, or that I don’t talk enough, or that I talk too much, or that they will think I’m rude if I don’t talk very much, or any number of other things, and I get nervous.

The way I (semi-consciously) deal with this is to try and come up with a response for everything that anyone says and say as many of them as feels right. One of the problems with this is that it often leads to me talking way too much, to the point where other people aren’t able to enjoy the conversation, and I don’t get anything out of listening to myself talk. Another problem with this is that because I often end up speaking on topics with which I have no knowledge or familiarity, I often say stupid things, uninteresting things, or occasionally hurtful things that I never mean to say. I also often resort to my knowledge base of random facts, which I know annoys many people that I talk to.

A prime example of this specific behavior is yesterday (Friday) evening, when I was hanging out with my new intern friends. I was in a group of people I really want to like me (or at least tolerate me), and so I was naturally nervous, even on top of my general “I’m around new people” nervousness. I responded to this by doing a brain dump of many of the things I know about the city of Chicago, which is a very considerable number of things. I’m sure I annoyed every one of them way more than I should have.

The biggest problem with my feelings about my outgoingness is that it causes me more anxiety and stress than I want it to. Sometimes, I feel like I spend more time worrying about why I’m like this than I do trying to be myself. I obsess over whether the one tiny comment I made three days ago hurt someone’s feelings or annoyed them, and if so then how it annoyed them and what I can do better next time, when in reality, usually it either didn’t annoy them at all or they’re miles over it by now.

Another side effect of this is that I rehearse most things I say in my head (or even sometimes out loud) a number of times before I say them. I say things, think about what people will say back to me, respond to their response, change the parameters, and go again. This is an incredible waste of time and it causes me a lot of stress, especially considering that I should usually just say the thing that I want to say, and not assume I can possibly simulate every possible response that the person I’m talking to will have.

For all of these reasons, and more that I didn’t really want to discuss in this already too long blog post, I’ve really always considered myself an introvert, despite how much I talk. I consider myself most comfortable reading a book, or listening to a symphony, or writing code or a blog post, or other activities I can do by myself. I do really value my friendships and conversations with people, but I also really wish I could control myself a bit better during them. I often enter a conversation deliberately thinking about how I’m going to be quiet and then mere minutes into the conversation, start talking a mile a minute and get more and more nervous about how much I’m talking, which leads me to talk more. See the pattern here?

Anyways, I didn’t really have an agenda when I started writing this post, but I just wanted to talk a bit about me and some of my feelings about myself. If you’re talking to me and you feel like I’m hogging the conversation too much, definitely feel free to tell me to quiet down a bit or whatever, and I’ll do my best. On the other hand, if you really enjoyed a conversation that we had and you want to tell me that, I’d really appreciate it. My chattiness is a defining characteristic of me, regardless of whether I want it to be, and I will always have a complex relationship with it, but I also do understand that it’s a big part of my personality. As always, I’m endeavoring to be as pleasant to be around as possible, and I know that I often fall short of my own and others’ expectations.

Wow, this post has been really rambling and probably incoherent. If you have any questions or would like me to clear anything up, feel free to let me know.

As always, thanks for reading,

Ben Glick

… on Work

Today was my first day at my first job in corporate America. Well, it was actually my second day,  but the first day was entirely taken up by necessary, but not super exciting HR and on boarding related tasks. Today was the first time I actually did anything for real,  and I have many feelings.

Let’s back up a bit. I’d better tell you what my job is before I talk about how I feel about it. I’m an intern in the Digital Technology Leadership Program at GE Transportation. To back up even further, GE Transportation is the branch of GE (funny how that works) which is responsible for locomotives, stationary engines, mining, drilling, and marine operations.  Anyone who knows me knows how I’ve always loved methods of transportation, especially trains. I used to (and still can) stand for hours at the Museum of Science and Industry train exhibit and just watch all of the HO scale model trains go around their expansive track. I don’t know what it is about trains that I love so much, and it’s certainly changed since my friend Travis and I wrote our first picture book about trains in the first grade. I think at first, it was how powerful they are – they can carry thousands of tons of stuff across massive distances. Now, I have a deep appreciation for the engineering and physics behind their design and operation, as well as all of the logistics and information sciences that go into everything from rail yard design to fuel efficiency management, to route optimization. In any case, I love trains and always have.

Given all of that background, you might guess that I am simply overjoyed at being offered an opportunity to work with locomotives for an entire summer. You guessed correctly. Notice I mentioned that I’m on the digital side of things. If you know me, you know that in addition to trains, I love working with computer systems, code, data management, and other things CS related. Luckily for me, my job this summer lets me do just that – I get to work with computers, trains, and computers on trains. I’m beginning to believe that this internship was designed specifically for me. Additionally, I find myself strangely enjoying the less quantifiable parts of working. All of the people I’ve met so far have been really interesting and nice, and willing to put up with my excessive question asking. My assigned mentors are really supportive and helpful, and working with the team I’m a part of has motivated me to succeed even more than I thought it would. Last but certainly not least, all of the other interns in the program are amazingly talented, endlessly interesting, and often make me wonder how I got let into a program with such intelligent people. I know the combination of the things I’m doing, my passion for them, and the people around me will help me make this summer be a huge learning experience, and I’m really excited for it.

Before I wrap up, let me briefly get back into what I was talking about in the intro paragraph. I still feel a little bit like I’m playing dress-up in kindergarten. That’s not to say I feel like I don’t have anything to add to the team, I just feel starstruck and so happy that a real company was willing to give me a job and has the confidence that I can be a valuable team member. I’m super motivated to prove them all right, but I still feel just a bit out of place. I’m sure everyone reading this has had that exact same feeling – being super excited and pretty nervous along with it. As my sensei Brett L Wolf always used to say: “There’s nothing wrong with nerves. Nerves mean you understand the stakes. But there is something wrong with being scared. Scared people fail.” I’m embracing my nerves and, as the people at GE would say, I’m going to “leverage” my nerves and excitement to make this a productive summer.

I realize that this blog post is probably really really uninteresting for everyone except for me. Please bear with me as I learn how to use this platform to communicate in a way that hopefully some of you guys can at least tolerate.

As always, thanks for reading,

Ben Glick

… on Blogs

Prologue, or What made you think this was a good idea? – 

So, this is my first blog post. I’ve wanted to have a blog for a long time, but I’ve never gotten around to sitting down and writing a post, or now, I guess I have. I’ve always liked the idea of having a blog – it seemed fun, and anyone who has met me knows that I like to have a good chat. I’ve finally motivated myself to do the famous five minute WordPress setup and sit down and get writing. Because this is a first post, the nature of it needs to be a bit informational. Because of that, I’m going with a question-answer format for this entry. It’s probably not here to stay, because it feels like I’m lecturing rather than chatting, and I hate feeling like I’m lecturing.

Before I start that though, let me first say thank you very much for reading. I’m really glad you find it interesting enough to spend your valuable time reading what I have to say.

Why did you choose the name Ruminations…? It seems rather lazy.

Well, first of all, it seems rather lazy because it is rather lazy. I couldn’t come up with a better title at the moment I decided I needed a title. It’s a work in progress and there’s a very good chance that it will change soon. However, I do really like what it lets me do with post titles. I can simply say …<whatever I’m writing about> is the title, and it looks like I did a clever thing by making the blog title and the post title work together. In reality, it’s just because I’m bad at coming up with titles.

What will this blog be about?

I have no idea. That’s part of what always appealed to me about the idea of a blog. It’s a place I can talk about whatever I want. It may be about baseball one day and about thermodynamics the next. It’s really just going to be a collection of my thoughts and more importantly a place to converse with people who are interested in chatting with me.

All of that said, I do have some ideas of things I’m going to talk about. They include but are not limited to technology, reviews of things I consume – food, tea, coffee, music, films, etc., my relationship with spirituality and religion, and maybe sometimes just whatever it is that I’m up to.

Who even are you?

I’m glad you asked. Check the front page of https://glick.cloud for more information.

I have comments

Hey wait, that’s not a question…

In all seriousness, awesome! The real point of this blog is to present my thoughts, feelings and ideas, and talk about them, peoples’ feelings on them, or anything else, with people who want to. The best way of getting in touch with me is by email (glick@lclark.edu), or leave a comment here if you want other people to be able to see them.


I think that’s enough for my first post – I guess that makes me a blogger now! I feel like an adult or something.


As always, thanks for reading,

Ben Glick