Sunday, 24 July 2011

Work-Load, or is it Work-Life, Imbalance?

It's funny how, when preoccupied and lost in thought, you can easily mis-hear. I have been a bit troubled by how inefficient the code I use to run simulations -- GADGET2 -- has been performing, and some simple analysis showed that it simply does not balance its work-load well. GADGET2 is a parallel code, which means it splits problems across different processors on a supercomputer to solve the problems more quickly. Ideally the way the problem is split should be optimised, so that each processor does roughly the same amount of work. If it's not, then some processors will do more work than others, and the time it takes to solve the problem will increase accordingly. This is not a good thing. In this case the jargon is that the code suffers from work-load imbalances.

One of my work-load imbalanced galaxy clusters...
I was so pre-occupied with this problem and my seeming powerlessness to resolve it that I was completely thrown by a colleague thanking me for my document on work-load balance when I went to make a cup of tea this morning. Work-load balance? How could he have known? I had been writing e-mails about work-load imbalances, but not to him. Or had I? Momentary confusion followed by a clarification and it all made sense. We had discussed work-life balance in astronomy a few weeks ago and I'd passed on a document on the topic that was based on a meeting I'd attended a couple of years ago. Surely this was an instance where work-life balance had been lost? Was I really keeping my work in perspective? The thing is, I'm not sure I know how to work any other way -- becoming completely absorbed in a problem such that it gobbles up my waking moments. This is not a good thing.  

So... how do I improve my work-load, sorry, work-life imbalance? Maybe I need to turn some of the brain power I expend on my work on solving my work-life imbalance conundrum...