A big computer in a chapel, Barcelona

I’ve just finished help co-host a new conference series called EMiT which presents work from developers and users of emerging computing technology. It’s a cool conference, and we managed to squeeze in a tour of the MareNostrum supercomputer.

The MareNostrum supercomputer set in a chapel on University grounds, built in the 1950s.

A friend and colleague Dr Michael Bane spun the idea of EMiT up 3 years ago, and this year we held it in the beautifully colourful city of Barcelona. More on the city very soon. It’s usual for academics to attend conferences within a specialised field. For me, this includes the European Aerosol Conference, for example. Then there are the broader conferences, the benefit of which I have talked about previously. Then there are the ‘technique’ conferences. These can be really useful. So many disciplines rely on computing, and yet the standard conferences can miss out on what emerging trends could be used to benefit the scientific aims. Attending a conference such as EMiT is almost like going back to University for a couple of lectures. Well, for me at least. This is a good thing, as you can take a lot away from it. Given the very good value for money this year, it’s almost worth thinking of a busman’s holiday! For those interested in the proceedings and more details, check out the website.

So what about Barcelona? It is certainly a jewel in Europe’s crown, and no doubt many of you have visited before. It’s a city that has more or less everything you would expect from the warm nestling and vibrant areas of Spain. I stayed more or less in the middle of La Rambla for this trip, taking the metro to the University when needed. La Rambla is busy to say the least, and some people like the intensity of the street. Even if you do not, a 5-10 minute walk and you can find yourself in La Ribera, with tight cobbled streets, artisan workshops and little bars and cafes that pop up without warning. Here you can find the Museu Picasso and the Gothic church of Santa María del Mar.

Mentioning a few pit stops goes without saying. Escriba, on La Rambla, is a beautifully ornate little café. If you like chocolate and cake, this is a place to go! As for dinner, there is a great little placed called Le Crema Canela nearby. I have been here before, with my wife, last November. They serve locally sourced dishes and are so friendly. What’s more, it’s such good value!

Waiting for a tasty dinner at La Crema Canela.

The city has so much more to offer but I only had so much energy and time in the city, so hopefully I should return very soon.

There is one more thing. The wonderfully ironic twist of the host city for a conference on high performance computing is that spending just enough time here forces you to consider the need to rush. Walking around, the city almost drags you back if you start to rush. It’s funny really, I think it can be easy to try and rush through days and jobs. Most likely, for academics, this is influenced by the inability to say no and carefully judge workloads. Once in a while, the benefit of just stepping back a little and looking up can feel great, and it should help. If only one could just ‘pop’ to Barcelona to do it .





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