Saturday, December 8, 2018

Bridge Slide

This is La Puente de Alamillo, or as I usually call it, "the phallic bridge". It has an interesting feature at the base of its most prominent feature.


The "prominent feature" slopes down to join a pedestrian walkway. I've often looked at that sloping feature at the bottom and thought it would be fun to climb up and slide down. This morning, I saw a bunch of kids doing just that. Here's a video from afar:



***

Emily found a recipe for chana masala last week. It looked so good, so Laura made some for me today:


It was pretty spicy, but really hit the spot. Plus, there's enough leftover for lunch tomorrow.

***

We walked over to Alameda de Hercules to see what we could see with respect to holiday activities. It was a happening place. Lots of vendors, ice skating, kids everywhere. This caught my eye (and several other eyes based on the line):


From there, we caught the bus out to Costco to pick up a few things. We're back now and in for the evening.

Friday, December 7, 2018

A date which will live in infamy.

Not really, I just always think of that quote on Dec 7th (Pearl Harbor Day).

The painters finished up the shutters today. Here they are, freshly painted, awaiting placement:


***

Fairly typical day, but we had to plan a bit at the grocery store since they're closed on both Sat and Sun this weekend. Saturday is the Catholic holy day, Immaculate Conception, and they're always closed on Sunday.

***

I found a good datacamp course that talks about machine learning with time series. It seems to fit well with the weather prediction project I've been working on this week.

***

This evening we went to the Plaza de San Francisco. The claim was that a Christmas light installation was going to premiere at 7pm. Turns out the publicity was wrong and the premiere wasn't until 9pm. We were not the only people fooled. At 7pm, the plaza was packed:


Even the vendors were fooled. Eventually at about 10 minutes after 7, it started to filter through the crowd that nothing was going to happen until 9pm. People left in droves. It's on every evening for the rest of the holiday season, so we'll just hit it later.

We wandered around a bit waiting for the ill-fated 7pm premiere time and went through a nearby church that's normally closed. There was a line of folks lined up to pay homage to Mary by kissing the hand of a statue of Mary in one of the alcoves. Folks walked up singly or in pairs, prayed briefly and kissed the hand of the statue. There was an attendant there that wiped the hand after each kiss:


I suppose this devotion will continue through the holy day tomorrow as well.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Constitution Day

Other than the stores being closed, not much happened here in Sevilla to commemorate Constitution Day. The constitution of Spain, developed in the wake of the Spanish dictator Franco's death, was finally approved by a referendum of the people on Dec 6, 1978. This year marks the 40th anniversary of that referendum. One might think that an anniversary that is divisible by 10 would be special, but it doesn't appear to be. I suppose the 50th will be special, but I'm not likely to be in Spain for that. Although, who knows, after the US becomes a 3rd world country, maybe I'll immigrate to Spain.

***

The bridge was lovely this evening:



***

Sevilla takes its Christmas decorations very seriously. Each street has its own design for lights. I managed to snap this just walking around the neighborhood this evening (except for a couple that I added just to fill out the 3x3 square):

I don't like the rectangular ones as much as the others. But, to each his own I guess.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Av. de la Constitución

We walked up to Av. de la Constitución this evening just to see what we could see. Also, since tomorrow is a national holiday, Constitution Day, it was particularly apropos. It marks the establishment in 1978 of the current form of Spanish governance. It looked lovely in its Christmas lights, but really smokey from all the chestnut roasters:


There was a nativity in the alcove of one of the government buildings at the end of the avenue. Definitely not something you'd see in a gov't building in the US (that pesky separation of church and state, haha):



Just around the corner from this we heard what sounded like a political march. We went around to investigate and saw a group doing a Take Back the Night sort of political demonstration.


It was attracting attention and a number of TV newscasters.

***

I worked a bit more on my weather project today. Using a nearest neighbors classifier I started getting reasonable results. Still with not much sophistication, I'm able to predict frozen fog 12 hours in advance with about 50% accuracy, but still a lot of false negatives. I have  few ideas on how to improve it. It's a surprisingly rich project.

***

Spanish class was interesting today. Our teacher tried to explain when to use the preterite past tense or the present perfect tense (which is also a past tense). I kind of have it down, but I'm far from being able to use it on the fly in conversation.

***

I talked to Emily today while I walked along the river. Research seems to be going well. When I got home, we switched to video and Laura and I both got to "chat" with Benji the bunny.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Los Pintores

The paint crew came to the flat this morning right on schedule (if not a bit early). They removed the shutters:


There was some confusion about how to label them so that they would be put back in their original positions. Based on what we saw and understood, I'll be surprised if they make it back to their former spots, haha.

The shutters were painted somewhere else–I'm guessing on the roof. I think they're still there as I write this drying. Once the shutters were pulled out, one of the painters stayed and painted the railings outside the windows. This required the windows to be open and for one of us to hang around the flat. I'm glad I decided to move my office into the little nook behind the kitchen. Not only was I able to work in there, but I was able to keep the door closed to minimize paint fumes and run a little space heater to keep warm. The rest of the flat was pretty cold.

The railings are now painted. Laura talked to the painter at the end of the day. He said he would come back on Thu at 10am to put the shutters back. I'm glad we'll have all of this work finished before guests arrive next Wed.

***

I made some progress on my machine learning weather project. I finished preparing the data and took a run at it with a keras deep-learning neural network. I got a 95% accuracy on my test data on the first pass, which might seem pretty good, but when the positive classifications are only 4% of the entire data set, you realize that's crap. Indeed, I could write a really simple classifier that always predicts negative on this set and get a 96% accuracy rate. I'll take hit it with a bit more sophistication tomorrow. The lesson I'm really learning is that preparing your data for a machine learning project is as challenging as the actual machine learning process.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Purple Skies

We've had a lovely stretch of weather here. Easily the best December I've ever experienced in my 51 years of living in wintry locales. This evening as I walked home from language class, I crossed a different bridge and had a lovely view of our bridge (the best bridge) in the dusky colors:


I have a bit of regret because I didn't have my tripod and this was a bit of a low-light situation. It would've been much sharper on a tripod. I held my hand as steady as possible, but sometimes it's just impossible. This was a view from the same position but looking more west towards the sunset.


***

Class was good today. I was a little worried because the warm-up listening exercises I did at home before class were horrible. I was afraid I'd get there and not understand a word of what the teacher was saying, but in the end I actually had a pretty good listening day. Listening is improving more quickly than speaking. I probably should work a bit harder at finding opportunities to speak.

That could happen tomorrow since the painter is supposed to come to the flat tomorrow for access to the shutters and railings outside our front-facing windows. He's a nice guy, but he's a real, live Sevilliano and he's hard to understand–not like my very kind and patient teacher.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Rugs

Mario and Palma stopped by this evening bearing gifts. They were concerned about the cold tile floors in the flat and the fact that we didn't have any rugs, so they brought a few over. One for the living room and a couple for the bedrooms. They look very nice:


The rug also dampens the sound in the room and makes it a little cozier, so a good addition!

They also brought over some extra dishes and a pyrex cooking pan. They know that we're expecting guests over the next several weeks and want to make sure that we can accommodate the extra people.

***

Tourists here love the horse-drawn carriages. The weather this afternoon was beautiful and this ride across the bridge looked quite pleasant:


***

Elections for Andalucia were held today. Elections are always held on Sunday here. Spain has 17 autonomous regions (like states would be to the US). Sevilla is a city (and a province) of the autonomous region of Andalucia. Andalucia has a parliament and the election today determined the composition of that body (equivalent to when we elect state representatives to a state house). Andalucia has 8 provinces Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga y Sevilla:



Saturday, December 1, 2018

Silver Polish

Today marks our 5th month in Spain. In some ways it seems fast and in some ways it seems like we've always lived here.

***

We had nice weather today. You know what that means! Laundry. Two loads. All dry and folded now. We also had our usual grocery shop. And Laura did a bit extra by going up to Costco on the bus to get a few things.

We both went to the mall to see if we could buy a pillow (one of the pillows is kind of hard to sleep on). We discovered that the Primark has suitable pillows, but decided not to brave the line at checkout, but, rather, come back sometime mid-week during mid-day when there will be fewer people.

There were lines everywhere. I guess Christmas shopping is in full swing now. This line to get into the base of the Seville Tower (Sevilla's only skyscraper) extended for nearly the length of the mall:


Many people in the line were holding what appeared to be boxed set dvd's or cd's with the name "Ailana" on the front. So maybe it was some kind of celebrity signing event? I looked up "Ailana" on google later, but nothing really seemed to match.

On the way home, along the river, we passed one of the catholic brotherhood halls (one of the organizations that does the processions around town that I've written about previously). The doors were open and younger folks were polishing the silver adornments for the floats. I guess there's another procession coming up:


We do have the Immaculate Conception on Dec 8th. And, of course, there's Christmas in a few weeks.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Christmas Lights

The municipal Christmas lights premiered this evening. Crews have been hanging lights across and along most of the major thoroughfares in the city these past 10 days or so. A concert to note the premier was held at the end of Av. de la Constitución (the main street that runs by the cathedral). It was an 80's pop cover band. They opened with "Walk Like An Egyptian". You can probably imagine the rest:


About a half-hour into their set, the lights came on after a countdown led by the band. Here is a collection of poorly photographed Christmas lights from around Sevilla:




After strolling around the cathedral area, the lights back in Triana seemed pretty weak by comparison:


***

In one of the creepier moments of our evening walk, this busker was absolutely frightening:


As someone that still hasn't really recovered from the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz, this freaked me out a bit. The kids seemed cool with it though.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

El Jueves

As has become my habit lately, I joined Laura on her school's weekly "cultural activity". This week we walked over to el mercadillo el jueves. This is an outdoor bazaar every Thursday on calle Feria. The street is closed for the event. If you have ever been to a flea market in the US, then you have a very clear idea of what this market is:




Of course, when I finally kick the bucket and Laura and/or the girls need to clear all of my crap out of the garage/house, their yard sale will definitely have a section that looks like this–old bike parts:


I also spotted this very peculiar picture of Jesus. At one angle, his eyes are closed, at another angle they are open, very strange:


After looking at other people's crap for a while, we went to the oldest indoor market in Sevilla–el Mercado de Feria. It has been a functioning market since the Roman empire (around 2000 years now):


I was particularly struck by this stall which purported to offer that classic food combination of bananas and fried chicken! The only worker in the joint was looking at his phone. I'm sure we were just lucky to catch him during a lull. Probably not in the ancient Romans' wildest dreams did they imagine such a food stand. Though, I'm certainly less ancient and I still have a hard time imagining it.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Conjugation

My language class meets Mon and Wed from 4-5:30pm. I probably should have realized this earlier, but it really dawned on me today that I have to be a bit more deliberate with my Spanish studies in the time between classes. Up to this point, I have relied on duolingo and random conversations with Laura, but today when I had to write out the conjugations of several spanish verbs (and struggled), I realized I've got to vary my studies a bit more. I think I'm going to start working my way through the spanish textbook we have here in the flat.

***

The Triana Market turned on its Christmas lights yesterday. I recorded a bit of it here and added some special effects:


I'm looking forward to this weekend when all the city-installed Christmas lights are turned on.

***

The temperature was around 41 degrees this morning–probably our coldest temperature so far. That said, it made it up to 66 with calm sunny skies this afternoon. I'd be happy to go through the winter months like that.

***

Still working on my freezing fog data analytics project. I keep getting sidetracked learning new features of the pandas data analysis tool. I'm really enjoying its time indexing features (which happen to be quite useful when working with time series data, like weather data). I haven't got to the point of actually doing the machine learning part. As with most data analysis projects, preparing the data for analysis is the hard part.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

New Chair

Preparation for house guests continues. In terms of seating arrangements in the living room, we have two broad choices. The couch (which may be the most uncomfortable couch every) and the chairs around the dining room table (actually more comfortable than the couch). Realizing that those were crappy options for when we have visitors, we ordered a chair from Amazon.es. It came today and I put it together with no real issues. It's not bad. We'll see how it does over the next few days:


Also, it rocks-literally. It's a rocking chair.

***

The painters are back in the building this week doing some detail work. They knocked on the door this afternoon and started speaking spanish. I had nothing, but luckily Laura was there. She understood them pretty well. They wanted to look at the shutters outside of our front windows. They were wondering if they needed to be painted from within the flat or whether they would be able to paint them from outside. They seemed to determine that they would not have to disturb the sanctity of our home to do the job. Everyone was pleased. I was also impressed at how Laura understood and talked to them. All that work is really paying off in her improved language skills.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Meteorolaundry

As you know, we don't have a clothes dryer here in Sevilla. After washing a load of clothes, we have two options: hang the clothes on the clothesline on the roof, or hang the clothes on a drying rack in the living room. The former is the preferred method. A pair of jeans using the latter method takes about 2 days to dry. Plus, you have the drying rack taking up valuable real estate in the apartment. As such, this is me on laundry day:






Studying the charts, reading the graphs, trying to figure out if it's going to stay clear and dry long enough to wash and subsequently dry the clothes outside. (Also, not really me, just a random photo from google images, but you get the point.)

Today based on my careful analysis using logarithms and parallel super computers, I decided to hang the laundry outside. When I got home from language class, Laura had already taken it down and folded it, dry as a bone. A success! (Last week it rained on our clothes, so it's definitely still a hit or miss process.)

Indeed, this was the view from the bridge as I came back home:


***

In preparation for the parade of house guests we'll be having over the next 6 weeks or so, I moved my office out of the second bedroom and into a little breakfast nook in the kitchen:


It has its pros and cons. It's kinda noisy, especially when the washing machine or clothes washer is going. It has a window onto the courtyard, but you can smell cigarette smoke when the downstairs neighbor takes a smoke break. It has a little heater, but can get too hot when Laura's cooking (worth it). At least there's a bottle of wine for when things get really tough.

***

This evening there was a bit of a commotion on the street. I looked out and there was a crew spraying down the road with a high-pressure hose. They do take care of the streets here in Sevilla:


Sunday, November 25, 2018

Uber by Proxy

Emily and Renee left this morning to fly back to Morocco. They flew out of Sevilla to Lisbon, then on to Casablanca. I called an Uber for them using my account. I'd never had someone take an Uber that I called, but it seemed to be no problem. They got to the airport in plenty of time, Emily venmo'd me the fare and I gave the driver 5 stars after texting with Emily about how the driver was... modern technology.

***

We did a pretty good job on leftovers today. I think we waste a lot less food here than in the US. I'm guessing it's because we have to work harder to get the food into the house (not having a car).

***

I played around with a bit of P5JS. These past few weeks I've been working with smartphone sensors in my research and just for fun. As a proof of concept, I wrote a little web app that uses the rotation sensor in the phone to draw on the screen. You can play with it here. Tilt the phone to draw, tap the screen to change color, take a screenshot of your masterpiece. It's pretty basic, but I'm hoping to do something more interesting in the coming days.

***

Just to do some people watching, we walked over to the cathedral area this afternoon. We've been over that way many times, but this was the first time I'd noticed a tiny sundial on the back side of the building:


It's the tiny black triangle on the barest part of the wall in the upper-right corner of the above photo. Trying to be artistic, I took this photo of the Archivo De Indias through and open archway:


***

I talked to Rachel for awhile. She's back from a week in Santa Barbara and yesterday's Miami football game and heading back into the grind on Monday. It's weird to think that she'll be here in Spain in a little over two weeks.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Yet Another Procession

This evening a procession went right down our street. The close up view we had from our front windows was really interesting. We were really able to see the "paseo", the religious float up close. In fact, they paused right in front of our building for a shift change in which about 30 tired men emerged from underneath the float to be replaced 30 fresh bodies. In this video, you can see the new crew roughly hoist the float up and continue the march:



We had no advanced warning. I'm glad that Emily and Renee were still in the flat when it went by. It was a real glimpse at a uniquely Sevillan cultural event. The band was really good too. Very brassy, with an almost New Orleans like looseness:



***

This morning was perhaps the coldest temperature of the year. There was heavy fog on the river:


The installation of Christmas lights continues throughout the city.


The lights haven't been turned on yet. According to folks at Laura's language school and other sources, the city will begin using the lights next Friday.

***

The fridge is full of leftovers now. No cooking for Laura for a few days.


***
Emily and Renee fly back to Casablanca tomorrow morning from the Sevilla airport. They'll need to leave the flat around 6:30am to get to the airport in a timely fashion. It's been fun spending time with them. They'll both be back in their classrooms on Monday morning.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Moroccan Exchange

One of Rachel's roommates from the University of Miami, Emily, is on a two-year teaching contract in Casablanca, Morocco. During her Thanksgiving break, she and her roommate, Renee, have been traveling around Spain. They are wrapping up their visit here in Sevilla and staying with us until Sunday morning when they fly back to Morocco. They arrived by train from Madrid this morning. I went over to the train station and "picked them up". Since we don't actually have a car, this means I took the bus to the train station, met them as they got off the train, and rode the bus with them back home.

They decompressed in our flat for a few hours while I did some work. Does this happen to anyone else when they work their computer too hard?


It's pretty annoying and happens about once a day for no discernible reason I can uncover. It was a generally productive morning, mathematically speaking, in spite of this blue screen of death.

***

After a bit of a rest, we met Laura after her class and walked around the cathedral area. Having expressed that they were a bit tired of tapas, we took Emily and Renee to a Mexican place we know near the cathedral. It's not the best mexican food, but it's passable. After lunch, Renee expressed a bit of a craving for macaroni and cheese, so Laura went off to the grocery store to prep that for dinner and the rest of us walked to the Plaza de Espana:


It always looks good in clear weather under a bright blue sky.

After that, we walked along the river back to Triana and home. The oranges are nearly at peak now:


***

At home, Laura chatted up our guests and I worked a bit more. Emily showed me the latest in trendy figurines. Indeed she pointed them out to us at one of the markets near the cathedral. Apparently you can buy a figurine of almost any kind of person... pooping. Proof:


This is the one the Emily bought in Barcelona. I have the toilet in the background for ambiance. I may have to start a collection.

***

The baked mac & cheese was excellent. Laura also put together a nice green salad to offset the utterly decadent mac & cheese. She even used a bit of leftover turkey meat in the salad. That said, the leftover situation is a bit abundant at the moment. I'm going to have to get busy or some of it's going to go to waste.

They're out getting dessert–helado. I resisted. Decided to stay home and do my blog.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving

This year I'm thankful that circumstances allow me to live for a year in Spain. There aren't many folks that have the opportunity to pull themselves out of their lives for a year to explore something completely different

***

This week, Laura's Spanish teacher led us on a tour of the Archivo de Indias. This is a central storage archive for all of the documents related to Spain's commerce with the new world. There are documents in the archive that are nearing 600 years of age. This was my second visit to the archive. I mostly tagged along because the tour was given entirely in Spanish and it's a good listening exercise for me. I took a few pictures though. The tile floor in the archive is a beautiful brown and white checker:


Visitors can rest on velvety benches. They resemble pews quite a lot:


The weather was rainy and miserable as seen through this window looking down on a square below:


The archive is adjacent to the cathedral. The cathedral and palm tree were well-framed by this window:


***

Thanksgiving is not a thing in Spain. However, Laura was determined to create a traditional Thanksgiving meal with the available resources. While you can't buy a whole turkey here in Sevilla (at least not easily), Laura made stuffing and baked it under some turkey breast. She also worked hard on some gravy (noting that she would kill for a whisk):


I would rate her efforts a major success. The stuffing and turkey were wonderful. The gravy was excellent. This is what the full spread looked like. I was in such a hurry to eat it, that I didn't even wait for my camera to focus (which is why this shot is horrible):


***

This was the first time having Thanksgiving without Emily and Rachel. While we missed them, it was nice to know that they were spending the holiday with each other. Rachel flew to Santa Barbara to spend the holiday with Emily there.

I managed to talk to Betty and Jo-Anne on the phone. For those I didn't talk to directly, I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving. According to google, that translates to: Feliz acción de gracias!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Germans

Laura and I went to dinner with a couple of German students from my language class. We went to an Italian place and spoke English–a very international affair. The restaurant, La Locanda di Andrea, was good. In honor of Thanksgiving, we ordered a pumpkin ravioli tapa. It was not my favorite, but edible. We had several other tapas of Italian origin–arancini balls, gnocchi, fried bread.

Martin is from Berlin and is a geneticist doing a postdoc in a lab affiliated with the university. Claudia is a tax analyst from Stuttgart who managed to wrangle a 50% sabbatical from her job in Germany to work remotely here in Sevilla and be nearer her Spanish boyfriend. That arrangement ends next week when she has to return to Germany and resume her full-time workload. She hopes that the past three months have been a proof-of-concept for her employer and that they may allow her to live in Sevilla and work remotely at 100%.

Laura took a picture of us. Since I granted her exclusive use of the phone on the walk home, I'll link to her page if you want to see it.

Also in the restaurant was a world map with pins indicating where diners were from:


You can see that Europe is well-accounted for. I'm pretty sure my pin was the first one for Walla Walla, though there was a nearby pin that I think was for Spokane.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Mercadona

It's pretty much a daily task here to go to the grocery store every day. It can be a chore sometimes, but you get into a rhythm after a while. Today I decided, since I have walked and will continue to walk to and from this store every day, to do a timelapse video of the excursion:


It's bit jittery around the edges. I used the "stabilize" feature of google photos to reduce the amount of up and down oscillation that resulted from my walking motion.

***

I continued to develop some examples for a math problem I'm working on. It's been slow because I'm using a computer to do a large calculation and I have to run a lot of examples in order to trust the results of the larger computation.

I also started analyzing some weather data as part of a machine learning exercise. A chemistry prof back at Whitman, Nate Boland, wondered whether a machine learning classifier might be used on local weather observations in Walla Walla to predict the occurrence of freezing fog far enough in advance to be useful. I grabbed 10 years of weather data from the Walla Walla Airport weather station and am going to see if I can answer that question for Nate. It's also just a good exercise for me to improve may data analysis skills.

Freezing fog is not one of the things I miss about Walla Walla.

Monday, November 19, 2018

In the Heat of the Night

My dad used to love that old police drama. Mostly because he loved Carroll O'Connor, of Archie Bunker fame, who played the police chief in that show. For whatever reason, this shot of a police car cruising down San Jacinto through the all-pervasive smoke from a chestnut roaster, reminded me of that show:


I took a few long-exposure shots of the neighborhood from our roof this evening:


***

I had my regular Spanish class today. I did a little bit of the DataCamp class Interactive Data Visualization with Bokeh. I worked a bit on a math problem, but only had small progress. Laura went to Costco today for the first time in a while. Turns out they have whole turkeys there. She didn't buy one, but has plans to sometime soon (though not for Thanksgiving). They also had cranberries. She bought some and made one of our household's regular meals–cranberry chicken. It was just as good as I remember it from back in WW. We haven't had it since WW for lack of cranberries.