Friday, August 31, 2018

Spot the Difference

Rachel told me about the photo processing app Snapseed a while back. It has some really sophisticated photo editing tools wrapped into a relatively easy to use interface. This morning I took a picture of the river through a passageway. At the end of the passageway was a sign reminding people to pick up after their dogs. It kind of ruined the shot. Snapseed to the rescue. Of course, now we have no idea what's real anymore:
Relatively normal day today, practiced Spanish in the morning, grocery shopped, did math in the afternoon. On Friday's we typically go out to eat. Laura heard about a good pizza place over on the Sevilla side past her language school, so I met her after class and we walked over that way. It was a nice walk, though still pretty stifling after the day's heat. We went through some cute neighborhoods that we had yet to visit (yes, there are still plenty left to see). Found the lovely little Plaza de Pilatos with its statue of the artist/painter Zurbarán:
 We found the pizza place a little past the plaza, Pizzería La Urbana:
The pizza was great, thin crust, not greasy, good tomato sauce:
Also, hard to beat 1 euro beers when it's hot out:
Only drawback, weird mural along the back wall of monkeys eating pizza:
I kinda liked it though.

Total random photo from someone that likes electric cars. These one-passenger electric cars are everywhere here:
Of course there's also every other kind of electric mode of transport you can imagine too: scooters, skateboards, bikes, motorcycles, mopeds. They zoom around you on the streets at all hours.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A Little More to the Right

I laughed when I saw this small tourist boat on the river this morning:
This picture doesn't do it justice, but it was riding low and listing to the left as it went under the bridge.

Laura and I took the bus out to Costco again today. The membership expires Sep 1st, so we figured we'd do one last pass through to see if there was anything we needed. We didn't find much. I bought enough shaving cream to get me through the year. We also bought some raspberries and some Reese's candy. That's it. There are a confluence of factors that make Costco less useful here. We don't have much space to store the bulk-sized items they sell. And, we have to carry it all on the bus back to the flat. So, goodbye Costco. See you back in the states.

This afternoon one of the streets Laura and I walk on to get to her language school was blocked. As I walked by, I noticed these people unloading some kind of new accoutrement for a church. I kind of wanted to hang around to see what was underneath all the padding and boxing, but it looked like it was going to take a long time to navigate the move:
I also saw these ducks fly away as I walked over the bridge this afternoon:

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Refried Beans 2.0

Laura continues to experiment with cooking here. She's trying to fit the available ingredients and the available cooking facilities (our kitchen) together to create dishes that we are familiar with in the US that are hard to find here. For example, refried beans are just not available here. Laura found some pre-soaked pinto beans and some pork fat and made her own this morning:
It's easy to find tortillas and cheddar cheese here, so I made a couple of bean burritos and they were good! Bean burritos are a staple for me back in WW, so it's nice to reconnect, haha. Laura also has managed to find the right combination of sugar, flour, eggs, and M&M's to make cookies. The too taste really good and are close to what we're accustomed to in the US. The challenge is the oven, which doesn't keep a very consistent temperature (as is indicated by the two batches of cookies below that baked for the same amount of time):
Also, there aren't any cookie pans here in our flat, or in Sevilla, so she uses one of the weird metal trays in the oven.

Today was a walk day (instead of a run day). Creature of habit that I am, I mostly just walk or run along the river each day unless there's some particular area of Sevilla that I want to explore. Today was a river walk. Rowing is a popular sporting activity here. Here is the inside of one of the many boathouses along the river here:
That's a lot of boats.

Today I took a break from doing new math and worked on writing up some existing results. I also took some time to continue to write detailed summaries of the machine learning courses I've been taking on-line from DataCamp.

Also, every other Wed is vacuum and mop day here in the flat. It doesn't take long, but it's good to have it on a schedule.

Finally, every Wed is talk to Emily on the computer day. I usually end up calling her around 9am her time (6pm our time). Always good to catch up with her. She reminds me each week how much I prefer being a mathematician to being a materials scientist (sorry Em, haha, ).

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

To Spanish or not to Spanish

As September nears and things return to normal here in Sevilla, I'm going to start a Spanish language class. I'm trying to figure out how much time and can/want to commit to the effort. On the one hand, I have my research and other sabbatical goals. On the other hand, how often do you get to live in the country whose language you want to learn?

I will certainly take a course, but the two options right now are a 15 hr/week class that goes week-to-week like Laura's and a 4 hr/week course that covers about 12 weeks. After 7 weeks of intensive Spanish, Laura can definitely hear and speak wwaaayyyy better than I can. At 15 hrs/week though, there's not much head space left for math and that's why Whitman's paying me.

I only took one picture today. It's of an abandoned cement planter down by the river where I start and end my runs. It's not much to look at, but it's the perfect height and location for stretching out after the run. To commemorate this mundane, but useful object, I memorialize it here:
It's beautiful really (no filters used on this shot). Plus, that graffiti absolutely finishes it. Finally, you can't go wrong with a regular hexagon--one of only three regular polygons capable of tiling the plane and definitely the most efficient by a lot of measures. (You can definitely tell I have nothing to write this evening.)

Whitman started it's Fall semester today. This is the first time I'm not teaching the opening day of the school year at Whitman in 15 years. It's weird.

My niece started her first year at Loyola in Chicago this week. I swapped texts with her today and sounds like she's starting off well.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Legal Residents

The big news today is the completion of a process that started way back in January. Today we went to the Plaza de Espana (the big gov't building here in Sevilla where immigration matters are handled) and received our national ID cards:
 Normally, the longest you can stay in Spain with a US passport is 90 days. If you leave the country after 90 days and immediately return, you get another 90 days. Once that second 90 day period ends, you must leave Spain for the rest of the calendar year (i.e. no more than 180 days in Spain using just your US passport). In fact, that rule applies to the whole European Union, so we couldn't just shift to Germany or England after 180 days either. We would have to exit the EU for the rest of the calendar year. Though it was a long and stunningly bureaucratic process, we can now remain in Spain until July 2, 2019.

After leaving the immigration office, we walked through the adjacent park and saw this interesting statue, Estatua de Bécquer, a famous Spanish writer from Sevilla:
  The rest of the day went sort of according to our routine. go to the market, do math, Laura goes to language class etc. I made a quick run to the closest market (the Mas) this afternoon. This is the place we go for small, quick items when we don't feel like going all the way down to the Mercadona. Along the way, I noticed this semi-charred tree along the street. I'd passed this tree many, many times before, but never noticed the burnt tree. Since it's so close to the flat, I plan to ask Mario how it happened. It can't have been a forest fire, haha. Car accident?
Also, we had our first actual drops of rain today. If you look closely, you can see the slight dampness of the street in front of our flat:

Catching up a bit on photos from yesterday. We spent most of the day in Málaga. Since there was no bike race, we mostly wandered around and hit the beach. There was a bit of a craft fair going on along the beach:
 The beach had these "islands" of grass with palm trees. I very much preferred setting up camp on the grass in the shade of a palm tree to laying out on the sand. We could easily jump in the water to cool off, then scoot back to the "island".

 As we walked to the bus station we went through the aptly named Parque de Málaga. Here's one of many fountains.
 Also, this little side salad came with packets of vinegar and olive oil for dressing. Also had a splash of tuna, it was a tasty combo for a side salad:

Sunday, August 26, 2018

2018 Vuelta a España, Stage 1

I've collected all the photos I took during yesterday's trip to Málaga to see the opening stage of the 2018 Vuelta a España. As a long time fan of pro-cycling, it was a lot of fun to see all of this stuff in person. There are three "grand tours" in cycling each year: Giro d'Italia in May, Tour de France in July and Vuelta a España in late-Aug/Sep. Each of the races is 3 weeks long with one race per day called stages. Stages are held in different locations around the country and are typically arranged end-to-end in a kind of circuit of the country. The locations of the stages change each year. This year, the Vuelta starts in Málaga which sits on the Mediterranean about 200km south of us in here Sevilla. Laura and I took a bus down there yesterday morning, spent the night and returned to Sevilla today:
It was a nice trip and really our first opportunity to see the landscape surrounding us here in southern Spain.  This whole region is dry and hot and essentially a giant olive grove:
Málaga is a lovely beach town complete with giant ferris wheel:
Already we saw cycling team buses as we walked from the bus station to the hotel:
 This the view along the beach in front of our hotel:
 There are a lot of lovely gardens in the city:
 This was the view from our balcony. The race route went right past. We watched riders warming up along the course for many hours prior to the start of the race:
 The route went past this fountain:
This first stage is a short individual time trial. Each of the 180 riders rides the short 8km course alone at 1 minute intervals. They complete the course and their time sets the initial order (1st, 2nd, etc) moving forward. They finish in roughly 10 mins with the slowest riders finishing in around 10 mins 30 seconds and the fastest around 9 mins 45 secs. They each start in turn on an elevated platform with a ramp down by the port:
They get onto the streets of Málaga:
 Each rider has a motorcycle police escort:
All around the route, there are fan activies, this was some kind of group dancing:
 The course is lined with fencing and there were a lot of Spanish flags:
 The course ends on the very slick marble pavers in the high end district:
 Cameras were everywhere, including on 3 helicopters holding station in the skies above:
 This is the finish line:
 After the finish, there's a long run out that loops the riders back to their trailers:
 During that loop, riders stop to talk to press and friends:
 Here's a rider heading back down to his bus:
Amazingly, all of this stuff is taken down and put up somewhere else in less than 24 hours, over and over, for three weeks. It's an impressive logistical accomplishment.

Saturday, August 25, 2018


Yesterday we wandered around Málaga and the short 8km route for the opening time trial stage of the three-week long Vuelta a España. Took a lot of pictures and hope to give a more detailed description perhaps this evening.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Saturday Morning at the Bus Station

I went to bed early last night, so just getting to this now while I wait here for the bus to Málaga.

I wrote a lot of math yesterday. Not sure if I can publish any of it, but it's nice to try to carefully craft and present a mathematical idea. I'm hoping to get Laura to read it over and give me some input.

I did some of the figures using python and matplotlib, learning how to use them as I went. That's all useful for the data analytics part of my sabbatical.

Didn't sleep well last night, that's almost always the case the night before travel.

Getting on the bus now. Looking forward to seeing the bike racing. More this evening.

Thursday, August 23, 2018


On days where I walk in the mornings, I usually try to walk somewhere that I can explore a bit. This morning I walked to the main train station here (about 2 mi from the house).

There are a lot of escalators around here that don't have steps. These ramps down to the train platforms are essentially moving ramps. They take up much more space than traditional escalators. I'm not sure the justification for them:
 From above the train platform, a couple of the high-speed trains they use here in Spain. These trains go about 200 mph at cruising speed:
Definitely not your Amtrak Metroliner, haha. Laura and I hope to try them out at some point, maybe take one to Madrid or Barcelona.

I spent the rest of the day doing math. Still hot here, but there was a brief cloudy period here around 5pm. It seemed perilously close to actually raining, but in the end, the clouds parted without rain and the sun resumed. I have to say I'm looking forward to actual weather at some point. I mean, I don't need it to get cold or snow or anything, but just something to break the monotony.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Bench Warmers

Not sure why, but saw this horse getting unloaded down by the river as I was heading out for my run. Still there when I got back 35 mins later. A horse's life:
 Been trying to get a picture of this bench on our main street for several weeks, but, dang it, there's always somebody sitting on it! This morning, it was clear. It has a nice depiction of the buildings and the bridge:
 Nearing the end of three weeks of painting, the crew is on the last big face of the building across the street from our flat:
 Here's three of them going at once on the lift:
 They should have the upper stories done tomorrow. I'll be interested to see how the deal with the ground floor. We're guessing they do all the stuff that needs the lift (a rental) first, then all the stuff that doesn't need a lift.

The city installed this modern looking drinking fountain out on the main street (quite near the bench I pictured earlier). Given the heat, I'm sure it will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood:
 I chatted with Emily this evening around 6pm my time (9am her time). You can see her new pet bunny, Benjamin:
 Went out for a quick gelato this evening. The street was hopping:
Tried "oreo" gelato, was not as good as my regular "brownie". Next time, going back to the brownie.