Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Real Alcazar

I went back to being a tourist today and visited the Real Alcazar, the royal palace here in Sevilla, with Scott and Shelley. Here are a few pictures. These low fountains in an islamic style. Southern Spain is always a mix of Christian and Islamic influences:

The king's garden. It's good to be king:

Scott and Shelley:

One of the boundary walls, gotta keep out the riff-raff:

Another fountain:

This guy doesn't need a sword, just a club, or as Scott noted, "a jamon". For ever after, we referred to him as "jamon man":

The throne room. The ceiling here as amazing, but I couldn't get a good photo:

Whenever you visit places in Europe, don't forget to look up:

We also walked over to the Plaza de Espana, but I didn't take any pictures, but if you're want to see pictures, I like these from my earlier blog post.


We finished the day at a fun and tasty restaurant called Zoko. Great presentation, great food. Laura ordered a tuna dish. Seared at the table:

The presentation was amazing:

I had chicken curri. The side is red couscous:

I would definitely go again.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

New Angles

It's been interesting to see how the angles of sunlight change as the year progresses. The afternoon sun really shoots right into my "office" now:


We met Scott and Shelley at the train station this evening. They had a long day. They started in Barcelona, flew to Granada, spent the day there and then took the train here to Sevilla. The train had some technical difficulties so they ended up being bused for about half the trip around some bad train tracks and then took a train the rest of the way to Sevilla. In the end, it only cost them about 45 mins, but at the end of a long day, it's tough. We had a light meal with them around the corner at Cafe & Tapas and now they're heading to bed. Hopefully they'll sleep well tonight and be ready to see Sevilla tomorrow. Also, hopefully the weather will be ok. Rain is predicted.


When you're writing a math paper, it's nice to have another mathematician in the house willing to edit. Yesterday, Laura gave me some good advice on the paper I'm currently writing, but it's going to be a major reorganization. I spent some time today re-organizing. It'll be better for it, but I think it's going to take another week or so to finish.


Funny thing on the bus over to the train station this evening. There were two boys about 16 or so sitting in the row ahead of us. They were looking intently at a phone. I could see it was Instagram, but wasn't sure what. Then, finally I saw they were looking at photos of religious processions. Even better they were judge-y. "That guy's not holding the banner up straight." "That guy's trumpet is pointed at the ground."

They do take their processions seriously here in Sevilla--and at such a young age too.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Hace mucho frio

We learned some weather phrases in Spanish class today. But I still don't know enough to tell you that it was cold this morning. I can only tell you that it is cold now, "hace frio ahora." Apparently, for this morning, I need to use a past participle. Moving on. It was clear, breezy and cool today. On the way home from class, in the late afternoon light, I noticed the Sevilla side of the river was beautifully reflected in the multi-paned window of the riverside restaurant that rests on the west end bridge abutment in Triana:


I'm nearly done with the current paper I'm writing. At this stage, I get so OCD about the writing, I have a hard time doing anything else. I'll be happy to get it submitted and to move on to other things.


The extra hour from the time change has messed me up. I didn't sleep too well last night. Hopefully, being tired now from not sleeping well, I'll sleep like a rock tonight.


Did a little laundry and tidied up the house a bit today. We have friends, Scott and Shelley, staying with us for a couple of day while they tour around greater Spain. They're in Granada now and come to Sevilla tomorrow evening. It'll be nice to catch up with them.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Fall Back

European "summer time" ended this weekend. For a couple of weeks we're only 5 hours ahead of Rachel in Miami and only 8 hours ahead of Emily in Santa Barbara. This may be the last time Europe "falls back". The EU is on pace to eliminate annual time changes for good this year. So, when we switch back to "summer time" in the spring of 2019, that'll be it, Europe will just stay there. I wish the US would do that.


Pretty chilly this morning when I went out for my walk--about 47 degrees. Supposed to be a few degrees cooler tomorrow. On the other hand, the breeze was nice, the air was clear, and the clouds were pretty. We even managed to dry a load of laundry on the roof. Us and everyone else. A glance across the roofs in the neighborhood showed lots of people took the opportunity of a breezy, sunny, dry day to do laundry. There were even 4 different occupied clotheslines on our own roof--a record over the 4 months that we've been here.

I took a few pictures this evening, nothing new, but the lighting was interesting. Here's a look down San Jacinto, streamers across the road in preparation for the processions on All Saints Day November 1st (a nation holiday):

A look down the river with the Torre del Oro in the center and clouds looming to the south:

Yesterday and today, there were paddle board races on the river. Racing paddle boards is not really as elegant as the traditional rowing events, but they seemed to be having fun:

This afternoon, it was all a memory and workers were putting away the temporary dock:


I didn't post this yesterday, but I liked this shot of a dachshund watching us from a ground-floor window as we walked home from the grocery store:


Talked to Rachel for a while today. She's been exploring this crowd sourced science project called FoldIt for her class. Volunteers look at complicated protein structures and solve small folding problems on their own. Those small solutions are then aggregated into the solution of a larger problem for the organizing scientists. It looks pretty interesting, so go do it!


I have to go do my Spanish homework now. I'm supposed to watch this episode of Mr. Bean called "El Dentista" and describe the action in the video using sentences in Spanish.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Hard to Watch

The end of a week of political violence in the US. The inevitable next step down on this seemingly endless downward spiral staircase. At a high cost to innocents, we collectively learn that words matter. I have no illusions that this will reduce the quantity of vile rhetoric the comes largely from Trump and GOP, but I have some hope that the people that matter, the people that vote, will no longer tolerate the vitriol because now they understand that such words cost innocent lives.

Yesterday, I watched President Obama's rally speech in WI--an intelligent, fact-based, thoughtful discourse on the current American body politic. If you juxtapose this speech with any of Trump's speeches, you are struck by just how far we have fallen. For example, see this completely fact-free highlight reel from a West Virginia rally with a helpfully sycophantic lead-in from some random FoxNews personality.

After each of these steps downward, we are left wondering how much lower it can go.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Is It Too Early For Christmas Decorations?

I walked with Laura to her class this morning just to get some air. I noticed this little deli decorated for Halloween.

As I continued about 50 yds down the street, I saw this bakery had one-upped them by putting up their Christmas decorations:


It rained most of the day today. I mostly stayed in and worked on a paper. Made a lot of progress, but every once in a while I got up to walk around. The bar across the street was business as usual, at least from what I could see from our window:


This evening we had dinner at CafĂ© & Tapas sort of the McDonalds of tapas bars. It's main advantage is that it's right around the corner. Good for when it's cold and rainy.

And the food is pretty good.


Emily passed her phd qualifier today. We sent her some Cold Stone Creamery Cupcakes to celebrate.

I know I wasn't as stressed as she was about it, but I was definitely feeling a bit of stress. I think most folks that have done a hard science phd will say that passing the oral qualifier was the peak of the experience. The thesis defense and degree are less uncertain, more under control. You don't choose to defend your thesis unless you're ready. The qualifier is always iffier--maybe you're ready, maybe you're not, we'll see. Emily was ready. She's smart, she worked hard and she passed.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Impromptu Flamenco

Laura's language school, Sevillahabla!, had an international pot luck this afternoon. Students were asked to bring dishes of food from their home countries. Laura brought an apple pie and some baked macaroni and cheese. I was invited and so headed over there around 2pm. Laura's dishes were pretty popular. One of the Spanish teachers repeatedly complemented her on the apple pie. I think if Laura wanted to, she could run a pretty successful restaurant here, in spite of the wicked competition here (there're literally restaurants everywhere here).

Just as the gathering seemed to be dying a natural death, one of the teachers asked one of the students, a Japanese national here in Sevilla learning flamenco guitar, to play his guitar. He generously obliged:

This turned into a dance party. Two of the Spanish teachers showed their flamenco dance talents. Later, it just turned into a dance party:


I liked the way the morning sun hit this mural with the feather branches hanging across it:

Generally a lovely sunny day here. The weather is supposed to change this weekend with highs only in the 50's for a while, unseasonably cool.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

...por los Cuernos

I got to my Spanish class a little early today. Since no one was there, I snapped a picture of my little classroom:

Outside of my classroom is this motivational poster. "Take the bull by the horns."


Still playing with cell phone sensor data. Here's the accelerometer as the phone rests on the floor of our elevator going from the ground to the fourth floor:

In theory, I should be able to integrate this twice and figure out how tall the elevator shaft is. It's not quite happening though. Well, something to think about tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

It's All About Record Keeping

For about 100 years after the "discovery" of the new world, Spain had a monopoly on all trade and economic activity relating to the Americas. The center of that monopoly was the city of Sevilla. During that monopoly, Catholics, tired of merchants using the space around the cathedral for vulgar trade and shipping activities, forced the creation of a building to house these "unsavory" activities.

Some time later, the river from Sevilla to the ocean became un-navigable. Spain subsequently moved all of this trading active to Cadiz, on the Atlantic coast. The trade building in Sevilla became a tenement building. It stayed that way until after the Napoleonic era. At that point, Spain converted the old trade building, now a tenement, to an archive. All documents pertaining to the new world were consolidated into this one building in Sevilla called:

The Archive of the Indies. Inside is row-upon-row of original documents:

On shelves like these:

They even have fire extinguishers everywhere. Presumably to avoid the kind of tragedy that occurred most recently in the National Museum of Brasil:

Of course, you can't just open a box and look at the documents, though visiting scholars are allowed to do so in special rooms on the premises. However, there are a number of sample documents on display. Here are a few I like. All were behind plexiglass so there is an unfortunate glare. This is a map of the Mississippi River region from the 1500's. If you look closely at the bottom you see a bit of the arc of the Gulf of Mexico:

This is a map of the Dominican Republic (for Rachel), also circa 16th century:

This is a crib sheet of Spanish to "native" language translation. If you really zoom in you can recognize some of the Spanish words in the left-hand columns. Presumably the native words in the right hand column are phonetic spellings:

There were other artifacts too. The inside of the lid of this "treasure chest" had a fantastically intricate and complicated latching mechanism. Turning a crank in the middle caused this complicated collection of levers to retract all of the latches around the edge of the lid simultaneously:

Finally, like many other museums in Sevilla, there were a Murillo exhibit going on. This is the 400th anniversary year of the famous Spanish painter's birth in 1618. This sketch of Murillo depicting the baby Jesus lying asleep on a cross with his arm draped over a human skull is really bleak. The angels watching over him from above are sad, presumably knowing his destiny:

I've really gotten to like Murillo as I've looked at his work around Sevilla. He was a very thoughtful painter with a fantastic ability to convey complicated theological ideas through his imagery.


Started using github a couple of days ago to develop a software project. I have to say, it was a lot easier to get going with it than I expected. The newly release desktop tool is wonderful. It really keeps you organized.


Really warmed up today, maybe 80 degrees. Supposed to get cool over the weekend, maybe lows in the 40's. That would easily be the coldest weather we've experienced here so far.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Bullet Points

  • There are a lot of small children in our building. They make a lot of fun sounds. Laura and I love the sound of our building in the evenings. Happy families.
  • Spanish class was good today. I met a guy named Martin from Berlin that moved to Sevilla to do a two-year post doc in genetics. He knows less Spanish than I do and was having a bad day. I hope our conversation afterwards cheered him up a bit.
  • The weather was sunny and warm today.
  • The workers continue to work on painting the building.
  • I managed to create a github repository for the project I'm working on. This in spite of the fact that poor github was having major technical difficulties today.
  • Emily is struggling with getting back on the right time zone. Definitely not conducive to studying for her qualifying exam on Fri. Somehow she'll make it work tho.
  • I watched workers deconstructing the lane buoys on the river this morning after the weekend's boat racing. Very efficient.
  • We went to the Primark (think Target for Europe). I needed another pair of pants since one of the pairs I brought with me to Spain has a tear. We also bought some towels for the various house guests we'll be having over the next couple of months.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Now Is The New Later

The title of this post is from a t-shirt Laura and I saw on our travels today. For whatever reason, the wearing of t-shirts with random English phrases on them is a thing here. Usually, they're pretty inane phrases, but we both liked this one--in spite of the fact that it is also inane.


Emily made it back to Santa Barbara in one piece and reunited with her pet bunny Benjamin. She's exhausted and dealing with a 10 hour time change, but she's young, she'll deal, haha. She has her final PhD qualifying oral exam on Fri, so it'll be a stressful week for her.

Talked to Rachel today. She's getting her first PhD prelim paper together, already cleaning up a draft. She's also working on a "citizen science" project in one of her classes this semester (actually her only class this semester). We had some fun chatting about it today. It's actually based on an idea that Laura came up with a couple of weeks ago.


Sunny today. Managed to do two loads of laundry using the clotheslines on the roof to dry the clothes. During the week, when the workers are about, we have to use our indoor clothes rack. Clothes usually take most of the day to dry when indoors. When they're on the roof though, they usually get dry in about 90 minutes. Since we didn't get the second load up there until around 6:30pm, we kind of ran out of daylight and had to take them in early and a bit damp. Also, there was this random swarm of insects that decided to occupy the roof. They were kind of "flying ants". There were thousands of them up there. We had to spend a bit of time making sure we didn't bring any back into the flat when we brought in the second load. A couple did make it in, but it could've been worse.

All the clothes are mostly dry now. Even the sheets on the bed. The bed's made and just waiting for me to jump in.


We went to a Mexican tapas place on the Alameda this evening. The tapas were basically just varieties of corn tortilla tacos.

But, they were all good. The walk over and back was nice. It was pretty mild today. The expected rain never really showed up. The Alameda is kind of off the beaten path for mainline tourists. It has a couple of actual Roman columns at one end of the plaza:


The sky was lovely this evening as we took down that second, still damp, load of laundry from the roof:

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Spanish Migrants

With the Italian gov't taking a hard turn to the right, Spain is now one of the last places for refugees from north Africa to land as they cross the Mediterranean Sea. Spain is also one of the last progressive gov'ts on the continent still showing some compassion for refugees. Even here, there are right wing politicians attempting to use the refugees as a wedge issue. What's interesting is that the flow of refugees from the middle-east and Africa is not really any higher than historical averages, but the number of politicians willing to stoke the worst parts of human nature against these unfortunate immigrants to gain a political advantage in their countries does seem to be at historic highs.


I saw a few boat races this morning during my walk. I would have went down and watched more, but it rained all day. Luckily, it's a two-day event and tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and 75 degrees.


It's Balloon Stampede time back in Walla Walla. Mick sent me a picture of the balloons taking off this morning.

Looks like the weather was perfect.


I got this picture of the center of Sevilla this evening during my trash run:

Still kind of damp and foggy out there. Speaking of which, finally had to put the heavier blanket on the bed yesterday. It's getting down into the 50's at night now!


Did some math, read a bit, watched a bit of Netflix, practiced some Spanish. Pretty ordinary day. Thought about Emily on her 24-hour plus trip from Ethiopia back to Santa Barbara. As I write this she's about an hour from landing at LAX. Then, it's the shuttle up to Santa Barbara. If nothing else, this PhD program has given her the iron butt needed to be a long-distance flyer.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Sevici Load Balancing

The bike share program here is called Sevici, a portmanteau of Sevilla and "bici" the Spanish word for "bike". The bike station nearest us is always empty in the morning. The next nearest one is also typically pretty depleted in the morning. I've always wondered how the service handled load imbalances like this and suspected that there had to be some way of shifting bikes around to balance the load. This morning I saw that load balancing in action as a worker was replenishing our depleted station:


All week there have been workers on the river setting up lanes for what appears to be an imminent boat race. This morning I saw that they had the "starting line" set up in the water:

I went home and googled "sevilla regatta" and found 2nd Sevilla International Rowing Masters Regatta – October 20-21, 2018 Spain. Hoping to see a few races this weekend. If nothing else, the splash videos at the race web site are fun to watch.


Almost got something worth calling a draft paper today. This paper has some accompanying python/jupyter worksheets. Next on the agenda is to set up a github page. Apparently github satisfies some kind of data archive standard so that you can put data and programs on the site and get DOI numbers for use in journal article references.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Test the Face

I tagged along on the "cultural activity" at Laura's school again this week. The teacher that organizes this weekly event is very kind. I like her focus on the local art scene. This week we went to a gallery at yet another branch of the Universidad de Sevilla. The exhibit poster:

I also like interactive art. In this case, the public is offered a blank face and a number of magnetic eyes, noses, mouths, and eyebrows to place on the face (a kind of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey exercise).

In this video, we see Laura's version of the face. Here's my version of the face:


We had rain here most of the day, but it cleared out in the evening. I took a time-lapse of the river as the clouds moved past and the boaters crowded the river: