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


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 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


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


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


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.

Sunday, November 18, 2018


 As I mentioned earlier, there are a few deciduous trees around Sevilla. I was struck by the fall colors along the river path today:

I wonder when they will re-grow their leaves. Sooner than the trees in Walla Walla? We'll see.

The boardwalk along part of the path has now been replaced with asphalt. Definitely a step up:

It remains to paint it green like all the other bike lanes in the city, haha.


It rained a lot today. My walk was during a 2 hour break. There were some pretty vigorous downpours at times:


Finally got around to watching the movie Lincoln today. It covers the last few months of the civil war and really focuses on the politics surrounding the passage of the 13th Amendment-the abolition of slavery. It was an interesting view of the politics of the age-certainly seedy and unseemly, but nowhere near the cesspool we see today. Lincoln and the other politicians pushing for the abolition of slavery act almost entirely out of principle with the legacy of the US at the forefront. A far cry from the zero sum game we see today. I thought to myself, it's hard to even imaging someone like Trump being in Lincoln's position during the Civil War. There's no doubt that he would have put the economic interests of the South above the abolition of slavery. Frankly, it's not just Trump, as a nation we've trained ourselves to view every issue through the lens of economics and growth. We've forgotten that if we act on principle, prosperity will follow. We've put the cart before the horse.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Nativities 'Я' Us

We took advantage of some nice weather and a weekend with no painting crews hanging from ropes tied to the roof to do two loads of laundry today. Gotta have that roof clothesline. Generally relaxed weekend.


This evening, after dinner, we walked about. Over in Plaza Nueva there was a "pop-up" old book market. It looked like old and rare books shops from all over Spain organized this event. Some of the books looked quite old:

A little further along, we came upon another collection of temporary merchant stalls beneath the walls of the cathedral. In this market one could satisfy all of one's nativity and miniature needs:

For the person that doesn't have enough variety in their miniature cow collection:

As a mathematician, I always appreciate recursion. I like this nativity in which Joseph is holding a lamp that has a nativity in it. I'm not sure if the Joseph in the lamp is also holding a lamp with a nativity inside, but I like to think that's the case:

Finally, if your nativity is just a bit too static, don't worry, one shop has animatronic figures for all of your motion active miniature needs. From nativity to simple medieval Spanish peasant scenes:

Real market or minimart? You decide:

Homemade Chinese Food

Laura's friend, Wang Zhi, is leaving Sevilla today. As part of her extended return to her home in China, her parents have joined her here in Spain and are touring Europe with her. As part of the farewell tour, Wang Zhi invited us to her flat for dinner cooked by her parents. Laura has some before photos. Here's an after:

There was spicy tofu (my favorite), dumplings, a chopped pork medley, an egg and tomato dish and two different kinds of shaved potato dishes. All of it was amazing. Wang Zhi also invited a number of other Sevillanos. One of them was Angel, a senior psychology major at the University of Sevilla. Angel's English was excellent. It was nice to chat with him and ask him all the little questions about Sevilla and Spain that I've built up over the past couple of months. He was also pretty outgoing. And, brave enough to attempt a transliterated karaoke of chinese versions of common songs like Twinkle Twinkle and Frere Jacques:

The Chinese folks in the room were unanimously in praise of Angel's pseudo-Chinese singing.

The flat was a bit too far to walk, so we took a bus to the dinner. When we left, the buses were on night schedule, which is usually a half-hour between buses. Instead of waiting, we rode a couple of bike shares home. Needless to say, there's still quite a lot happening on the streets of Sevilla at 1am. It all seemed pretty safe though. It was a bit misty in the late evening, but not too cold.

The late night is my explanation for the lateness of this entry.

Thursday, November 15, 2018


Laura found tickets to a horse show at an exhibition center on the east edge of Sevilla called Fibes - Palacio de Congresos y Exposiciones. The annual SICAB horse show is held there. While SICAB is a massive show and competition, we had tickets for an evening exhibition that showed off, in a non-competitive venue, some of the various horse skills and talents at the show as a whole.

We took public transportation out to the site with no trouble.

This is the front. The complex is divided up into 3 large halls. We found our way to hall C and took our seats. There were a lot of children at the show. Parked right in front of us was a stroller. I took the opportunity to snap this shot of one of the "baby cozies" I mentioned in an earlier post:

No need to call CPS on these folks, haha.

The show consisted of perhaps a half-dozen "acts". The most notable was the final act where a single trainer put 4 horses through an amazing repertoire. What was interesting is that the horses wore no bridles or saddles. The trainer stood in the ring and horses obeyed his voice commands. I didn't think it was possible to get that kind of precision from a horse:

Here, the trainer stands next to a horse, while two other horses patiently lie down. A couple other notable parts. This team of 4 riders stood on pairs of horses and performed various precision drills:

And this coach team demonstrated competitive barrel racing technique:

This group demonstrated high-speed saddle tricks:

The bus ride home was uneventful. Though the bus was crowded with folks exiting the event, we found a seat in the back:


Earlier in the day, I went with folks from Laura's school on the weekly "cultural activity". We went to the Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla. I'd been before, but it was nice to go on a guided tour with someone that knows about the works. At one point we stood in front of a couple of art students doing sketches. One took the opportunity to check her phone. Can confirm, her sketch was spot on:


Otherwise, normal day, did some math, walked along the river, etc.


Oh, and under the boardwalk... there are cobbles. Why am I not surprised? Hasta manana.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Under the Boardwalk

I walk/run along the river pretty much every day. I always go north because to the south it's a rickety old boardwalk and cobbles most of the way. I like my ankles too much to deal with that. This morning I noticed crews pulling up the boardwalk:

Here's hoping they replace it with something smoooottthhhhhh.


Folks here in Sevilla have low tolerance for cold. We noticed this quickly when the high temps started dipping into the 60s. All the babies and toddlers in their strollers were suddenly tucked into little half sleeping bag-like things that come up to about armpit level. They're so common that when Laura and I notice a baby that doesn't have one, we jokingly threaten to call child protective services. Today it was calm, sunny and 75 degrees, but this poor dog in the grocery store lobby still had his sweater on:

Looking into his eyes I could hear his thoughts, "I'm burning up. A little help here?" I guess it's all a matter of what you're used to.


Spanish class was interesting. Past tense seems more complicated here than in English.


Painting continues on the interior courtyard. Today I went into the kitchen to get lunch and there was a painter hanging from a rope right outside the window. There was a modicum of eye contact. It was awkward.


Crick is almost gone. Fingers crossed for a complete recovery tomorrow.