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:



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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.

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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:


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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.

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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.

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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.

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The bridge was lovely this evening:



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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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


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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.

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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.