Sunday, October 14, 2018

Helpful People

Cool and breezy this morning. I went out for my usual walk thinking I'd warm up, but came home cold an hour later. While I was oblivious, it clearly rained buckets over night. Lots of puddles and rivulets on the grounds along the river. Laura said she heard it coming down. I wear foam earplugs, so I didn't hear a thing.


Mostly hung around the flat and read or watched Netflix. I also did a little bit of a data visualization class on DataCamp. This afternoon I decided to go out to a park and read. I haven't spent much time at Parque de Maria Luisa in front of the Plaza de España. It's a bit of a walk, so I decided to take a bike share over instead. I pulled the last bike out of the station around the corner. I tried to pedal, but the crank just spun. I looked down and saw that the chain had jumped off of the gear. I was just about to get to work trying to fix it when a guy came up and energetically offered to help. He kinda seemed to know what the problem was, so I let him take over. He started working on it when a second random guy came up and started helping. Once again, I kinda stepped back and watched. These bikes are heavily used all over Sevilla. I figured these two had seen this issue before and would have me on my way much more quickly than I would alone. I watched a bit and the problem was a bit more complex than I initially thought. The shifting mechanism on these 3-speed bikes is one that I'm not too familiar with. Regardless, they got it straightened out (and I'm pretty sure I could replicate the fix if I encountered it again). After a few "gracias's" and "adios's" I was on my way. Also, I was left feeling pretty good about my fellow Sevillians.


The bike worked flawlessly over to the bike station two bridges south of our bridge (the best bridge). I walked across the bridge and noticed another cruise ship at the dock there:

At the other end of the bridge is the back entrance to Parque de Maria Luisa. Right at that entrance is a lovely fountain Monumento a Juan Sebastian Elcano:

The park itself is a maze of paths, fountains, trees, plants and benches. I took a bench along this path:

I read a chapter and changed spots to a bench at the Plaza de España. The cool clear air made for good photography. I like this one with the shadow of a palm tree in the foreground:

The fountain had a perpetual rainbow in the late evening sunlight:

Tourist carriages were circling in front of the north tower:

While there, I finished the book Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil. This was a deeply affecting book for me. Instead of a gee-whiz look at a data analytics future utopia, O'Neil describes the ways in which algorithms and data are being used in ways that are harmful to society. In most cases, algorithms are being used by companies to more efficiently separate us from our money. Unfortunately, these techniques are so esoteric and opaque that our elected officials are quite unable to formulate reasonable regulations and oversight of the use of these tools (even if they had the will to do so). I think this book will be required reading in the machine learning course I'm developing.