Thursday, January 31, 2019

The end of January

Another month in the books. We arrived in Spain 7 months ago. In some ways, it seems longer, in other ways, shorter.

This morning I took the derivative of an integral with respect to a parameter in its domain of integration. the result was unexpectedly intuitive and, therefore, the exercise was enjoyable. Not quite sure how to use it in what I'm trying to do overall, but sometimes you just do stuff.

I did more Spanish. I think I need to conjugate haber, hacer, ser, estar, tener, querer every day for a while.

Even though rain was threatening, I ran a load of laundry and hung it on the roof. Then I went out for a run. It sprinkled on me while I was running, which worried me. It was also quite windy. When I got back home, I went straight to the roof. All the clothes were there and relatively dry. I took them all in and hung them on the indoor rack for the rest of the day. They're dry now, so that was a success. Here's the grey view of Sevilla from the bridge at the far end of my run:

I've started a data science project that attempts to characterize students at Whitman that complete STEM degrees using their first-year academic information. As with all data science projects, there is going to be a lot of data wrangling before I can actually implement the clustering algorithm. Data science is a lot like house painting. You spend most of your time prepping the house to be painted rather than actually painting.

I continued to read Factfulness. Today Rosling distinguished between the frightening and the dangerous and pointed out how ill-equipped humans are to separate the two. Spiders are frightening, but not dangerous. Cars are dangerous, but not frightening. Fright is a response that evolved over millions of years in the species. It used to correlate well with danger, but not so much anymore.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


Continuing to get to know my centroid problem. Worked a couple of interesting and confirming examples this morning.

I tried to use the pen on my Dell tablet today, but the batteries were dead. This pen takes 1 AAAA battery and 2 319 batteries. Neither of them seem to be available in the stores around here, so I ordered them on The pen on my surface still works, so I'll just stick with that for now. It does suggest that the pen issues I had with my Dell earlier may have simply been low batteries. We'll see.

I did a little extra Spanish today since it's a class day. We had 3 students today (including me), so much more like a normal class. I like this teacher, she's not afraid to correct you. The teacher I had last semester was much more lenient. I think I learn better when somebody is correcting me in real time.

I went to the grocery story today for the first time since getting back to Spain. Laura had prepared a lot of meals over the weekend before I got here, so we were pretty well stocked for a bit. Now it's back to the more normal pattern of shopping every day.

It was rainy this afternoon. Here's an uncharacteristically gloomy picture of the river:

After dinner, I decided to have one of my Christmas beers--a Blue Moon. A nice change of pace from the usual Cruzcampo:

There's an interesting advertising campaign down at the river. Projectors are shining across the river to paint these movie posters on the Triana bank:

The images are remarkably clear for a projection across maybe 200 meters. My shadow was razor sharp:

I read another chapter of Factfulness. The lesson of the evening is to not assume that data can be projected forward linearly. If that were the case, your cute children that grew so quickly in their first years would be 20 feet tall when they graduated from high school. He goes on to note that the world population growth has already leveled off and that the actual population will level off by about 2100 at about 11 billion. After that, it's likely to begin to drop.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Coercive continuous functions

Did you know that a coercive, continuous function on a closed set has a global minimum? Neither did I until today. It's a good theorem. Just what I needed.

I made a list and mostly stuck to it today. Productive day.

Here's my Spanish verb spreadsheet. Definitely good practice. It's slow going right now, but my hope is to develop a bit of an instinct for conjugation:

I continued reading Factfulness today. The lesson for today is that people tend to be biased towards pessimism when it comes to human progress. Though the data supporting an improving world over the past two centuries is overwhelming, we nevertheless think that the world is getting worse. Rosling attributes this to a natural tendency to pay attention to negative things and to ignore positive things because negative things are threats to our existence and positive things aren't. From an evolutionary perspective, we are selected to pay attention to negative things because that improves our chances of survival. As such, we consume media that is predominantly bad news, choose politicians that campaign on fear, and talk to each other mostly about negative things. We're not built to see the positive things--especially on timescales of centuries, but the data is undeniable.

I walked another 5 miles today. I'm putting off running for another couple of days. I need to ease back into it. It's amazing how many electric scooters there are in Sevilla:

Monday, January 28, 2019


I slept until 9:30am this morning--very late for me. Still jet lagging I guess. In an effort to get back into the groove, I made a schedule of activities today and mostly stuck to it. Largely because of that, I was pretty productive today.

I read a couple of interesting articles about centroids (centers of gravity). The notion dates back to Euclid and Archimedes, but no one really knows where it originated. It's such a basic idea that it probably didn't originate with a single mathematician, but rather just emerged. The centroid is the balance point of a shape. For example, if you've ever balanced a plate on one finger, you found the centroid of the plate. The problem of finding such balance points is a recurring theme in geometry. I've been interested in developing a generalization of the centroid. This new project has me reading as many papers about them as I can.

My next task was to review my Spanish. I started my next Spanish language class today. Having been thinking and communicating in English for the past two weeks, my Spanish is rusty. I made some good progress there. I found a spreadsheet containing over 600 Spanish verbs and their conjugations in 20 different tenses. Laura helped me to cut out a lot of the tenses that I don't need right now and to focus on just 5 of them. Now I can pick a random line in the spreadsheet and practice conjugating.

I've been trying to read books that might be valuable to the data science class I'm developing. I finished Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. A deeply philosophical, but clarifying look at human history. The burning unanswered question of the text ends up being: What is the purpose of our conscious awareness? Without a clear answer, the inevitable course of human development seems to be usurpation by unconscious artificial intelligence. I've now moved on to Factfulness by Hans Rosling (thanks Rachel). The premise of this book is that we seem to have an unwarranted negative view of the state of our world. We think that most of the world is poorer, more violent, and less educated than it actually is.

My new Spanish class was good. My new teacher, Piedad (means 'piety' in English), is very nice. Sadly, I was the only one of the 4 students enrolled in the class to show up today. I think this is largely the result of an email from the school administration saying that the class wasn't going to meet on Mondays moving forward. I checked in with the school this morning and was told that the class was returning to its original Mon/Wed schedule. I suspect that the other students in the class were not told of this return to normal. That said, it was nice to have 90 mins one-on-one with the teacher.

I didn't do my river walk until after class today. It was cool as the sun dipped, but the sky was lovely:

This sad sight is the end of the milk duds I brought back from the US. Jo-Anne bought a couple boxes for me before I left. They're not available here in Spain and Laura and I really like them every once in a while:

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Eh, this is far enough

The flights to Lisbon and then Sevilla went smoothly. I didn't sleep much, so I'm looking forward to bed tonight. The only real hitch in travel was the airport bus downtown. The bus stopped about 2km from the flat and the driver walked through and kicked everybody off and drove away. Being an airport bus, there were a lot of flummoxed tourists standing on the side of the road in the middle of Sevilla. I was glad I'd lived in Sevilla for 7 months or I'd have been flummoxed right along with them. Turns out there was a half-marathon going on and the bus route was blocked. I just hitched up my drawers and walked the rest of the way home. The only real challenge was the race route kept getting in my way in places where I needed to cross. I just waited patiently and scooted across between runners with my roller bag. Nearer to home, the runners were pretty spread out and crossing was easy:

I made it to the flat and even found my keys which had been beating around my backpack for the past two weeks. I let myself in and hugged Laura for a while. I sat around a bit out of sorts and tired. Eventually I laid down and napped for 2 hours.

After my nap, just to get my blood moving, Laura and I went out for a short walk in the cool, clear evening. It was nice to get reacquainted with the city. The light was lovely for photos, so here are a few:

Back at the flat I checked in with Keith for a bit. He's a bit isolated now back in Rehoboth Beach with the rest of us all departing yesterday at the same time. I also called Rachel and eventually added Emily to the call. After about a half hour, I deftly handed my phone off to Laura who continued the conversation.

This evening, Laura and I resumed watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon. Great show. We only have one episode left.

Tomorrow, back to math, exercise, Spanish etc as life settles back down to normal.

Back to Sevilla

We did some last-minute clean up and packing of my mom's house while a couple of home inspectors looked it over to let us know of any serious issues in the home. Kathy packed up her car with a bunch of photos. Jo-Anne with other keepsakes and documents. Keith came over and took Jake and the cat over to his house. We also learned that the two dogs, Donnie and Midnight, will be adopted by Shine's sister, so they'll go from being siblings in one house, to cousins in two houses.

While we were working, a FedEx truck drove up and dropped off two donuts from The Salty Donut sent by Rachel from Miami. The Salty Donut is her favorite donut shop. On the left, we see the STICKY BUN DONUT Knaus Berry Farm sticky bun wrapped inside our 24-hour brioche dough, brushed with secret sauce, wrapped and topped with homemade pecan toffee sauce. On the right, SEA SALT CREAM + COOKIES 24 hr. brioche filled with a homemade edible cookie dough cream, ‘melted ice cream’ glaze & topped with chunks of homemade chocolate chip cookie & maldon sea salt:

They were both very good.

Here's Jake enjoying his last moments on his favorite love seat before being carted off to my brother's house:

 Here's a photo of my mom's 4 children just before we all went our separate ways:

From left to right, me off to Sevilla, Jo-Anne back to Michigan, Kathy to Virginia, and Keith who lives in Rehoboth Beach.

I drove a rental car up to Newark Airport. The drive was uneventful and I left myself enough time to not be stressed as I navigated the rental car return and customs. You can see downtown NYC from some of the gates in the airport. If you look just above the wing here, you can see the NYC skyline off in the distance:

My flight is pretty efficient. 6 hrs to Lisbon, an hour to Sevilla. About 9 hrs gate-to-gate.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Life goes on

I noticed these daffodil shoots coming up in my mom's front yard this morning:

Life goes on--which is not just an excellent Kinks song.

Speaking of songs, I found a bunch of old records:

 Also, Hank Locklin, The Statler Bros, Jim Reeves, Webb Pierce, Eddy Arnold. I've never heard of any of them. I think they're country. One of them was in this bag:

I had totally forgotten about Harmony Hut. Also, Sam Goody:

The record stores of my youth.

We dropped off two more dogs, Midnight and Donnie. They're staying at a kennel this weekend (since we're all leaving tomorrow), but they go to their forever homes on Monday:

They were a little freaked out, but they're both young and they'll be fine in the long run.

Jake and the cat will go to my brother's house. They can stay there indefinitely. So all of the high priority items have been taken care of.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Closets, closets, closets, closets

Today we worked on the two linen closets and one clothes closet:

We met with an estate lawyer, Kevin Baird, Lewes, DE to get some advice. Nice guy, very helpful. We stopped by my mom's bank to give them a copy of the death certificate. We stopped by the cable company to return some cable boxes etc.

This evening we went to my brother's house. We had take-out Chinese food and watched Oceans 8. Both were meh.

Upon returning home we realized that the carpet/furniture cleaners were coming tomorrow morning at 8am and sadly the floors and furniture were covered with unsorted clothing and linens. We scrambled around to clear all the surfaces and are now ready for the 8am appointment.

Laura made it back to Sevilla, tired, but intact. I'm driving up to Newark on Sat to catch my flight to Sevilla via Lisbon on Saturday evening.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Dump Runs

The sorting of items from my mom's house continued today. Jo-Anne worked the phone to deal with all of my mom's accounts, financials etc. Kathy and I made dump runs. We got to be pretty friendly with the attendant at the landfill. The landfill itself was pretty interesting. I've always been mesmerized by heavy equipment, so I stared at the loaders for a while during my visits:

After the dump, we straightened out the cable/internet/phone issues. Basically, we closed my mom's account and reopened a stripped-down account in my sister's name. I had to set up the internet again as well as the phone and tv. It went relatively smoothly. I couldn't help but rename the wifi to "ImpeachTrump".

Shine came to the house and adopted Spike. One dog down, three to go. Later she sent photos of her two little girls playing with Spike. Big win for him. I think he'll be loved and well cared for there.

Donnie and Midnight seemed to miss Spike. They looked out the front window for a long time afterwards:

Emily and Rachel made it back to their respective homes without incident. Laura is somewhere over the Atlantic on her way back to Sevilla as I write this. I miss them all and am looking forward to getting back to Sevilla with Laura even though I've enjoyed my time here in Delaware with my sibs.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Cold Beach

This morning we met at my mom's gravesite for the interment. This was a short ceremony and again, the weather was a windy biting cold:

After the interment, we returned to my mom's house and hung out with family the rest of the day. A popular pastime was looking through photo albums. Rachel found this treasure much laughter ensued:

Emily cuddled with Spike and Donnie, two of my mom's 4 dogs. They're sweet and Emily really wanted to take Donnie home with her.

Their lives are about to become very different. One of mom's long-time nurses is adopting Spike. We are currently looking for homes for the remaining 3, though we have a couple of solid fall-back positions if we can't find suitable homes.

In the afternoon, it warmed up enough to consider walking along the beach. Jo-Anne, Laura and I walked the boardwalk. I've never really been to the beach in January. It's blustery, but beautiful:

Icicles hung from the jetty:

The iconic Dolles sign on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk:

We had one last dinner together at Crabby Dick's before Laura, Emily, and Rachel left for Baltimore. Rachel head back to Miami at 5:30am tomorrow from BWI. Emily goes to Santa Barbara at 6:30am. Laura then drives up to Philadelphia to catch her 6pm flight to Sevilla. It was particularly sad parting. I suppose that's the result of the somber reason for our being together. Somehow knowing that we won't be together until at least the summer (if not longer) is more painful in the wake of my mom's death. Such is life.

Monday, January 21, 2019


My mom's funeral mass was at St. Edmond's Catholic church this morning at 11am. Pall bearers arrived at 9:15am in a biting wind with temperatures around 15F. We carried the the casket from the hearse to the altar around 9:30am. A private viewing followed until 10am, followed by a public viewing until just about 11am.

The funeral mass was well-done. The priest was one that knew my mother well and he delivered a touching homily/eulogy. The cantor was talented and did a respectable Ave Maria. A long-time friend of my mother, Jim Chmelik, gave a stirring eulogy at the end of the mass. Jim has known my mom for going on 40 years. They met when they both worked a warehouse job in Gaithersburg, MD. Oddly enough, Jim now lives in Idaho and one of his sons goes to Walla Walla Community College. A weird coincidence to say the least.

After the mass, we put the casket back into the hearse. The interment will be tomorrow morning. Folks gathered at my mom's house afterwards. We put out some trays of Mexican food from La Tonalteca, one of my mom's favorite restaurants. It's rare for all of us to be in the same location. We had a nice time catching up. My sister Kathy managed to get a photo of a lot of us:

We spent the rest of the day there with people trickling away until it was just my family, Jo-Anne's family and Kathy. The lack of sleep caught up with me and I fell asleep on a love seat on the sun porch for 4 hours. I suppose the rest of them had a nice time, haha. My sister Kathy learned how to "floss":

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Delaware to Baltimore and back

Spent the day going through photos in my mom's house. Here's one of me at my sister's graduation from William & Mary in 1985. That's my dad on the left, my brother, Keith, and my sister Jo-Anne:

My mom's 4 dogs have spent most of the day outside and out of the way. The poor things:

Luke is in the middle of his semester at GVSU. He's doing a bit of homework in one of the lulls:

Katie Jo is sorting through photos for a collage to show at the reception after the funeral:

Laura, Jo-Anne and Kathy made a huge amount of progress sorting through stuff in the basement:

We made a run to Home Depot for some boxes. The sunset was brilliant and the full moon impressive:

Emily arrived here in Baltimore from Santa Barbara at 10:30pm. We're killing time in a diner near the airport waiting for Rachel's flight (90 mins late):

We're looking at getting back to Delaware at around 3:30am if all goes well. We're due at the church for the funeral at 9:15am. It's gonna be a rough day tomorrow.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Back to Delaware

My talk went well this morning. In fact, the whole session I was in was pretty interesting. I had a good discussion with some folks from Centre College about re-working the intro calc sequence to include a more computational approach. I'm hoping to follow up with them later to get some details.

Scott and I ate lunch at Chipotle and I drove him to BWI for his flight. I was good hanging with him even though our time together was abbreviated by my trip to Delaware. After dropping him off, I drove back to Delaware to continue with the funeral preparations.

Katie Jo arrived last night. Ric arrived today. John and Luke arrived this evening. Laura got here a bit after that. She's going on 24 hours of wake/travel time as I write this.

Our home base has been my mom's house. This is here little dog Donnie (one of her 4 orphaned dogs):

I'm not sure what story Kathy was trying to tell here, but there's a lot of body language:

I'm in bed now. Tomorrow's another busy day before the funeral on Monday.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Back to Baltimore

Jo-Anne, Kathy, and I spent the day getting details worked out for the funeral. We finalized the obituary and gathered photos. Here's one for the obit and prayer cards:

These are for a collage at the viewing. This is as many of us as I've ever seen in one place. An old beach photo:

This is mom in 1960:

And her in her Kindergarten graduation in 1944:

Later, we went to the church to arrange the details of the funeral mass:
Later we did a bit of house cleaning. We also spent a fair amount of time looking for mom's wedding ring. No dice yet.

Keith cooked hamburgers for dinner. After dinner, I headed back to Baltimore so I can give my talk tomorrow. I need to go over my talk, but mostly I'm ready.