Tuesday, January 22, 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":

Monday, January 21, 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.

Sunday, January 20, 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.

Saturday, January 19, 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.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Mom Died

I missed a phone call from my sister over night. When I checked in with her this morning, I learned that my mom died in the night. My mom's been seriously ill for a few months, but her death surprised us. Indeed, I had plans to visit her for a couple of days after the math conference, but it was not meant to be. People plan, the universe laughs.

Laura changed my rental car reservation and I drove to Rehoboth Beach to be with my sister and brother who were already there. My other sister arrived shortly after I did.

We spent the better part of the afternoon making funeral arrangements and informing people.

The funeral is Monday. People are making arrangements to come. Emily, Rachel and Laura are all planning to come. There's still a lot to do tomorrow.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

JMM Day 1

I spent day 1 of the Joint Mathematics Meeting going to talks (what else?). In addition to talks on technology in the classroom, placement testing, and virtual reality, I saw Sarah Koch give an interesting talk on complex dynamics. At one point she showed a figure and labeled three important components as "airplane", "rabbit" and "co-rabbit". Here's a crappy photo of the slide:

It's cold here! There's snow on the ground outside the convention center. My Sevilla-trained blood is not ready for this:

The convention center is lovely. Everything is easy to find. There's a pretty fountain at one end:

Scott went out to dinner with a friend. I just grabbed some Greek food and then walked to a Whole Foods to grab some fruit to get me through the week. There is a real dearth of grocery stores in the area. The Whole Foods was a little over a mile away and nothing closer according to Google.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

To Baltimore

I slept pretty well considering the 6 hour time difference. I woke up at around 6am (noon Spain time). I went out for a walk/run. Came back, did a little Spanish practice. Then, I went to Einstein Bagels to get breakfast. I had a pumpernickel bagel with cream cheese. It was excellent. When I got back to Rachel's house, she was up and heading to her 9:30am econometrics class. It was the first day of her new semester.

I showered and went out to Walmart to get a list of things we can't find in Spain: advil, mucinex, Pilot G-2 pens, dental floss, deodorant etc. Just to be clear, most of these things can be found in Spain, but not the brands or amounts we're interested in. I drove the Honda. The little lizard that took up residence in the side view mirror:

was gone.

After my Walmart trip, I worked until Rachel came home from work around 2pm. We took in a quick lunch at Taco Bell and dessert at ChillN Nitrogen Ice Cream shop:

The ice cream was excellent, as always. We went back to Rachel's and I helped her install GitHub for her new class.


My flight to Baltimore for the math conference left Ft Lauderdale at 7:20pm. With the gov't shutdown still going, I was concerned about back ups at TSA security, so I decided to try to get there 2 hours in advance. To save Rachel the long, congested drive up there to FLL, I took the Miami metro, transferred to the TriRail, transferred to a shuttle bus and got to FLL in 2 hrs--about 90 mins before my flight. No worries about TSA, the lines were empty and I got through right away. I killed an hour at the gate, endured another 2 hours of flying, got to BWI at around 9:45pm, walked to the light rail station at the far end of the airport and caught the train downtown to my hotel. Here's one of the many forms of transportation I encountered on my trip:

The TriRail at the transfer point just north of the Miami airport:

I got to the hotel around 10:30pm. My roommate, Scott, was already there. We chatted a bit and I dropped into bed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Back in the US

This morning, Rachel and I got up bright and early to catch the airport bus at Plaza de Armas. We bade Laura farewell, hitched up our roller bags and hiked to the bus station. The bus was pretty quick, as was airport security in Sevilla, so we got to our gate with about an hour before boarding.

The Sevilla flight was on time to Madrid. We negotiated the maze of Madrid and got to our gate for the Miami flight with plenty of time to spare. The Madrid-Miami flight was pretty full and we didn't sit together. It was on time though. I sat next to a guy headed to Nicaragua. He didn't speak any English, so he was good Spanish practice for me. Nine hours later and a lot of reading and video watching later, we made it through customs in Miami and waited for our checked bags. While there we saw a cute little beagle sniffing bags for contraband fruit:

He actually sniffed out to apples that this poor guy bought at the Mercadona for snack on the flight. They took his passport and put him and his bags through the full inspection in a side room:

The beagle earned a tidbit as a reward from his handler (at least some of the federal employees here are getting paid, haha).

Shubham picked us up at the airport. We took him to Baja Fresh for dinner as a thank you:

Now I'm back at Rachel's trying to stay up until 10pm in an effort to adapt to the new time zone (6 hour difference from Sevilla).

Sunday, January 13, 2019

End of an era

Rachel arrived in Sevilla on Dec 11th and, as I write this, is packing to leave tomorrow morning. She wasn't here in the flat the whole time. She spent a few days with a friend in Morocco and 5 days at a conference in Malaga, but this has been her home away from home for over a month. It's the end of an era, haha:

This weekend we've been hitting lot's of places to eat. We had lunch at Pad Thai Wok. Rachel's noodles were pretty spicy. Maybe the spiciest dish in all of Spain (where the cuisine is generally spice avoidant):

I went out for a run along the river. It's still strange to me to see flowers blooming in January (not complaining):

This evening, Rachel got a chocolate croissant for breakfast tomorrow. We stopped at Manu Jara widely recognized as one of the best pastry shops in Sevilla:

I've got to go finish packing.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Sunny Afternoon

As Sevilla puts the somewhat frantic Christmas season behind it, schools are back in session, work schedules return to normal, the weather has been consistently clear and sunny. Cold mornings, relatively mild afternoons. It was fun to see so many folks sunning themselves along the bank of the river. Students after their first week back in school, adults after their first week back at work:

Rachel made it back to Sevilla from Malaga late yesterday evening. Today, we found her some souvenirs to take back to the US. We went to the mall and over to the grocery store. On the way home, we hit the helado shoppe:

I tried the chocolate mousse flavor a departure from the brownie I usually get. It was ok, but I like the brownie better. Rachel mixed brownie with raspberry sorbet. That was a winner. I'm going to try that the next time I go.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Business Meeting

Mostly stayed home and did math today. Made some progress on a couple of different projects, so a productive day.

This afternoon I went for a run along the river. It's a bit colder here today, only 13C (about 55F). Once I got moving, I was warm enough. The sunshine makes all the difference. You never get clear, sunny days like this in Walla Walla in the winter.

On the way back home, I passed this family of ducks on the river holding a business meeting:


A friend of mine, Martin, from my language class is back in town from his vacation in Berlin. We went to dinner with him at Antojo, a tapas bar that has a blackened cod dish that I really like. We talke about our vacations, had some beer and about 5 different tapas, include the cod. A nice time. We walked back home through the Alameda where Martin split off. We walked home.

As I write this, Rachel is on the train back to Sevilla from Malaga. She should get here around 11:30pm if all goes well.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Bean

Another quiet day. Saw this guy at the Mercadona when Laura and I went grocery shopping:

It's cold here in the mornings (relatively speaking), but the afternoons are usually sunny and in the 60's--works for me! I took this picture of the rowers working out on the river after my walk this afternoon:

The clear days make for some pretty colors at sunset. I took this while collecting laundry from the clothesline on the roof:

I continued to work my way through the pastry that Mario and Palma brought us. Part of the tradition of that pastry is that hidden inside is a "king" and a "bean". If you get the king in your slice, then you have good luck throughout the year. If you get the bean, it's bad luck all year. Rachel, damn her, got the king in her first and only piece last weekend. I didn't get anything in my piece yesterday. Today I got the bean. It's cute and ceramic. Hopefully the luck won't be too bad. I'm keeping it:

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Old pastry

The zipper on my light jacket broke, so Laura and I went on a shopping expedition this morning for a new jacket. We went over to the new mall and made a perfunctory attempt to shop, all the while knowing we would end up in Primark. I found something light, but warm and maybe a bit water resistant for about 20 euros. Should get me through the rest of the season, though there could be some challenges in Baltimore and Delaware next week depending on how cold it gets while I'm there.

Other than that, pretty normal day. I did some math early. I've been computing centroids in different metrics. I keep looking around for references on this, but haven't found any yet. I went out for a run when Laura left for class at 4pm. The weather is usually warm enough by then to run in shorts and a light shirt.

I got back and continued with some math. Also, started a conversation with Russ Gordon via email and finished it with a phone call. It was good to catch up with him.

Laura got home and made refried beans. We had bean burritos for dinner. Very tasty.

For dessert, I remembered the pastry that Mario and Palma brought us the day before we left for El Chorro. I had the foresight to put it into an airtight container and then in the fridge. It held up amazingly well. The piece I had this evening was about as good as the day we got it. Yay! There might even be some left when Rachel gets back from Malaga on Saturday.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Return to baseline

With the Christmas holiday behind us and no visitors in the flat this week, there's a real sense of returning to normal. Rachel is in Malaga this week attending a conference. She'll be back here on Saturday for a day and a half, then we both fly to the US. Rachel will return to Miami and her fourth semester of graduate school. I'll go to a conference in Baltimore.

For some reason I was unusually cold this morning. I tried a number of different space heater configurations, but my office in the back room of the kitchen was just too drafty. Laura suggested that I move my office back into the guest room since Rachel will only be using it briefly on her transition from Spain to the US. The heater in the guest room is effective for that space and there are no drafts. I agreed and we moved all of my stuff back to the guest room:

It's almost like I never was gone. It was a vast improvement in warmth too.


Laura's trying an afternoon Spanish class this week which is yet another return to the past. For most of the first few months of our time here, she was in the 4-7:30pm time slot. This time around it's to a more advanced class. She's just trying it out to see if she can manage it.


The streets are a bit less sticky today. No rain in the forecast.

Monday, January 7, 2019

A parting of the ways

We passed a quiet morning at the hotel in El Chorro. It was breezy and chilly, so we didn't venture outside much. I did grab this photo of the back side of the hotel with the mountain face looming. It was a quirky hotel, but beautiful:

Rachel's train didn't leave until around 4pm. Ours, not until 5pm. We checked out at around 11:30am, but the hotel kindly held our bags while we went on a hike towards the mountain shown in the first photo. The trail was a bit steep and challenging, which made us grateful for the cool weather. The lower slopes were arid pine forest:

I went off trail at one point and found this beautiful flower in bloom. It's January, so we're definitely not in Walla Walla anymore:

As we approached the face of the mountain, we began to see numerous climbers on its face. My phone isn't sharp enough to show them, but there were a couple dozen folks up there at various heights. Not long after we noticed the climbers, we started seeing folks lower down hiking to the mountain and a number of cars parked along the track that also likely carried climbers:

After our hike, we returned to the hotel restaurant and enjoyed a long, slow lunch as we waited for Rachel's train. We even had dessert:

Eventually the parting of the ways arrived. The train station was a stone's throw from the hotel and restaurant. We headed out to the station and Rachel took the southbound train to Malaga for her conference:

After Rachel departed, Laura and I hung out in the lobby and read for a while until our northbound train came to take us back to Sevilla. I managed to snap this shot of the Caminito del Rey from the train window as we left El Chorro:

Because of railway construction, there's a 10 mile stretch of tracks that are out of service on the way back to Sevilla. About halfway through our trip, we had to get off the train and get onto pre-staged buses that drove the entire train contingent around the gap in the tracks to another rail station. A train met us there and took us the rest of the way to Sevilla. Here's a shot of the station in Osuna, Spain where we got back onto the northbound train. An abandoned engine:

An abandoned rail station:

Switch controls at the new train station. We watched an engineer throw the switch so that the train arriving from Sevilla could switch tracks over to the northbound tracks. When it arrived, all of the passengers got off and took the same buses we just used to go south around the gap in the tracks and continue their journeys south to Malaga:

We finally made it to Sevilla and walked home from the Metro station along streets that had yet another sticky, sugary layer of crushed and dissolved candy from the Triana parade that occurred yesterday. Yes, another parade with people throwing buckets of candy into the streets. The city parade being insufficient, the Triana neighborhood has to have its own parade the next day. 

I wonder how long the streets will be sticky. There's no rain in sight on the weather forecast.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Caminito del Rey

Somewhat fitting, but totally unrelated to the three kings day, today Rachel, Laura and I traveled to El Chorro, Spain:

To walk the Caminito del Rey, at times known as "the world's most dangerous walkway", though now it is a perfectly safe cliff hike in a Spanish National Park. This walkway is bolted to the side of a canyon that contains a number of hydroelectric projects for southern Spain. It's both a tourist attraction and a service corridor for the dam projects.

We caught the train out of Sevilla this morning, made it to El Chorro by around 10:30am, checked into the hotel and then caught the shuttle bus to the top of the trailhead. We met our guide and walked the 8km trail back down to the hotel.

Hardhats were required. Mostly to protect from falling rocks from above:

Much of the walkway was like this--bolted onto the sides of the canyon:

A look up the canyon:

An old bridge across the river from one side of the canyon to the other:

Our tour guide, Estella, spoke alternately in Spanish and English:

She was a good Spanish language listening exercise for us.

The sky was deep blue. There's an abandoned building along the way:

Another look up the canyon:

On the right, other visitors on the walkway. On the left, a railroad bridge:

We actually crossed the railroad bridge on our way to El Chorro on the train.

Here we see the new walkway above the original service walkway:

The last canyon opened out onto a reservoir. The town and our hotel are on this reservoir. To get there, we had to cross that bridge:

Here's another view of the new walkway above the old one:

Here's the walkway bridge across the canyon at the end of the hike:

Some video of the three of us trekking across the suspension bridge:

Here's Rachel taking pictures back towards the canyon from the reservoir:

Here's the special Christmas Cruzcampo beer I had at dinner: