Sunday, March 31, 2019

Park Güell

Today the main event was a visit/tour of Park Güell. This Gaudi designed park was started by Eusebi Güell as essentially a private housing development centered around a park. This "get back to nature" approach was a good fit for Gaudi. The effort started in 1900 with the development of the park and attempts to entice wealthy folks to buy/build homes in the park. As a commercial venture, it failed. The rich folks thought that the park was too far from the center of Barcelona and didn't bite. It was turned over to the city and is now a municipal park. Like la Sagrada Familia, this park is unusual and fantastic. These rough stone walkways wind through the entire grounds:

Fairy tale buildings dot the property:

One of the rough stone pillars is in the shape of a laundress:

These support pillars are modeled after tornados:

One of the buildings has been converted into the neighborhood elementary school. I can't think of a better place for kids to go to school--surrounded by Gaudi's unusual art:

This is the main entrance to the park:

After the park, we wandered down to the gothic quarter, then to the art museum (we didn't go in). This fountain in front is called "The Magic Fountain":

Further up the hill towards the art museum is the cascade fountain:

Proof that we made it to the top:

The place around the art museum was very busy because the final stage of the Tour of Catalonya had just wrapped up. Here's Chris Froome signing autographs outside of the Sky Team bus:

We went back into the gothic quarter and just like cathedrals all over the world, this one had buskers out front:

On the subway back to the hotel, or is it a bar. It's weird to see people drinking beer on the subway. That's not a thing in the US:

We went to a great little kebab place around the corner from the hotel for dinner. I'm so full. We have  a noon-ish flight back to Sevilla tomorrow.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

La Sagrada Familia

 The view from our hotel room was even better in the dawn light:

Out the back side of the hotel, you can see the Mediterranean Sea:

You can also see it from the rooftop pool:

The big "mission" for this trip to Barcelona is to see some Gaudí architecture. His most famous work, his life's work, is the church La Sagrada Familia:

Started in 1882, Gaudí oversaw the project starting at age 31 and continuing for 43 years until he died in an accident involving a city tram. This church is like no other church in Europe. I looks like the kind of sandcastle you make on the beach by dribbling very wet sand into columns:

Nature is an important theme in Gaudi's work. The door on the east entrance is a brass casting made to look like living ivy. There are even "insects" lurking among the leaves:

Gaudi lived on the site for most of his time on the project. He used some of the donations to build the church to run a small school in the basement for poor children:

The church is anticipated to be finished in 2026. Construction cranes are still on site and working to erect the final towers:

We went up into one of the towers to see what we could see:

The peaks of some of the church towers are like a Carmen Miranda headdress:

The spiral staircase was a bit disconcerting:

All that aside, the interior of this church is otherworldly. Gaudi tried to make it look like you were in a forest. The stained glass on the west side is in the yellow to red range making it look like autumn inside:

The main supporting pillars are like trees. They start in tall straight "trunks" then split into "branches" near the ceiling and look like a forest canopy:

The altar and crucifix are austere and unusual:

Here you can see the continued construction:

A little way north of the church is this really beautiful hospital, not a Gaudi:

I've never seen anyone busking in a subway with a baby grand piano, haha. How did they get it down there!

This strange apartment block is a Gaudi:

Friday, March 29, 2019


I always think of Manuel from Fawlty Towers when I here "Barcelona". Anyway, we here for a quick 2 day visit, arrive Fri, leave Mon. This is just a quick post, since it's late and I'm already in bed. The Sevilla airport was kinda busy, but not out of control this Fri evening. Our flight was a little late, but not too bad:

We managed the airport bus and then metro from the Barcelona airport to the hotel. We were greeted with a gratis bottle of champagne and two flute glasses. We made a toast and enjoyed the view from our 20th floor room:

Champagne is gone now and soon so will I be. Good night!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Point of Failure

I continue to experiment with the gopro doing long timelapses trying to figure out why the camera seems to stop randomly in the middle of a long capture. Today I was pulling the battery out of the camera and the little plastic tab that enables one to pull out the very snugly fitting battery broke. It seems like an obvious point of failure:

I searched around on gropro forums and this is not an uncommon problem. Again, obvious point of failure. I got onto the tech support chat and they're sending me a new battery (free). Also, I was able to get the stuck battery out of the camera by tapping the camera on the edge of a table (but cushioned by a pad of paper). Not ideal, but I think not hurting the camera either.


The flowers are really coming in strong here. This bright yellow and orange bloom was along the upper bank of the river today:


I continued working on my paper draft today. I also continued reading All of Statistics today. Still working through proofs in basic probability. It's a lot like real analysis and set theory, so kind of fun and familiar.

I also started/continued reading The New Childhood by Jordan Shapiro. Today he argued that play is the work of childhood. Play helps children develop executive function and social skills. In my generation play was social and physical, but since, play has become social and virtual. Our play helped us prepare for our adult lives where many of the occupations were physical in nature. Our childrens' play helps them prepare for an adult life that will be mediated by virtual interactions and on-line activities. When we disdain that kind of play, we are concerned about shifting norms about play. Shapiro argues that the kind of play, video games, minecraft, social media, is precisely what children today need to thrive as adults. I'm not sure I buy his argument, but it is thought provoking. I'm certainly not of a mind to condemn these new forms of play because they aren't the same as those of my childhood.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019


I like to watch series on Netflix that are produced in Spain. I watch them with English subtitles. It's a chance to hear Spanish at speed and to try to pick up as much meaning as possible on the fly, but to have the subtitles as a backup. It takes concentration.

Today I found a series called Money Heist. It's actually the most popular foreign produced Netflix series in the US. It's produced here in Spain and entirely in Spanish. I started watching the first episode, but noticed that there were no English subtitles available. On a hunch, I fired up the Whitman VPN to make Netflix think I was watching from within the US and suddenly the English subtitles were available. I can't even imagine what kind of licensing black magic is happening behind the scenes to make this happen. (Gotta love copyright lawyers!) At least I have a workaround now.


Another lovely evening along the river. People were gathered as usual along the river as I went out for my run:

Not sure how I'm gonna cope with winter next year.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019


I made a decision on where to submit the most recent paper and started my re-write. I spent most of the day on that (bad task switching again). While writing, I spent a bit of time getting to know the timelapse feature of the camera. I set it up with a tripod and an external battery in hopes of getting an hours-long timelapse of the sky from the bedroom balcony.

The legs of the tripod wrap around the railing of the balcony:

This generates a sequence of photos that I then stitch together using the ffmpeg program in linux. Some of the results have been good:

But I have noticed that the camera has been halting and freezing unexpectedly. I posted a message on the gopro forum about it. One of their people got back to me with some advice. I'll start testing that advice in the coming days.


Laura made an excellent vegetarian black bean soup today which I ended up eating for both lunch and dinner today.


I squared away my bike share account charge from a couple of days ago and was able to check out a bike today and ride it along the river again. It was windy and warm. Also the bikes are massively heavy. All in all, a good workout. I also managed to swap bikes before the half-hour ran out today. Live and learn.

Monday, March 25, 2019


This morning I finished writing up the last result I want to put into this current paper. I'm still on the fence about where to submit it. I have to decide that before I start the re-write. Ya gotta know your audience.


Spanish class had a new student from Italy today. Italian students usually speak Spanish relatively easily. The two languages are very similar.


This afternoon I decided to just ride one of the bike shares along the river today for exercise. The game here is to keep swapping bikes in less than 30 mins to avoid getting charged. So far this year, I've manged to do, but today when my 5 minute warning went off, I was about 6 minutes from the nearest bike station. It's not that big a deal keeping it out longer. The charge is like 1 euro/hr, but I figured I'd try to get it to the station under 30. Well, I got over there and put it back into a slot at about 31 minutes. This turned out to be a mistake because, the system wouldn't let me pull a bike until I paid my balance. Unfortunately, I was in my gym clothes and didn't have my credit card with me. So I walked home about 2.5 miles.

I'll head out to the kiosk around the corner with my credit card and square up so I can use the bikes again.

On the plus side, for the first time I remembered to unpack the one pair of cycling gloves I brought with me from Walla Walla. Riding with padded gloves is soooo much more comfortable. Glad I finally remembered to pull them out.


Speaking of bikes. The bike lane on the main street (a pedestrian street) near our building is woefully disregarded by the pedestrians. It's generally excusable though because the only real clue that there's a bike lane there at all is some very faded street markings and some subtly different street pavers. Well, that problem was solved today:

The freshly painted lines really seem to be working just based on my brief observations. People are now staying out of the bike lane (except for me while I take pictures, haha) and bikes are moving relatively freely.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Narrow opening

Managed to prove a theorem today that I'd been working on this week. Turns out the statement of the theorem wasn't true. I found a counter-example while trying to prove it this morning. Fortunately, the counter-example made it clear what the correct statement of the theorem should have been. Once I fixed the theorem, the proof came relatively easily. It's definitely easier to prove true theorems than false ones, haha.


I went for a walk with Laura this afternoon. We went to a "cycling in Sevilla" exhibit, but it wasn't that interesting. On the way home, we passed by a park that has been under construction since we got here last summer and is now open. Honestly, it's not clear what they actually did. It looks like any other park. My guess is that they were busy doing something to the infrastructure under the park, not to the park itself. That said, it's a pretty space:

On the way home, we passed by Plaza de San Francisco to see the progress on bleacher construction for the Semana Santa processions. The aisle that all of these procession have to pass through seems surprisingly narrow. Also interesting to note, the bleachers in this plaza are custom fit around lightposts, trees, fountains etc. They are clearly for this purpose and this purpose only:

Saturday, March 23, 2019


Today we took a tour of the nearby Roman ruin of the city of Itálica. The city was founded in roughly 200BC, but really usurped an existing village of indigenous people. Initially, the city was down in the Guadalquivir river plain, but regular flooding forced its relocation up into the nearby hills. The part of the city we visited today was actually added later, a mere 400 years later, in 200AD. Itálica was the first Roman city on the Iberian peninsula. It seems to have thrived for about 600 years and then sort of faded away, though there have been people living around it through to this day.

It was initially unearthed in the 14th century by monks of the nearby Monasterio de San Isidoro del Campo. It didn't become a protected archeological site until the early 20th century. There's not much left above ground. The site consists mostly of foundations of homes and businesses and avenues. There are some replicas of Roman statues that have been unearthed at the site. This Venus-like statue was found half buried in a nearby village being used as a doorstop.

Entering Itálica, you hit the main avenue with the original stone pavers:

Some of the stones bear graffiti:

The first of many intricate mosaics we encountered was in the bathroom:

Here's a row of nearby toilets. I guess the Romans were a little more comfortable than us with their normal bodily functions, haha:

The rooms of various homes were easily discernible by their outlines in the foundation stones. Most remarkable were the floors of the bedrooms and other rooms that had beautiful mosaics. These intricate mosaics were like the Persian rugs we use today:

It's hard to see here, but I was most impressed by the use of different color stones. There were blue, yellow, green, red and lots of other color stones. Impressive because paint would not have lasted 2000 years:

A row of smaller rooms in a poorer section of the city:

Also impressive was the Anfiteatro de Italica. This stadium seated 25,000 people and hosted regular gladiator bouts. This site has also been used several times in the filming of Game of Thrones:

Underneath the stadium, these tunnels let service personnel and competitors get around:

After the ruins, we visited the aforementioned Monasterio de San Isidoro del Campo. Established in 1301, it has been a Catholic monastery up until recently:

The typical mix of moorish and christian art of southern Spain is in evidence here:

The style of this painting of the last supper was unusual. It is not know who painted this:

The woman in this crypt is reported to have been burned at the stake for some transgression (though it's not clear to me why she would then be buried in the church). The legend goes that during her burning, the heat from the flames lifted her skirt immodestly. Her loyal lady in waiting, jumped into the flames and died protecting her lady's modesty. She too is named and buried in this crypt:


We got home and Diego's Bar was going strong. Here you can see the last of the patrons and then closed and cleaned premises an hour later:


Putting the Whitman VPN to good use this evening watching UK play in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: