Sunday, June 30, 2019

A Walk In The Woods

Spent a relaxing day on the hill today. I got up at 4am, still struggling with the time change, but the up side was a lovely sunrise:

Later I hiked around in the hills:

Everything is so green here--a stark contrast to Walla Walla and Sevilla.

I had a bit of a nap this afternoon. I hope I can sleep until at least 6am tomorrow.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Osceola, PA

My family has had a piece of property in northern Pennsylvania since 1977. I spent a lot of time there as a child. Only Betty lives there now and we're visiting her for a few days. It's in a very rural location and in many ways is the polar opposite of Sevilla. That said, it's quiet and familiar and a good place to adjust to life back in the US. This is the view to the east from our front porch:

Betty has a few things she'd like us to take care of, but other than that, we're just going to chill out and relax here. I have my GoPro and am planning out a few long-form video shoots. Today I did a 5 hour time lapse of the view above. There were just enough clouds rolling by to make it interesting. I'll upload and share soon.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Sevilla -> Pennsylvania

A year in 4 suitcases:

A last look back at our building and home for the past year:

A low-quality photo from the plane as we left Sevilla for Lisbon and eventually Newark:

Though the flying was long, it went smoothly. It was on the ground in Newark where things really snarled. Passport control was about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Then, another half hour for the rental car. We were already tired, so all the waiting was a bit fraying.

We drove for about 90 mins away from Newark and towards Betty's on Interstate 80W and stopped in a little motel in Stroudsburg for the night. After a quick dinner at a local Thai place, we hit the sack.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

El ultimo dia

Today was our last full day in Sevilla. We leave for the airport at 8:30am tomorrow morning. The day was filled with a lot of finalities.

 Here's the last load of laundry:

The last dinner crowd at Diego's. Notice the group in the middle enjoying some heaping plates of snails (caracoles):

The seasonal display by the river was updated for summer. A pretty flamingo:

One last visit to the (best) bridge:

We've cleaned and packed as much as we can. There will be a few odds and ends tomorrow morning, but it seems all under control.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Closing out

We got most of our Wednesday todo list done. We feel pretty good about getting Thursday's list done. I donated some clothing that I decided wasn't worth bringing home as I packed my suitcase:

We seem to be in good shape in regards to having enough space in our suitcases.


On the way home from the gym, I noticed that this building that has been abandoned the whole year is getting demolished for a new apartment block. A reminder that Sevilla will continue to grow and change after we leave:

I walked a few different streets:

The past few weeks have been "caracoles season" here in Sevilla. These little snails that live naturally here in Andalucia are a very popular food. The usual preparation is about as spicy a food as Spaniards will tolerate (so I'm told, I'm not partaking, haha, ever):

Instead, Laura and I hit the local doner kebab for dinner:

I'm very full now.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Nearby scenes

I worked on my STEM outcomes machine learning project most of the day. Played around with decision trees. I've been trying to use methods that not only predict outcomes based on academic and demographic information, but that also admit to some kind of interpretation. You can't really look at a neural network and understand why it's doing what it's doing. A decision tree can give some interpretable information.


Other than that, a pretty normal day. I took a few more familiar photos. The living room with the high afternoon sun shining in:

San Jacinto in the evening during a "trash run":

The Capilla Virgen del Carmen at the Triana end of the bridge:

The usual boat traffic along the river:


This evening I put together a todo list of the things that need to get done between now and Fri morning when we head to the airport.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Dinner date

We've been checking a few items off of our todo list this final week. Today we walked over to the Torre del Oro and climbed to the top (it has free admission on Mondays). I'm glad we finally did it, even though it wasn't a high priority item. There is a nice little museum inside about the history of the tower that's worth seeing. Also the view from the top is nice:

Here's a look back at our neighborhood:

The portadas leftover from the Corpus Christi processions of last week are slowly being taken down:


This evening we had dinner at Mario and Palma's house. Lots of interesting traditional Andalucian food. Also, Mario kept bringing me beers everytime I emptied the previous. So I had a few more beers than usual, haha. A nice evening with them and a fitting close to our year.

Sunday, June 23, 2019


Laura discovered a while back that you can purchase "experiences" on AirBnb. She spotted a guided bike tour along a rails-to-trails project starting in the small town of Olvera about 100km southeast of here. After some back and forth, we decided to book it for today.

We met our guide, Carlos, promptly at 8:30am just outside our building. He spoke English quite well and looked at the excursion as an opportunity for him to practice his English. He drove us to Olvera in about 90 mins. We talked about a lot of different topics: southern Spain, tourism, cycling etc.

There was a bike rental place at the start of the trail. Carlos managed the transaction and got us 3 bikes for the trip:

The trail, an abandoned railway was smooth, not too steep, and punctuated with many tunnels:

Our plan was to do an out-and-back totaling just over 40km. We were a little worried because the trend is downhill all the way out (and hence uphill all the way back).

The landscape was dry and dotted with many, many olive trees. You felt the age and history of the place as you went along. This part of Spain was fought over for many centuries as Christians and Muslims ebbed and flowed north and south conquering, defending and losing territory in turns.

From one of the railroad bridges, we looked down on an abandoned farmhouse that was either 100 years old or 500 years old (no way to tell):

The old railway stations along the way have been converted into rest areas for cyclists. This one, near an area that is a sanctuary for Griffin vultures, had a museum dedicated to the birds of the area. We had a 20 min tour of the place by an employee of the museum. The tour culminated in a live camera view of a nesting pair of Griffin vultures with a nearly fully-fledged youngster:

On the way to the turnaround point, we passed this moving herd of goats, each with its own bell. Together, they sounded like a Christmas parade (unfortunately, you really have to crank it up to hear it on this video):

At the turnaround point, we stopped at a small public park in a dry bowl between the hills. This large tree occupied the center and is thought to be around 400 years old:

There is also a small chapel in the park:

We ate our PB&J sandwiches in one of the (very) few shady areas hoping to load up enough energy to make it back uphill without bonking:

On the way home, the temperature was around 34 degrees. It was warm, but not too bad. We were generally well-hydrated and had plenty of sunscreen.

Passing back by the bird museum, I noticed this vulture mural on one of the rocks:

A bit further along, we encountered another goat herd, this time on the trail. We approached cautiously, but they were not aggressive in any way. It actually just turned into a bike-based herding exercise:

We made it back to Olvera with no trouble. Carlos offered to take us up to the top of the hill to the Olvera city center. Olvera is one of the "white cities" in southern Spain. They typically sit on top of a high hill and have all of their buildings painted white. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the residents had decorated the town for Corpus Chrisi, which is celebrated today there (instead of Thursday as in Sevilla):

Olvera is one of the "frontier" cities in southern Spain that started life as a defense position in the ongoing Christian/Muslim conflicts. As such, there is a moorish castle/military installation at the highest point in the town:

The view out is impressive and clearly of military value:

The spread of white-painted buildings confirms the "white city" designation.

Overall, a fun experience. This is our last planned activity in Spain before we leave on Friday.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Aquatic u-turns

I've always noticed that the tourist boats do u-turns at one particular bridge. I was out walking along the river today and noticed a boat approaching, so I did a timelapse of the turnaround:

Gives you an idea of where the term "drifting" in car racing comes from, haha.


Laura started some of the many cleaning chores we have in front of us over the next few days. She dusted and cleaned the baseboards:


One of the Chinese students at Laura's school made some spicy noodles for the picnic the other night. She and I were the only people there that would eat them (remember Spaniards don't like spicy). She let me take them home and I had them for lunch today. So good:


I haven't been walking along the river much these past couple of months since I got my gym membership. Today I walked it for the first time in a while and possibly the last time. Here's the best bridge:

Friday, June 21, 2019

Post procession

The takedown of the procession areas started today:

I can't imagine it taking as long to take down as to put up, but I'll keep an eye on progress during our last week.


I bought a bunch of postcards and have mailed a few each day to various folks. I should've done more of this throughout the year, but just didn't.


I learned how to use Google's mapping API today. It's a bit more challenging than Mapbox. Also, less "free". Mapbox let's you use their API a lot before they start charging/limiting you. Google has pretty low free quotas. The two have their pros and cons, but I think I'm going to keep working with Mapbox for now.


Laura managed to get nearly all of the leftover picnic food out of the house today by bringing it to school with her this afternoon and feeding it to the students and teachers. With so little time left, we're already trying to eat up all the random stuff in the house, so getting all of that extra food out was a plus.


I talked to Jo-Anne for a bit this evening. She's "recovered" from the Spain trip and settling into summer in Michigan. Her book club is reading the Mueller Report. Sounds like interesting reading, but I'm not sure I have the stomach for it.


The weather is getting a bit warmer here. There was a lovely sunset this evening:

Processing to picnic

This morning we got up and out "early" to see the Corpus Christi procession. The streets were quiet because it's a local (not national) holiday. Here is one of the pasos pausing under the portada (so many p's):

This is the Plaza de San Francisco that I've been showing pics of over the past several weeks as it was prepared for this.  There were crowds, but nothing like Semana Santa:

We moved down to the Cathedral to see a different part of the procession:

The crowds were a bit thicker. We encountered another paso as they were being taken out of the Cathedral at long intervals:

This is almost certainly my last procession in Sevilla (and there were many). But, you never know, one can always pop up when you least expect it.


I submitted my revised paper. Hoping there aren't too many issues left to deal with as I go back and forth with the editor.

Recently, I've been playing around with mapping GPS data. I found out that one can download all of the GPS location data that Google has gathered about your phone so I did so and started looking at it. Using the pandas library in python, I loaded the data into a dataframe and resampled it into daily averages. I plotted my daily average locations on a world map. When I zoomed in on Walla Walla, I noticed a nice linear cluster of locations between my house (green dot) and my office (black dot). In retrospect, it's not surprising, but it is interesting to see it:


Laura arranged a picnic in Parque del Alamillo up in the north of the city. She invited friends and teachers from her language school. She made a lot of good, Mexican-themed food. Since we don't have a car, we took an Uber up there and set it up before the guests arrived:

Later, folks arrived with their own, albeit smaller, contributions and we had dinner and conversation:

Until the sun went down and then some:

With less food to carry, we cleaned up and headed for the bus (instead of Ubering), but Beli and Alejandro offered us a ride in their car, so we had a much easier time of it. The gathering was a good exercise in Spanish for me.