Monday, July 13, 2009

Seville so far

The conference doesn't start until tomorrow, but there are already several good signs that this one will work out better than the one in Venice:

1. My hotel is much nicer. We've got wireless in the lobby (as opposed to no internet at all, which meant I only had access during the day) and we actually have a tub instead of just a shower.

2. Several of my collaborators and others I know are all staying in my hotel. Granted, I do know more people at this conference than at the last one in general, but this is still a very good sign. It will also ease discussions and food acquisition.

3. It helps a lot that I more or less know Spanish. (I'm not as good as I ought to be.) I actually got completely through the airports in Spain without speaking a word of English. I understood the people perfectly and while I made some mistakes, I didn't have much trouble. I was able to get a proper iced latte by explaining what it is I wanted, and I never succeeded in getting a proper ice espresso drink in either of my two trips to Italy. Also, I had a nice steak sandwich at the Madrid airport. The default option was plain (as in meat and bun only)---I approve!

4. In Sevilla, I found a gelato place where I ordered a really good (apple) thick, practically-invertible milkshake. I was worried about the thickness, but I was pleasantly surprised by this. Yes!

5. I very much like having the opportunity on this trip to practice my Spanish.

6. I am really enjoying having a digital camera, and I expect this to continue.

7. There is some weird word usage and pronunciation here. For example, people just drop the final consonant in a word, so (for example) "gracias" sounds like "gracia". I had heard about this but didn't realize that it was so pronounced. Also, I see a lot of "os" in places where it should be "as". For example, the word for shoes is "zapatas", but I saw a lot of store signs for "zapatos". I still haven't figured this one out.

8. I knew what one particular menu item was specifically because of the nickname of a baseball player---"pulpo" (octopus) for Antonio Alfonseca, who has 6 fingers/toes on each appendage instead of 5.

9. I need to remind myself what the words for things like "menu" and "reservation" are, but I am remembering some long-forgotten vocabulary very quickly. Getting some of my Spanish ability back (and also testing it for the first time in a real situation rather than just practicing) was something I was really looking forward to on this trip. (OK, upon looking this up, it turns out that I do remember one way to say "menu" correctly and---despite how the guy at the hotel reacted---it turns out that I did use a correct version of "reservation". The thing is that I specifically used one that was American---as in South American---which is perfectly forgivable given that my father is from Argentina! (I said in Spanish that I had a reservation and the guy immediately switched to English because he apparently decided that I couldn't speak Spanish. Bah!)

Stay tuned for more updates...


jvk said...

I propose that practically invertible milkshakes are called non-singular.

Mason said...

JVK: That's an excellent point, although they are only almost nonsingular. As Caltech undergrads, we discussed the invertibility test on many occasions---milkshakes should pass the test, whereas other food items should not---and I can't remember the joke ever being extended by invoking 'non-singular' or 'singular'. It's certainly a good idea.