Saturday, July 10, 2010

Our Trip to Porto

We have landed in Porto! And pretty quickly we partook of sangria, and some sight seeing.
We have already been to Porto before --- in fact nearly one year ago --- so this time we spent more time at the beach.

Can you tell which room in this hotel is ours? We did not stay in Porto, but in Matosinhos which is a fisherman's town to the north. It is closer to the beach, and offers the best in seafood.

My friend Fabien, who lives in Porto, lent me his board (NSP == Null Space Property), which surfed pretty well. It has been a year since I was in the water, so I was surprised how quickly I got back into the groove. Carla got to borrow his girlfriend's body board, and she was surprised how quickly she got the feel for it. But more than anything, we are both very surprised at how frigid the water was in the morning. Even though the ambient temperature would hover around 85 degrees, the water must have been about 65 --- which is quite like Santa Barbara.

Fabien took us to the Crystal Palace where we watched the sun set over the Duoro river as we sipped some port with ice and tonic.

We really love the pastries in Portugal. With some coffees and creme, they are the perfect afternoon treat. And late morning treat. And before dinner treat.

But the one food we adore here is the salted and grilled sardines.

After I get over the fear of choking on fish bones, I learn to relax and voraciously consume sardine after sardine after sardine. By the end of dinner our plates were nothing but bones and skin, and all the innards with which we are not quite sure what to do, but we know it tastes bad.

Finally, on Wednesday I (Bobby) visited the Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto to give a seminar on my research. Fabien is an assistant professor there in music information retrieval and research. He showed me around the campus, introduced me to some of his colleagues, and took me to my seminar. My talk was warmly received it seemed, and resulted in many good questions pinpointing several of the areas in which the research discipline of sparse representations has yet to mature --- especially in the perceptual and cognitive directions. This also pinpoints many of those areas in which I lack the expertise to make immediate contributions, so I have got to get working!

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