Saturday, 14 July 2007

Asturias Report

Right, folks. Finally, having finished my week-long battle with a manuscript, I can finally report on my trip to Asturias. I should start by thanking Alfredo, Cano and David for their hospitality: the food and drink was excellent, as was the conversation. Especially the tail of the vegetarian dog (short version: owner claims dog is vegetarian. Dog disproves this, using neighbour's rabbit).

My purpose was to try and teach Bayesian inference to the biologists there. I don't want to report on that, other than to point out my new variant on the Monty Hall problem:

In my variant, you don't want to win the car. Actually, you're not too keen on winning the bull either. In fact, it looks like loosing is a decent option.

The only other things worth pointing out about the actual course are the exhibit downstairs:
(which is just an excuse to link to a well known science blog). The other point is the view from the window of the room I was teaching in:
Yes, hills! Scenery! I suspect I'd really enjoy the weather in Asturias: I can enjoy the rainy, overcast weather when it looks really dramatic. I think it's something about being English. And we did have quite a bit of sun, although overall the weather was changeable (and only foggy on Saturday).

As to Asturias itself, I was teaching in Oviedo, which is the capital of Asturias. It has historical bits, it has modern bits, it has everything you expect from a town. It also has strange statues - most of which would shock the sensitive. Hence, no photos.

The kingdom of Asturias was founded by King Pelayo in the 8th century. To do this he had to beat off the Moors, who were intent on taking over the whole of Spain and installing wallpaper patterns in their palaces. Pelayo found an effective strategy to combat them: one used by the Scottish previously against the Romans. His simply made sure that the weather was awful enough that the Moors wouldn't want to invade. Hence he is honoured in Gijon with a statue of him, looking out to sea with an early anenometer:
The Asturians also honour him in their drinking traditions. They pour their cider from a great height, enabling them to judge the wind speed and direction (and its strength, when they drink it, tells them how hard it's raining):
This, incidentally is a real cider: for those who haven't tasted it, it's like a good English scrumpy. Which means it taste nothing like a commercial cider. This stuff has had apples in it!

On the Wednesday, Cano took me to Gijon for the afternoon. Gijon is his home town, and it more working class (read: could do with some paint in places). But it is on the coast, and ahs a nice beach, and some decent touristy bits. This is Cano:
and these are his feet:
Cano had to go for a swim in the Atlantic: I think he was forgetting what waves are like, as Finland doesn't have waves, only wakes. After Cano had had enough of waving his feet at us, we went for a walk around the town, and came across this curious sight:
Apparently when they were building the quay, the townsfolk got up one morning after a spring tide and found that an English captain had berthed his ship on top of the building site. Rather than remove the ship, they decided to build the rest of the quay over the top, and just fill in with concrete. The captain went down with his ship.

After that story, there was only one thing to do: go for a drink. So we retired to a bar and had some cider:

North by north-west, force 6.


Chris' Wills said...


Jealous I am.

Do all statisticians have your jet-set, scrumpie quaffing lifestyle?

Bob O'Hara said...

Oh, no. The good ones quaff champagne.

Anyway, I can't work out how to email you from your blogger account. So email me at for the manuscript (it's not worth hiding that: I get enough spam anyway).


Anonymous said...

Thank you, article received.

It'll give me something interesting to read until I make my final exit from Saudi.

Which is better, good cider or fizzy wine?
I'll experiment when I get home.

Chris' Wills

Bob O'Hara said...

I wouldn't know about the fizzy wine: I'm not that high up in the chain. :-(


Axtur said...

I'm glad to read your words and you enjoyed your time in my country! Hope you come back soon!

Panic Attacks said...

What an interesting way to test wind speed and direction. I wonder this kind of test can be done with other similar beverages. You must have had a really nice time!