Monday, June 13, 2011


It's my last day in Malaga, where I arrived on Thursday for a conference. The tourist areas of Malaga are pretty similar to those in Valencia, Alicante, and several of the Canary Islands, with nearly identical hotels, tourists, restaurants, shops, etc. On this particular trip, I did not have any local contacts, which I'll have to work on next time, because Spain is of course not homogenous and I haven't even seen much of Malaga, let alone the rest of the magnificent and fabled province of Andalusia. Good accents too.

On the other hand, I wasn't in a particularly adventurous mood when I arrived. I was tired and overworked and had little interest in anything but the beach. I have not been to the beach this year - mid-June - a new record for me that I hope I never break. Now off to Barcelona for more work, then a free weekend, and back to Graz.

The tourist catering is always entertaining, and one notable amusement was SPF 100 sunscreen. I do not know when they invented this, but I don't remember seeing it a few years ago. The bottle touted the impressive technology, and I am sure there was some nontrivial cleverness involved in its invention. Still, it's just silly. SPF 100 means you could be in the sun all day, during a 16 hour day, and absorb the equivalent of less than 10 minutes of sunlight. (Actually, only UVB, since SPF curiously ignores UVA.) I don't know if it would stay on your skin that long, and doubt it really offers double the protection of SPF 50. Moreover, SPF 100 is overkill. It is enough to protect the palest Irishman if you put him in a microwave. You could rub it on the "Hyper Rescue Squad" they sent to Fukushima, and it would not only protect against radiation, but heal all damage they previously suffered. And yet I'm sure they will eventually come up with SPF 200 or beyond, through further clever technology, and it will sell. Dude, if you are that worried about sun damage, try a more established technology: a shirt. Better yet, stay in your hotel. Actually, why did you come to a sunny beach?

I know why I came: Sun. And beach. And also the prevalence of women on the beach who, like me, agree that bikini tops are overrated. One of the T-shirts sold to tourists had the logo from Hello Kitty, with a well endowed cat, and the first letter of Kitty was changed to match the other two consonants. Not a very witty ditty, but that is more or less what I thought as I walked up and down the beach. Whoa, those got my attention. Hello! Stare strategically. Keep walking. Don't know why you say goodbye; I say hello. Scan again. There's another one! (Expert's tip: there must be another one nearby, cause they travel in pairs.) And there is always the challenge of sifting out the less appealing ones before memory formation. Hello, says one little chunk of my primary visual area, through a direct connection to the limbic system. 50 milliseconds later, as the image went to higher processing, I worked out that the initial categorization should be overriden. If wondering if the target image is a floppy hat, or another roll of flab, or worst of all, a man, then immediately disengage, stop thinking about it, and purge that hippocampus as quickly as possible. Say goodbye to that memory.

Still, despite such disappointments, it was worth it overall. It somewhat assuages my envy toward my buddy Clemens, who is living in San Diego and thus has vastly superior waves and Mexican food, and access to many of my old friends. But not quite the view, at least until he discovers Black's Beach.

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