Porto: From top deck of Dom Luís bridgeEarlier in October, along with a great number of other people from my research group, I went out to the ISMIR 2012 conference in Porto. (I was helping to present a tutorial; you can watch a screencast of my segment of the tutorial here, though I warn you, in this format, it even sends me to sleep.)

I’d never been there before, my wife came over with me for a couple of days before the event, the weather was mild, and ISMIR is a friendly conference with material I’m always interested in, so we had a pretty nice time of it—Porto being a good place to hang out in cafes in, as well as a ludicrously photogenic town.

Porto in fog: GaiaMy colleague Luís lent me a copy of Martin Page’s lively potted history of Portugal, The First Global Village. If nothing else this is yet another useful corrective to the sort of history I learned at school—treating English and (later) British empire interests as a peripheral and rather sordid matter. A lot of it seems a bit too good to be true (did the Portuguese really bring not only tempura and the chilli to Asia, but also cause the invention of the spring roll and the Chinese dumpling?) and Amazon reviews suggest it might not always be all that accurate, but it’s great fun and an interesting departing point for further reading.

Porto: Houses and dogPorto itself doesn’t feature much in this book until quite late on, with the early 18th-century port wine concessions. But what it doesn’t really do is explain how so many of those concessions came to be owned by English companies, or at least companies with English names. Definitely the next thing to find out.