In this post I want to write the least possible.
Enjoy the short video (5’20″) prepared in my first ever trip on helicopter (a Bell 206) around Iguazu falls… an unforgettable experience.
Last week, I watched an online interview by Steve Forbes to Joel Greenblatt, a value investor, author of the book: “The Little Book That Beats the Market”.
I read this book about two or three years ago and I remember it as a very enjoyable read (just about 150-200 pages). He proposes a formula to automate the stock picking process that would result from applying value investing principles by a person that doesn’t want to get too much involved.
During much of the interview he discusses how they have tested the formula, how it beat the market in this and that time, etc…
Summarizing, he admits that he based the formula in:
This last requirement is what most speculators (vs. investors) lack of.
If you are interested in the formula, you may use it for free in his website.
Nevertheless, if I were you I wouldn’t stop there, but read “The Intelligent Investor” (especially chapters 8, 14 & 20)… the sooner, the better.
To my friends: if you are interested in Greenblatt’s book, I also got it, if you want to borrow it…
Today is the commonly known as International Day of the Book. I learnt in the Wikipedia that it is actually called by UNESCO: “World Book and Copyright Day” (I wonder how the copyright part of it is celebrated…).
There, I also learnt that this tradition was originated in Catalonia, Spain, and that even though it is commonly stated that is the anniversary of the death of both Cervantes and Shakespeare (23rd April 1616), that is not correct as at the time England was using the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian one, thus Shakespeare died 10 days later.
Recommendations. My contribution on this day is the recommendation of the 3 books of those I read last year that I liked the most:
In the same way I would appreciate if you leave your recommendation of the books that you liked the most of those you have read recently in a comment to this post.
E-Books. Two weeks ago I read in The Economist an article about the publishing industry. It cited a study, from PwC, which estimated that consumer ebook sales in North America will have a share of 6% of the market in 2013 (up from 1.5% in 2009). That would be one out of every 16 people. However, I think I only know of one person reading e-books as of today (a member of Excelencia who spoke about it a year ago). Let’s see if we find more people doing so:
I have already mentioned Toastmasters quite a few times in the blog. From the Toastmasters International site:
“[...] Toastmasters International has grown to become a world leader in helping people become more competent and comfortable in front of an audience. The nonprofit organization now has nearly 250,000 members in more than 12,500 clubs in106 countries, offering a proven – and enjoyable! – way to practice and hone communication and leadership skills.
Most Toastmasters meetings are comprised of approximately 20 people who meet weekly for an hour or two. Participants practice and learn skills by filling a meeting role, ranging from giving a prepared speech or an impromptu one to serving as timer, evaluator or grammarian.
There is no instructor; instead, each speech and meeting is critiqued by a member in a positive manner, focusing on what was done right and what could be improved.
Good communicators tend to be good leaders.”
There are 15 Toastmasters clubs in Spain in Portugal (3 of them in Madrid!), with over 400 members. Next weekend (April 24th), we will gather in Porto for the Division conference. There, we will have several workshops, lectures and presentations delivered by prominent speakers; among them Ed Tate, World Champion of Public Speaking in 2000, and John Zimmer, four times European Champion of Public Speaking.
Even more interesting will be the contests that will take place there: Evaluation and International Speech contests. From our Area (Madrid and South of Spain) there will be four participants taking part in them: Jane Kinnear, Ruben Navarro, Damian Alcolea and Alexander Hristov.
I am sure they will make a great performance and above all they’ll learn a lot just by participating in the contest. The rest of us attending will enjoy two great contests in a memorable weekend!
Time ago I already introduced you to my Lego. Some weeks ago during a Gol flight in Brazil I was reading through the in-flight magazine when I found an article that talked about Meez among other things.
I was just playing with it little bit. Please, meet my avatar, “Javier in casual Friday” (just if I wore casual on Fridays…).
Banespa building is an important skyscraper in the financial center of Sao Paulo. Banespa stands for Banco do Estado de Sao Paulo, which now is owned by Banco Santander. The building was designed by a Brazilian architect, Plínio Botelho do Amaral, who was inspired by the Empire State Building. It was for 20 years the highest building in Sao Paulo, until surpassed by Edificio Itália.
At the top of the building there is an observation deck from which you can see stunning views of Sao Paulo, with hundreds of skyscrapers in whichever direction you look at for kilometers and kilometers. Then you realize that you are in Sao Paulo, the 6th or 7th most populated city in the world (depending whether you look at the city limits or metropolitan area).
Other famous observation decks that I visited recently were the one in the ESB and the Top of the Rock at the GE Building Rockefeller Center, there are some differences though:
Race in New York. Let me share here with you a story about a race to build the tallest building that took place in the late 1920′s. I found this story in the book, “Tales of New York”, which I commented in a previous post.
Three buildings were being built at the same time, the 40 Wall Street, the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. Competition among them was fierce at the time, with names of big industrialists behind them. Plans were revised once and again. The first one in being finished was the 40 Wall Street in April 1930 which claimed the title of world’s tallest building at the time. Originally it was to be 840 ft but along the race the plan was revised to make it just 2 feet taller than the Chrysler building plan at the time 925 ft, at completion the 40 Wall Street height was increased to 927 ft.
During the last weeks of its construction loads of iron and steel were brought to the interior of the Chrysler building. People thought that it was part of the interior decoration, filled with metallic details and motives of the automotive industry. But once its rival building was finished, on a clear day in the morning a needle-like metallic structure was raised from the center of the top of the Chrysler building to the surprise of the population of New York. On May 27th 1927, the Chrysler building was finished, in the end measuring 1,046 ft, taking the title of tallest building from 40 Wall Street merely a month after.
Walter Chrysler had worked in the past together with the man behind the Empire State Building, John J. Raskob, then CFO of General Motors, one of the main competitors in the automotive industry. He wanted him to either fail in the pursuit of building the tallest skyscraper or becoming bankrupt if he made it. With 1,046 ft height the Chrysler was to be tallest than the Empire State Building when it would be finished, however in the year that took the ESB to be finished the design was subsequently changed measuring 1,454 ft when it was finally finished in 1931, taking the title of tallest building from the Chrysler just a year later.
Just to close the post…
Last 23rd March the three Toastmasters clubs in Madrid organized a gathering at Hard Rock Cafe. The event was a great success with over 40 people attending it. John organized it including 3 prepared speeches, a book review, some table topics and an improvised theatre!
I gave a speech which I had created over a year before. That was my 9th speech in the way to obtaining the Competent Communicator award of Toastmasters. The objective: “Persuade with Power”.
I first gave this speech titled “Angels” on the 4th of February in 2009. Then I used it again for the Area spring contest and again in the Division conference in Lisbon that same year.
With some slight modifications I gave it again in the gathering. This is its script and more or less what I said…
“Do you believe in angels? I do. I do believe in angels. What if I tell you that I am an angel? Wouldn’t you be curious? Wouldn’t you like to hear about it? You will.
I believe in what are called “business angels”.
I guess that most of you have heard the term “business angel” at some point. For those of you who haven’t: business angels are investors who invest part of their money in small and medium start-up companies, helping entrepreneurs to set up their businesses.
In this speech I want to persuade you to become business angels. You may tell me “Javier, I don’t have a spare million to invest in companies”; neither do I.
Do you think that to be an angel… to help someone to start-up with their business, a lot of money is needed?
Microcredits are small loans given to the poor, to those entrepreneurs who lack collaterals and a credit history; this makes them not eligible for the traditional credit given by banks. We are talking about someone in Vietnam who runs a grocery shop or about Mariano Choque who makes handicraft in Peru and whom I met last summer in a trip to Peru.
Microcredits are generally considered to have originated with the Grameen Bank created by Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh more than 30 years ago. It all started as a research project to examine the possibility of designing a credit delivery system to provide banking services targeted to the rural poor. For this contribution, Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
Ok, this is the theory. Now, I told you I was an angel; do you think I am part of that Grameen Bank in Bangladesh? No, I’m not.
Today the internet has facilitated very much the process. Kiva.org is a US non-profit organization which links those poor entrepreneurs, in developing countries, with us, here in Europe.
Kiva presents us with a list of individuals who are requesting an amount to start or improve their business. There you choose in which project you want to invest and how much do you want to invest. Kiva was started in 2005, and now counts with over 600,000 users who have given credits worth over 120M$ to over 320.000 entrepreneurs.
What it’s more… think of this for a moment: we are talking about credits and not donations; this means that you will get the money back! Say you invested 100$; when you get them back what would you do with them? You can lend them again! Imagine how many people you can help with those same 100$. Isn’t it wonderful?
Let’s see possible concerns you may have:
As I said at the beginning, I believe in angels. I am an angel. And what is more important: each of one you here can give a loan that can change a life… each of you can become an angel.”
I had already visited Rio de Janeiro in 2000. That time something went completely unnoticed to me: the stairs made by Selarón in Lapa neighbourhood. This piece of art started with the Chilean artist renovating the stairs in the street that run in front of his house 20 years ago. First he used tiles with the colours of the flag of Brazil. The stairs are still unfinished and according to the artist they will only be finished the day of his death.
The stairs have something that I really found special and addictive: the artist is currently using tiles from different parts of the world, depicting:
Trust me: once you start you can’t stop searching for the next tile, trying to frame it with the ones around, wondering whether the artist placed it there intentionally for some reason or not (is it casual that “Don’t mess with Texas” is close to “Afghanistan” or that “Lyon” is above “Real Madrid”…?), checking whether you have seen those places, monuments, cities… as I said above: it’s addictive!
Moreover, YOU can take part in the making of the craft. As explained in some tiles, you may send him by post an old tile from your city and he may place it in the stairs… your contribution may be immortalized in Rio de Janeiro! The artist promises to send you a picture of the tile once it’s placed in the stairs.
See the pictures of the artist coming to work and with Luca and me… doesn’t he remind you to another genius, Salvador Dalí?
Next time you happen to be in Rio, don’t miss it.
Enjoy the pictures:
Just back from a two-week trip to Brazil, I’ll start with the first one of a series of posts. This one is about the last church we visited in Brazil: Igreja de Nosso Senhor do Bonfim (Our Lord of the Good End). This is the most famous church in Salvador de Bahia, therefore if you are interested in getting to know about its architecture, etc., you may check it on the Wikipedia.
When you approach the church the first thing that catches your attention are the thousands of little ribbons (fitas) of multitude colours attached to the entrance. Beforehand you have been offered those ribbons everywhere around the city. Prayers come to Bonfim and together with their prayer they take one of the little ribbons, and attach it to themselves (or the entrance, the benches or the candles in the church…) making three knots. Supposedly they are granted one wish for each of the knots, and they shall not remove the ribbon until the wishes come true.
We all have seen youngsters wearing this kind of ribbons with the same wish-that-comes-true bond. Nevertheless, I find it curious that it is connected to the church. But on the other hand, two other examples that I found years ago come to my mind.
The first one is from a visit to Estonia in 2003. In the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, in Tallinn, the church also provided people with a piece of paper where to write their wishes to later deposit the paper in a box (after due payment, of course). I may still have somewhere at home one of those papers… obviously having taken the paper with me nothing was wished so nothing could be proved about the effectiveness Alexander Nevsky. I accept a scientific reprimand.
The other example is from Japan. There, close to Shinto shrines we can find Ema, or small wooden plaques where wishes are written upon and which are left hanging from special places destined to them. Again, you see thousands of them sometimes. I felt more scientifically obliged in 2008, so I used my chance to ask for only one wish; nothing personal, nothing related to love or richness (something that the genius of the lamp surely would have approved): I wished for Real Madrid to win the 2008/2009 Champion’s League… did I succeed? Well, that season Barcelona won the League, the Spanish Cup, Champion’s League, Spanish Super Cup, European Super Cup, and Club’s World Cup… not very effective.
The idea of asking for that wish started out as an exercise to prove the existence of God and at the same time checking to which confession He felt closer… but that is to be explained in another post.
Going back to our business of today: Every superstitious person will argue that my wish in Japan didn’t come true solely because of making it public before it happened, but that is what all Japanese do! Once bitten, twice shy: this time I have been more cautious. I took my fita do Bonfim and attached it to the entrance iron wall and will keep silence about those wishes until they come true. Will they?
Well, I have a basis to think they will. Take a look at the pictures of the Room of the Miracles below. This is a room within the church where people who have seen their prayers’ effect leave a picture of themselves with a thank you note, a poem, an explanation of the miracle that occurred to them… and even wax or wooden replicas of different parts of the human body that were healed by Senhor do Bonfim… (this view is bizarre to say the least).
Last year Luca and I went to Peru on holidays. One of the places we visited was the Amazon basin, where we stayed some days in the rainforest in a ecotourism lodge (Posada Amazonas) close to the river Tambopata.
There we spent two days walking around the jungle, watching different species of animals and plants, going out in the middle of the storm, sleeping in the open air… everything in a place without electricity, hot water, internet and some other Western amenities, 3 hours by boat away from Puerto Maldonado the nearest city.
We really liked that experience and we look forward to repeat it.
In this post I mainly wanted to share some pictures of two quite different activities we did there. Fishing for piranhas and navigating down the river “caimaneando” or silently looking for caimans…