Marathon Sevilla 2017

On Sunday February 19th, together with my brother Jaime, I took part again in the marathon of Seville. This was the second time that I was in the departure line of that race, after a failed attempt in 2015 when I fell sick the day before the race (see a related post here). Ever since, I had the idea of coming back to get that one done.

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Picking the running bibs on the Friday before the race.

Early November 2016, right after the good finishing experience at the marathon in Dublin, I decided to rest for only 3 days and continue with a good training schedule, trying to get a shape to target a new personal best (PB) time at the marathon in Seville.

Mileage_Sevilla_2017

During the 16 weeks previous to the race (the standard training plan that I follow to prepare marathons since 2013 (1)), I completed:

  • 724 km of running, which is the second highest training volume I had done ever for a marathon (behind the 780 km I did prior to Athens marathon),
  • 21 series / intervals training sessions, out of the 28 included in the plan, a 75% (the second highest completion only behind the 25 sessions I did for Athens marathon). Most of those sessions (18) were completed at the best or second best pace I ever managed in those particular training sessions. Thus, I was going relatively fast.
  • however, I did not complete any long run of 3 hours. I did complete some of 2h30′, once in a split training session going up to 30 km, but that was not up to what is required by the plan. In previous seasons, I had completed more and longer long runs. This was the weakest point of my training this time towards achieving a PB.

Another good thing of the training season is that sharing the progress of it with my brother Jaime, I managed to convince him to join me in running the marathon, which he did, even if the difference in training volume made us decide that we would run on our own during the race itself. See a post with his experience in his blog here.

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Before the race at the stadium.

The circuit of the marathon was the same than in 2015. It started from the stadium at La Cartuja, it then went to Triana and Los Remedios, crossed the river and went the bulk of it around the historic centre of the city, passing by Parque Maria Luisa, Plaza de España, the Cathedral, La Alameda, etc., from km. 33 to 38.

Recorrido_2017

The race strategy was rather clear: I would try to run from the beginning at a pace slightly below 5 minutes per kilometre in order to finish below 3h30′. There was a pacer for that time, but I feared that I wouldn’t be able to make contact with him at the departure, as it had been the case in 2015 and was the case this year.

I felt rather well from the beginning, thus, if anything I had to pace myself a bit slower. It was a cloudy and fresh day, conditions which I prefer for long races. However, being a bit cold obliged me to make a technical stop after the 15th km to go to the restroom. There, I lost almost 2 minutes, and passed from being about 40-50 seconds below the target pace to being about 1’20” above. I ran the numbers in my head, stayed cool and decided not to rush but to recover those seconds slowly. I thus continued with the target pace well enough until km. 27.

0006 (2)I then felt that it was becoming difficult to keep below 5 min per km. I opted for relaxing the pace just a few seconds for a couple of kilometres to see how the body was responding. From km 27 to 33 I was then shifting from 5 to about 5’05”-15″. Since I was not recovering the 2 minutes lost at km 15, I then considered shifting from plan A (below 3h30′) to plan B, a new PB (running below 3h34’50”).

A few minutes later, running at Avenida de la Palmera, I felt a bit stiffer, and saw that I would need to soften a bit more the pace, towards 5’30” per km and slower. I then ran the numbers again and forgot about plan B and thought of a plan C, i.e., achieving a new second best time in the distance: anything better than the 3h42’25” clocked in Dublin. I saw that this plan C would be quite doable as I had at that point a buffer of about 7-8 minutes to be consumed in the following 9 kilometres, so I let myself go.

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My running during the last 3-4 kilometres was a disaster. Alternating some stretches of walking with sprinting, for average paces between 5’40” and 6’05”. At every kilometre that my watch was marking I ran the numbers again and saw that I would just make it, that new second best time, so I kept being relaxed. In the end I finished in 3h41’39”, about 40 seconds better than my previous 2nd best.

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Last sprint.

In the table below you can see a comparison of partial times of some of the last marathons I ran in the last years.

Marathon_comparison

You can see how in Seville I started rather fast, and was able to keep that pace until km 25. At the 30th I was slower than in Rotterdam, if only due to the stop at the km 15. If in Dublin I managed a comfortable negative split by running a slow first half, this time the pacing was the contrary: I ended with a much worse feeling even if clocking a slightly better time. But I had to try it, to see if a achieved a new PB. I have no regrets with having started fast and not having been able to keep the pace. I will keep trying it whenever I have completed a moderately good training plan and the race is rather flat and fast.

With the 3h41’39”, I finished in the 4,475th place, that is about the upper 44% of the 10,144 finishers. See the diploma from the race below.

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I then waited for my brother Jaime to see him finishing and enjoy together the feeling of accomplishment. Two years before I had to quit. This time, both of us were meeting at the finish line.

This was my 16th marathon completed. Possibly not the last one.

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(1) I have been using this plan to prepare for 9 marathons already. As all training sessions are recorded and loaded into an online tool of Garmin, this allows the comparison of the volume between different training seasons, or the comparison of specific training sessions in a given day / week from training periods for different marathons.

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Flight excursion to Malause’s phare aéronautique

Last Sunday, yet again, we took one of the aeroclub’s DR-400 airplanes to make another family flight excursion.

On the occasion of the previous excursion, last week, I introduced the phares aéronautiques, i.e., aeronautic lighthouses that were set up in 1920s to allow night flight navigation for l’Aéropostale courriers. Last week we spotted a couple of them to the South East of Toulouse. This time, we wanted to spot a couple of them to the North West of Toulouse, on the way to Bordeaux, in the villages of Canals and Malause.

Last week, we prepared quite well the spotting, checking in Google maps different views of what we would try to see from the airplane so that we could easily recognise them. This time, we prepared less, just marking a cross in the map with the approximate location of the phares and hoping that we would identify the lighthouses on the ground.

Well, the task proved as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack. We missed the phare of Canals in the first leg. We then continued over flying the Canal Lateral up to the water slop of Montech (1).

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The navigation of this flight was rather simple, as once over the Canal Lateral we kept flying over it northward up to the Pont-Canal to the East of Moissac (2).

Moissac

We then flew along the river Tarn until it flows into the Garonne and then the Garonne until Malause. We then knew that the phare would be to the North of the river, the canal, the railway and a secondary road. See it below.

Malause_1

If you haven’t been able to spot it, it’s OK. You’re not the only one. We didn’t spot it at first sight. We flew in circle to have a second chance. I reduced the speed from 190 km/h to 150 km/h, to see if at a slower speed we would see it better.

Malause_2

Saw it already? Not yet? Don’t worry, I didn’t either. But you see, I was at the controls, at the left side of the cockpit. But you… you have here a frozen picture, you’ve got no excuse not to see it. In fact, you’ve got the picture because Luca is starting to be a hell of a spotter.

Malause_3

Once at home, I researched a little bit and found this local website about the phare (in French), with a couple of pictures, some data, history of these phares and a nice chart from 1932. It explains that the lighthouses started to be built in 1923 and that by 1932 there were 140 of them across France. This one at Malause was operated by the family Jolly until 1948/1949.

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On the way back to the aerodrome of Toulouse-Lasbordes we passed by Moissac and Montech again and failed to spot the lighthouse of Canals again. Next time.

Montech_2

Finally, see below the navigation chart with the route followed marked on it. The total engine running time of the excursion: 1h15′.

Mapa

(1) See here a post in which I described the concept of the water slope and a post about another flight excursion in which we took some more pictures of it.

(2) See a post about another flight excursion in which we took some more pictures of it.

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Flight excursion to Montferrand’s phare aeronautique and the Pyrenees

Last Sunday, we took one of the aeroclub’s DR-400 airplanes to make another family flight excursion.

This time the purpose of the flight was twofold: (1) we wanted to spot a couple of phares aéronautiques, i.e., aeronautic lighthouses that were set up in 1920s to allow night flight navigation for l’Aéropostale courriers, close to Toulouse, and (2) we wanted to take benefit from a sunny day around Occitanie to make a tour around the snow-covered Pyrenees, something we already did about a year ago when we completed the route of the Cathar castles (see here a post about it).

See below the quick reference paper navigation log prepared for the flight.

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A few months ago, a friend of Luca, Tijmen, tipped us on the existence of these aeronautic lighthouses. See in this website a map with the precise location all of them had, including those still standing.

Map_phares

We succesfully spotted the 2 phares closest to the East of Toulouse-Lasbordes aerodrome, located in Montferrand (just to the East of the wind turbines by the A61) and Bazièges (just to the North of the silos marking the waypoint SB). See a picture of the first one below (2 houses to the left of the wing blue tip).

Wind turbines

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Once we had spotted the phare in Montferrand, we took to the South to start the climb to above 10,000 ft in order to fly over the Pyrenees.

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Approaching the Pyrenees, we flew over the old castle of Montsegur, which we had already seen before when we flew over the Cathar castles. See below a couple of pictures, in context and in detail.

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Once up there, we just enjoyed some minutes of flying around, spotting skiing stations, seeing possible routes through the mountains towards Andorra and Spain, enjoying the breathtaking views, taking a few pictures…

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Selfie

Finally, see below the navigation chart with the route followed marked on it and the navigation log as used. The total engine running time of the excursion: 1h28′.

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Navigation_log_used

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San Silvestre 2016

solohayunaLast December 31st again, we bid our farewell to the year 2016 by running with friends the San Silvestre Vallecana. This is a tradition that is spreading throughout several cities and villages and that seems to be the origin of last year’s race’s motto: “Vallecana solo hay una” (from Vallecas there is only one).

Between injuries, illnesses, holidays away, etc., of the members that have been part of our group in the past, this year has been among the ones in which the group was less packed; we ran 4 of us together: Jaime, Nacho, Pablo (who became father of his second child just a few weeks before!) and me. In addition, we saw Juan at the departure (though he ran with other two colleagues) and we failed to meet Manuel.

As in 2012, when Nacho could not run, the fact that Sara could not join us running meant that she could came to the departure to take a few pictures (thanks!), much better than the ones we normally take with our mobile phones… see below.

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This year I subscribed again, after more than a decade of not doing so. And as usual, we ran from behind the pack and did not put a special effort in running at a moderate pace, thus we ended up the jog in 1h09’07”. See here the official time plus my Garmin recording.

This was the 18th San Silvestre in a row for Jaime, a remarkable achievement. I do not follow the count for Nacho or Pablo, but they both must have run between 8-10. From my side, this was the 16th one, after I ran it in 1998 for the first time.

On top of that, Nacho and I ran with a GoPro camera in order to film different scenes from the race. See below the video compiled by Nacho.

It was a pleasure to run through the centre of Madrid with friends again.

finish

Note: see the difference of this last selfie at the end with the pictures at the beginning…

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Reading language and format (2016 update)

About a year ago, I wrote a couple of blog posts where I reflected on the mix of languages I used when reading books between English, French and Spanish and about the format of the books I read, whether electronic or paper books. After having shared last week my 2016 reading list, this is just a short post to update the two tables I included in those posts:

Reading language

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From 2010 to 2015 I read mostly in English. This is something I changed in the second half of 2015 and in this 2016 I have continued with a more balanced approach, with 42% of the books I read being in English, 33% in Spanish and 24% in French. I believe I will continue with a similar approach in this 2017.

Reading format

reading_format_2016

In 2016 I have continued with the same ratio of electronic to paper books than in the previous years. As I read more books in 2016 than in any other previous year, I have also read more electronic books, hopefully this will lead to the amortization of the e-reader I have in this year or the next (I estimated here its amortization in about 20 e-books read with it, the first batch of 10 already completed).

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Summary of (my) 2016

Brief recap of my 2016. (1)

In the last year recap I mentioned about the coming 2016 that it would “include the welcoming of the baby, an early trip to Brazil, lots of flying and running, Dutch lessons, some books to read, museums to see, trips to enjoy…“, it is now the time to see how did it go:

The main event of the year: On April 3rd, our second child, David, was born!

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Having said that: the personal objectives for 2016 have been mostly accomplished. Now, let’s review the year in more detail.

Reading. I ended 2015 with a good reading pace of about 2 books per month, which I more or less have kept or revamped during 2016. This has permitted me to read up to 33 books, including some classics which I had wanted to read for ages such as Don Quixote or “The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money” by Keynes. For the complete list of books, see a post I wrote about my 2016 reading list with a brief description of each book plus links to more thorough summaries which I wrote in the blog for some of them.

Avgeek. This year we visited again the Ailes Anciennes in Toulouse for one of their Visites Cockpit, we visited again the Cite de l’Espace in Toulouse (for Airbus Christmas event),  we took part again in the aeroclub Christmas event, I read a few aviation books (see a link to the complete list above) and we attended the great air show at La Ferté Alais, where I got my baptism aboard a Junkers Ju-52. On top of that I spent weeks folding paper planes, take a look at them here.

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Flying. After obtaining the licence at the end of 2015, in this 2016 I passed the exam to obtain the FCL055 English proficiency for radio communications. I fulfilled my objective of flying over 20  flight hours (+22), including 22 take-offs and landings, and we made a few flight excursions (see the new section about them in the blog here), notably my first cross border flight with Asier to San Sebastian.

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If I recall it well, this year  a few friends and family members had their baptism regarding flying with me at the controls: David, Elena and Nacho. I am sure that in 2017 that will be the case with some more friends. See below the nice video that Nacho compiled of our flight last October (see his blog post about that experience here).

Learning. This year, I took Dutch lessons at the Goethe institute during the first quarter (a gift from Luca) which I interrupted with the birth of David. I have recently engaged in an open online MOOC specialization on Data Science from the Johns Hopkins University in Coursera, of which so far I have completed a single course out of the 10 which form the complete the specialization. As part of Airbus-internal training I completed over 10 class and online training (the best one being on aircraft performance and how they are flight tested).

Family 2.0. Family life and intensive reading during this year are the main causes of having managed to just write 61 blog posts in 2016, 9 posts short of my personal minimum target of 70 posts. Hopefully, I will be a bit more productive on this front in 2017.

The blog received just over 44,000 visits in 2016 (less than in 2015 though) and is close to reaching the 300,000 since I started it in 2010. Andrea still hasn’t yet started her own blog, David neither. Give them a bit more of time.

Travelling. This year we, the family together, or I alone, visited Madrid, Brazil (Sao Paulo, Pantanal, Santos), Castro Urdiales, Burgos, Miranda de Ebro, Trevino, Segur Le Chateau, Paris, Fontainebleu, Bassoues, Lupiac, Cazaux, Fuenterrabia, Denmark (Odense, Legoland, Kronborg, Copenhagen), MallorcaIreland (Dublin, Glendalough, Kilkenny, Cashel, Limerick, Moher, Galway, Connemara, Bru na Boinne). On the other hand, this year I almost didn’t have to travel due to the job: just a single trip to Madrid.

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It seems that we will start strong in 2017 on the travelling front, that is always good news.

Sports – Running. For yet another year, practicing sports has meant running, apart from a day in which I went skiing and another of playing volley and some swimming during our stay in Mallorca.

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In 2016 I have run well over 2,100 kilometres, which was a goal I set to myself at the beginning of the year (setting a new yearly record surpassing the 2,030 km achieved in 2015). I competed in some 10 races (versus 11 in 2015) including: 2 marathons (Albi and Dublin (where I managed a second best time in the distance)), a couple of half marathons (Blagnac and Toulouse ), a couple of trails (Ronde des Foies Gras and Trail du Cassoulet) and some other 10k races.

Following a mantra I keep to letter, “the running shoes, always in the suitcase”, the year 2016 caught me running in: Pantanal (3 times), Sao Paulo (3), Castro Urdiales (2), Burgos (2), Lacs de l’Essonne, Paris, Montesquiou, Torrelodones (7), Copenhagen, Mallorca (4), Verfeil, Mauvezin, Glendalough, Cashel, Galway, Dublin, Madrid (2), Beauzelle, plus the tens of times I trained in Toulouse, Colomiers and Blagnac.

2016_weekly_mileage

 

Other reasons for joy in 2016 have been:

  • My family: Andrea and I visited my sister in Denmark in August in what was our first daughter & daddy trip together(see related picture above). My sister got accepted to an internship at NATO in Norfolk (USA) which she will start in 2017.  My brother keeps enjoying the high pace job at the last stages of A400M deliveries (we will visit him again there in Seville in a couple of months). My father started attending the university again, 50 years later, to enjoy history lessons. My mother keeps being as energetic as always doing massages, visiting the family, travelling, reading, etc.
  • Some more friends got married: Carlos, Virginia, Jon and Domingo.
  • And we welcome some newborns from family and friends:  Saúl (in fact, his was a last-minute arrival in 2015), Maria, Toni, Pablo, Jimena, Niels, Diego, Alejandro, Hernán, Lara, Vera

Now it’s time to rest, celebrate and soon to plan how we want the 2017 to turn out. It will include the first flight of the A330neo, the first all-family skiing week in the Alps, a new attempt at the marathon in Seville, a family trip to Argentina, lots of flying and running, R programming lessons, some books to read, museums to see, trips and excursions to enjoy… For now, I will close 2016 celebrating my sister’s birthday (in the distance), running the San Silvestre Vallecana in Madrid with several friends and enjoying a last dinner with the family.

I wish you the best for 2017, enjoy it!

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(1) You can see here my 20102011, 2012 , 2013 , 2014  and 2015 recaps.

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My 2016 reading list

In this post I wanted to share the list of books I read along the year (1) with a small comment for each one and links to some articles in this blog where I wrote a book review for a few of them. I have also included a small rating from one to three “+” depending on how much do I recommend its reading:

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  1. Reales Ordenanzas” (by Carlos III, King of Spain 1759-1788) (+): these are the set of rules for the Spanish Armed Forces issued in 1768 under the rule of the king Carlos III and which were kept in use until 1978. They are structured in titles and articles, quite like a legal text. Some of the main values conveyed through the rules are respect for the orders received and education in the dealings with subordinates. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  2. Cronica de una muerte anunciada” (by Gabriel Garcia Marquez) (+++): in this book Garcia Marquez explores a mix of styles between journalism and crime fiction to cover the plot of the murder of Santiago Nasar, and how despite being widely announced, as the time of the death approaches it cannot be prevented by the people who try to do so. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  3. The Capital in the XXI century” (by Thomas Piketty) (+++): arguably the economics book of 2013, it is a review of the evolution and distribution of wealth and income from the XVIII century till today mainly in Europe and the United States. It discusses how in times of small growth the rate of return of capital becomes the main source of wealth increase and how that contributes to the increasing and maintaining of inequality. A follow-on conclusion is his call for a global tax on wealth.
  4. Common Sense” (by Thomas Paine) (+): published in 1776, it is one of the best selling books in America of all time. The book is a short treatise on the government, democracy, monarchy and a call for the freedom of independence of the American colonies from England.
  5. Pilote de guerre” (by Antoine de Saint-Exupery) (++): published in 1942 while he was living in New York, this book describes Saint-Exupery’s experiences during the battle of France (1940) when he flew aboard a Bloch MB.170 reconnaissance missions over Germany. The English version of the book was published under the title “Flight to Arras”.
  6. Club Dumas” (by Arturo Perez-Reverte) (+++): this novel is centered on Lucas Corso, a fictional book dealer specialized in finding collectors items. Corso is commissioned to find copies of a book and that will take him to travel between Spain, Portugal and France living situations that resemble very much to those of The Three Musketeers, the novel by Alexandre Dumas. The book in itself is an invitation to read other books and to cultivate a passion for reading.
  7. Gray Mountain” (by John Grisham) (+++): published in the fall of 2014, this legal thriller by Grisham tells the story of the lawyer Samantha Koffer, on leave from a big law firm in NY due to the Great Recession, she joins the practice of a small firm in Virginian Appalachia region where she will defend the victims of big coal mining corporations.
  8. quijoteEl ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha” (by Miguel de Cervantes) (+++): Cervantes published the two books that have become the masterpieces of literature in Spanish language between 1605 and 1615, since then, they have become two of the most sold and read books. They cover the stories and encounters of the hidalgo (knight) Don Quixote with Sancho Panza as his helper. Those adventures are used by Cervantes to reflect by way of the characters on different aspects of life, pose rhetorical questions, criticize institutions, etc. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  9. El sol de Breda” (by Arturo Perez-Reverte) (++): this book is the third one of the series of the fictional Captain Alatriste. In this book, the story is framed around the siege of Breda (1625). The book covers extensively the detail of life at the trenches, the feelings of some of the characters and how they face the uncertainty of the war. He also reflects on the Spanish history and some features that he sees as part of the national character. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  10. Terre des hommes” (by Antoine de Saint-Exupery) (+++): this is a compilation book of some memories of the aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry of his time at the airmail carrier l’Aéropostale.The book was published in 1939, two years later he received the US National Book Award for it. In the book, Saint-Exupéry pays tribute to some of his colleagues, mainly Henri Guillaumet and Jean Mermoz, and he shares some experiences which today seem unbelievable. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  11. La falsa bonanza” (by Miguel Sebastian) (+++): Miguel Sebastian is an economist who served in the cabinet of Spanish prime minister as economic adviser and as minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism from 2008 to 2011. Those were the years following the financial crash and in which the bubble who had been going on for years in Spain finally exploded. In this book, Sebastian intends to find the causes that fuelled that bubble, the policies that helped it, the actions that were not taken, the institutions that failed at stopping it, etc., with the aim of being better equipped to avoid a similar development in the future. The book is written in a very readable fashion, provides plenty of tables, graphics and references, and at the same time is very synthetic.
  12. Le Tour du monde en 80 jours” (by Jules Verne) (++): Willeas Fog, a character about whom not much is known, bets with his colleagues of the Reform club in London that he is able to travel around the world in 80 days, and so he does embark himself in such endeavor with his assistant, Passpartout. A the same time, there is an ongoing investigation of a robbery of the Bank of England which makes a police investigator, Fix, to follow Fog all along the trip (as he is a suspect), waiting for an authorization coming from England to arrest him before he evades justice. The reader is conflicted by the suspicion laid upon Fog, as all the acts of the character in the story describe an orderly, integer, compassionate person, even if not much is known about him, his profession, origins or his past. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  13. Les Parisiens comme ils sont” (by Honoré de Balzac) (+): I approached this book, part of the large series “La Comédie humaine“, as a first encounter with the work of Balzac in advance to a trip to Paris. The style of Balzac in this book is very readable, light, direct. I would even say opinionated. I did not particularly like the book very much, especially the chapters referring to how women should behave, dress, and the comparisons between women of Paris and the provinces. It may reflect a view of his time and class, but did not resonate with me today.
  14. keynesThe General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money” (by John Maynard Keynes) (+++): this book, published in 1936, is considered the magnum opus of Keynes, a character whose contribution to the development of economics and politics cannot be overstated. The book pointed to some of the shortcomings of the classical theory (lack of competition) and introduced some key concepts such as the propensity to consume, the multiplier, the consumption function, the marginal efficiency of capital, etc. The book was not intended for the general public and I must say that it has been one of the most difficult reads I have encountered so far. Nevertheless, I consider it a must read for those having an interest in economy. I may write a dedicated post reviewing it at a later point in time.
  15. El Junkers Ju-52/3m CASA C-352” (by Luis Gonzalez Pavon) (+++): this is a book written by a colleague from CASA (the former name of the Spanish part of Airbus) where he dives in great detail into the history of the aircraft Junkers 52, from the origins of his designers to its production in Germany and under license in Spain. He collected plenty of information on the aircraft from different sources, serial number by serial number, recording the changes of tail numbers, registry numbers, the roles played by each and every aircraft, and in particular the crucial mission they played during the first stages of the Spanish Civil War on the Nationalist side. The book includes at the end charts, drawings and tables with the technical data of the aircraft.
  16. What I talk about when I talk about running” (by Haruki Murakami) (++): Murakami is a quite accomplished runner since the beginning of the 1980s. In this book, published in 2007, he described what running means and has meant to him. Personally, it was very easy to relate to him, sharing not only his passion for running, but a bunch of experiences, from having run marathons in New York or Athens, to having completed a 100km ultra marathon, to 6am morning runs. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  17. Man’s search for meaning” (by Viktor E. Frankl) (++): Frankl was a psychiatrist who developed a therapy called logotherapy based on the will for meaning. He later became prisoner at several concentration camps during the second world war, which he survived. He described in this book the experiences he and some of his fellow prisoners endured during those years and how that will helped them to survive. That accounts for about two thirds of the book; the remaining third is dedicated to further explanations and clarifications of his therapy.
  18. Poema del Cid” (anonymous, Pedro Abad) (+++): this is oldest epic poem of Spanish literature, which tells the history of the Castilian knight Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, better known as Cid Campeador. The story goes from the loss by the Cid of the favor of the king Alfonso VI to his leaving of Castile, his continued profession of allegiance to the king, the fights and the conquest Valencia (where he settles), the coming closer againt to the king via the marriage of his daughters with Castilian noblemen and the following vengeance against his sons-in-law.
  19. Voyage au centre de la Terre” (by Jules Verne) (+): this is a science fiction novel centered around the figure of the fictional professor Otto Lidenbrock who has studied the works of the 16th-century Icelandic Arne Saknussemm and believes that getting into the Snæfellsjökull volcano he will be able to reach the centre of the earth. He is accompanied in his trip by a local guide and his nephew, with whom he discusses the scientific implications of such a trip and the features of the landscape they encounter as they travel downwards.
  20. Exploradores: La historia del yacimiento de Atapuerca” (by José María Bermúdez de Castro) (++): this book is a very informative and fascinating trip into archeological science, the different theories within it, the evolution and the discarding of some of those, the relevant place of the archeological site of Atapuerca in the recent developments in the science, etc.; all described by José María Bermúdez de Castro, one of the co-directors of the site since over 20 years ago and one of the persons who have seen all those developments first-hand, coined some of the theories and wrote the papers.
  21. hamletHamlet, Prince of Denmark” (by William Shakespeare) (+++): one of the best known plays by Shakespeare, the plot can be summarized (without spoiling it) as follows: Hamlet’s father, the previous king, has recently died and Hamlet is profoundly affected by his death. A ghost of his father appears to him and this sets Hamlet into the search of who has killed his father. The play takes place at the Kronborg castle, in Helsingør (Denmark), which we visited in August, take a look at the post about that visit here.
  22. American Capitalism, the concept of countervailing power” (by John K. Galbraith) (++): the American economist explains in this book, published in 1952, the concept of countervailing power, necessary to balance in favor of the weaker part situations in which imperfect competition is established, creating oligopolies or monopolies which otherwise would enjoy an extremely powerful hand against individual wage owners or small (farm) producers. The book is a critique to the classical theory, in that it shows that it assumes perfect competition, a kind of competition which in real life very often it is absent.
  23. Dubliners” (by James Joyce) (+): I came to reading this book ahead of a trip to Ireland and Dublin without knowing about it. The book, published in 1914, is a collection of short unconnected stories of the everyday life of common Dubliners. The book has some importance in the frame of the then-high momentum of Irish nationalism, but I particularly did not like it very much. However, apparently some of the characters and stories appear again and are continued in Ulysses, thus the groundwork of having read it may pay off at a later time.
  24. Yeager” (by General Chuck Yeager & Leo Janos) (+++): Chuck Yeager was the US Air Force flight test pilot that broke the sound barrier for the first time on October 14, 1947, flying on board of the rocket-propelled Bell X-1. Reading his autobiography you discover that he went from being an uneducated child in rural West Virginia to retiring as a general of the US Air Force, acquainted with several US presidents and other dignitaries, he was the first pilot to become ace in a single day by shooting down 5 German fighters at World War II. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  25. goriotLe Père Goriot” (by Honoré de Balzac) (+): this book, published in 1835 and part of the large series “La Comédie humaine“, is considered to be the most important novel of Balzac. The story is centered around some characters who live in the boarding house of Mme. Vauquer, mainly the young Eugène de Rastignac, who is coming from a rural background and trying to reach the upper levels of Parisian society (initially at the cost of his family), and father Goriot, who had spent all his fortune on his daughters in order to marry them to wealthy individuals. Their lives are intertwined in a quite sad plot in which the daughters ignore the father when he is dying and Eugène befriends them and unsuccessfully tries to get them closer to the father.
  26. Candide, ou l’Optimisme” (by Voltaire) (+): this book, published in 1759 by the French philosopher François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire), follows Candide from the time when he is expelled by his uncle when he declares his love to his cousin Cunégonde. The story then takes Candide through Spain, Lisbon, South America, the Ottoman empire, etc., in a sequence of events in which Candide is confronted by situations and characters that put to the test his innate optimism.
  27. Metamorphosis” (by Franz Kafka) (++): this fiction novel, published in 1925, starts with the transformation of the salesman Gregor Samsa into a large vermin (insect-like creature). As the story goes, Gregor gets to learn how to live in his new condition and so does his family, which initially is profoundly impacted. The state of denial of the parents, the disgusting sight and smell of the creature, added to the discomfort of the new situation take a toll in the mood and relationships within the family.
  28. Romeo and Julliet” (by William Shakespeare) (+++): this play, published in 1597, tells the story of the love of two youngsters from rival families of Verona (Italy). This rivalry causes that both Romeo and Julliet have to hide their love and engage in secret with a priest of their confidence, while the family of Julliet wants her to marry a local nobleman, Paris. The bad timing of different events, miscommunications and bad chance steer the story into a fateful ending.
  29. Rogue Lawyer” (by John Grisham) (+++): published in the fall of 2015, this legal thriller by Grisham tells the story of Sebastian Rudd, a lawyer which does not hesitate to take the cases that nobody wants to take, providing a defense to people convicted for the worst kind of crimes. Working in the dark side of the legal system puts him in the situation to negotiate obscure arrangements with the federal institutions.
  30. The Importance of Being Earnest” (by Oscar Wilde) (+++): The play, a critical satire of some of Victorian England social institutions and values (in particular marriage, literary press, religion, honesty, punctuality), is centered around two friends, Algernon and Jack (John Worthing), who go about from criticizing each other’s habits, to sharing each other’s faked relatives, to proposing to each other’s cousin and ward. After drawing several parallels between the two characters and their fiancées, and going about several absurd situations, the play unravels in the most unexpected way. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  31. The picture of Dorian Gray” (by Oscar Wilde) (++): this book, published in 1890, created a great controversy at the time due to the backwards morals and social conventions of the time. The use of the language and the style of the novel are impressive. The story itself is centered around Dorian Gray, how he is influenced by Lord Henry and his focus on beauty and pleasure, and the painter Basil, who captured in a portrait of Dorian his essence, to the point that Dorian’s life will be very much influenced and even dominated by his relationship with the painting.
  32. mosqueterosLes Trois Mousquetaires” (by Alexandre Dumas) (+++): published in 1844, this masterpiece of Dumas, recounts the story of d’Artagnan, a real character of the XVII century, even if many of the facts of his life are twisted or made up for the novel. The plot includes several real life characters of XVII century France and some of the events taking place during 1625-28 (such as the siege of La Rochelle, the death of the Duke of Buckingham, etc.), though the plot in itself and the explanation of the causes intertwining the events are fictional. The over 800 pages (of the edition I have) read in a frantic pace thanks to the easy style of Dumas and the parallel progress on the different sides to the story.
  33. Wait” (by Franck Parnoy) (++): in this book the author studies the decision making process in situations that range from super fast trading, to the milliseconds before bating a baseball, to the longer term decisions involved in innovation. From the different stories covered in the book the lesson to be taken is the need to take some pause, to wait, to observe, process the information and orient ourselves before taking action.

During this year and the last quarter of 2015, I have been able to read at a higher pace than during the previous ones. I would suggest the reader of this post, if interested in reading more, to check out the following two tips:

  • a blog post from Farnam Street blog “Just Twenty-Five Pages a Day“, which was published well after I had adopted such an approach to reading but captures it very well,
  • the Wikipedia article about the Pomodoro Technique, which enables you to efficiently use the last hours of the day.

I wish you all very interesting reads in 2017!

(1) You can find here: my 2012 reading list, 20132014 and 2015 ones.

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