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.

Nav_log_new

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.

Pyrenees_afar_1Pyrenees_afar_2

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.

Montesegur_1

Montesegur_2

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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Over_wing

Over_dashboard

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′.

Nav_chart

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

reading_language_2016

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!

collage_mallorca_2016

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.

Playing 1

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.

2016_flight_hours

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.

denmark

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:

books

  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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Belén laico republicano

El pasado 9 de noviembre se publicó una decisión del Consejo de Estado francés sobre la posibilidad de instalar belenes en lugares públicos. En muchos medios (sobre todo en aquellos radicados en España) rápidamente se recogía la noticia como que el Consejo de Estado sí lo permitía.

La opinión del Consejo de Estado había sido requerida, dado que la instalación de belenes en distintos municipios había sido objeto de denuncia, y los respectivos tribunales administrativos habían fallado en distinto sentido.

¿Qué dice exactamente la decisión del Consejo de Estado?

Le Conseil d’État rappelle la portée du principe de laïcité. Celui-ci crée des obligations pour les personnes publiques, en leur imposant notamment :

  • d’assurer la liberté de conscience et de garantir le libre exercice des cultes ;
  • de veiller à la neutralité des agents publics et des services publics à l’égard des cultes, en particulier en n’en reconnaissant, ni en n’en subventionnant aucun.

Le Conseil d’État juge que l’article 28 de la loi de 1905, qui met en œuvre le principe de neutralité, interdit l’installation, par des personnes publiques, de signes ou emblèmes qui manifestent la reconnaissance d’un culte ou marquent une préférence religieuse.

En raison de la pluralité de significations des crèches de Noël, qui présentent un caractère religieux mais sont aussi des éléments des décorations profanes installées pour les fêtes de fin d’année, le Conseil d’État juge que leur installation temporaire à l’initiative d’une personne publique, dans un emplacement public, est légale si elle présente un caractère culturel, artistique ou festif, mais non si elle exprime la reconnaissance d’un culte ou une préférence religieuse.

Pour déterminer si l’installation d’une crèche de Noël présente un caractère culturel, artistique ou festif, ou si elle exprime au contraire la reconnaissance d’un culte ou une préférence religieuse, le Conseil d’État juge qu’il convient de tenir compte du contexte dans lequel a lieu l’installation, des conditions particulières de cette installation, de l’existence ou de l’absence d’usages locaux et du lieu de cette installation.

Compte tenu de l’importance du lieu de l’installation, le Conseil d’État précise qu’il y a lieu de distinguer les bâtiments des autres emplacements publics :

  • dans les bâtiments publics, sièges d’une collectivité publique ou d’un service public, une crèche de Noël ne peut pas être installée, sauf si des circonstances particulières montrent que cette installation présente un caractère culturel, artistique ou festif ;
  • dans les autres emplacements publics, compte tenu du caractère festif des installations liées aux fêtes de fin d’année, l’installation d’une crèche de Noël est légale, sauf si elle constitue un acte de prosélytisme ou de revendication d’une opinion religieuse.

[…]

Si uno toma la molestia de leer la decisión, en ella se aclara, que:

  • los belenes con un carácter religioso quedan prohibidos,
  • se permiten aquellos que presenten sólamente un carácter cultural, artístico o festivo.

La decisión va más allá y ofrece una guía para distinguir los casos, dando especial relevancia al emplazamiento público donde se quiera instalar el belén:

  • la instalación en edificios públicos, o en sedes de colectividades queda prohibida, salvo circunstancias particulares que muestren el carácter cultural, artístico o festivo,
  • en otros lugares públicos, como plazas, se entiende el carácter festivo y queda permitida la instalación, salvo si se considera un acto de proselitismo o reivindicación de opinión religiosa.

La decisión del Consejo de Estado se apoya en el artículo 28 de la ley de 1905, que dice lo siguiente:

Article 28

Il est interdit, à l’avenir, d’élever ou d’apposer aucun signe ou emblème religieux sur les monuments publics ou en quelque emplacement public que ce soit, à l’exception des édifices servant au culte, des terrains de sépulture dans les cimetières, des monuments funéraires, ainsi que des musées ou expositions.

Por último, tenía curiosidad por ver cómo se menciona el laicismo en la constitución francesa, donde queda recogida en el artículo primero dentro del preámbulo:

ARTICLE PREMIER.

La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale. Elle assure l’égalité devant la loi de tous les citoyens sans distinction d’origine, de race ou de religion. Elle respecte toutes les croyances. Son organisation est décentralisée.

La loi favorise l’égal accès des femmes et des hommes aux mandats électoraux et fonctions électives, ainsi qu’aux responsabilités professionnelles et sociales.

Desde hace unos días, en la escuela (republicana) maternal a la que acude mi hija se ha instalado un árbol de navidad con su preceptivo “belén laico republicano”, con carácter cultural, artístico y festivo, donde se representa una ciudad moderna con un Santa Claus.

belenrepublicano

En el caso español, tenemos el artículo 16 del título primero de la constitución española que define que ninguna confesión tendrá carácter estatal.

Título I. De los derechos y deberes fundamentales

[…]

Artículo 16

  1. Se garantiza la libertad ideológica, religiosa y de culto de los individuos y las comunidades sin más limitación, en sus manifestaciones, que la necesaria para el mantenimiento del orden público protegido por la ley.
  2. Nadie podrá ser obligado a declarar sobre su ideología, religión o creencias.
  3. Ninguna confesión tendrá carácter estatal. Los poderes públicos tendrán en cuenta las creencias religiosas de la sociedad española y mantendrán las consiguientes relaciones de cooperación con la Iglesia Católica y las demás confesiones.

Y a partir de ahí, belenes en colegios, ayuntamientos, plazas, concursos patrocinados por ayuntamientos para elegir el mejor belén, insultos a quien se aleje de la doctrina, etc. Todo ello muy español.

¡Se armó el Belén!

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Why do bad things happen to good companies?

Last week, I attended a Finance conference were one of the speakers (a coach and keynote speaker by the name Martin Carper) delivered a talk titled “Why do bad things happen to good companies?” (1).

Martin opened the speech with the fall of the Medici bank collapse at the end of the XV century, followed by the more recent sound cases of  Enron scandal (fraud accounting), the BP oil spill (in the Gulf of Mexico), Volkswagen emissions scandal (rigged tests on diesel cars). Why all those companies which seemed so good found themselves immersed in such crises. Were they so good? Those companies were filled up with outstanding individuals, following well thought, proven processes, yet they found themselves caught in fire. As it turns out, those companies were not so good after the fact. Investigations revealed major frauds, wrong incentives schemes, bad attitudes.

The reason according to Martin: the key to keep being good is about mindset.

He proposed the audience a couple of quick exercises:

  • triangles“Rate yourself as driver in relation to the rest of the group”. Studies show that 80% of the individuals to whom this question is asked, rate themselves above average. The key: Illusionary superiority.
  • How many triangles do you see here?” “Does anyone see more than 4, 6… 8 triangles?

I was one of those in the audience seeing plenty of triangles. One new triangle after each couple of seconds. But there are none. “A triangle is a polygon with three edges and three vertices“. There are no three edges in any of those figures you may think you see.

This trick helped him to introduce what is commonly known as System 1 thinking, the kind of short-term memory, quick way of thinking, as opposed to System 2 thinking; the more rational way, responsible of the complex thought process used to solve difficult problems. The difference between multiplying mentally 3×3 or 17×23. The difference between driving home or finding your route in an unknown place with the only help of a chart (without a GPS navigator). This terminology of System 1 and 2 was introduced in the book “Thinking, fast and slow” by the 2002 Economics Nobel prize laureate Daniel Kahneman (1).

The speaker then recommended to pause, and, in order to have the correct mindset to avoid those bad things from happening, he invited us to adopt what he called the 3 Ps:

  • Pace. He stressed the need to combine the different ways of thinking, systems 1 and 2, with their respective speeds. Not to be driven always by automatic processes into a purely system 1 way of thinking. He used the classical adage “Festina lente“, meaning “More haste, less speed”.
  • Position. He called for taking a step back to see the overall picture before taking action. To analyze the situation, see all possible options before chosing one. He showed the difference in the layout of a captain’s deck vs. an admiral one in a major British navy ship.
  • Perspective. Here he mentioned an anecdote from Jan Carlzon, the CEO of the SAS airline during the 80s and beginning of the 90s, and credited with the transformation of the company. To stress that small things mattered, Jan would check on and insist that coffee stains be cleaned in the lavatories, as it served as an indicator to the everyone (including the customers) of how seriously SAS took all maintenance procedures. Otherwise, if a coffee stain had slipped through the processes, what other faults could have done so as well.

(1) His speech shares almost squarely the title with but has no relation to the Harvard Business School case study published in the 90s by the authors Benson P. Shapiro, Richard S. Tedlow and Adrian J. Slywotzky, in which they introduced the concept of value migration.

(2) This a fabulous book, published in 2011, on the mental process and the biases of our mind, which references plenty of psychology studies made by different researches along decades. I read it back in 2013 and I strongly recommend it.

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