Monthly Archives: April 2010

Video of Iguazu from a helicopter

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.

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Filed under Aerospace & Defence, Movies, Travelling

Value investor: Joel Greenblatt

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:

  • From Benjamin Graham: buying cheap.
  • From Warren Buffet: not only buying cheap, but buying a good company.
  • Last but not least: you need long periods of time, thus, patience.

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…

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Filed under Books, Investing

International Day of the Book

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:

  • “Augustine’s Laws”, Norman R. Augustine.
  • “A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing”, Burton G. Malkiel.
  • “Particula Divina” (“God Particle”), Leon Lederman.

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:

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Toastmasters Division H Conference

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!

Good luck!!

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Filed under Personal development & HR, Toastmasters, Travelling

Meet my avatar

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…).

Meez 3D avatar avatars games

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Sao Paulo from the top of Banespa building

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.

Banespa Building (photo by Felipe Mostarda) and Empire State Building (photo by David Shankbone).

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).

Sao Paulo skyline from Banespa observation deck.

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:

  • Height: Banespa, 161 m; Rockefeller, 259 m; ESB, 443 m.
  • Number of floors: Banespa, 35; Rockefeller, 70; ESB, 102.
  • Construction finished in the year: Banespa, 1947; Rockefeller, 1939; ESB, 1931.
  • Observation deck ticket price: Banespa, free; Rockefeller, 20$; ESB, 20$ + 20$.

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…

  • nowadays the tallest building is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai with 828m (160 floors),
  • the tallest building in Europe is Commerzbank Tower in Frankfurt with 259m (65 floors) and very close to it is the Main Tower (200m) that hosts a very nice restaurant which is the only observation deck in the skyscrapers of the city,
  • the tallest in Spain is the Caja Madrid Tower with 250m (45 floors) which holds the 148th position in the list of highest skyscrapers.
  • another interesting point is to see the evolution of the title of “tallest skyscraper in the world”.

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I am an angel

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:

  • Is Kiva profiting from it? No, as I said is a non-profit organization. Like Toastmasters. Of course, Kiva has operating costs, but these are covered with different donations than the money you lend to entrepreneurs.
  • How do we know the money reached the entrepreneur? Kiva works with several field partners who are the ones scouting the entrepreneurs, uploading the information about them and their projects and finally handing them the money.
  • What if the loan is not repaid? Indeed some loans are not repaid. Around 2% of them. To avoid this Kiva is classifying the field partners. They classify them according to the level of risk of the credits already given to entrepreneurs presented by the field partners. But then again… with investment in the stock market, what would you do to avoid losing your investment: you just diversify!
  • If you have more concerns or questions about the topic you may ask me after the other speeches.

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.”

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Filed under Helping others, Investing, Toastmasters