Monthly Archives: May 2010

Ethical Banking

I attended yesterday a conference by Joan Melé at EOI Business School. It caught my interest by its title Dinero y conciencia: ¿A quién sirve mi dinero? (Money and conscience, who benefits from my money?), even though I didn’t know the presenter nor the bank he works for.

I want to make some reflections of yesterday’s experience:

  • The first one as a Toastmasters member: I applaud the decision of the speaker to stand up, not using notes or a power point presentation and managing to get the focus of the audience on him and his message for over an hour and half… we witness many conferences in which the experience is not so enjoyable.
  • The next reflection is to praise the move by EOI Business School towards web 2.0 made some months ago. As an alumnus of the school I must say that it’s very motivating to see the number of activities organized, the topics covered and it’s very convenient the way they are publicized in the different channels: EOI web and blogs, Facebook, streaming TV channel, Twitter… and because of that, because you can actually watch the whole of the conference or catch a glimpse of the main messages, I will just add very few ideas that I took for reflection and some sources the presenter cited.

Regarding money itself, the speaker structured his speech in the three main uses of money: to buy, to save and to donate.

  • When buying: he proposed the exercise of thinking “what”, “why” and “where” to see how our purchasing decisions affect others (low wages, pollution, exploitation…). He made the case for an economy based not so much in consumption of material things but cultural and intellectual ones: e.g. we happily pay 30 euro for a dinner, would be pay the same to be read poetry?
  • Regarding saving he noted the positive side of it: planning for future expenses. The other side of the coin being “fear of the day of tomorrow”: what will happen that we won’t be able to face? Nothing: Whatever comes, we will be able to face it. This reminds me to Charlie Munger comment on Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting when he said that he became comfortable […] after he realized he could survive hardship, “Maybe you should get your feet wet with a little more failure”. We lack some entrepreneurship…
  • The speaker did not want to go in deep about donating, except pointing that handing large inheritances to offspring can be more harmful than positive to them and society.

Some ideas to take away:

  • There are no leaders to solve our problems; it’s the turn of civil society to take action. It’s the time for the Globalisation of conscience.
  • The responsibility for what happens around us is ours, we need to first change ourselves.
  • We are the crisis of 3 billion people since dozens of years ago.
  • Need to bring back the role of banks as agents that relate people: savers with entrepreneurs in order to create wealth with profits as a by-product not as the one and only end.
  • Need to start and epidemic of courage and enthusiasm.

Finally, some reports, articles and documentaries he cited:

One final quote from Charlie Munger to end this post: “The secret to happiness is to lower your expectations.”


Filed under Books, Helping others, Investing, Movies, Toastmasters, Twitter & Media

Bits of the World in Brazil

While in Brazil last Easter, I read in my guide that in the city of Sao Paulo lived the largest Japanese ethnic group outside Japan. My first thought was: that’s not surprising; by heart I made the following reasoning “if Sao Paulo is among the six or seven biggest cities in the World and we exclude Tokyo and Chinese cities… there is a chance of 15-20% of it being Sao Paulo”.

Later on I was told that in Sao Paulo also lived the biggest communities of several other nationalities… yes, the same rationale could apply (I guess it would come a point where not every nationality could have their largest community abroad in Sao Paulo… but I found no way to prove that).

This may give us an idea of the diversity of the city as well as the country, Brazil… and that is something you keep feeling when you visit it… you suddenly see something and tell yourself “I have seen that somewhere else…”. Like if there were wormholes connecting different parts of the World… Be it music, food, architecture, clothing, traditions…

Let me focus on some examples:

The first two examples are related to Japan.

  • See the Japanese traditional gates (or Torii), both in Japan (this case in the island Miyajima) and in the Japanese neighbourhood in Sao Paulo.
  • Note the striking similarities of procedures used to push people into the subway coaches both in Sao Paulo and Tokyo (in this case I was later told by my sister that in a TV programme about Spanish living abroad it was commented that the metro of Sao Paulo was inspired by the one in Tokyo).

Japanese gates, Torii, in Sao Paulo and Miyajima.

People queueing in Sao Paulo and Tokyo subways.

The next striking example is one that I already posted about: the Banespa tower in Sao Paulo compared to the Empire State Building in New York (you almost wouldn’t notice the difference if it wasn’t for the height of ESB).

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

Other very similar example is found between two elevators: the Lacerda elevator in Salvador de Bahia and the elevator of Santa Justa in Lisbon… here the main difference is the queue and pricing… in Lisboa you may wait 30 minutes and pay over 1 euro, while in Salvador you wait less than a minute and pay 0,15 R$ (this is 6 euro cents!)…

Elevators of Santa Justa (Lisbon) and Lacerda (Salvador).

Similar experiences can be found as well inside two different markets: the Sao Paulo Municipal Market and Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, the first one offering a wider variety of products (including good Spanish jamón in the “Emporio Arabe”?!?) and the latter a more upscale atmosphere. (If at the market in Sao Paulo, do not miss the codfish pastel and mortadella sandwich at Hocca bar!!).

Municipal markets in Sao Paulo and Madrid.

Lastly you all know the Cristo Redentor in Corcovado Mountain, Rio de Janeiro… there is a similar Christ in Lisbon, just at the opposite riverside from Praça do Comerço (though I admit that in this case it is in Lisbon where you think “oh, I’ve seen this somewhere else”).

Christs in Rio de Janeiro (being overhauled) and Lisbon.


Filed under Travelling

A different view of the World

At work I often use different lists of countries by aircraft fleets, GDP, military expenditure, etc. Sometime ago I thought that it would be interesting to produce those kind of maps in which the area of the country represents the value of a variable: cartograms. Surfing through the internet you may find different websites with lots of cartograms to download, explanations about the method to produce them and even some applications that you may use to produce your own cartogram.

Today I have been playing with one of these applications. These are three of the cartograms I made:

  • In the first one: area represents GDP (in purchasing power parity) whereas colour shows GDP per capita (again in PPP).
  • The second one shows: military expenditure (PPP) as the area of countries whereas colour shows military expenditure as a percentage of GDP.
  • The last one has area representing again military expenditure (PPP) and colour showing military expenditure per capita (PPP).

Area showing GDP (PPP); colour showing GDP per capita (PPP).

Area showing Military Expenditure (PPP); colour showing Military Expenditure as percentage of GDP.

Area showing Military Expenditure (PPP); colour showing Military Expenditure per capita (PPP).

The data I used comes from extractions I made from the CIA World FactBook in 2007-2008, which used estimated data of different years, mainly 2006.

The application I used is made by MAPresso, and the quickest explanation on how to work with it I found it in this blog.

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Filed under Aerospace & Defence