Monthly Archives: March 2011


Since some time ago I wanted to write a small entry just to show the following graphic to point a very basic issue to non-engineers:

Efficiency vs. airspeed.

I have very often heard remarks about turbo propellers referring them as old or old technology, etc. I guess that this comes from seeing images of old aircraft with propellers and reciprocating engines, and now people being used to fly in turbofan engines.

However, turbo propellers are neither old nor a worse technology. As almost everything in engineering it all depends on what the requirements are and the price to pay for the solution. Then come the trade-offs. As you may find in the Wikipedia entry [turboprops] “they are mostly used where high-performance short-takeoff and landing (STOL) capability and efficiency at modest flight speeds are required”.

The first requirement is among the ones explaining why some military transport aircraft such as the C-295, the C-130 or the most modern A400M are equipped with turboprops.

The second requirement explains why some regional airlines employ turboprops for short-haul flights, when the distance can be covered at a bit lower speed without a big impact in the flight time.

If you take a look at the picture above, you could start roughly guessing what type of engine you would choose depending at what speed you would normally fly (then more requirements would come into play).

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The 7 Minute Star (book review)

Some weeks ago I read “The Seven Minute Star”, by Florian Mueck. Florian is a fellow Toastmaster from one of the clubs in Barcelona who I met some years ago in a division conference in Madrid.

He is a very energetic speaker and I remember that he came in 2nd in the International Speech contest in that division conference. I have seen him some other times along these years. In one of those occasions, I believe in Porto, he mentioned that he was writing a book. I remember him mentioning something about some stairs, a way to the top, etc. And about a year later here I am, having read the book and writing the review.

The book is a quick guide to become a proficient public speaker by following 15 steps (confidence, transparency, first sentence, eye contact, voice, body language, visual aids, structure, rhetoric, anecdotes, quotations, humor, enthusiasm, passion, and smile). It is a very easy and enjoyable read (~100 pgs.) with lots of stories and examples. If you have no previous experience in public speaking, the book is a very informative guide.

If you are a member of Toastmasters, you may have noticed that the Toastmasters program covers many of those steps in the book, though he adds some more tips: for example, the smile (then you recall having always seen Florian smiling!) or the stress in the use of quotations (though I may disagree in the approach! I would say “read a lot and pick some quotes out of what you’ve read” instead of learning some quotes right away).

Another good point is that in the book he presents some tools he has developed, for example the “speech development template”. I recommend you to pay a visit to his website, where other tools (speech evaluation template) and analysis are available.

If you would like to know more about Toastmasters and you happen to live in or nearby Madrid, take the opportunity to attend the Division Conference of Toastmasters next Saturday May 7th in Madrid.

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Filed under Books, Personal development & HR, Toastmasters

For Living or Investing

"Pour Vivre ou Investir", seen in Toulouse.

This is an ad I see every day on my way to the office: “For Living or Investing”. They sell villas and apartments up to 4 rooms.

I have often defended the position that a house cannot be considered an investment. Recently I read yet another article at The Economist, in which they showed the latest graphic of the Case-Shiller index (below). I showed this graphic in a post last year. Now the prices have decreased some percentage points more. Most importantly, the curve and the article point that a further decrease will come. Down to the point where the prices stay stable along the last 130 years once inflation is adjusted.

Case-Shiller index.

Taking that into account, when I see that ad in the morning I can only smile and think of that other story which I included in another post about a message from the future describing how the housing craze continues to go on in Spain for decades… (extremely funny – in Spanish).

I have only one complain to the promoter of these houses in the ad: they are using land so close to the city to build houses for investing… if these houses are just meant for investing, and not necessarily for living, they could have built them under the sea and leave the land in Toulouse for living, public parks, roads, etc…

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The end of private property

Last Saturday, while reading the last issue of The Economist at home, I found the following table with the evolution of government spending for some countries:

Government spending as % of GDP, source: The Economist

You can see that the trend is upwards for all countries.

In one of my favourite books, “Augustine’s Laws“, the author goes on extrapolating several trends in the defense and aerospace industry. I did the same with this table for the average of these countries and the particular case of Spain, for obvious reasons.

When will government spending reach 100% of GDP?

Extrapolating the trend, this would occur in Spain  the year 2124 (for the average of the countries in the table it would happen in 2171). What would that mean? By 2124 every euro spent in Spain would be spent by the government (local and central), not a dime spent by individuals. The end of private property.

Government Spending as % of GDP, extrapolation

That is not necessarily worrisome: we would be provided a home by the state, food to eat (the trend doesn’t say whether we would have to eat in public canteens or we would receive vouchers to get stuff from grocery shops), clothing, etc… We would become a kind of communist country in the end. Don’t worry, United States would join us some years later. I guess the last country in joining this pan communist block would be Switzerland, but its time would come, too. No Cold War this time.

In case you wanted to start-up a business, you’d better do it soon: I guess some years before the doomed 2124 it would be prohibited to launch such kind of initiatives. Good luck with your venture! I’ll just look forward to a pleasant and quiet 9-13 position in such an administration. 🙂

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Lamentable entrevista de Ana Pastor a Mahmud Ahmadineyad

El pasado día 15 leí varios tweets haciendo referencia a una entrevista que la periodista de TVE Ana Pastor había hecho a Mahmud Ahmadineyad. Así que la vi.

Debo ser muy raro, porque no he dejado de leer elogios a la periodista y a mí me parece que la entrevista, el papel que hizo como entrevistadora, es lamentable. Sin paliativos.

Me explico:

Se pasa la entrevista interrumpiendo las respuestas del entrevistado o apresurándole con frases del tipo “déjeme estamos terminando, me dicen que se me acaba el tiempo”.

En ocasiones contradice al entrevistado. Aunque éste diga cosas que no sean ciertas, ¿interesa acaso lo que piense la entrevistadora?.

Sonríe mostrando desinterés por las respuestas del entrevistado. Por ejemplo, cuando Ahmadineyad le dice que las armas que usa Libia son vendidas por Occidente. Quizá no le guste escucharlo, pero antes de hacer la entrevista podría haberse informado y habría visto que es cierto.

Esto último me es fácil de comprobar porque he visitado las fuentes anteriormente. Dejo a continuación un par de ejemplos fácilmente demostrables:

  • España. Fuente: el ministerio de industria [PDF]. Las exportaciones en 2009 NO fueron de defensa ni armas como la prensa ha dicho en varias ocasiones, sino lo que se llama material de doble uso, como radares para navegación y control de tráfico aéreo. En total fueron 12.7 millones de €. Habría luego que ver el uso que finalmente se le da.
  • Francia e Italia. Fuente: el Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), autoridad internacional en la materia. En la siguiente herramienta, se puede hacer una búsqueda de exportaciones de armas con destino Libia en los últimos 20 años. Aparece un registro por valor de ~168M€ de exportación de misiles anti-tanque MILAN por parte de Francia, y otro por valor de ~80M€ de exportación de helicópteros por parte de Italia.
  • Estados Unidos. Fuente: el Departamento de Defensa. En su informe anual de 2009 [PDF] muestra como Libia, que había estado bajo embargo durante años, desde 2006 comenzó a recibir exportaciones comerciales de armas desde Estados Unidos, aunque por un valor muy bajo, menos de 1M$ en 2009.

Si la gente vitorea la entrevista porque le ha plantado cara a Ahmadineyad, me parece bien, pero le podría haber tirado un zapato o una estatuilla de Il Duomo a la cara, en vez de hacer una entrevista.

Si TVE quería incordiar y molestar a Ahmadineyad, podría haber hecho muchas otras cosas, en vez de una entrevista.

Si querían presentar una imagen deplorable o ridícula de Ahmadineyad podrían haber hecho un documental, en vez de una entrevista.

A mi ese hombre también me parece detestable. Pero es que Ana Pastor termina la entrevista diciendo “creemos que es bueno escuchar todas las opiniones”, y precisamente eso es lo que no ha hecho. Si desde TVE, no lo querían hacer que no le hubiesen puesto un micrófono delante para empezar.


Lo único bueno que me pareció que tuvo la entrevista fue el saludo final en farsi.


Filed under Aerospace & Defence, Twitter & Media

Bin Laden hidden in a football field

Some weeks ago I read in the newspaper one of these mistakes that you may find so often with some journalists (apologies for journalist friends who may feel criticized). I checked some weeks later and it hasn’t been corrected, so I’ll let you know.

The article is about a plan to capture Bin Laden. It says that he is hidden in a region of 11.585 square meters up in the mountains… I checked the cables (6) mentioned in the article and in no one it says the size of the region. I haven’t been there in Waziristan, but I know the figure is wrong. I say I know, not I suspect. That’s the problem with some journalists they just don’t know nevertheless they write about it.

11.585sqm is the size of the garden of my parents’ neighbour. It is a square of 107 by 107 meters, a football field so to say. Do you believe that Bin Laden is succeeding in hiding himself in a football field from an army of thousands? Then he could have just titled it “Bin Laden hidden in a football field!”, a much more catchy headline to attract readers.

I am sure that in your respective fields of knowledge you have seen plenty of similar cases that make you doubt about everything you read in papers.

I believe the guy took the info from the Wikipedia. There it says 11.585 square kilometres (a region the size of Madrid region) and he just copied it wrongly… don’t know what is worse: whether copying without understanding or copying without caring about mistakes, you name it.


Filed under Twitter & Media

Modelo de servicio al cliente

Hace unos meses escribí un post comentando los pasos que seguí para cerrar una cuenta bancaria en Ibercaja.

Desde hace unos 3 años empecé a usar ING. Al principio solo una cuenta Naranja, luego una cuenta nómina, otra naranja, bróker naranja, depósitos, etc.

Hoy al contrario que en el post sobre Ibercaja quería comentar algunos de los aspectos que me encantan del servicio de ING.

Comisiones: no hay. Por hacer transferencias, ingresos, por la tarjeta, etc. Nada. Los únicos costes que hay son los de operar en bolsa.

A alguna gente le da miedo el no poder ir a una oficina a quejarse, a solucionar un problema. En primer lugar, decir que en determinados sitios sí hay oficinas de ING. En segundo lugar vendría una pregunta ¿acaso en una oficina de un banco uno recibe un buen trato o te solucionan un problema de forma adecuada? Sin embargo, ejemplos de excelente servicio con ING he tenido varios.

Hubo una vez que quise comprar acciones de determinada compañía de la bolsa de Nueva York, y no estaba disponible en el interfaz de la web del banco. Llamé, tomaron nota, se aseguraron de que la compañía cotizaba en el NYSE y en unas horas estaba dada de alta en su sistema. Incluso se disculpan de antemano por si pasa un día hasta que se encuentre disponible en el sistema. Esta operación la he repetido en numerosas ocasiones.

Con ING eso de llegar tarde al trabajo porque “he pasado por el banco”, o salir entre horas, no existe. Para operaciones normales uno puede llamar a cualquier hora. Bueno casi cualquiera. Recuerdo otra ocasión en que llegué a casa sobre las 20h y tenía varias cosas que hacer. Y las fui haciendo una a una y dejé la llamada a ING para el final. Creo que debí llamar sobre las 22:30. Me atendieron y entonces pedí hacer una operación en bolsa, a lo que la comercial me respondió “lo sentimos, desde hace dos semanas los compañeros de bróker naranja dan servicio solo hasta las 22:00”… solo. Ya me había acostumbrado a eso, a que estuviesen 24/7.

Gratuitamente envían un SMS o email con cada operación que hagas, pagos, transferencias, dividendos recibidos, nóminas recibidas, etc. En una ocasión después de recibir tal SMS con un cargo de una operación que yo no había hecho por 60€ en Brasil, semanas después de después de haber vuelto de las vacaciones. Me dio tiempo a rechazar el cargo antes de que me lo pasaran por la cuenta. Cancelé la tarjeta y nunca tuve que pagar ese dinero.

Cuando debo tomar alguna decisión al respecto de si recibir dividendos en cash o en acciones de una compañía me escriben un SMS o me llaman por teléfono… a Francia si es necesario.

A día de hoy la única vez que no quedé muy satisfecho fue cuando intenté comprar acciones de una compañía del NASDAQ y no pude porque no era del NASDAQ 100. Pero aquello era un problema del producto bróker naranja, no del servicio. De hecho estuve hablando un rato con un comercial sobre ello hasta que dejó la sugerencia por escrito (por supuesto, luego me llegó un email diciendo que habían recogido la sugerencia). A día de hoy, creo que todavía no se puede operar en el NASDAQ, solo en NASDAQ 100.

Una pega que se le puede poner es que ofrezcan un teléfono 901… pero bueno, sabiendo que se puede llamar con la tarifa plana a un teléfono fijo de Las Rozas no hay mayor problema (el mismo teléfono que aparece en el dorso de las tarjetas para el caso de que necesites llamar desde el extranjero).


Disclaimer: no soy accionista de ING (todavía 😉 ), solo un cliente satisfecho.

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Candomblé (is it real?)

What is it?

According to Wikipedia: Candomblé is an African-originated or Afro-Brazilian religion, practised chiefly in Brazil by the “povo de santo” (people of saint).

Why do I write about it?

Last year Luca and I went to Brazil during Easter holidays. Some days ago I was looking at some pictures and I remembered that I had wanted to write a post about one experience we lived then. I never wrote it then, so I’ll do it now.

While wandering through Salvador de Bahía last year, we stopped to have some rest plus a drink at a bar. Luca reviewed a little brochure for activities to do in the city. Basically we had to offers for the evening: attending a concert or candomblé. We opted for the latter.

The brochure already warned that some foreigners found it strange that people were asked to pay to attend a religious ceremony. If I remember well we paid about 100R$ between the two of us (~30€), a perfectly payable amount.

For me the best thing of the evening was that with the mind thinking about attending the ceremony we ventured with the group into a part of the city that by ourselves we would have never dared to go. I sometimes make the comment that we don’t dare to go to places just because the noisy media has given us that fearful sense. I guess that if we had checked the guide of Brazil we had, it most probably would have discouraged us to go into the neighbourhood we went.

The room where the ceremony was held could have been any wide room of a building. It wasn’t any kind of special temple. We gathered about 40 people inside; split 50/50 between tourists and candomble practitioners (or performers). The head of the ceremony was an old woman.

Let me take the following passage from the Wikipedia to briefly describe how the ceremony goes:

“In the public part of the ceremony, children-of-saint (mediunic priests) invoke and “incorporate” Orixás, falling into a trance-like state. After having fallen into trance, the priest-spirits perform dances symbolic of the Orixá’s attributes, while the babalorixá or father of saint (leading male priest) leads songs that celebrate the spirit’s deeds. The ceremony ends with a banquet.

Candomblé music, an essential part of the ritual, derives from African music.”

What did I feel?

I think it was all fake. I don’t believe any of what it happened it was actually felt by performers. I risk that you’ll get me wrong, you may think I am not tolerant with other cultures, etc. Not the case.

I just felt that ceremony was a business show much the like flamenco shows in Granada, with the difference that with the flamenco you don’t feel cheated. You know from the beginning that you are attending a show.

The money wasn’t definitely a problem; I love to spend some cash for different experiences. E.g. sometimes we have just paid a guide to explain us a temple not caring about the accuracy of the explanation just about the curious stories he or she might tell, as the rest of the information we will have forgotten in months.

I guess there will be groups of people who do have their candomblé celebrations and believe in it. I don’t think the group we attended was one of those. At least not at that moment. When you saw them entering in trance, five minutes later smoking a cigarette and then entering in trance again it felt strange.

Believe it or not it took me time to make up my mind. Luca is way sharper than I am in those situations… I think she gave me a look of disapproval no later than the first 5 minutes had passed. During one pause, she explained me her view of it, and then, back in the room, during the following minutes of sudden trance-in/trance-out I was making my numbers in my head.

We were about 20 tourists. If each of us had paid about 50R$. The total income then was ~1,000R$. If the band (I avoid the word congregation here) performed a show every night, they would make ~30.000R$ a month. Let’s correct the figure supposing that not every day they may have a performance or that in not all performances they will be able to fill the room… say they make ~20.000R$ a month. As I said, there were about 20 performers, this would mean that each could receive ~1,000R$ (some of this would have to be deducted to pay the transportation of the tourist and the home-made drinks they offered).

The average salary in some parts of Brazil is in that order of magnitude, ~1,000R$. Then take into account that many of the performers were family, so it really makes sense for them, it’s a formidable way of making a living for the family. Probably if I had been born in that neighbourhood and I could have a supplement to my salary of 100% of my salary by faking a trance situation per night I would have been delighted to do so. And it is perfect as a business! It’s just that it leaves you with a bad flavour. It feels like cheating. We wouldn’t recommend it.

Next time we’ll go for the concert, no matter the price.


Filed under Travelling

Great Toastmasters Conference in Madrid (May 7th)

Let me close the “Toastmasters blogging week” by informing you about a great Toastmasters event in Madrid next May 7th.

We will celebrate the Division Conference in Madrid (this is happening in Madrid only once about every 4 years). It will be open to all kind of participants. You don’t need to be already a member to take part in it.

There will be some very interesting presentations but most important of all, there will be 3 speaking contests: public speaking contest in Spanish and English and evaluation contest. There it will be decided who are the champions for Spain & Portugal, who will compete in the next level. It will be a big show, where you’ll be able to meet many people, learn a lot and put an end to the day with a wonderful gala dinner. There is a wonderful team working to make it a great event.

Even though I am now based in Toulouse, I’ll go to Madrid that day to take part in that event as the contest chairman, in case you hesitate whether to join the event not knowing anyone (you’ll at least know me!).

Check the website of the event, “Madrid Conference 2011: Dare to fly, dare to shine!” and register to it (there is an early bird discount if you register before end of March).

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How does Toastmasters Work

I realize that I have often talked about Toastmasters in this blog (last days included), shared the script of some of my speeches, etc… but I have not dedicated a post just to explain what Toastmasters is.

I found a video where Lance Miller explains in just 7 minutes the Toastmasters experience. Lance Miller is one member of Toastmasters who after working hard for years and trying several times won the World Championship of public speaking in 2005. I had the chance of attending a conference in Lisbon in 2009 where he gave a presentation; he is a great and a very motivating speaker. You can see it in the video.

If you want to know more about Toastmasters, no matter where you live in the world, most probably there is Toastmasters club nearby, check it out.  If you are one of my acquaintances and happen to live in Madrid, please, note that there are 5 clubs in Madrid. Find them here.

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