Monthly Archives: July 2011

Numbers, numbers, numbers…

As part of my effort to learn French, I was reading some passages of “Le Petit Prince” last weekend. There was one that directly struck me:

Les grandes personnes aiment les chiffres. Quand vous leur parlez d’un nouvel ami, elles ne vous questionnent jamais sur l’essentiel. Elles ne vous disent jamais: “Quel est le son de sa voix? Quels sont les jeux qu’il préfère? Est-ce qu’il collectionne les papillons?” Elles vous demandent: “Quel âge a-t-il? Combien a-t-il de frères? Combien pèse-t-il? Combien gagne son père?” Alors seulement elles croient le connaître. Si vous dites aux grandes personnes: “J’ai vu une belle maison en briques roses, avec des géraniums aux fenêtres et des colombes sur le toit…” elles ne parviennent pas à s’imaginer cette maison. Il faut leur dire: “J’ai vu une maison de cent mille francs.” Alors elles s’écrient: “Comme c’est joli!

Some days before I had seen the following tweet by the management guru Tom Peters:

Having said this, I can only confess that I am one of those. One of those old people, grande personne, that loves numbers, crunching numbers, spreadsheets, etc…

If you asked me something about for example my drive to the job every morning, I wouldn’t say “Oh, it’s beautiful, there are lots of trees, you can smell this or that”, no, no…

I would tell you: “it takes door-to-door an average of 31 minutes -which coincidentally is the exact time most repeated-, I depart at 8:35am on average, I have tried 3 different routes and route number 3 seems to be about 4 minutes shorter on average than the other 2 routes, I found out that it is as good to be an early comer to the office than to arrive at about 9:30am, while the worst time to leave home is about 8:15am… Tuesdays are the worst days normally, taking on average about 5 minutes more than Wednesdays, the best day”. Numbers.

And I would have said all these because during the last 7 months I had been taking note of the all the numbers related to those trips, crunching them in a spreadsheet, etc, etc…

Door to door time to reach the office.

Frequency of different trip times.

Certaines grandes personnes aimons les chiffres.

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¿Y si el Real Madrid bajase a Segunda?

Como muchos de vosotros sabéis, mi hermano Jaime es seguidor del F.C. Barcelona mientras que yo lo soy del Real Madrid. Hace años, discutiendo en broma le decía a veces “el Madrid no bajará nunca, y si lo hiciese, la Federación tendría que cambiar la Primera División por la Segunda… la Primera sin el Madrid no tiene sentido”. Una fanfarronada, diréis.

La realidad supera la ficción. Mirad lo que está ocurriendo en Argentina con el River Plate tras su descenso:

Quilombo por el descenso de River Plate.

Por cierto, River es mi equipo favorito en aquel país ;-).

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Santiago… ¡Mataindios!

Hoy, como cada 25 de julio, es la festividad de Santiago apóstol. No sé bien porque, pero mientras salí a correr recordé una anécdota del viaje a Perú en 2009 que me pareció oportuna compartir hoy.

A la representación del apóstol Santiago se le da también el nombre de “Santiago Matamoros“, por sus supuestas intervenciones en favor de los cristianos en batallas contra los musulmanes en la Edad Media. Pues bien, visitando la catedral de Cuzco, o Basílica de la Vírgen de la Asunción, nos encontramos con un cuadro del apóstol Santiago donde ya no mata moros sino indios mal llamados incas (aunque yo de historia no sé mucho, entiendo que Inca era solo el rey del imperio). De hecho allí lo llamaban Santiago “Mataindios” o “Mataincas”.

Además de ser “¡Santiago!” un grito de guerra por entonces, supuestamente el apóstol oportunamente apareció para echar una mano a Pizarro y los suyos cuando estaban siendo acechados en su intento de conquistar la fortaleza de Sacsayhuamán.

Qué gran acierto y simplicidad por parte de la Iglesia el utilizar el mismo santo y retórica que había dado éxito en España para evangelizar América…

Como no se podían sacar fotos dentro del templo, no tengo ninguna que mostrar del interior donde se vea dicho cuadro, aunque podéis encontrarlas fácilmente en Google.

Catedral de Cuzco.

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Space Shuttle last ride

I already wrote that my childhood dream job was to be an astronaut and that led to pursuing aerospace studies. In the same post I recalled a small toy of the Challenger Space Shuttle and how this toy contributed to that dream. Well, this post is just an homage paid to the Space Shuttle, or officially the NASA Space Transportation System, STS.

The last mission of the STS is scheduled for next Friday, July 8th. When the Atlantis is supposed to make the last lift-off for the mission STS-135 which, after 12 days, will end the 30 years of Shuttle flights.

During our last visit to the USA, Luca and I had the chance to see one of the Space Shuttle vehicles at the National Air & Space Museum (NASM). The vehicle at display there is the Enterprise.

I already mentioned in that post there that the Enterprise is the only vehicle of the fleet which never went to outer space. It was used for training purposes, to let the astronauts train the gliding descend they would have to make once the vehicle re-entered in the atmosphere. Thus, some parts of that vehicle are dummies.

The Enterprise hasn’t got the same thermal protection tiles since it wouldn’t need them, however its surface replicates the tiles with some kind of rubber ones so the flow of air around them would be the same as in the other vehicles. Another difference is in the engines at the back. The 3 engines that the Shuttle has at the back are its orbital maneuvering system, which allow it to adjust its orbit (they’re not atmospheric engines to propel the Shuttle in its flight back to Florida). Again, since the Enterprise would never go to outer space it wouldn’t need to adjust its orbit and the engines it has are just dummies to provide the same distribution of weight and forms in the vehicle.

I also mentioned in the previous post about the visit to NASM that the vehicle was going to be named Constitution until a public campaign achieved its goal of naming it Enterprise after the spaceship featured in Star Trek.

Find below some pictures of the Enterprise at NASM:

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The Economist features this week 3 articles about the Space Shuttle program. I found parts of them very critic of the costs of the program, but nevertheless they give a somewhat complete picture of the history of the Space Shuttle and what may lay ahead for space exploration.

The different Shuttle vehicles (and other related materials) will be distributed among several museums and educational institutions. The Enterprise will leave the NASM and will go to the USS Intrepid in NYC while the Discovery will be hosted at NASM. You may find other locations in this article.

Finally, NASA just unveiled last Friday a wonderful documentary (80 minutes) about the history of the program: its launch, the vast engineering undertaking, the first mission, the Challenger and Columbia accidents, the improvements that the accidents brought, etc. To close the circle, the documentary is narrated by William Shatner, an actor of Worldly fame as he featured James T. Kirk, captain of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek. See a small trailer of the video:

PD: In the full length video, in the images shown of the mission STS-95 which brought John Glenn back to Space at age 77, appears Pedro Duque a Spanish astronaut that coincidentally was my teacher at the aerospace engineering school.

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