Monthly Archives: April 2012

Aerogeek dentist

Some time ago I wrote about the impact of Airbus in the employment in the Toulouse area. Some weeks ago I went to a dentist in Blagnac, a village close to Toulouse (where Airbus is in fact based). There I could see how Airbus is impacting Toulouse area in other ways. I then tweeted the following with the picture below attached:

Waiting room seats.

What I missed in that first visit was the geek details of the cloth covers of the seats. Take a closer look in the pictures below…

"Briteeth" Airways.


Definitely, my dentist must be another aerogeek.


Filed under Aerospace & Defence, France

Ballot papers in France

Today there is the first round of the Presidential elections in France. According to the latest polls, it seems that Hollande is going to win with Sarkozy coming second and the two going to the second leg of the elections.

After my flying class today, I took the opportunity to go to one of the “bureau de vote” installed at the city hall in Capitole square. As I did 7 years ago while living in Aachen (then with the election between Merkel and Schröder), I wanted to check first-hand how the voting works here in France.

Well, it is very simple and very much like in Spain, even simpler. There were just 10 small stacks of ballots, one stack per candidate. The ballots are much simpler than in Spain. Just white papers with the name of the candidate. No name of the party, no fancy logo of the party. The envelope: simpler as well, just a small blue envelope reading “République Française”, nothing mentioning like “Presidential election 2012”, first or second round…

French Presidential election 2012: Ballot papers.

It raised my attention that there were many isoloirs, these cabins with curtains where you decide which ballot you place in the envelope. There are those as well in Spain. I did this detour today with a colleague coming from the Spanish Basque Country, he mentioned that in his village people also uses those cabins. However, in the village where I come from in Madrid, people almost never uses them. While I agree that their presence is a must, the need to use them is sad.

Finally, the rest of the process is the same. The voter comes to the table, hands her ID to the president of the table, the name is checked in the list and the voter places her vote in the urne.

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Filed under France, Miscellanea

Paris 2012: my first sub-4-hour marathon

During 2000 and 2001 I ran 3 marathons in Madrid. The best time I achieved then was just slightly above 4 hours, 4:00:41. Then I didn’t train much for them and I paid for that during the races.

Running in Paris (@ km ~26)

Last Sunday, in Paris, I ran together with my friend Serna and my brother Jaime my 5th marathon. For this one I had a training plan to go through for 17 weeks. That training plan amounted to over 1,100 km running, and a series session per week. I started a bit late with it, then I had trouble in the adapation to the new soles, injures… in the end, during the last 4 months I ran almost 500 km, or about 45% of the plan and did only 5 days of series.

Even if I was under trained, I managed to recover from the injure about 2 months before the race. I run as much as I could during the weeks following the recovery: 330km in 7 weeks, including 4 consecutive Sundays with a run over 20km in each of them.

The result: I completed Paris marathon in 3h45’35”, just at my target time before starting. My first sub-4-hour marathon. You can’t imagine how happy I am for that.

Some curiosities related to the race. You may find the route we followed in the diploma below. Some of the views while running were superb (Eiffel Tower, Place de la Concorde, Les Champs-Élysées, Place de la Bastille…), even if when running a marathon you don’t get to enjoy much the views. In the diploma you will see as well two times and positions. This is due to the fact that it took me 11 minutes to reach the starting line. Positions are calculated taking into consideration net times (deducting time to starting line, “real”) and arrival order (“official”).

Paris 2012 diploma.

You can also see below a small graphic prepared from the info recorded by my Garmin. There you’ll see how until km. ~29, I managed to run below my target pace to achieve 3h45′ (that was 5’20” per km). There are some kilometers before km. 29 in which it took longer, that is due to stops (“WC”) or slowing down to take drinks at every 5km. From km. 30 it was hard to maintain paces even below 5’30”. In the last 12km I burnt the 2-minute buffer I built in the first 25km.

In order to keep the rhythm in the last kilometres, it is extremely important not only the long runs (I got the one and only “muscle warning” at km. 39) and the series training, the famous Yasso’s to keep “speed” and endurance.

Pace (mm:ss) per km.


Filed under Sports

Helicopter ride from Nice to Monaco (video)

About 2 months ago, Luca and I went to Monaco for the weekend. On the way there we first took a flight from Toulouse to Nice, and then a helicopter from Nice to Monaco heliport. This was our second ride in a helicopter after the first one in Brazil 2 years ago. In this post I just wanted to share the videos I filmed of the ride (find them below).

This time the helicopter was an Eurocopter EC 135 (Eurocopter is an EADS company, same as Airbus, where I work). As we took a picture before getting on it, we didn’t have the best seats to shoot a nice movie. There is another shortcoming: since the heliport in Monaco Western than Monaco Ville and in the ride from Nice you are coming from the West as well, you don’t get to see all the sea-line of Monaco in the helicopter ride (the main port, Monte Carlo and the beach).

EC-135 at Nice airport.


Filed under Movies, Travelling

Patek Philippe Caliber 89

I confess that I am not much into fashion, complements and luxury items, not even watches. I guess all the watches I have had in the last 20 years have been presents from my mother and I don’t remember specifically having asked for any of them.

“You never really own a Patek Philippe, you merely take care of it for the next generation”, this all I knew about Patek Philippe, because of seeing its advertisements in The Economist magazine.

When I visited Geneva some weeks ago, a friend living there suggested that we could visit the Patek Philippe Museum (10 CHF) as one of the activities for the weekend, and so we did.

In the museum you almost get exhausted with the so many luxurious watches and pieces of jewellery that you see, but some of them make it definitely worth the visit.

The Caliber 89 is a commemorative watch built to celebrate the 150 years of existence of the company. The small shrine displaying the watch and its features is breathtaking. It is said to be the most complicated watch ever built. You may see below the data about the watch provided by the museum.

Patek Philippe Caliber 89

Total development time 9 years: 5 years for research and development, and 4 years in manufacture.

  • Total diameter 89 mm.
  • Total thickness 41 mm
  • Total weight 1100 grams
  • Case 18 ct. Gold

Number of components 1728, including:

  • 184 wheels
  • 61 bridges
  • 332 screws
  • 415 pins
  • 68 springs
  • 429 mechanical parts
  • 126 jewels
  • 2 main dials
  • 24 hands
  • 8 display dials


  • Hours, minutes and seconds of sidereal time
  • Time in a second time zone
  • Time of sunset and sunrise
  • Equation of time
  • Tourbillon regulator
  • Perpetual calendar
  • Century leap year correction
  • Date of the month
  • Century, decade and year
  • Day of the week
  • Months
  • Four-year cycle
  • Sun hand (season, equinox, solstice, zodiac)
  • Stars chart
  • Age and phases of the moon
  • Date of Easter
  • Chronograph
  • Split-seconds
  • 30 minute recorder
  • 12 hour recorder
  • Grande Sonnerie with carillon
  • Petite Sonnerie with carillon
  • Minute-repeater
  • Alarm
  • Going train up-and-down indication
  • Striking train up-and-down indication
  • Striking train stop work
  • Twin barrel differential winding
  • Four-way setting system
  • Winding-crown position indication

You may see below two videos explaining the watch and the process of building watches by Patek Philippe.

Finally, you may find this interesting post (in Spanish) about the Caliber 89, there I found the videos.


Filed under Travelling

Why do I prefer Coke

Some weeks ago I read an article about why do we prefer Coke over Pepsi by the blogger Farnamstreet (1). It mentioned a marketing initiative by Pepsi some years ago, “The Pepsi Challenge”, in which blind test were organized to see whether consumers preferred one or the other. Pepsi consistently advantaged Coke in the tests.

The article mentions other studies in which it is explained why nevertheless Coke still outsells Pepsi. In the end it seems to be due to the powerful brand Coca Cola has created along history and its association with happiness and satisfaction. This is an extreme case of what Warren Buffett describes as moat:

Definition of ‘Economic Moat’

The competitive advantage that one company has over other companies in the same industry. This term was coined by renowned investor Warren Buffett.

Investopedia explains ‘Economic Moat’

The wider the moat, the larger and more sustainable the competitive advantage. By having a well-known brand name, pricing power and a large portion of market demand, a company with a wide moat possesses characteristics that act as barriers against other companies wanting to enter into the industry.

My preference for Coke

Luca and I did this kind of blind test about 4 years ago when we lived in Madrid. We had heard of these tests and I was sure I could distinguish one from the other.

Normally, I never buy Pepsi (except when you order a “cola” at some place where there is no Coke). For the test we purchased both Pepsi and Coke, and placed them in the fridge for a while. Then I got blinded. Luca took them out of the fridge and poured each in a different glass (same kind of glass) with ice cubes. Then she offered me one glass. I tasted it.

“Ok, I don’t even need to test the other one, this is Pepsi”, I said. Then, I thought “well let’s try the other to confirm my choice”. I tasted the other glass… then I tasted again the first one. I ended up completely lost. I couldn’t tell one from the other. I finally changed my initial decision.

I was wrong in the test. Since then, I have told some friends about the experiment. Most of these friends claim they would indeed distinguish one from the other. They would probably even state that they prefer Coke due to its flavour (of course, I have no friend who prefers Pepsi! Who does?)…

After having done the test, no doubt I continue to buy Coke, but now I am aware that it is partly due to some behavioural trick being played within my mind, the kind of trick explained in the article.

(1) Farnam Street being the street in Omaha where Berkshire Hathaway HQ are located.

NOTE: You may want to read this case by Charlie T. Munger, Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman, about the compounding effects that led to the tremendous success of this carbonated water drink. The essay was part of a lesson he gave at USC Business School in 1994 and appears in his book “Poor Charlie’s Almanack”.


Filed under Economy, Marketing, Miscellanea

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin, by Joseph Siffred Duplessis (public domain image).

Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. The Wikipedia describes Franklin as a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat; what is called a polymath.

Following Luca’s recommendation, I read some months ago Franklin’s autobiography. It was terrific. For the most part it describes his early life and how he was rising in the society and the origin and the work behind some of his great contributions to society: “Poor Richard’s Almanack” (which includes a collection of sayings that mark not only American culture but Western culture in general), “The Pennsylvania Gazette”, the first public lending library in America, the first fire department in Pennsylvania, etc.

One initiative that I especially liked was the creation of the Junto club; a club for mutual improvement where its members debated all kinds of questions from morals and politics, to sciences and business. This reminded me to the joy I have attending a particular Toastmasters meeting when you feel you have learnt something from the speeches you have heard. I will have to check whether there are such broad mutual improvement clubs in Toulouse (… note that he just went and created it! When he was 21!).

Other remarkable aspect was his setting of 13 virtues by which he was going to live (he did that at age 20) and apparently managed to practice for the rest of his life.

  • “Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”
  • “Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
  • “Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
  • “Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”
  • “Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
  • “Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
  • “Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
  • “Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
  • “Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
  • “Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.”
  • “Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
  • “Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
  • “Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”

Finally, last November, Luca and I visited the only remaining house where Benjamin Franklin once lived, for nearly sixteen years between 1757 and 1775, in one of his periods in London. I definitely recommend the visit to the house, at 36 Craven Street (2 blocks from Trafalgar Square), as it doesn’t take more than an hour and the animation that goes with it makes it highly entertaining (it goes without saying it that I highly encourage the reading of his autobiography).


Filed under Books, Travelling

Hazard and probabilities

Two weeks ago I visited Geneva for the first time. Among other things we visited a museum out of “our programme”, the History of Science Museum.

The ground floor of the museum had some tools that were in use in the past century in science research (microscopes, telescope, Earth globes…). In the upper floor there was a temporary exhibition about hazard, probability and games (“Les jeux sont faits! hasard et probabilités“). That one was great. Few times I had a better time in a museum than there. To name but a few of the games and tricks it had: rigged dice for the visitor to throw (and contribute to the experiment by noting down results), the game of the three-door game with a prize behind one of them (always change of choice when given the chance!), a small casino roulette (not only I didn’t lose any cash this time but finally I could throw the ball and say “rien ne va plus!”), a russian roulette, etc.

The interactive experiment that I enjoyed the most was one that challenged the visitor to guess the weight of a die. As a reference there were given three weights of 1, 3 and 5 kg to compare the die with (there was no scale). You had to enter your guess in a screen (my guess was 2.5 kg). Right afterwards you got information of previous visitors’ guesses: from 1 to 9.5kg (!), average weight guess of about 2.83kg… no one would tell you the solution. I don’t know how, but I hope I’ll get to know the solution to the quiz, even if it won’t be published until the exhibition finishes (January 2013).

Another feature that I loved of the museum was that in many of its rooms it had small brochures to be taken by the visitor as a complement of the visit. I took many of them to read them afterwards. It happens to me many times that after a couple of hours of slowly walking and reading lots of different interesting things in a museum I simply can’t take anymore of it. With these brochures you can make a lighter visit, knowing that the details you skip while at the museum can be read later on.

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I highly recommend the visit to the museum. The visit will not take much longer than an hour (unless you engage yourself in every single game), it only requires a small diversion from the walk by the lake and by the way the admission is free.


Filed under Travelling