Monthly Archives: June 2014

Sarajevo, Gavrilo Princip and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Yesterday, June 28th, marked 100 years since the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife in Sarajevo. The event triggered the start of World War I. On this occasion, I wanted to read the Wikipedia article about the assassination to be refreshed the sequence of events.

The sequence of events and the ambush that was prepared are dramatic. A group of six terrorists waiting in the quay to kill the archduke with guns and bombs. A first bomb being thrown to the car but bouncing off from it to the ground and exploding seconds after under the following car of the convoy injuring about 20 people. After this first attempt the procession sped ahead and the killing was frustrated. However, at the time of returning from the Town Hall and in the way to the hospital which was the purpose of the visit of the archduke to Sarajevo, the events turned even more dramatic…

After learning that the first assassination attempt had been unsuccessful, Princip thought about a position to assassinate the Archduke on his return journey, and decided to move to a position in front of a nearby food shop (Schiller’s delicatessen), near the Latin Bridge. At this point the Archdukes’ motorcade turned off the Appel Quay, mistakenly following the original route which would have taken them to the National Museum. Governor Potiorek, who was sharing the second vehicle with the Imperial couple, called out to the driver to reverse and take the Quay to the hospital. Driver Lojka stopped the car close to where Princip was standing, prior to backing up. The latter stepped forward and fired two shots from a distance of about one and a half metres (5 feet) using a Belgian-made 9×17mm (.380 ACPFabrique Nationale model 1910 semi-automatic pistol

Gavrilo Princip was the Bosnian Serb who fired the gun in this conspiracy. He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment together with many other conspirators, some of which were sentenced to death. The house where Princip lived could be visited as part of a museum for some time but in the subsequent war was destroyed. The ground from which Princip fired had some steps as memory, but they were also destroyed in the 90s. Today, there is only a plaque in the wall in the place from which Princip shot the archduke death. We visited the place back in the summer of 2007. I wanted to share 2 pictures from those iconic places.

Plaque at the point from which Gavilo Princip shot Franz Ferdinand.

Plaque at the point from which Gavrilo Princip shot Franz Ferdinand.

Latin Bridge.

Latin Bridge.

Sarajevo is a wonderful city despite of having been devastated by so many wars. However, at the time we visited the place, there was not much to see in relation to this historic event. Nevertheless, in different museums the different pieces of the story can be seen: the car and the gun can in Vienna, the bullet, in Czech Republic.

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Musée de l’Aéronautique of Luchon

On July 19th of 1945, the British bomber Halifax Mk III Mz 981, from the 644th squadron of the Royal Air Force’s 38th transport command departed from Christchurch, in the South of England’s coast on a training mission that would take it all the way to the Cape d’Adge in the Mediterranean French coast.

Route followed by Halifax III MZ 981.

Route followed by Halifax III MZ 981.

On the way back, the aircraft would return to England crossing the South of France till the Atlantic ocean by way of Toulouse. With the fall of the night the pilot took a wrong heading (1) towards the Pyrenees, crashing against the Pic Lampau (2,543m).

About 50 years later, in the eighties, Léon Elissalde, an important figure of Luchon at the time, knowing about the crash of the Halifax III during WWII set out to look for lost parts of the aircraft. He found some of the engines, propellers, crankshafts, etc.

He knew about other crashes in the Pyrenees during WWII as well. A British Halifax II which crashed against the Pic Douluy when coming on a mission all the way from Algeria (see a description of that mission here, in French) and two German Dornier 217 equipped with BMW engines which allegedly were on the look out for the area where maquis were hidden in the mountains.

Elissalde, with all those parts created the Musée de l’Aéronautique of Luchon, located in a small hangar of village’s aerodrome.

Museum interior.

Musée de l’Aéronautique of Luchon.

We visited the museum last weekend. We counted with the guidance of a retired technician of the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force), who described the details of each of the engines, aircraft in which they were mounted and the mission the flew when they crashed. The visit lasted about an hour.

Breguet 941S preserved at Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, image by PpPachy.

The museum includes some other engines, such as the turbojet Hispano Suiza Nene, which equipped the French Mistral, or the turboshaft Turmo III D3, which equipped the aircraft Breguet 941. The 941 was a short take-off and landing (STOL) aircraft with blown wings designed in the 1950s and which flew for the 1st time in 1961. One curiosity of this aircraft is that using 4 turboshaft engines (designed to power helicopters, not planes), all 4 engines’ turbines did not directly turn the propellers but rather powered a common shaft that ran along the leading edge of the wing powering the 4 propellers. A Breguet 941 is displayed at the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace at Le Bourget, Paris.

Luchon is a nice village located at the heart of the Pyrenees, close to Super Bagneres skiing station, to some of the summits cycled in the Tour de France and has a great spa with water from natural sources. It is a great destination where to spend a few days. One hour of those days is well employed visiting the aviation museum.

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(1) My flight instructor uses to say “Dans l’air, le cap est la vie” (“in the air, the heading is the life”).

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Bill and Melinda Gates 2014 Stanford commencement speech

Steve Jobs’ Stanford’s 2005 commencement speech in which he talked how he pursued different things that interested him at a young age and later on these things enabled him achieve successful endeavours (connecting the dots). In that same speech he invited graduates to live their life not somebody else’s as the time we all have is limited.

Yesterday, Bill and Melinda Gates gave the 123rd Stanford commencement speech for the class of 2014 [~25′ from 1h04′].

Gates fortune and world fame is due to his founding of Microsoft and its subsequent success. Nevertheless, both Bill and Melinda were introduced to the audience and spoke mainly in relation to their experience as philanthropists.

My main takeaways from the speech:

  • What they appreciate most of Stanford: ingenuity, innovation, etc., but above all optimism.
  • Their quest to understanding what keeps people poor and how innovation could still solve most of the toughest problems.
  • The experiences they shared of meeting the poor and sick in Soweto (South Africa) and India.
  • “If you want to do the most, you have to see the worst”, Melinda Gates.
  • The great stigma suffered by disfavored women.
  • “We can help people if don’t lose hope… and if we don’t look away”, Melinda Gates.
  • The need for empathy to channel our optimism and innovation to solve the problems that affect millions of people.
  • The reference to luck as a main ingredient of the success we may have in life. Luck partly understood as what Warren Buffett refers to as the “ovarian lottery”. Acknowledging that we have been this lucky, the next step is to have empathy for those who were not as lucky. “That could be me”.


Last year, during our trip to the US West coast we spent a morning visiting Stanford University. Few months before I had completed 3 online courses from Stanford’s VentureLab platform and I wanted to visit the place.

I was very satisfied with what we saw during our visit: a campus in which any student would have loved to study. Plenty of parks, gardens, bikes, benches. Buildings, classes and labs open for anyone to come and see. Fully equipped classes with reduced groups of students. Open cafeterias with informal places to work. A huge library with study rooms and the flavour of an old place. An impressive book shop where we surely purchased some books… No need to enter into the excellence of the faculty, measured by Stanford in the number of Nobel prizes, Pulitzer prizes, National Medal of Sciences recipients, etc.

No wonder why the Gates proffer that admiration to Stanford and no wonder why students from it have that optimism.

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Forecasting 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

I have a work colleague who not only is a tremendous negotiator and contracts’ drafter but also has a great sense of humor and manages in his free time late in the night to set up a contest for office staff to try to guess winners, matches’ scores, top scorers, etc., of major international soccer competitions. The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, which will start tomorrow, could not be missed. Nacho managed to set up the contest in time.

To set up the background as to how I have approached the game of forecasting this World Cup:

  • I had written a review of the book “Soccernomics“, which among other things advocates the use of data in order to make decisions in relation to football transfer market, forecasting, etc. This book relies somewhat heavily in “Moneyball” another book which I read some months ago with a similar scope but with baseball as the theme sport.
  • When the draw of the World Cup took place last December, I wrote a couple of blog posts discussing what was the so-called “group of death” basing the analysis on FIFA and ESPN rankings.
  • During the last year, I read a couple of books which approach how we make decisions and how to remove different kind of biases from the thought processes of making them: “Thinking Fast and Slow” (by the 2002 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics Daniel Kahneman) and “Seeking Wisdom“.
  • Finally, last year I followed the open course “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior” by Dan Ariely (though I missed the last exam due to my honeymoon and could not get credit for it).

Having shared this background, you may understand that I tried to remove all the beauty of guessing and my football “knowledge” to the forecasting process. I rather made use of  ESPN Soccer Power Index (SPI) ranking, introduced by the economist Nate Silver. I used its offensive and defensive scores plus the tip indicating that in competitive matches the defensive factor tends to be slightly more important (see “A Guide to ESPN’s SPI rankings”).

Once I plugged in the numbers from the index and used the referred tip on the defensive side, I built a simple model to guess each of the World Cup matches. Once you take this approach you will find that the model gives you plenty of results such as Nigeria 1.32 – 1.53 Bosnia… What to do with it? When the result was very tight I resolved it as a draw, otherwise a victory for the team with the highest score.

In very few instances I forecast that a team would score 3 or more goals in a match. I bore in mind that in the 2010 World Cup 80% of the matches ended up with scores of 1-0 (26% of the matches), 2-1 (15%), 0-0, 1-1 or 2-0 (each 13%).  That a team scores more than 3 goals in a match will certainly happen in some games, but I did not bother to guess in which ones, the odds are against.

The prize pot of the game organized by this colleague is not particularly big (few hundreds euros). The main point of the game is enjoying the chit-chat with work colleagues. My second main point is putting this rational approach to work and see how it fares.

Finally, what did I forecast?

A World Cup won by Brazil against Argentina in the final. With Spain beating Germany for the third place (in the penalties). For my English readers: England defeated by Colombia in the 1/8 of final. For the ones from USA, it doesn’t make the cut from the group phase. We will see along this month how well do I fare.

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil forecast.

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil forecast.

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El amor en los tiempos del cólera

El amor en los tiempos del cólera.

El amor en los tiempos del cólera.

Cuenta Gabriel García Márquez que al escribir “El amor en los tiempos del cólera” se inspiró en parte en el romance de sus padres (“La única diferencia es que mis padres se casaron. Y tan pronto como se casaron, ya no eran interesantes como figuras literarias”) y otro de unos ancianos que mantuvieron su amor en secreto durante décadas.

La novela fue publicada en 1985, tres años después de que recibiese el premio Nobel de literatura (ver discurso de aceptación del premio).

Seguramente la obra más aclamada de García Márquez sea Cien años de soledad, pero a mí me ha gustado bastante más “El amor en los tiempos del cólera”: una novela romántica que describe la relación durante toda una vida entre principalmente tres personajes: Fermina Daza, su marido, Juvenal Urbino, y su eterno pretendiente, Florentino Ariza.

Personalmente, parte de la narrativa y descripciones en “Cien años de soledad” se me hicieron pesados, en “El amor en los tiempos del cólera” ha sido al contrario. Largas páginas con densos párrafos se pasan en un suspiro gracias a la cantidad de figuras retóricas que usa García Márquez y hacen de la lectura un juego. En múltiples ocasiones me he encontrado después de leer un pasaje admirando el juego de palabras que acababa de hacer el autor.

Otro de los aspectos que me ha gustado del libro ha sido la personalidad y franqueza de los personajes, principalmente de Fermina Daza.

Como siempre, cuando leo un libro lo dejo lleno de páginas marcadas, pasajes subrayados, etc., os dejo algunos aquí para incitaros a la lectura.

“- Déjame aquí -dijo-. Sí había jabón”

[Juvenal Urbino a su esposa, después de llevar meses sin hablarse y durmiendo en habitaciones separas por una estúpida discusión, se retracta de su posición inicial aun sabiendo que tenía razón con tal de quedarse en la cama de matrimonio]


“… por su carácter, las cartas de ella eludían cualquier escollo sentimental y se reducían a contar incidentes de su vida cotidiana con el estilo servicial de un diario de navegación. En realidad eran cartas de distracción, destinadas a mantener las brasas vivas pero sin poner la mano en el fuego, mientras que Florentino Ariza se incineraba en cada línea.”


 “Escapó por milagro de una ejecución sumaria acusado de ser un espía que mandaba mensajes en clave de sol…”

[Habiéndose decretado el toque de queda a Florentino lo encuentra y detiene una patrulla militar cantando a Fermina]


 “Y algo que había de ser desde entonces la razón de su vida: la convenció de que uno viene al mundo con sus polvos contados, y los que no se usan por cualquier causa, propia o ajena, voluntaria o forzosa, se pierden para siempre. El mérito de ella fue tomarlo al pie de la letra.”

[Florentino Ariza a la viuda de Nazaret]


“… lo primero que le preguntaron en el puerto fue cómo le habían parecido las maravillas de Europa, y ella resolvió muchos meses de dicha con cuatro palabras de su jerga caribe:

–       Más es la bulla.”

[Fermina Daza. Esto me recuerda al pensamiento que me viene cuando alguien pregunta por Madrid, qué visitar en pocos días, qué tiene de especial, etc.]


“… y solo entonces había comprendido que un hombre sabe cuándo empieza a envejecer porque empieza a parecerse a su padre”


“… lo volteó al derecho y al revés con su sabiduría de perro viejo, lo paró de cabeza, lo subió y lo bajó, lo volvió a parir como nuevo, le hizo trizas sus virtuosismos teóricos, y le enseñó lo único que tenía que aprender para el amor: que a la vida no la enseña nadie.”

[Ausencia Santander a Florentino Ariza, quien estaba escribiendo un libro de instrucciones para enamorados]


“Sólo ellas sabían cuánto pesaba el hombre que amaban con locura, y que quizás las amaba, pero al que habían tenido que seguir criando hasta el último suspiro, dándole de mamar, cambiándole los pañales embarrados, distrayéndole con engañifas de madre para aliviarle el terror de salir por las mañanas a verle la cara a la realidad.”


“… se había enredado más pronto de lo que ella creía en una maraña de convenciones y prejuicios de su nuevo mundo. Al principio tenía una frase ritual para afirmar su libertad de criterio: “A la mierda el abanico que es tiempo de brisa”.” [Fermina Daza]


Era un marido perfecto: nunca recogía nada del suelo, ni apagaba la luz, ni cerraba una puerta.” [Sobre Juvenal Urbino]


“… le contó que había estado esa tarde con su confesor, temió quedarse ciega de rabia. Desde el colegio tenía la convicción de que la gente de la iglesia carecía de cualquier virtud inspirada por Dios. […] Pero que su esposo le hubiera permitido al confesor inmiscuirse hasta ese punto en una intimidad que no era solo la suya, sino también la de ella, era algo que iba más allá de todo.

–       Es como contárselo a un culebrero de los portales – dijo.

Para ella era el final” [Fermina Daza]


“… la aterrorizaba la voracidad con que los objetos iban invadiendo los espacios de vivir, desplazando a los humanos, arrinconándolos, hasta que Fermina Daza los ponía donde no se vieran. […] escondía el desorden”


“Sin embargo, el rápido progreso de la aviación era un peligro real para todos. Ella trató de consolarlo: los buques existirían siempre, porque no eran muchos los locos dispuestos a meterse en un aparato que parecía ser contra natura.” [Floretino Ariza y Fermina Daza sobre los aviones.]


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Swimming with dolphins in Mauritius

Mauritius is an island nation some 2,000 km off the East coast of Africa, in the Southern hemisphere, about 1/4th the size of the region of Madrid. Most of its surface is covered by sugar cane fields and a national park. The beaches are splendid. A major part of its coast is surrounded by coral reef. The service by Mauritians is terrific.

We have just come from spending a relaxing week over there and in this blog post I wanted to share one experience that marked me from this trip: swimming with dolphins in open waters.

One of the excursions offered was to go one day very early in the morning to take a boat off from Tamarin port in order to spend about 2 hours swimming with dolphins. One tourist from our group asked “what are the chances of actually seeing dolphins?”, “over 95%” confidently said the tour operator who tried to sell the different packages.

As the experience promised to be unique we went for it. And unique it was.

After having driven for almost 2 hours to cross the island, at 7am we were in the boat already seeing dolphins. We put on the snorkelling kit: flippers, mask and tube and off to the water.

At first, the anxiety made me lose my breath. After less than one minute you get used to it. In less than 2-3 minutes you get to locate the dolphins just by seeing their fins some meters away. Then you start swimming trying to chase them. “Look down!” said the guide. Once, you look down, you get to see some dolphin swimming some meters below. Then 2, 3, 4… and off you go swimming along with them. With the flippers it doesn’t even cost a lot of effort to keep pace with them. Soon enough you see yourself surrounded by over 10 dolphins. You think that they are not more than 20 centimetres away, you extend your arm but cannot touch them. They’re probably not far away, but not that close either. They swim on the surface, breath and go down some metres under the surface. You follow them from up above until they come up again. This sequence is repeated once and again. Until at some point you lose that group. Back to the beginning. You locate some dolphin, swim towards it and then find a group… it went on and on for almost 2 hours.

See a video we took and some pictures below (1).

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If you ever have the chance, do not miss it.

(1) In Youtube you may find much better videos taken with cameras under the water surface.

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