Monthly Archives: December 2018

Summary of (my) 2018

Time to look back and reflect on how the year which is about to end developed. Brief recap of my 2018. (1)

The main events of the year: Luca switched jobs and started working for Airbus, and Andrea switched languages and her default language is now English.

2018_1

Having said that: other personal objectives for 2018 have been moderately accomplished to different extents. Now, let’s review the year in more detail.


Flying. It took me until March 30th to make the first flight of the year, but since then it has been the year in which I flew the most, with above 23 flight hours, including 29 take-offs and landings. This year we could not manage to make our flight excursion to San Sebastian to have lunch but we did one to Auch. This year as well, together with my friend Asier, I took part in the aviation rally of our aeroclub (see here the post about it). But above all, I will remember this year by the incredible flight excursions we made to England and the Balearic islands.

Together with Albert, a work colleague, we flew to England over a weekend to attend the Flying Legends air show. We took the opportunity to visit the Shuttleworth collection and see its flying display. And on the way back and forth we over flew some Loire valley castles, the Mount Saint Michel, the racing circuits of Le Mans and Silverstone, the coast of Normandy, the Isle of Wight… it was an amazing experience. See here the post about it.

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A couple of months later, we flew over another weekend to Menorca and Mallorca with the children. We bathed at the hotel pool and the beach only one day, but we over flew the wonderful coastlines of both islands in another memorable excursion. See here the post about it.

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These two excursions have meant a learning and experience leap forward in terms of planning, flying and radio communication skills, and equipped with that experience and confidence no doubt that in 2019 I will be preparing other flight excursions as interesting as those.

If I recall it well, this year my work colleague Alex, fellow pilot Albert, Pablito and my sister Beatriz flew for the first time  with me at the controls. I flew as well with Luca, Andrea and David a few times, and with Asier. Believe me, there are very few things more enjoyable than flying with friends. I am sure that in 2019 that will be the case with some more.

Other things aviation. This year, I finally visited the aviation museum of Toulouse, Aeroscopia (opened in 2015). I also visited the Imperial War museum at Duxford (England) and the Shuttleworth collection, as referred above. In that trip, I attended two air shows: Flying Legends and the display of the collection. On top of that, I read a couple of aviation books, “Tintin, Herge – et les avions“, and the classic “Skunk Works“.

Airbus. After 4 years of development and 11 months of flight test campaign, the A330neo, the Airbus project in which I have been working since mid-2015, obtained its type certificate on September 26th and the first production aircraft was delivered to TAP Portugal airline, two months later, on November 26th. Those have been great achievements for the teams; and on a personal level, as well. And that also means that in the coming year I’ll be switching jobs again.

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Believe it or not, there were other things than aviation in our lives in 2018:

Public speaking. One of my objectives for the year was to become a bit more active in the in-company Toastmasters public speaking club, and was able to meet it: I prepared and delivered a few speeches (4) and participated in contests; I came in second place at both club and area level, not being able to participate further. See here the speech that I gave at area level.

Blogging. This year I managed to write 36 blog posts, more than in 2017 (13), though less than the years before (70-100). The blog received nearly 41,000 visits in 2018 (about the same than in 2017) and above 368,000 since I started it in 2010.

Reading. Since moving to our new house, we have dedicated one of the rooms to be a family library (call it a pet project). We keep on buying books that we consider good enough and place them there, keeping our curiosity and the thirst for good reads always alive. This year I kept up with the reading pace, trying to read 25 pages a day (which on average I managed), for a total of over 9,200 pages (over 1,100 more than in 2017) and 27 books. This permitted me to tackle some classics which I had wanted to read for some time such as “War and peace”, the “Aeneid” or “Le rouge et le noir”. For the complete list of books, see the post I wrote about my 2018 reading list with a brief description of each book.

Running. In 2018 I have run just above 1,100 kilometres, another “minimum” yearly mileage since I arrived to Toulouse in late 2010. I started training well in January but fell ill at the end of the month, which forced me to stay in bed for a week. It then complicated into otitis and I found myself in March not having almost run for weeks. Since then, I found it difficult to find the motivation to run systematically. Nevertheless, I did run 10 races, including 2 marathons (Vienna and Dublin (with great feelings and better than expected time)), 3 half marathons, a couple of trails (Ronde des Foies Gras (26 km) and Trail du Cassoulet (32 km)) and a few other races.

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Skiing. In 2018 we have repeated the wonderful all-family skiing week in the Alps (Vars) as we did in 2017 and as we will do again in a few weeks in 2019. This year, Luca and I were placed in the same group and Andrea continued making progress, earning her “Blanchon” medal. In the afternoons we enjoyed going altogether to practice some luge near the hotel with David.

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Cycling. Did I ever write about cycling in this blog in the previous years? No, right? Long story short: we climbed the Col du Tourmalet last August with my friends of the university in what was a great excursion. See here the post about it.

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Bull fighting. This year again, I managed to attend a bull fight, it was in May during the Feria de Pentecôte at Vic Fezensac, a small lively village in the Gers (France). Later on, in August, while touring Navarra and Pamplona we visited the Plaza de Toros and its wonderful museum, very informative and descriptive of the world famous encierros of San Fermin.

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Travelling. This year we visited Madrid, San Lorenzo del Escorial, Gap (Route Napoleon), Avignon (Pont and Palace des Papes), Bruniquel (castle), Vienna, Eurodisney (in a wonderful weekend for the kids… and even more for me!), Vic Fezensac, Bordeaux, Nantes, Saint-Malo (a wonderful city), Mount Saint Michel, Omaha beach (WWII), Honfleur, Compiègne (WWI Armistice), the Château de Cheverny (Tintin), England (see flight excursion above), Navarra (Olite, Pamplona, Javier, Roncesvalles), Sarrant, Lavardens (castle), Luz Saint Sauveur, Pont d’Espagne, Menorca and Mallorca (see flight excursion above), Ireland (Dublin, Cashel, Kilkenny, Killarney, ring of Kerry, Glendalough), Auch, Saint-Benoît-du-Sault, Château du Clos Lucé (Leonardo da Vinci), Empel (“miracle of Empel”), Somme (WWI battle), The Hague, Breda, Amiens (cathedral), Château de Chinon, San Sebastian… Many of these places have meant repeat visits, but they are lovely and we’ll continue to go there.

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Most of those travels were road trips. And for us 2018 started with a grain of luck (and use of chains) by we being able to get out rather quickly from the snow-covered A-6 road out of Madrid on the evening of the 6th of January that made the news for a few days for having thousands of people blocked in the road over night.

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Other reasons for joy in 2018 have been:

  • My family: my sister started working for Accenture in Denmark and in November came to visit us in the new house for a first time. My brother (despite of my calls for him to come to France) keeps enjoying Sevilla with the high pace job at the last stages of A400M deliveries with increased responsibility, learning and teaching opportunities. My father keeps attending the university (50 years later) to enjoy history lessons, having frequent meals with friends, attending conferences and even started going to the gym (!). My mother keeps being as energetic as always doing massages, visiting the family, travelling (she went to Saint Michel just a couple of months after I went), reading, teaching Andrea Spanish and swimming (or anything you ask her for!), etc.
  • Some more friends got married: Marisa and Laurent.
  • And we welcome some newborns from family and friends: Adrian, Benjamin, Thijs. (2)

Now it’s time to rest, celebrate and soon to plan how we want the 2019 to turn out. For me it will include a change of jobs, the starting of my son David into pre school, another all-family skiing week in the Alps, lots of flying (hopefully with one or two amazing excursions) and running (including at least a marathon in Cracovia), some books to read, museums to see, trips and excursions to enjoy… For now, I will close 2018 celebrating my sister’s birthday, running the San Silvestre Vallecana in Madrid with several friends and enjoying a last dinner with the family.

I wish you the best for 2019, enjoy it!

02. Selfie at departure

(1) You can see here my 20102011, 20122013201420152016 and 2017 recaps.

(2) So far, I have never written about it to keep an uplifting tone for these yearly posts, but, as we grow older, you can imagine that every year we have had also our sad moments of having to say good-bye to fellow family members and friends. Today is a good moment as well to think about them.

 

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My 2018 reading list

In this post I wanted to share the list of books I read along the year (1) with a small comment for each one and links to some Twitter threads where I shared some passages that caught my attention while reading the book. I have also included a small rating from one to three “+” depending on how much do I recommend its reading.

2018_reading_list

  1. Dom Juan” (by Molière) (+++): Molière wrote this play for his theater group in 1665 when he faced troubles with Le Tartuffe and inspired by the work of Tirso de Molina. It tells the story of Don Juan, an unscrupulous adulterer who finds a counter point in his servant Sganarelle, with the action taking place in Sicily. I found in the book a good critique of hypocrisy and defence of good morals. [I leave here a Twitter thread with some passages that caught my attention while reading the book]
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird” (by Harper Lee) (++): Written in 1960 and winner of the Pulitzer prize, this novel tells the story of Atticus Finch, widower lawyer and single parent who is raising his two children in a principled way in a setting that does not help: segregationist Alabama in the 1960s in the midst of a trial in which Atticus is defending the weaker part, a black man who has been accused of raping a young white woman.
  3. Aeneid” (by Virgil) (++): the book tells the story of Aeneas, a Trojan character mentioned in the Iliad, who travels to Italy and becomes the ancestor of the Romans. I found the book a good epic legend for Italy, I liked that it mixes the adventurous side of the Odyssey and the cruelty and violence of the combats of the Iliad. However, I found it a bit tedious compared to the other two. [Twitter thread]
  4. Caligula” (by Albert Camus) (++): This play, published in 1944, and part of the cycle de l’absurde, is centered around the Roman emperor Caligula, who following the death of Drusilla engages in different dialogues, at times humorous, absurd or abusive, where he experiences and plays around the impossible, power and finally plots his own assassination. [Twitter thread]
  5. L’Étranger” (Albert Camus) (++): in this novel written in 1942, the main character, Meursault is an French Algerian, who epitomizes indifference. The novel starts with the death of his mother, which already does not move him much. Later, he sees himself hanging around with friends when they are assaulted. Without much thought he finds himself committing a crime, poorly defending himself in court and seeing life go by in front of him in the death row. [Twitter thread]
  6. Skunk Works” (by Ben Rich & Leo Janos) (+++): This book, the biography of Ben Rich (coauthored by Leo Janos, coauthor as well of “Yeager”), tells the fascinating story behind great engineers and legendary airplanes such as P-38, Starfighter, U-2, SR-71 Blackbird or the F-117 Nighthawk. The book includes some insight of the struggle of engineers and managers in developing those programs with the pressure from the authorities and the bureaucracies linked to them. It includes as well some light insight into the engineering innovations behind the successes of those aircraft, mixed with many witty remarks and plenty of humour and passion for aviation, It’s definitely a must read. [Twitter thread]
  7. Juan Belmonte, matador de toros” (by Manuel Chaves Nogales) (+++): I had come across the book as being referred by Spanish author Perez Reverte as the best biography in Spanish language, no less. Written by the journalist Chaves Nogales, it tells the life of Belmonte, a bullfighter from the beginning of the XX century, who had a close “rivalry” with Joselito. From the stories of his childhood in Seville (sneaking naked with friends in the night into the properties of bulls’ breeders to practice the fight), to his becoming a figure of bullfighting (his great days, the times he was injured), to his trips to Latin America (where even he got married by power of attorney as he found ceremonies rather dull!), the life of Belmonte is the life of character to be found only novels. [Twitter thread]
  8. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” (by Yuval Noah Harari) (++): written in 2014, I quickly saw this book being very positively referred to in multiple publications, thus I had marked it in my to-read list. I finally did it this year. I was disappointed. The author, a historian, covers in this book the different revolutions of human kind, which he classifies in: cognitive revolution, agricultural revolution, unification of humankind and scientific revolution. It is an entertaining read, with a few original ideas and provoking questions at the end. Otherwise, I found that 70% of the content of the book must have been in my high school history/biology courses’ content. Highly overrated. [Twitter thread]
  9. War and peace” (by Leo Tolstoy) (++): With almost 1,500 pages in the Spanish version that I read, this master piece from Tolstoy is according to him neither a novel, nor a poem, essay or chronicle, but a mix of all those genres. It is a monumental and historical piece, where the author mixes real characters and situations (e.g. battlefields) with fictional (or masked) ones. It chronicles the Napeoleonic wars with the campaigns in Austerlitz and Russia, it describes the life of Russian nobility and bourgeoisie, the missery of the war. This one is definitely a must read. [Twitter thread]
  10. Checklist manifesto: How to get things right” (by Atul Gawande) (++): Gawande, a surgeon at a Boston hospital and professor at Harvard, wrote this book in 2009 and since years ago I had been wanting to read it. It includes a compelling message: use of checklists to improve safety, mainly in operations related to healthcare in general and in operating rooms worldwide. He approached the subject following requests from the World Health Organisation to find ways to drastically improve safety. And he found in check lists, like the ones used in aviation since the 1930s (when Boeing developed the B-17 Flying Fortress, much more complex to fly than previous aircraft), a cheap and effective way to improve operations. There are other lessons to be drawn from the book from the importance of preparation, communication, rehearsing or visualizing in advance the critical steps to be performed, etc.
  11. Apology (of Socrates)“, “Meno“, “Cratylus” (by Plato) (++): Apology is the Socratic dialogue which describes the defence that Socrates made of himself in the trial that that condemned him to death. I especially liked that dialogue and the high moral status that portrays of Socrates. In Meno, Socrates tries to define what is virtue and whether it can be taught. In Cratylus Socrates discusses the nature of the names given to concepts and whether they are linked to them, digging into their etymology. [Twitter thread]
  12. Protagoras“, “Gorgias“, “Seventh Letter” (by Plato) (++): In Protagoras Socrates takes on Sophists and further discusses about virtue, what it is and whether it can be taught. In Gorgias Socrates takes again on Sophists and the use of rhetoric for persuasion. The Seventh Letter is an autobiographical account by Plato of his activities in Sicily and his exchanges with Dion. [Twitter thread]
  13. Ion“, “Timaeus“, “Critias” (by Plato) (+): In Ion Socrates takes on a rhapsode and discusses about skills in different fields of work. Timaeus is a kind of text about physics, chemistry and biology, a kind of genesis… which I absolutely recommend not entering into it. In Critias Plato tells the story of Atlantis and its attempt to conquer Athens. I would not read it either. [Twitter thread]
  14. Normandy 1944” (Remy Desquesnes) (++): During our visit to the Normandy coast in the month of May, I purchased this book to complement what I had learnt through the reading of the panels, the monuments, and the museum at Vierville-sur-Mer. The book in itself is easily read. It covers the preparation, previous attempts by the Allies to land in continental Europe, the refinement of the strategy and the Operation Over Lord itself from different points of view. It includes several maps of the theatre of operations, pictures, figures. Even if the edition of the book (by Ouest France) is not very good (some paragraphs are uncompleted), the reading of the book did provide a good complement to the visit. [Twitter thread]
  15. Fahrenheit 451” (by Ray Bradbury) (++): written in 1953, it presents a future society in which books are forbidden and firemen are employed to search and burn books or the houses in which they are stored. The main character is Guy Montag, on of such firemen. The story shows him troubled by getting in contact with a neighbor who secretly reads or a woman who choses to burn herself rather than parting ways from her books. This makes Montag question some aspects of his society. [Twitter thread]
  16. The Whistler” (by John Grisham) (++): the nth book from Grisham that I read. In this one the plot has a mafia taking benefit of a casino handed to the Native American tribe living in an area in the north of Florida. A team of three lawyers from the Board of Judicial Conduct start investigating the conspiracy with almost no means and serious risk to their lives until late into the story when they manage to get the FBI onboard. Thrilling and engaging as always.
  17. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” (by Robert Cialdini) (+++): written in 1984, the book is today a classic of influence, persuasion or negotiation. It introduces what he calls the six weapons of influence and in different chapters he explains how they work in the setting of a negotiation or a sale, providing real life examples and, in the edition that I read, feedback from readers of the previous editions. The six weapons being: reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity. A very good read. [Twitter thread]
  18. Hergé, Tintin et les avions” (by Jose Miguel de la Viuda Sainz) (+++): this book, written in 2018 by a work colleague, is a compilation of the airplanes that appear in the different books of Tintin by Hergé. The book was edited in parallel to an exhibition about Tintin and airplanes at the Aeroscopia museum in Toulouse Blagnac. For each of those planes, the author reviews the plot of the Tintin book, the setting of the airplane(s) that appear in the book and discusses some technical features of the plane, whether in the book they are adapted from the real plane, whether those planes were marking a moment in aviation history at the time, etc. It is a rather short book (65 pages) but highly enjoyable. [Twitter thread]
  19. Why Nations Fail. The origins of power, prosperity and poverty” (by Daren Acemoglu and James A. Robinson) (++):  The thesis of the book is that the main driver determining whether countries follow a path of prosperity or the reverse is whether they have inclusive (vs extractive) political and economic institutions, i.e., democratic institutions, checks and balances, separation of powers, but as well respect for private property, contract law enforcement, etc. The book is well written, reads easily, and have quite a few facts that I discovered while reading the book, but I found it too long, as once the idea has been transmitted, the book becomes repetitive. [Twitter thread]
  20. Les Fleurs de Mal” (by Charles Baudelaire) (+): The most famous volume of poetry by Baudelaire, published in 1857, it was a must read if I wanted to venture into French poetry. With it Baudelaire tried to extract beauty from decadence, evil, mal. I especially liked the following poems: “La mort des pauvres”, “L’horloge”, “L’homme et la mer”, “Les Phares” and “Spleen”. [Twitter thread]
  21. Le rouge et le noir” (by Stendhal) (+): I took on this book, regarded as one of the best novels from the author, looking for a similar read to Les Miserables (by Victor Hugo), i.e. the struggle of a character from the lower ranks of French society of the XIX century. I was disappointed with the book. The book tells the story of Julien Sorel from his village Verrières to the Parisian society, the jobs he has to take, the relationships he entertains, the parties of the nobility… but I found too much storyline around his love affairs with Madame de Rênal and Mathilde de la Mole and I found the narrative very slow. [Twitter thread]
  22. Le Cid” (by Pierre Corneille) (+): I learned about Corneille and its Cid in one diagram about French literature included in the dossier of one of the Moliere’s books that I had read. Being the Cid a legendary Spanish knight about which I had recently read, I quickly put it into the to-read list. Whereas the Spanish “Cantar del Cid” is an epic poem, this “Le Cid” is a tragedy play for theatre. It confronts the hero Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar and his father with Ximena and her father. Ximena’s father offended Rodrigo’s one and this forces Rodrigo to search vengeance to save the honour of the family. Once that is settled, the course of action for Ximena is in question: whether to follow is loved one or not, once he has killed her own father. [Twitter thread]
  23. Captain of Hungary” (by Ferenc Puskas) (++): Ferenc Puskas was a great football player in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1954, at age 27, after having won a Olympics in 1952 and finishing second in the 1954 World Cup, he wrote this autobiography, when he still had ten years ahead as player and his best pages as club football player to be written. In the book he covers from his first games in the fields of Kispest during his childhood, to being called for the local club junior categories, to his promotion to the first league and national team. He very much focusses on his exploits with the national team with the other big teams of the time: England, Austria, Yugoslavia, Germany, Brazil. His passion for the sport, his dedication to the training and self-improvement and the importance of the tactical innovations, including the playing as a team and sacrificing oneself for the team, are constant themes along the book. [Twitter thread]
  24. Vingt ans après” (by Alexandre Dumas) (+++): “Twenty Years After”, published in 1845 as a serialized novel, is a sequel to the  “The Three Musketeers” and precedes “The Vicomte de Bragelonne”. The main characters are the same (i.e. D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis) though after 20 years their personal situation has changed. The France in which the live has also changed. Now the setting is the Fronde, with cardinal Mazarin and Anne d’Autriche in France, and Cromwell and Charles I in England. The book is as entertaining as the first book of the series, with continuous plots, adventures, surprises, fights, witty dialogues and gasconnades from D’Artagnan. [Twitter thread]
  25. The Sun also rises” (by Ernest Hemingway) (+): After a few visits to the fiesta of San Fermin in Pamplona, Hemingway published in 1926 this book, which has become possibly his most popular work. The plot portrays a group of American and British friends that organize a trip to Pamplona passing by Bayonne, San Sebastian and a few days in the mountains. I did not like much the half of the book that runs the lives of rather decadent characters in Paris, I did not like the intricated relationships among them, but I did like the way the bullfighting (corrida) and the bull run (encierro) are explained. Pamplona’s encierros have world fame, and even if not thoroughly described in the book, they do get a few pages of fast, intense narrative. The corridas get a longer share of the book as they include a fictional bullfigher, Romero, and Belmonte. There is a delicious full page describing the final moments of a corrida, when the bull’s ear is finally handed to Romero. I definitely recommend reading the last ~ 40 pages. [Twitter thread]
  26. Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder” (by Nassim Nicholas Taleb) (++): With this book written in 2012, Taleb built on concepts exposed its previous books to offer a new main idea: antifragility, as opposed to fragility and to what would be a midway concept  of robustness. He invites the reader to look for situations in which one can gain from situations of disorder, crisis, uncertainty.  Some steps in that direction would be to reduce the exposure to situations in which he is fragile, to question calls for action when inaction might be more appropriate (via negativa), to question third party forecasts, to pay attention to the effect of low probability risks (fat tails), etc. [Twitter thread]
  27. The first 90 days” (by Michael Watkins) (++): published in 2006, this book is a useful guide about how to face the transition into a new job position. It helps to focus on some aspects of the business, the processes, the relationships involved, questions to be made, the learning process to be had, etc. The book does not bring any breakthrough idea, but it’s a useful reminder of some basic and common sense elements to keep in mind during the transition.

During this year again, I have been able to read at a higher pace than years ago, before I adopted a more rigorous approach following these two tips:

  • a blog post from Farnam Street blog “Just Twenty-Five Pages a Day“, which was published well after I had adopted such an approach to reading but captures it very well,
  • the Wikipedia article about the Pomodoro Technique, which enables you to efficiently use the last hours of the day.

I wish you all very interesting reads in 2019!

(1) You can find here: my 2012 reading list2013201420152016 and 2017 ones.

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Col du Tourmalet (2018)

Last August 18th, together with some friends from the university we climbed with the bike the Col du Tourmalet, the mythic climb of the Tour de France in the Pyrenees. That was an excursion that I had been wanting to make since moving to Toulouse 8 years ago.

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Training. I had bought a road bike 3 weeks before the climb. I used it 3 times, to ride in the roads of the Gers (France) close to home. I rode 21 km, 26 km and 60 km in each of those days, at average speeds of between 20 to 22 km/h. I then went on holidays with the children and could not train any more. When back to my home in France, a few days before the climb I preferred not to use the bike to avoid arriving to the Pyrenees with some muscle pain.

None of us was well trained for the challenge, so we were prepared for the worst. The day before, I think none of my friends was confident in being able to climb up till the end, though I kept telling them we would make it.

Route. We decided to climb it from the Western side, departing from the village Luz Saint Sauveur. From there the climb is a bit longer, 19.0 km, with an average slope of 7.4% with a maximum of about 10.2% near the end. We planned to only climb up and descend back home (~ 40 km), we would not simulate a longer Tour de France stage with several climbs. Just one. Below you can see the profile per kilometre.

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We woke up early and had an average breakfast. The weather was good for the ride: fresh (14 degrees Celsius at 7:45 am, in the middle of August) and cloudy at the start from Luz. And 21 degrees at 11:45 at the top (at 2,115 metres of altitude) before starting the descent.

We first descended the 2.5 km between our hostel and the starting of the climb in Luz.

At 7:58 am we started the climb. We had rented a Scott Addict 10 (CD22) with a compact 50/34 crankset with 11x32 cassette (7.74 kg of weight). I did the complete climb without changing gears: 34 – 32. Since I was not well trained I did not want to push muscles any more than required by moving a more demanding combination (other colleagues did and had no problems either).

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Kilometre zero at Luz St. Sauveur.

I decided on my own strategy for the climb the night before. In bed, I read some blogs about the climb and one rider recommended to mentally split the climb, in stretches of 15 minutes. So I did. Mentally and physically. I rode at a comfortable but steady pace about 15 minutes and then I took a pause of 3-5 minutes. And then again, and again. Not all colleagues did that. We saw other riders taking similar pauses, though I would say that early in the morning most riders were better prepared and rode faster and with less pauses than us. When we descended the climb we found more casual riders (or this is what it felt when you watched them climbing while you descended).

 

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Pause at 1 km from the summit.

I found it hard, but bearable. The last 3 km had a more difficult profile, which added to the accumulated fatigue. The muscles were tired after each 15 minutes stretch but after the small pause we could continue without problem. I did not feel any pain, or had any cramps or injures. In that sense I found it less aggressive than marathons.

 

In all, it took us about 2h12′ riding from the bottom to the top (find here my Garmin record, which misses about 2 minutes in a ~400 m stretch of the 1st km). The pauses must have taken us another nearly 55 minutes in pauses, for a total time of about 3h10’ to reach the summit, at ~11h10 am. The average riding speed was 8.5 km/h, which started between 9 and 10 but at the end it was rather between 7 and 8.

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We then took some pictures, a coffee, a beer and had a chat at the cafeteria in the top.

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The descent to our hostel (16.64 km, 2.5 km from the start) took me another 28 minutes at 35 km/h, as I did not take any risk.

The experience was great. The views are breath-taking. The feeling of accomplishment very pleasant.

Route_2nd_half

Some more practical comments:

The descent. I was afraid of being too cold but it went well (not so for other colleagues who felt more the cold). I wore one t-shirt, the short-sleeved cycling maillot and an over-sleeve.

The road. It is rather wide at most points compared to other mountain roads. Cars during the climb did respect very well the distances to overtake riders. The asphalt was in good condition. I imagine that due to the Tour de France and the skiing stations they do maintain the road in good conditions, renewing the asphalt every few years.

Water. I did not see it while riding, but at the station on km 12, where there is the telesiege “Caubere” there was a water fountain where you can refill your bottles. I did the refill with river water a bit later, in the km 15 close to the a second telesiege at the station Super Bareges.

Logistics – Housing. We booked rooms in advance at La grange du Bois. That is a chambre d’hotes off the village of Luz Saint Sauveur at about the 2nd km of the climb. It was big enough to accommodate our continuous demands for more beds, as in the end we were 13 adults and 8 children. The house has capacity for 33 people, though if you go in a big group you might have to share some rooms (with capacities for 5 and 6 people). The price was reasonable and included half board (~44 € per adult and night ).

Logistics – Bike rental. We all rented road or mountain biks for the occasion. We picked Ardiden Vélos at Luz Saint Sauveur, just 100 metres from the start of the climb. The rental for 24-h cost 55 € (for the higher scale and lighter weight model), this allowed picking and adapting the bikes the previous evening so we could start cycling early in the morning. The rental included helmets and pedals. It did not include water bottles, which you can bring yourself or buy at the same shop.

Excursions. The day after we went on an excursion to Cauterets and the Pont d’Espagne walking to the Lac d’Aube. We did not feel any muscle pain and had a good time there.

In the future, if I ever get to ride on bike often on weekends, I may give it another try.

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“El mejor español se habla en Valladolid” (PISA, 2015)

“En Andalucía lo que sabe un niño de diez años es lo que sabe uno de ocho en Castilla y León”.

Estas declaraciones, pronunciadas hace un mes por Isabel García Tejerina, vicesecretaria de Acción Social del PP y ex ministra de Agricultura, Pesca, Alimentación y Medioambiente de abril de 2014 a junio de 2018, suscitaron una gran polémica en España, y a mí me dieron la idea de hacer un ejercicio simpático a partir de los últimos resultados de PISA, en 2015.

Recordatorio: PISA es el acrónimo de Programme for International Student Assessment, unas pruebas estandarizadas realizadas por la OECD que se hacen a alumnos de secundaria (15 años) de más de 60 países en las materias de matemáticas, ciencia y compresión lectora. Los resultados de las pruebas de 2015 se pueden encontrar aquí. Los resultados por comunidades de España se pueden encontrar aquí. En la gráfica de debajo se puede ver la presentación de los resultados de compresión lectora que se ofrece en el informe.

Lectura

Viendo esa gráfica, mi intuición parecía confirmarse así que le dediqué un par de horas a desarrollarla. Partiendo de la siguiente “premisa”:

“El mejor castellano, el mejor español se habla en Valladolid”.

Esta afirmación se escucha a menudo en España. Así, que quise comprobar si los resultados de PISA de comprensión lectora iban en esa línea, y contrastarla con una derivada de esa afirmación, ver si cuanto más se aleja uno de Valladolid peor se habla español. Para ello, recogí los resultados por comunidad autónoma y los comparé con la distancia media (en kilómetros) de cada comunidad autónoma a la ciudad de Valladolid (1). Con ello obtuve la tabla de debajo.

Distancia_Valladolid_1

Y los datos de dicha tabla se pueden presentar de forma inmediata en la siguiente gráfica, a la que añadí una línea de tendencia a partir de los resultados de Castilla y León.

Distancia_Valladolid_4

En la gráfica se percibe cómo cuanto mayor es la distancia media de una comunidad autónoma a Valladolid, peor es el resultado de comprensión lectora de PISA 2015. La correlación entre las dos series de datos es de 0.47 (2), que sube a 0.53 para la España peninsular (la comprensión lectora en las islas Canarias aun siendo la tercera más baja de la lista no está en proporción con la gran distancia a Valladolid (3)).

De forma coloquial, entonces se podría decir que sí, que el mejor español se habla (de hecho sería se lee) en Valladolid, y que cuanto más se aleja uno de Valladolid peor se habla español (de hecho sería peor se comprende el español leído).

Un comentario final sobre comunidades autónomas como Baleares, Cataluña, Galicia, Navarra o País Vasco. En estas comunidades autónomas, las pruebas de PISA de compresión lectora se realizaron total o parcialmente en lenguas distintas del castellano (4). Siguiendo la teoría que en esta entrada se pretende demostrar de modo jocoso, “cuanto más se aleja uno de Valladolid peor se habla español”, si en esas comunidades las pruebas de PISA se hubieran hecho enteramente en español, los resultados de esas comunidades, dada su lejanía a Valladolid habrían sido peores, y más cercano al indicado por la línea de regresión (5).

(1) De Wikipedia se obtienen las coordenadas geográficas medias de cada comunidad autónoma. En la siguiente página hay un calculador de distancia entre cualesquiera dos puntos a partir de sus coordenadas.

(2) Una correlación a partir de 0.5 se suele considerar como fuerte.

(3) Siguiendo la regresión, para la distancia de Canarias a Valladolid (1,798 km) el resultado seria 387, mucho menor que los 483 obtenidos en la prueba.

(4) En particular:

  • País Vasco: un 25% de los alumnos hicieron la prueba en euskera (en su mayoría del modelo D, con puntuación media 483, por debajo del 491 general), el resto en castellano. El informe del gobierno autonómico ofrece mucho detalle sobre las puntuaciones sacadas por los alumnos de cada opción y el idioma que se habla en casa.
  • Navarra: el informe sobre los resultados que ofrece gobierno navarro no da muchos detalles, solamente indica que los alumnos de 9 de los 52 centros que hicieron las pruebas, las hicieron en euskera (los estudiantes de los modelos B/D; los de los modelos A/G la hicieron en castellano). Otros 8 centros hicieron pruebas en ambos idiomas. El informe del gobierno navarro no da más información, ni respecto al número de alumnos en cada idioma, ni en cuanto a los resultados en cada idioma.
  • Galicia: el gobierno gallego en su web no da mucha información, más allá de felicitarse por obtener unos resultados mejores que la media nacional.
  • Baleares: el gobierno balear publica un informe donde se indica que los alumnos que en casa hablan en catalán obtienen mejores resultados (503 vs 479; siendo un 36.4% catalanoparlantes), pero no ofrece información al respecto de cuántos estudiantes hicieron la prueba en un idioma u otro (o si se hicieron enteramente en catalán) y de los respectivos resultados.
  • Cataluña: todos los alumnos realizan las pruebas en catalán. El informe del gobierno regional solamente indica que los alumnos catalanes obtienen resultados de comprensión lectora un resultado mayor que la media nacional (500 vs 496), pero no habla de la brecha que hay entre los resultados obtenidos en Cataluña entre alumnos catalanoparlantes y castellanoparlantes (525 vs 487, en pruebas realizadas en catalán; ver informe).

(5) Un caso particular relacionado con esta afirmación se da con el País Vasco. En ese caso los resultados globales son peores de lo que indica su distancia a Valladolid (línea de regresión). Y se da el caso de que los resultados de los examinados en euskera son peores que los examinados en castellano.

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“Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren”, John Maynard Keynes (1930)

The English economist, John Maynard Keynes, wrote in 1930 a short essay, titled Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren , where he discussed that in about a hundred years from that time (~ 2030) the economic problem would be solved.

I read this essay years ago and have referred to it many times, thus I had wanted to write here about it and leave some of the extracts and a few related graphics for future reference.

In a nutshell: Keynes forecast that, at some point in the future, productivity growth will reach a level such that we humans will not have to work more than 15 hours per week if we spread the available work to be done as widely as possible. The problem that humans will then face will be how to employ their time in leisure activities.

He comments that without the need to accumulate money we will see a “return to some of the most sure and certain principles of religion and traditional virtue-that avarice is a vice.

In the essay he also predicts “that the standard of life in progressive countries one hundred years hence will be between four and eight times as high as it is to-day. We can measure this by seeing the evolution of GDP per capita since then in the UK in the following graphic from the website Our World in Data (by Max Roser):

GDP per capita growth UK

Comparing the figures of the graphic 1930 (5,746 £) and 2016 (30,281 £), we see that the increase in these 86 years has been x 5.3 times (adjusted for inflation), thus between 4 and 8 times, as predicted, and pending 14 years to go till 2030.

Keynes included at the end of the paper some conditions that will set the pace of the progress to reach the moment in which the economic problem will be solved:

  • our power to control population,
  • our determination to avoid wars and civil dissensions,
  • our willingness to entrust to science the direction of those matters which are properly the concern of science, and
  • the rate of accumulation as fixed by the margin between our production and our consumption; of which the last will easily look after itself, given the first three.

Population growth and control. In the following graphic from the same website “Our World in Data” (by Max Roser and Esteban Ortiz-Ospina) we can see that population growth from 1930 was far from being controlled. The rate of growth tripled reaching its maximum in 1962 (~2.2%). Since then it has nearly halved. The forecasts are that by the end of the current century population will cease to grow and stabilize at around 11 billion people.

updated-World-Population-Growth-1750-2100

Updated-World-Population-Growth-Rate-Annual-1950-2100

Wars and civil dissensions. Yet again, in the website “Our World in Data” (by Max Roser) we can see how a few years after Keynes wrote his essay (1930) started the Second World War. However, since the end of WWII the global figures of deaths in wars between states, civil wars, etc., have greatly decreased.

International-Battle-Deaths-per-100000-20th-Century-Acemoglu0

state-based-battle-related-deaths-per-100000-since-1946

To conclude this post, I leave here below a few extracts from the essay.

—-

“We are suffering just now from a bad attack of economic pessimism.”

“We are suffering, not from the rheumatics of old age, but from the growing-pains of over-rapid changes, from the painfulness of readjustment between one economic period and another.”

“The prevailing world depression, the enormous anomaly of unemployment in a world full of wants, the disastrous mistakes we have made, blind us to what is going on under the surface to the true interpretation. Of time-the pessimism of the revolutionaries who think that things are so bad that nothing can save us but violent change, and the pessimism of the reactionaries who consider the balance of our economic and social life so precarious that we must risk no experiments.”

“My purpose in this essay […] What can we reasonably expect the level of our economic life to be a hundred years hence? What are the economic possibilities for our grandchildren?”

“Some periods perhaps So per cent better than others at the utmost 1.00 per cent better-in the four thousand years which ended (say) in A. D. 1700.”

“This slow rate of progress, or lack of progress, was due to two reasons – to the remarkable absence of important technical improvements and to the failure of capital to accumulate.

“The absence of important technical inventions between the prehistoric age and comparatively modern times is truly remarkable.”

“At some epoch before the dawn of history perhaps even in one of the comfortable intervals before the last ice age-there must have been an era of progress and invention comparable to that in which we live to-day. But through the greater part of recorded history there was nothing of the kind.”

“The modern age opened; I think, with the accumulation of capital which began in the sixteenth century. I believe – for reasons with which I must not encumber the present argument – that this was initially due to the rise of prices, and the profits to which that led, which resulted from the treasure of gold and silver which Spain brought from the New World into the Old. From that time until today the power of accumulation by compound interest, which seems to have been sleeping for many generations, was re-born and renewed its strength. And the power of compound interest over two hundred years is such as to stagger the imagination.”

“For I trace the beginnings of British foreign investment to the treasure which Drake stole from Spain in 1580. In that year he returned to England bringing with him the prodigious spoils of the Golden Hind. Queen Elizabeth was a considerable shareholder in the syndicate which had financed the expedition. Out of her share she paid off the whole of England’s foreign debt, balanced her Budget, and found herself with about £40,000 in hand. This she invested in the Levant Company –which prospered. Out of the profits of the Levant Company, the East India Company was founded”

“Thus, every £1 which Drake brought home in 1580 has now become £100,000. Such is the power of compound interest!”

“From the sixteenth century, with a cumulative crescendo after the eighteenth, the great age of science and technical inventions began, which since the beginning of the nineteenth century has been in full flood — coal, steam, electricity, petrol, steel, rubber, cotton, the chemical industries, automatic machinery and the methods of mass production, wireless, printing, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein, and thousands of other things and men too famous and familiar to catalogue.”

“What is the result? In spite of an enormous growth in the population of the world, which it has been necessary to equip with houses and machines, the average standard of life in Europe and the United States has been raised, I think, about fourfold. The growth of capital has been on a scale which is far beyond a hundredfold of what any previous age had known. And from now on we need not expect so great an increase of population. If capital increases, say, 2 per cent per annum, the capital equipment of the world will have increased by a half in twenty years, and seven and a half times in a hundred years. Think of this in terms of material things — houses, transport, and the like.”

“At the same time technical improvements in manufacture and transport have been proceeding at a greater rate in the last ten years than ever before in history. In the United States factory output per head was 40 per cent greater in 1925”

“In quite a few years-in our own lifetimes I mean – we may be able to perform all the operations of agriculture, mining, and manufacture with a quarter of the human effort to which we have been accustomed.”

“We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not yet have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come — namely, technological unemployment. This means unemployment due to our discovery of means of economising the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour.”

“… means in the long run that mankind is solving its economic problem. I would predict that the standard of life in progressive countries one hundred years hence will be between four and eight times as high as it is to-day.”

“Let us, for the sake of argument, suppose that a hundred years hence we are all of us, on the average, eight times better off in the economic sense”

“… when these needs are satisfied in the sense that we prefer to devote our further energies to non-economic purposes.”

“I draw the conclusion that, assuming no important wars and no important increase in population, the economic problem may be solved, or be at least within sight of solution, within a hundred years.”

“… we look into the past-we find that the economic problem, the struggle for subsistence, always has been hitherto the primary, most pressing problem of the human race”

“If the economic problem is solved, mankind will be deprived of its traditional purpose.

“To use the language of to-day-must we not expect a general “nervous breakdown”? We already have a little experience of what I mean -a nervous breakdown of the sort which is already common enough in England and the United States amongst the wives of the well-to-do classes, unfortunate women, many of them, who have been deprived by their wealth of their traditional tasks and occupations–who cannot find it sufficiently amusing, when deprived of the spur of economic necessity, to cook and clean and mend, yet are quite unable to find anything more amusing.”

“Thus for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problemhow to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.”

“For we have been trained too long to strive and not to enjoy. It is a fearful problem for the ordinary person, with no special talents, to occupy himself”

“We shall do more things for ourselves than is usual with the rich to-day, only too glad to have small duties and tasks and routines. But beyond this, we shall endeavour to spread the bread thin on the butter-to make what work there is still to be done to be as widely shared as possible. Three-hour shifts or a fifteen-hour week may put off the problem for a great while. For three hours a day is quite enough to satisfy the old Adam in most of us!”

“When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals.”

“The love of money as a possession -as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life -will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semicriminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.”

“I see us free, therefore, to return to some of the most sure and certain principles of religion and traditional virtue-that avarice is a vice, that the exaction of usury is a misdemeanour, and the love of money is detestable

“But beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to every one that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still.”

“… it will all happen gradually, not as a catastrophe. Indeed, it has already begun. The course of affairs will simply be that there will be ever larger and larger classes and groups of people from whom problems of economic necessity have been practically removed.”

“The pace at which we can reach our destination of economic bliss will be governed by four things-our power to control population, our determination to avoid wars and civil dissensions, our willingness to entrust to science the direction of those matters which are properly the concern of science, and the rate of accumulation as fixed by the margin between our production and our consumption; of which the last will easily look after itself, given the first three.”

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San Francisco Javier y Castillo de Javier (Navarra)

El pasado verano de camino hacia Francia hicimos una excursión en Navarra, con parada en Javier, donde se encuentra el Castillo de Javier y donde nació San Francisco Javier el 7 de abril de 1506.

Castillo

La construcción del castillo se inició a finales del siglo X, en tiempos de Almanzor, como torre de vigilancia para defender el valle del río Aragón. Con el paso de los siglos se añaden estructuras hasta que en el siglo XIV se edifica el “Palacio Nuevo”, siendo propiedad de la familia Azpilicueta.

Escudo

En una de las salas del castillo se muestra un árbol genealógico con todos los “Señores y Condes de Javier” desde el siglo XII, comenzando por Aznar de Sada (1194-1203) hasta el actual Javier de Urzaiz y Ramírez de Haro (1975- ). San Francisco Javier, con el nombre Francisco de Jaso y Azpilicueta al nacer, fue el quinto hijo de Juan de Jaso y Atondo (Señor de Javier) y María de Azpilicueta y Aznarez de Sada (Señora de Javier).

Arbol

A los 19 años se fue a estudiar a la Universidad Sorbona de Paris, donde conoce a Ignacio de Loyola, junto a quien, entre otros, fundaría la Compañía de Jesús en 1534. En 1540 parte a Lisboa para luego seguir con su viaje como misionero a Mozambique, la India, las islas Molucas o Japón entre otros. Es por ello que en 1927 se le nombra como patrón de las misiones católicas en el mundo.

Painting

En el pórtico de la basílica que se encuentra junto al castillo, construida en 1901, se mencionan todos los lugares que visitó, junto con una cita del evangelio de San Mateo (16:26) “¿Quid prodest homini si mundum universum lucretur animae vero suae detrimentum patiatur?” (“¿Porque qué aprovechará al hombre, si ganare todo el mundo, y perdiere su alma?”).

Basilica

Portico

Dentro de la basílica se puede contemplar una losa que marca el lugar donde nació Francisco, dado que esa parte de la iglesia anteriormente formaba parte del Palacio Nuevo, derribado parcialmente para levantar la basílica.

Nacimiento

Javieradas. Fuera del castillo, unos paneles explican en qué consisten las Javieradas: unas peregrinaciones que se realizan en honor al santo desde 1932 por iniciativa de Camino Jaurrieta Muzquiz, rescatando una primera peregrinación organizada en 1886 en agradecimiento porque Navarra no había sido afectada por la epidemia de cólera de aquel año. Las peregrinaciones se realizan en el primer domingo entre el 4 y 12 de marzo, y al domingo siguiente.

Javierada

Por último, la festividad del santo se celebra el 3 de diciembre por ser la fecha en que murió el santo en 1552 en la isla Shangchuan (China), a los 46 años de edad. Sus restos se llevaron en 1554 a Goa (India) donde fue enterrado.

Libros

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