Tag Archives: Toulouse

Preparation vs. procrastination

I subscribed to the Humorous Speech competition of my Toastmasters club in Toulouse, Rosemasters, before the summer break. The contest was held last Saturday. I had competed in the previous round of contests of the club back in March, when I was lucky enough to win the speech contest. You may see the speech in this post.

I say “lucky” because, even if the message of the speech might have been valuable, and the delivery was OK, I did not prepare then as I should have. I procrastinated. I wrote the speech the week of the contest, read it some times along the week, but only practiced the morning of the contest. However, my procrastination was not punished…

For the speech contest of last Saturday I procrastinated a bit more. I thought about the topic during the week of the contest: self-deprecation about my integration in France, OK. But only got to write the speech the morning of the contest. I enjoyed the delivery of the speech, but I guess it was not as good as it should have been. What is worse, even if nobody but Luca and me noticed, I forgot a whole minute of speech with a couple of good lines… this is what happens when you don’t prepare. I came in last of the 3 contestants in terms of judges’ evaluation. Deservedly. Hopefully I will learn the lesson for the next time.

The winner, Dominique, on the other hand made a wonderful speech using an ukulele, which he had purchased for the speech about a month ago, learnt to play few notes to accompany the speech, thought of tens of uses for the ukulele within a speech, put up a great structure, used lots of body language, storytelling… I loved his speech. Congratulations to Dominique!

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Elections législatives in France

Second round of Elections législatives in France; as I did for the first round of the presidential elections two months ago, I went last Sunday morning to my bureau de vote to see how the process, the ballots, etc., were this time.

The striking difference with the elections to the congress in Spain is that in France each seat is circumscribed to a specific area, i.e., Haute-Garonne, the department where Toulouse is located has 10 circumscriptions, each one of them sends one and only one representative to the National Assembly in Paris. For each of those seats there is an election, with first and second round, for which absolute majority is required.

Let’s go back to Spain: e.g. the province of Madrid has 36 seats in the parliament, in the last November elections citizens from Madrid voted to the list of a party which proposed 36 names and, depending on the number of votes that each party obtained, those 36 seats were distributed according to the D’Hondt method (see a discussion on the method here – in Spanish). You will now see the effect.

In Madrid last November, the Popular Party obtained 50.84% of the vote (absolute majority), Socialist PSOE obtained 26.03% followed by UPyD (10.29%) and IU-LV (8.04%). The seats 36 were awarded as follows: 19 for PP, 10 PSOE, 4 UPyD and 3 IU-LV.

In the first round of the Elections législatives in Haute-Garonne:

  • In the 1st circumscription: the Socialist Party obtained 43.63% of the votes, followed by UMP (23.34%), Front National (9.96%) and Front de Gauche (9.01%)…
  • In the 2nd circumscription: the Socialist Party obtained 46.38% of the votes, followed by UMP (21.63%), Front National (12.46%) and Front de Gauche (7.86%)…
  • In the 3rd: UMP (35.14%), Europe Écologie Les Verts (22.24%), Divers gauche (21.36)…

If in the first round no candidate obtained an absolute majority in her circumscription (this only happened in the 8th circumscription, where the Socialist Party won the seat in the first round) a second round was needed. Only those parties with more than 20% of the vote in the first round competed in the second round; sometimes there were 2 candidates and in few cases 3.

In the week from the first to the second round, those parties not qualifying could elect to support one of the candidates in the second round and that was in the end reflected in the ballot papers, where you can see that the Socialist candidate of my circumscription was backed by 3 parties apart from PS and that one of the UMP by another 4 parties.

In the second round, the socialist party candidates who in the first round had obtained around 45% of the vote were collecting around 65% of the vote, beating one by one the other candidates except for the 3rd circumscription where the UMP won (and the 8th where there wasn’t a 2nd round).

This in the end gave the PS 9 out of 10 seats (90% of the seats) while in the case of Madrid, the PP obtained with about 50% of the vote 19 out of 36 seats (53% of the seats). This is the striking effect and main difference that the second round system provokes.

Result of the elections in Haute-Garonne.

I also found interesting the freedom at the time of arranging the information provided in the ballot paper, it seems that only size and white background are required.

The Socialist ballot doesn’t mention for which circumscription the candidate is competing (they may consider it redundant information, as the voter knows in which circumscription she lives) while they introduce the subtle message “Députée sortante” to let the voter know who won last time or who represented and worked for them during the last term. On the other hand, the UMP not being able to use the last-winner message opts for the inclusive “Candidat de la droite et du centre”. Note as well the difference in the colour, red vs black / grey, I guess that the latter was compromise among the different parties.

Ballot papers and envelope for the second round in the 4th circumscription of Haute-Garonne.


Filed under France

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

Landing at a car racing circuit

Albi is small city close to Toulouse. It is mainly famous for its UNESCO World Heritage Site Cathedral Sainte Cécile and the museum of the painter Toulouse-Lautrec. I had been there twice, but I hadn’t yet written a post about the city. Today I’ll write about another special feature it has.

In Albi there is a car racing circuit. I have a colleague who likes cars, motor-bikes and has been already using that circuit in one of its open days.

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the stall exercises we performed in last Saturday’s flight lesson.

Let me connect the dots. On Saturday, while having lunch, our colleague told us that the circuit in Albi was having an open day that precise day. He encouraged us to propose to our instructor to fly to Albi. And here comes the catch: “Why?” Because the aerodrome of Albi, our colleague explained to us, is embedded in the car racing circuit!

We gave it a try, demanded our instructor to go to Albi and succeeded. See below the flight path recorded with my Garmin:

Flight route Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) - Albi (LFCI).

In the following screenshot of the Visual Approach Chart (carte VAC) you may see how when the circuit IS active the runway of the aerodrome is shortened as the circuit crosses the runway! (You may download the chart here, PDF, 360KB).

Visual Approach Chart (VAC) for Albi aerodrome when the car racing circuit is active.

You may see it better below, in the Google maps view, how the circuit intersects the runway:

Albi car racing circuit and aerdrome.

Finally, enjoy the video of the final approach of our flight. If you pay attention to it, you’ll notice the cars racing in the circuit while we are approaching and how we are in fact touching down only within the allowable space when the circuit is active:

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Filed under Aerospace & Defence, Movies

Course des Rois

Villemur-sur-Tarn is a small village by the river Tarn, about 40km North from Toulouse. Last Sunday I went there early in the morning to take part in the Course des Rois, a 10km race that was organized there.

Last time I ran a race in January it was in 2002, in Torrelodones, another “King’s Race”. I remember that a week before I had missed the 2001 San Silvestre due to a sprain in the ankle. By the time the race in Torrelodones came I could not rest anymore and I ran it with the bandage still on.

Villemur-sur-Tarn is close to the wine-region of Fronton, another village about 10km South from it. The first runners that were subscribed to the race received a bottle of red win. Yeah, I won something at a race! Even before starting!

After several pains in the Autumn, I went to the doctor and got an x-ray of the waist. It showed a difference in the length of the legs of ~7mm. Then I went to a podologue who made a couple of orthopedic soles for me. They partly correct that difference in length plus improve my stepping (I tend to supinate or under-pronate).

I started using the soles about two weeks ago. The podologue told me “start using them little by little, don’t go and run on them 15km at the first trial”. Well, I ran 7km. Then other 7km, etc… These days I am having pain in the left knee. I guess that it was not used to the level of effort it is required now. While it gets used to it, it hurts as hell every time I start running.

On Sunday, when I arrived to Villemur, I started warming up about 20 minutes before the start of the race. I almost couldn’t bend the knee. Then I was jogging very softly, and the pain was that that my body wanted me not to take part in the race. I felt like crying. Luckily I was alone in the race and didn’t have to talk to anyone in those moments. Only in my head I was thinking “it’s ok, some minutes of pain while warming up and then it’ll get better”.

It got better. During the 1st kilometre I could stand it so I continued with the same rhythm until km 2.5, when my body broke into sweating and I stopped feeling cold. From then on, feeling warm and more comfortable, I looked at the rest of the race with a more positive look.

I went along with some groups of runners until feeling comfortable with them and going ahead to catch another group. I repeated this process about 3-4 times, with a final increase in the pace at about km 7.5, when I tried to make it below 47′. In the end, I did 47’09”.

I’m very happy with the time. Had I launched the pace increase before I might have made it. This is nearly 1 minute faster than in Brax 6 months ago and some 20 seconds faster than the end of the half marathon of Toulouse last September. I’m training with more difficulty these days, but it seems that I haven’t lost punch for the races. This race also helps me to measure the level of fitness with the McMillan calculator I use, in order to estimate training paces.

You may want to see performance of the race measured by Garmin and the following pics:

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Filed under Sports

First Take-Off

The 17th of December will always be an important day in the history of aviation for the following 2 reasons:

  1. The 17th of December 1903, Orville Wright performed the first flight aboard their Flyer I,
  2. Today, 17th December 2011, I made my first take-off aboard a Robin DR-400-120 :-).

As part of my training towards obtaining the PPL licence, today we performed the 5th flight, the first in which I was fully at the controls during take-off.

My colleague, Miguel, took the following video:

You may see the route we followed from Graulhet (LFCQ) to Toulouse-Lasbordes (LFCL) aboard the Robin DR-42 (F-GORM), as I recorded it with my Garmin GPS:

Flight route: LFCQ - LFCL


Filed under Aerospace & Defence

Flight lessons

About a month ago I started taking flight lessons at the ACAT aéro club, based in Lasbordes, a small aerodrome to the East of Toulouse.

I subscribed together with another Airbus colleague and both encouraged by a third colleague who had started some months beforehand.

Yesterday in the morning, the weather was not very good so we were not sure whether we would finally fly or not. Nevertheless, we had a theoretical lesson at first hour in the morning so we went to the aero club. At the break of the class, our instructor arrived and confirmed our flight. We took our stuff and skipped the second part of the class and headed towards the Robin DR-42 (F-GNNI) we flew.

For this second flight I decided to bring my Garmin GPS, which normally I use for sport activities, in order to record our flight, so that my colleague and I could better know where we had been flying. This will hopefully help us in getting to know better the Toulouse area from the air and with the navigation in the near future.

The flight was short and simple: practising pitching up/down, some steady turns and approach.

If you click on the map below you will be redirected to the Garmin website where you can read further information about the flight (time of the activity between switching on and off the engine) such as take-off, cruise and landing speeds. Do not pay attention to altitude figures, those reflected by Garmin are the ones of the terrain below (our track footprint).

Route of our flight: LFCL-LFCL

Some more pictures taken in yesterday’s class:

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Clarification: as we fly two pupils plus the instructor, each time we perform 2 flights, that is why I was siting at the back when I took pictures during flight.


Filed under Aerospace & Defence, Education, France

Toulouse marathon, 10 years later

Finally the 23rd of October came and with it the marathon of Toulouse, an event I planned to run as much as 8 months ago. An event I wrote about twice before in this blog, when I announced that I would run it and on the 23rd of October to publish the funds we raised for the charity I ran for, “Vaincre la mucoviscidose”.

To set the stage, I must say that in January I only had the objective of running some 10km races along the year and subscribing to a half marathon, not necessarily to be run in 2011. But then, on February I started thinking of actually going for a full marathon before year-end. I locked on the Toulouse marathon.

Time went by, and I took part in many races along the year, went from casual running to running a lot, to engaging myself in a formal training plan for the marathon… and to subscribe myself with a friend for an ultramarathon which we completed back in September, a month ago.

In September I completed the half marathon of Toulouse in 1h42’30”, my personal best time ever in the distance, ending with very good feelings. With that reference in mind, and taking into account a “running calculator” that I had been checking from time to time, I had in mind a marathon pace of 5’08″/km for the marathon… that would make a 3h36′ marathon. 24 minutes down from my best time 10 years ago.

One week after the half marathon, a friend and I took part in the 100km of Millau, more than 15 hours of racing. A great experience as I described in the post about it, but it brought some collateral damage in the form of a peroneal tendonitis that hasn’t been healed a month afterwards. During the last 30 days I only ran 3 days: One test prior to the race “Ronde des foies gras”, that race and short test run prior to the marathon.

Knowing that the injure wasn’t yet healed and that I hadn’t trained in a month, I decided to ease a little with the pace for the race: I set the objective in 5’20″/km, that would make a 3h45′ marathon…

Before leaving my home I put a special surgical bandage to strengthen the ankle that had given trouble in the last month. I put some anti inflammatory cream around and took a couple of analgesic pills. Ready for the race.

The marathon started very close to my place so I went to the starting lane jogging, as a warm up exercise. I got acquainted with the departing blocks by times and left my bag to the organization. I started with the group of 3h45′ as was my objective.

The first ~9km went through the centre of Toulouse, already with lots of people cheering in some parts of the city, especially in my neighbourhood, Saint Cyprien, despite of the early departure time.

After the first 10km, and feeling well, I decided to go a bit faster and I went ahead of the 3h45′ group, running by my own, finding another pack of runners going at about 5’10″/km. Everything went fine until km 19 more or less, then I started feeling some stiffnes in the right leg.

The pain wasn’t anymore restricted to the ankle but went up to the outer part of the knee. I managed to keep pace for about 2 kilometres until km 22. From then on, it proved impossible. The leg was not responding. Time was increasing between one kilometre and the next. 5’30”, then 5’50”, 6’30”, 7’00″… You may see the evolution in the following link with the performance along the race recorded by my Garmin GPS.

From that point around km 22 till the end there were some challenges. The first one was the running itself; it was increasingly difficult to move the right leg, but I knew that if I stopped for a few metres walking to calm down the pain it would only get worse, cool down and would be even harder to start again. Another challenge was to defeat the bad mood coming from the fact of knowing that I wouldn’t make the 3h45′ marathon that I aimed at, but would make a time somewhat worse, probably much worse. A final challenge was to get used to the idea of another 17km of pain while running, making some numbers in my mind at some point and figuring out that “ok, it’ll be at most about 1h40′ more of running with this pain, I can handle it”. If I took something from Millau, it was the mind management and coping with pain while running. This time it was less of a challenge.

At some point between km 25 and 27 I was overtaken by the 3h45′ group. One of the guys who lead it told me to try to follow them at the back of the pack. Impossible. I knew they were running at 5’20”, I was wandering at 5’40” by then and worsening. They were like a plane for me.

Later on, in the kilometre 33 I met my friend Juan, who was visiting me in Toulouse during the weekend. He would run the last kilometres together with me. That proved an invaluable help in the form of cheering, small talk, holding some drinks and finally making lots of pictures and videos that you may see below.

By then we were re-entering the city centre and the streets were filled by people cheering the runners. The bibs we carried had our names printed on them. This made people cheering you by your name “Allez, Javier! Courage!”. That was great. If you just had enough strength to run and look at them to thank for it…

By the kilometre 36 more or less I was overtaken by the 4h00 group. I already knew they would pass me, as I was seeing at every moment the times I was making and I had an idea of what final time I could manage. Again, the 4-hour group was like a plane for me, impossible to jump on it. They came at less than 6’/km while I was running at about 7′ by then. But it was only about 6 km to go, at most 40 more minutes. The marathon was almost finished.

I managed my way through the last kilometres seeing that in the end I wouldn’t be above 4h15′, that cheered me up a bit, and when I crossed the 41km line I made a small calculation: if I increased pace I could still be below 4h10′ official time, so I did.

During the next kilometre I increased the pace but still saving some strength to allow my self a last sprint from Wilson square to Capitol, where the finish lane was placed. By then the crowd was almost carrying you, pain was barely felt, the sight was locked on the “Arrivée” sign and the clock below… 4h09’35″… 36″… 37″…

Few more metres of sprint and crossing the line at 4h09’53” (4h08’31” net time), just below the 3rd objective, 25 minutes more than the original 3h45′, almost 10 minutes more than a sub-4-hour marathon. My second best time in a marathon.

On the plus side: I completed again a marathon, 10 years after the last one. The objective from February was accomplished. I could run the whole of it despite the injure and subsequent pain.

Nevertheless, I finished with a bit of bitterness from not having been able to meet my 3h45′ objective, nor the sub-4h one… This teaches me a lesson for the future: when you run a marathon being injured, far from making personal best times, you’ll most probably end up suffering a lot. A lot. After all a marathon is what it is for a reason, and one should never underestimate it. Lesson learned. Now it’s time to finally fully recover from the injure; 2012 will be another season.

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Filed under France, Sports

Running Toulouse marathon for a charity

As I announced back in August, today 23rd October 2011, I’m running my 4th marathon, 10 years after having run the last one. When I wrote that post, I mentioned that I would be raising funds for a charity, “Vaincre la mucoviscidose”.

With this post I wanted to thank those persons who contributed to the cause: Nacho, Jaime and Luca. Thank you for your contributions!! The people affected by the illness and I sincerely thank you for them. Together we have raised 240€ as you can see in the cheque below extended to the charity association.

Check sent to the charity "Vaincre la mucoviscidose".

Finally, in case you wake up early enough, you may follow the race live through this link. My bib number: 2329!


Filed under Helping others, Sports

Cité de l’Espace

I visited the Cité de l’Espace with my sister during last August holidays. Believe it or not, I had never been there before so I was looking forward to it.

The museum / park is very comprehensive and informative, especially for children and people who would like to know some basics about rockets, satellites and space exploration. Among the different interactive devices you can play with a gyroscope, try to dock into the ISS, launch a vehicle into a stable orbit, experiment how a satellite’s orbit parameters affect its ground-track…

I especially liked the exhibitions about celestial mechanics, space exploration and life in space, the path to the infinite and the real-size replica of the MIR space station.

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The only downside I find is the price of the ticket, above 20 €. It’s true that there are discounts for students, Airbus employees, etc., but when I compare it with the National Air and Space museums of the Smithsonian institution in DC which are entry free I am disappointed. I believe museums and especially science-related museums should be very affordable for families with small children, when they are most captivated by science at play.

The Cité de l’Espace was definitely worth a visit.

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