A couple of days in Dubai

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After a quick trip to Baltimore, I had to fly to Dubai for a series of business meetings and to attend a trade show.

While a 12 hour and 7000 mile flight is never fun, Emirates award-winning on board entertainment system in the new A380-800 Jet is a joy. Not for the interface, a little outdated, but for the large screen and seemingly endless selection. Then again, all I need to make it through any long flight is an AC plug, which this plane had, so I was golden. But it would have helped that the baby the man next to me was holding had not screamed, at the top of her lungs “daaadyyyyyy!” exactly 86 times before we even took off. Yes, I did count them. It was one of the mechanisms I had to deal with the annoyance. Perhaps the only legal one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a dad. I’ve had crying babies in my arms a lot. But our brain is hardwired to react to that high pitched tone, and it takes a lot of concentration, even meditation, to completely bypass it.

So, eventually I achieved “the zone”, despite the flying baby-day-care that the whole gigantic plane was (you rarely encounter kids flying to Europe, but parts of the Middle East or Asia… that’s another story), with a mix of meditation, awesome music playmix, and frantic typing away on my laptop.

It was my honest intention to read some post-modern philosophy and art theory during the flight and perhaps to also catch up on some recent movie releases that I did not get to see in the big screen. But I always end up writing on my laptop during flights because it’s an almost interruption-free time.

Note to self: for a comfortable seat and to avoid being disturbed every 5 minutes with fellow passengers going to the restroom (and to avoid bothering others), on a long flight with a 3+4+3 configuration, and if forced to fly coach, it makes a lot more statistical sense to get the aisle on the 4 section.

So, after the flight a Uber driver in a Lexus 350 sent by my customers picked me up and took me to the Sofitel The Palm hotel. An splendid property with all the amenities and comforts you can think of in a luxury hotel. Quite notable was the view of Dubai’s skyline from my room.

Sofitel The Palm

The next day I woke up early and went to the private beach for a walk, then at 8:30am, when the swimming pool opened, I swam a few laps on the beautiful heated outdoors pool. Not surprisingly, being so early, there was no one there but the lifeguards, gardeners and waiters.

Dubai is a scary example of where our “artificial scarcity” society is going. “Creating value” by restricting access. Exclusivity. Everything compartmentalized. The “haves” segregated from the “have nots”. A new way of apartheid: economic. The 1% (or rather 0.001%) with a free pass, the rest condemned to work hard or break the law to have a shot of one day making it to the “exclusive club”. But it is all a lie, mirrors and smoke, fabricating a false necessity to drive demand and increase prices. Manipulating consumers into believing their life is not good enough and they should want more (and of course, “product X” will get them there, or closer at least). It’s sickening. And we are heading in that direction at full speed and in a globalized form.

So, after my daily dose of healthy social criticism and revolutionary impulse, I went straight to the very extensive and delicious breakfast buffet. It was organized the way I like it most, in different stations: Indian, English, Dim Sum, etc.

After breakfast, shower, and getting “suited-up”, I had a surreal “taxi adventure”. Although the address was clear, including a well known point of reference, the taxi driver took me all over town for an hour, when it should have taken 15 minutes. I’m sure he did not mean to rip me off, because the third time he stopped to ask for directions from strangers, he stopped the meter. But my customer was going ballistic, since the driver would not pick up the cell phone to talk to him and get directions. Eventually, through text messages, I received a clear description of the building and surrounding area, and I was able to point the driver to the right place. So, lesson learned: when the driver is from Indian origin, make extra sure he knows where he is going, because in order not to disappoint you, they will lie and say they know, while moving the head side to side, when they actually don’t. It’s a cultural thing, but definitely messed up.

My business meetings and trade show went well, but since this is a personal blog, I will spare you the details.

At night my customer was very kind to invite me to his home for dinner with his family and associates. It was a very nice house, with a neat organic garden, and a truly nice, loving and fun family. Dinner was delicious, and as much as I usually hate mixing business and personal, the whole evening turned out to be great.

On the way back to my hotel I saw a big group of disoriented bunnies on the side of the road. I asked the locals and nobody could believe it. The most plausible explanation anyone dared to come up with was “perhaps someone threw a birthday party for his little girl, the bunnies were part of the party, and after that they just let them loose”. Sad but could be true.

The next day I had more meetings, including one with a former intelligence officer, now an executive at a government owned IT company. As an anecdote, he explained to me the different collars in the traditional male robe (kandura): raised in Abu Dhabi, straight low cut in Dubai.

After a day full of meetings at the Convention Center and Internet City, we had dinner at Cle, an amazing restaurant with the Michelin starred chef Greg Malouf, who came to our table to chat with us.

My flight back, although it was delayed, changed, and changed back, ended up being a breeze, with a whole middle section to myself. Now I’m back in New York, for a few days. It is cold, but the “snowmageddon” or “blizzard2015” that they were expecting ended up not living up to the hype, unlike in New England.

Weekend geek fun

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I have been lucky enough to experience a couple of weekends in a row at home in NY, which means friends and fun. From having dinner at a friend’s apartment in the upper East side, and with another heterogeneous group of friends (New York Times journalists, lawyers, and people from the food and restaurant industry) at Mercato; to more geeky things like having lunch in Macondo with Pepe and Sandy from the Open Internet Tools Project so we could talk about the Circumvention Tech Festival; to reading and writing about what art is and means (what better place to do that than NY); to replacing a hard disk drive for a new solid state drive; to finally watching BlackHat and the last Hobbit movie on the big screen… I’m fortunate to have a wife that finds all those activities fun ;-)

Valencia (Spain) in December

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In December I went to Valencia (Spain) on a business and personal trip. Besides the always sweet family moments (in one of which I was subjected to an artistic transformation in which both my face and my scalp were used as an improvised canvas), there were three things I particularly enjoyed: the Christmas lunch (Spanish tradition, in lieu of the office party) I prepared at the office for the whole team; to finally try the Oculus Riff with my dad and my son at the videogame exhibition at the Valencian Museum of Illustration and Modernity [sic] (MuVIM); and a paella at a family member’s farm in the middle of a Valencian field.

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In any case, that was not the only paella I had. I also enjoyed a seafood one with my parents at the beach. Definitely, NY is a very especial city, but when it comes to weather, food and sun, Valencians can’t complain! ;-)

Family Christmas in New York

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This Christmas was the best ever!

We had the kids visit NY from Spain. As usual I never post pictures or give details of other family members in my blog, but we did have a blast: Empire State Building, Central Park, Museum of Math (MoMath), Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), twice dinner at Cafeteria and ice-cream at Amorinos, American Museum of Natural History, the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, chatting with the squirrels at Washington Square Park, Forbidden Planet comics, The Strand bookstore, Grand Central Station… and to top it off we spent a day at the Poconos Camelback mountain snow-tubbing. But, without a doubt, the best moments were spent at home, playing hide and seek (yes, apparently you can play hide and seek in our Chelsea apartment, who knew!), watching classic movies like The Matrix, drawing and writing a book, baking Christmas cookies, and even doing homework.

Awesome!

How much does an international entrepreneur travel in a year?

The quasi-obsessive quantification and daily social-network ”exhibitionism” trends are very interesting phenomena enabled by new technologies and there is no doubt disciplines such as psychology and sociology will examine them in detail.

Although I don’t believe I follow those trends, it’s true that a certain level of quantification of some activities enables process optimization, setting and achieving goals, or even a more precise analysis of activities that may otherwise be magnified or minimized by a subjective memory recollection.

This is most obvious in the business world. Away from a “micro-manager” tendency to look very closely at every move, or a “big data” one, attempting to extract new knowledge from each number in a table, I decided to check a few concepts related to my business activity, and it has been a really interesting experience. Specially my travel activity.

Clearly, if one is an international serial entrepreneur (I am the founder or co-founder of 8 companies in 2 countries), sooner or later one has to travel. Specially if your business is focused on enterprise, B2B systems, with customers worldwide.

But everything has a limit, and should be taken into account when making decisions. In 2014 I traveled. A lot. 72 flights (compared to 42 the previous year), the longest one being 6,717 miles (10,809 km) from New York to Tokyo. That’s a flight every 5 days, all year long. In fact in the last three years I have traveled 239,152 miles (384,877 km), which amounts to almost 10 times around the world, or more than the distance between the Earth and the Moon. While not all trips are work related, there is no doubt that in any case, it’s a lot of traveling.

Considering that I hold an average of three videoconferences per day, if it wasn’t for the internet, I’d have to travel much more.

So although the “app entrepreneur” stereotype that media portrays so often of kids who have dropped out of college to develop (“ahem”) an app, take three rounds of financing, and go public or be acquired by billions, all without leaving their designer loft offices in Silicon Valley, sounds nice and idyllic, the reality is different. Lots of entrepreneurs, like myself, are not kids any more. And many do not live in Silicon Valley (although I do live in Silicon Alley). And above all, those entrepreneurs have to travel, a lot, to get sales instead of “raising capital.”

It crossed my mind to create an infographic, but I have no time for that. “How about the time it takes to collect this data?” A lot less than it seems, because as soon as I arrive at an airport, I “check-in”, which is shared via Twitter. With that my colleagues, and family, know that I have arrived, and when, and above all I have linked it to various services such as JetLovers, which calculates the routes and distances,  so then it is as simple as clicking a link to get all this data, map, etc.

For comprehensiveness shake, here’s the complete list:

  • 18-26/12/14, Malaga and Valencia (Spain), business trip
  • 26-29/11/14, Niagara (Canada) and Buffalo (USA), Personal trip
  • 24-25/11/14, Mexico DF (Mexico), Business trip
  • 18-21/11/14, Atlantic Ocean, Personal trip (Invited to the inaugural cruise sailing of Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas)
  • 07-17/11/14, Vienna (Austria), Valencia and Barcelona (Spain), Stuttgart (Germany), Warsaw (Poland), London (UK), Business trip
  • 27-31/10/14, Lima (Peru), Bogota (Colombia), Business trip
  • 21-24/10/14, Mexico DF (Mexico), Business trip
  • 14-29/09/14, Milan and Rome (Italy), Amsterdam and Utrecht (Netherlands), London (UK), Lisbon (Portugal), Barcelona and Valencia (Spain), Paris (France), Business trip
  • 03-11/09/14, Tokyo (Japan), and Singapore (Singapore), Business trip
  • 18-19/08/14, Houston, TX (USA), Business trip
  • 14-15/08/14, Atlanta, GA (USA), Business trip
  • 08/07-12/08/14, Barcelona, Valencia (Spain), Marseille (France), Genoa, Rome, Palermo (Italy), La Goulette (Tunisia), Palma de Mallorca (Spain), Personal trip (invited to a family cruise onboard the MSC Musica)
  • 12-19/06/14, Nice (France), London (UK), Madrid and Valencia (Spain), Business trip
  • 10-11/06/14, Washington DC (USA), Business trip
  • 26-31/05/14, Santiago (Chile), Buenos Aires (Argentina), and Montevideo (Uruguay), Business trip
  • 01/05/14, Atlanta, GA (USA), Business trip
  • 29/4/14, Cleveland, OH (USA), Business trip
  • 9-16/04/14, Valencia and Barcelona (Spain), Business trip
  • 17-21/03/14, Bogota (Colombia), Business trip
  • 06-07/03/14, Dallas/Fort Worth, TX (USA), Business trip
  • 03-04/03/14, San Diego, CA (USA), Business trip (USCAP)
  • 23-26/02/14, Orlando, FL (USA), Business trip (HIMSS)
  • 14-20/02/14, Ft. Erie (Canada), Personal trip
  • 27-29/01/14, Atlantic Ocean, Personal trip (invited to the inaugural cruise of the Nowegian Getaway)
  • 23-24/01/14, Nice (France), Business trip
  • 18-22/01/14, Valencia and Madrid (Spain), Personal trip

A couple days in Malaga

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On Wednesday 17 I arrived in Malaga (Spain) via Zurich for a couple of important business meetings. The meetings went really well, but I also enjoyed this very special city.

It had been a while since I was last in Malaga, so I went back to my favorite places: La Tetería teashop (right in front of the Picasso Museum), and the Contemporary Art Center CAC, where they have a small but always excellent and ever-changing display of works. This time I saw the movie “Casting Jesus” by Christian Jankoswki, the first solo exhibitions in a Spanish museum by Maurizio Cattelan, Manuel Leon, and Adrian Ghenie, and other works by artists like Basquiat or Warhol.

At night the streets in the pedestrian city center where fully packed, but although I was invited to a wine-tasting party, I decided to go to the hotel, work a little bit, take a hot bath, and go to sleep as early as I could.

The next day, after a very interesting business meeting, I took the US and UK visitors to have lunch at the very traditional restaurant El Pimpi, where we had chestnut-fed (even better than acorn-fed) black-footed iberico ham, Ribera del Duero red wine, and other Spanish delicacy tapas like organic artichokes, baby squids in tempura, stew croquettes.

Right after lunch, I left for Valencia.

Invited to the MoMA member reception “The Tomorrow Now…”

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On Wednesday my wife and I were invited to the MoMA member reception “The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World”, which opens officially tomorrow for the general public.

Obviously the rain did not prevent hordes of socialites to flock to MoMA and gather around one of the three open bars. But that was great because it gave us, and quite a few other “they must be on a How About We date” couples to visit some of the galleries without having to use our elbows.

We both enjoyed “Modern Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection, 1909–1949“, and saw “Nicholas Nixon: Forty Years of The Brown Sisters” on the way out. But definitely the star of the show was “The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World”.

I need a long blog post to comment on that exhibition. It definitely caused some very mixed feelings, from the “tongue-in-cheek, I get it” to the “this is amazing” to, more often than not, “you gotta be kidding me!”.

I understand the challenge curators of contemporary art face when trying to put together a historically relevant contemporary exhibition. It reminds me of entrepreneurs being asked to come up with expected revenue figures in a round A roadshow (or worse, in a seed investment elevator pitch). I admire their bravery. I admire the creative ways with which they try to convince others that they know what they are doing (I can’t decide if quoting William Gibson was a way to lure millennials in, a touch of genius, or a lame attempt… so I guess it might be a bit of all). But I really missed the IMHO disclaimer that should go with those bold and often over-the-top statements.

One thing I would most definitely have liked, as always when visiting an art exhibit, is a chance to discuss the art with the artist. Because in this case I think it would have been a riot. Whether I mean that in a good or bad way, I don’t even know.

All in all, a worthwhile experience. As always.

Home pleasures in NY

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After all this traveling and going out, it feels wonderful to spend some time at home.

Some things I have been enjoying this week:

  • Hanging the art piece my sister painted for (and titled after) my wife. By the way, congratulations on your latest solo exhibition, sis!
  • My wife’s cooking: Amazing and unique caribbean stew, banana-chocolate-coconut cake…
  • Reading (Simone de Beauvoir, Douglas Hofstadter…)
  • Watching The Newsroom season 2 and some How I met your mother

Traveling, going out and business is all good and fun. But some homey-cozy is also delightful.

Walks around Manhattan and Dinner at Chefs Club by Food and Wine (twice)

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For a few days after Thanksgiving we enjoyed having my parents stay with us in our Chelsea apartment. Visitors are always a great excuse to go to those places that are “too touristy” to go to, even if we like them.

This time we devoted almost a whole day (November 30) to Chinatown, where we enjoyed delicious (and really affordable) dim sum at Dim Sum Go Go.

We also had a blast at the “AllCityStyle toy subway trains for graffiti” display in Grand Central Station, and enjoyed a great lunch at Kitchen by David Burke on our way to the 9/11 Memorial.

Another highlight was to finally try a restaurant that we had really been looking forward to: Chef’s Club by Food and Wine.

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Our friend Daniel manages the place, and he told us all about it. It’s a great concept: the Best New Chefs (according to Food & Wine Magazine) from around the world showcase their favorite dishes in NYC’s historic Puck Building, in NOLITA. Awesome, right?

So Monday December 1st we went with my parents. The first thing you notice is the art installations from Murray Moss (and the amazing giant Tibetan salt rock suspended from the ceiling).

Here is my wife’s review in some social network:

Loved it. We were intrigued by the concept of this new restaurant. Food was excellent. Oysters were sublime, halibut was subtle and delish. The chicken was superb- many layers of flavors and very generous with the truffles. Cake of the day was ridiculous – pumpkin layer cake with homemade toasted marshmallows, almost too good to share. Space is attractive, with cozy booths for 4 but they also have tables facing the open kitchen.

This is a place where you will feel comfortable wether you are looking for sophisticated or cozy ambiance. But the main trick is the food: a menu that will not intimidate anyone, almost “a little boring” and not at all pretentious, but when the food is served you do realize why these are definitely the BEST chefs.

We enjoyed it so much that on Tuesday 9th we went back with some friends. Awesome!

HTO: a hyper-reading project

Iban M. G. and Ben Martin have launched a writing project that breaks the boundaries of typical book in paper/digital format. Over the years I have seen many attempts to push the publishing world further. All commendable and appreciated. But so far I have not seen any project as ambitious as HTO.

Note: Literary review aside. I have not read the novel yet and, as a matter of fact, that’s irrelevant for the purposes of this post.

HTO. Hostile Takeover is a literary saga action and science fiction in Spanish. The first novel in the series,“El legado de Henry Bobson” is already available for about $4.85 (€ 3.95) in eBook format licensed under Creative Commons with a reading mode they call hyper-reading. You can also read for free the first seven chapters of the novel from a new online reader they have developed. They have also created an online enciclopedia to clarify concepts, characters, plots and the future of the project.

As if this were not enough, once you buy the book you can download the novel in several formats, DRM-free, 4 times, and they even ask “please, share it with your friends using our PRO piracy system and your social networks.”

But what’s more unique is that you can access a private area with:

  • Access to private downloads
  • Exclusive content
  • Gammification-badge-accomplishment system
  • Hyper-reading using smartphones, codes and online content
  • An account in the Bank of Ishtar with an initial virtual currencydeposit to invest in development of HTO packs

I wish them the best of lucks, and I applaud their initiative. These are the people who will “kill” publishers (and we should all cheer) if they don’t “get with the program”. If they were smart, and wanted to grow and stay in business competitively, major publishers should offer them a place in their boardrooms now. But we all know that it is easier to manipulate prices with monopolistic measures, go crying to government officials and the media, impose DRM even harming their own clients and the dissemination of culture, and require legislative measures which enable repression forces to chase anyone seeking culture.

Congratulations Iban and Ben! The future is yours. You have earned it.

Disclaimer: I have known Iban M. G. 7 years. But I write this post not because he is a friend, but because the project seems great.