Singapore day 2

Monday, March 6 we started the day with a wonderful breakfast buffet and then proceeded to tour the Fullerton hotel:

After that, we walked into the city to visit Chinatown, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, and had an amazing “street-hawk” lunch at Lau Pa Sat food center:

In the evening we went to the Gardens by the Bay, visiting the Flower Dome, Cloud Forest, and exiting just as the Supertrees were doing their mesmerizing solar-powered light and music show:

To end a magical day, we went to the Cé La Vie rooftop bar (56th floor at Marina Sands by the Bay Hotel) to have a cocktail and enjoy the views:

And just as they were closing the doors, we managed a table to have dinner (the amazing 21-fold dumplings) at Din Tai Fung.

Singapore day 1

Sunday, March 5, we flew from London to Changi airport, in Singapore. Flying to Asia from London is a lot easier and shorter than from New York; I guess living in London had to have some advantage over our beloved NYC!

When we arrived we received the VIP treatment at the iconic, and absolutely perfectly situated, Fullerton Hotel: we were greeted by our names curbside right off the taxi by a lovely lady that walked us directly into our room, without the need to stop at a reception desk or fill out any paperwork! In the room, we had a handwritten (who does that anymore?) welcome letter from the hotel’s general manager, a fruit plate and a bottle of wine. Nice.

Although we were tired from the long flight and it was already evening time, we left our luggage in the room, had a gourmet snack in the executive club, and went to take a walk around the bay.

Since it was Sunday, the Marina Bay waterfront promenade was busy as everybody wanted to see the daily sight show. But there were also some children activities set up (like the Art Zoo Inflatable Park), so the atmosphere was definitely very family-oriented.

After the walk and light show, we went to the Makansutra Gluttons Bay for her to try some of the famous “street-hawk” food I could not stop talking about since my first trip to Singapore. But since we had not yet changed Singaporean currency, our options were limited to the only vendor that took credit card payment.

Amazing South East Asia cruise


For a couple of weeks in March, I have been cruising throughout South East Asia.

My wonderful wife, for my birthday, invited me to cruise with her on the Crystal Symphony to: Singapore; Koh Samui, Bangkok/Laem Chabang (Thailand), Sihanoukville (Cambodia), Ho Chi Minh City, Chan May (Vietnam), Sanya, Hong Kong SAR (China).

In a series of forthcoming blog posts I will make a quick review of activities, places, and photographs.

Avoiding government intrusion in my latest trip to the USA

February 18 to 23 I traveled to Orlando, Florida (USA) for the HIMSS trade show. As much as I have enjoyed the magic of Orlando parks in the past, this was a pure business trip. I am an EU citizen (Spain) living in the UK, and I took a direct flight from London to Orlando. I had recently renewed my passport and ESTA, so I should be able to enter the USA without a problem right? Well, that has been the case dozens of times in the past. But the present is different.

When I applied for the renewal of my ESTA, I noticed a new field in the application form: social media. It was an optional field, so obviously, consistent with my fierce belief and defense of privacy, I refused to disclose such information. But took notice: government intrusiveness is on the rise, and in the era of Trump, it can only get worse.

This has been a challenge for years (border search, dispute over forced password disclosure…), but the atmosphere has gotten completely toxic in the past few weeks. Besides the infamous “travel ban”, a few days before my departure, the following news pointed to an increase in this government abuse:

So taking some advice I read online (How to legally cross a US (or other) border without surrendering your data and passwords) I decided to play it safe:

  • Even though my laptop is encrypted (as are my backups), for the first time in years, I traveled without a laptop. While it was quite a liberating experience, it also made my work a lot harder and less productive.
  • I took a “burner phone”, completely erased, reset to factory default, and with an empty SIM. The plan was to purchase a new phone once I went through the border (which I did), and re-install all my apps and get access to all my usual services. But I did need to take that SIM with me because my business colleagues were counting on contacting me via that number.

Even after all those precautions, and with “nothing to loose”, I was determined to not give my SIM PIN away if requested. Even if it meant refusal of entry, deportation or detention. Why? Because there really is something to loose: my privacy, your privacy. As citizens (even visitors) and individuals, we owe it to ourselves and our fellow citizens and visitors to draw a line, a line most of us agree on (and is expressed in the Constitution and common practice), and defend it above and beyond our personal circumstances.

When it comes to “values”, I do not accept a simplistic utilitarian and individualistic approach. We are a society, we shape and are shaped by culture, and we should aim to advance a civilization. Our society, culture, and civilization. Our beliefs.

Who is “we”? What is “our”? I identify with free thinkers, science, freedom, justice, equality… and those are values shared by a majority of people in the world. The USA has made them “banner words”, and has proudly displayed them everywhere, from anthems to posters, from flags to excuses to invade countries and kill people without even a trial. The say they are ready to die for it, and they surely have killed for it…

So, what happened at the border?

The DHS agent asked me the usual, and legit, questions (length of stay, reason for visit, etc), and then told me: Let me see your laptop.

It was the moment I was both fearing and looking forward to. I replied: I left it at home, so you could not get your hands on it.

His reply was an indication that my precautions were becoming widespread: And you erased your phone to factory default, am I right?

With a grin on my face I could (and did not want to) disguise, I replied: Of course.

With a silent nod, he let me through.

At the tradeshow I was reminded how did we get to that point. For those who do not know it, I work in the healthcare IT industry. Healthcare, in the USA, is an extreme example of the damage that can be caused by wild capitalism and lack of government oversight to protect those in need. The telltale signs were everywhere: extremely rich executives, lobbyists and politicians giving keynote speeches about “healthcare”, while their country has a shameful record of health outcomes vs expenditure; lack of diversity (for example, at a “business breakfast” with over 200 attendees, the only people of color in the room were those serving the food); an absolute focus on short-term profits and legalese, and an appalling absence of focus on real healthcare benefits…

I’ve always believed that the right technology in the hands of people focused on doing good, can change the world. But I must admit I underestimated the colossal reactionary forces of short-sighted economic interest groups.

The struggle continues.

Very interesting insights from the UBS Forum 2017

Yesterday Giles and Magda invited me to attend the annual UBS Forum at the beautiful Rosewood Hotel, one of those hotels in a renovated palace in the heart of London, with a resident dog.

Held in major financial cities across Europe, the UBS Forum is presented under the banner “sharper opinions – smarter decisions”, where UBS specialists and external experts provide insights on key topics. This years’ speakers and topics were:

  • Jamie Broderick, CEO, UBS Wealth Management UK; and David Rowe, Managing Director, UBS Wealth Management: “Global and UK economic outlook for 2017 and beyond”
  • Paul Donovan, Chief Global Economist, UBS Wealth Management; and Caroline Simmons, Deputy-head, Investment Office, UK, UBS Wealth Management: “where the investment opportunities lie in 2017 and beyond”
  • Paul Craven, former Goldman turned behavioral economist: “the Status Quo bias and why people default to doing nothing and/or not changing” and “the loser’s game”
  • Tim Kent-Robinson, Head of Client Investment Specialists, UBS Wealth Management: “Implementing the House View”

There was also a Panel discussion and Audience Q&A, facilitated by a “clicker” with which the audience voted on several issues. Surprisingly enough the majority of the audience was in agreement with Theresa May’s handling of Brexit, even though they said it would damage the UK’s interests. Talk about Status Quo bias!! Definitely, the UK is the land of unquestioned Status Quo.

Here are some of the most interesting takeaway points and quotes I wrote down:

  • UBS has a cool simulator: “The end game? You have just been appointed as all-commanding leader of a major country. You have control over the monetary, fiscal, and foreign policy of your country.”

  • The “Risks” (last) slide in the presentations was choke full of tiny print and was displayed for 3 seconds

  • A Mexican car exported to the USA has crossed the border over 20 times before ever reaching the end-consumer

  • The 2008 financial crisis took away credit -> Without credit income inequality rises and consumption drops -> creating a shift from “economics of aspiration” to “economics of envy” (“your neighbor buys a car, you buy a car… it does not matter if your neighbor paid cash and you took a loan”, but what if you can’t get a loan?) -> leading to resentment which leads to populism

  • Domestic investors understand local politics better, therefore reacting more calmly to political uncertainty

  • “If you give money to an American, they will spend it”

  • “China will grow 6.25% to 6.5%. Why? Because President Jinping wants that”

  • The FTSE return last year was 17%, BUT if you take out the best performing 5 days, then it was only 1%

  • “Nationalism, prejudice and discrimination leads to inefficient markets and the waste of perfectly good human capital which leads to less growth and economic damage” (SIC, but wake up: that’s how they see you)

  • The Loser’s Game is an old research paper, but completely worth reading it

  • Prospect Theory: Potential gains encourage risk aversion, potential losses encourage DOUBLE risk taking

  • An amazing Status Quo bias example is the reason behind Europe’s “two levels” of organ donations

  • An amazing example of the Decoy Effect or Anchoring Effect is The Economist subscriptions options (number 6 in this list)

  • If you think you are in control (the “driver of the elephant”), check out the Jastrow Illusion

Two days in Brussels

Tuesday, March 31 and Wednesday, February 1 I went to Brussels by train. It is sad to see the permanent heavy military presence around Brussels main train station.

Microsoft had invited me to participate in the ‘Health Digital Transformation’ at the Microsoft Executive Briefing Center, because my company is a founding member of the ‘AI in Health Partner Alliance’ (along with Microsoft and 20 other tech companies) which was launched at the event. The event was attended by executives from tech companies, researchers, journalist, and policy makers.

I was also in Brussels to meet some people from the European Parliament to discuss official business.

“Fun” fact: did you know that 1/4 of the whole EU Parliament budget goes to translation services?

This Revolution needs a Revolution

Yesterday I went with my wife and son to visit the Victoria & Albert’s Museum exhibition You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970. The aim of the exhibition was quite clear:

How have the finished and unfinished revolutions of the late 1960s changed the way we live today and think about the future?

I was very much looking forward to visiting the exhibition. It is SO timely, and SO needed, I thought.

After visiting it, I left enraged. Why? After all, it was very well “put together”, full of artifacts and information, with a fancy sound system, and beautifully arranged and orchestrated.

ORGANIZED

More importantly, it was not a nostalgic attempt at regurgitating old revolutionary slogans.

What enraged me is how co-opted the whole collection felt. How all those efforts and sacrifices, how all that energy and suffering from past revolutionaries, has been assimilated by the system.

From the ® Registered slogans to the “no photographs” signs at the entrance (to which I, OF COURSE, paid no attention to whatsoever):

® slogan!

To the texts denouncing powerful corporations and states controlling Western media making it difficult to broadcast alternative opinions. You don’t say??!! How about adding “even museums”?

You don't say??!!

Of course, the whole thing had a watered down flavor, “ready for the masses to consume it” (at over£17 or over $20 per ticket). Not just because of the large dedicated-store (“Exit through the gift store” as Banksy brilliantly highlighted), where many appealing objects were for sale for nostalgics and revolutionary wannabes.

Interesting mash up poster

But also for the paternalistic tone of the whole exhibition, surgically isolating issues (identity, sexuality, peace, music, fashion…), even (correctly) including the new contemporary totemic theological substitute: technology.

Origins of Personal Computers

I was very happy and proud to tell my son that his grandmother was in Paris throwing cobblestones to the police in the student revolts of 1969; that his grandfather took me, when I was a little kid, to see a forbidden theater play during Spain’s democratic transition, fearing the secret police repression; that I participated as a kid in discussions with adults about anarchism and communism, when both were outlawed in Spain; and that I have participated in some of the revolutions and protests that came in the decades after that.

I’m not angry because they took “my” revolutions and repackaged them for easy digestion by accommodating masses. That was foreseeable, and an obvious result of the reigning empire of consumerist capitalism.

I’m not even nostalgically refusing to accept that times have changed.

What really annoyed me and made me angry was the lack of reference to a combative present, to the continuation of the struggle.

The fact that they showed, at the end of the exhibition “How have the finished and unfinished revolutions of the late 1960s changed the way we live today” but completely left out “and think about the future” is what enraged me. Particularly as Trump is president in the USA, May PM in GB, the PP rule Spain, the far right advances in France…

We need to remember that the fight is not over, that fascism is not only back, but stronger and more powerful than ever. We, all of us, and the institutions that serve us, including museums, have a duty to promote thoughtful debate around ethics and values, and fiercely protest and fight through self-organisation, unity, and collaboration. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to those who fought for us in the past, we owe it to those who will come after us.

If the urban bourgeoisie wants to be the first to fall under the boot of the oppressors again, so be it. If proto and pseudo-intellectuals endlessly self-delude themselves into thinking that our democracies and institutions will save us from authoritarian demagogues, fascist megalomaniacs, and our own blind pursuit of endless consumerism, so be it. In the meantime, I will be teaching my children about the struggle and participating in the smartest and most effective way I can.

My EU policy recommendation published: “Hacking Policy. Exploring Innovative Ways to Advance Policy Reform”

Under the title “Hacking Policy. Exploring Innovative Ways to Advance Policy ReformStartupEurope has published a report listing the Policy Recommendations that came out of the Policy Hackathon in San Francisco, where my team won the competition.

Download it here.

When your son falls into a frozen lake

A few days ago I took a stroll through Wimbledon Commons with my son, as my wife was traveling.It was a typical London day: 3 seasons in a day. When we decided to leave the apartment it was sunny and felt kind of warm. When we arrived at the forest, it was gloomy and chilly. And by the time we made it back home, it was already night time and really cold. The whole ordeal took just one hour, but it felt much much longer.

It was a typical London day: 3 seasons in a day. When we decided to leave the apartment it was sunny and felt kind of warm. When we arrived at the forest, it was gloomy and chilly. And by the time e made it back home, it was already night time and really cold. The whole ordeal took just one hour, but it felt much much longer.

Unlike in our usual (although a lot less frequent than I would like) routine, instead of walking into the forest, we accessed the Commons through the main entrance, and went straight to the small lake where swan, geese and ducks were really happy to see us and our bag of oats. I guess in the cold weather a lot less people come by to feed them.

We love to talk to them, and admire their beauty. Not just the amazing Mandarin ducks, but all of them. We try to distribute the oats as much as possible so ‘bullies’ don’t get away with their aggressive behavior. And there is always something else that we enjoy, wether it is a dog diving into the water, a flower in an unexpected place, or trying a new “plant recognizing app”.

This time my son was fascinated with the layers of ice forming all over the lake. So he approached the edge, with a stick, standing on a small piece of wood, to test how thick they were. Then he started picking them up and playing with them: using them as photo props against a tree bark, stacking them, and breaking them on my head as if it was an action movie and I had just gone through a window head first (which brought me some bad childhood memories, that all of a sudden were not as bad because I was with my son).

Throughout his ‘ice fishing’ activity, I remained firmly grounded on shore, holding onto his jacket making sure he would not loose his balance and fall.

At one point he seemed to lose interest, and it was getting really cold, so I asked him to stop, and I started walking away. A few steps later I heard a loud splash. Before I could even process the sound, I was by the edge of the lake, ready to kick my shoes and jacket off and jump into the ice to rescue him.

Fortunately he did not sink and I saw him standing in the water. The bottom of the lake is quite irregular, and was able to step onto a platform, and from that jump back to the shore.

He was smiling, I guess a nervous reaction to an extreme unexpected event. Or perhaps because a dog, seeing him plunge, decided to join him and jumped in too (although not to rescue him, since he jumped off into a patch of unfrozen water, chasing ducks)!

I was not angry or panicked, but rather I reacted as I always do in those circumstances, as I was told by my mother: like a machine. I assessed the situation and proceeded with executive efficiency to minimize damage. First I asked him if anything was broken, if anything hurt. Then I checked his garments: all soaking wet except his waterproof jacket, which for some lucky angle in the fall had remained dry. So the first thing we did was to squeeze all the water our of his socks and pants (I even considered giving him my clothes, but his clothes don’t fit me, and his jacket was very warm and dry).

Then I quickly calculated how long it would take to get home, and if that was the best option (as the temperatures were below zero), or if it was better to head in other direction (seek the closest home or business, call a cab, etc). We decided to head home fast, but not running, to avoid slipping and falling, or getting exhausted and having to stop to catch breath.

But, funny enough, all that cold-headed reaction can’t prevent the confusion the shock causes, and I started rushing us through the wrong path. Luckily he noticed soon enough and we corrected course.

Once we made it home he went straight into a warm long shower that felt like forever. When he came out, I made sure there were no purple tissues, specially lips, toes, fingers… he was fine and as we later found out, even his phone, which was inside the jacket pocket, survived the frozen waters!

Lessons learned:

  • Life happens
  • He now knows better the dangers of standing on a small piece of wood by a frozen lake, and that should make him assess general risks better, but hopefully not to the point of total risk aversion
  • Even if you want to be there all the time to protect them at all times, sometimes you will not be there. And some day you will not be at all
  • In an emergency, keep your cool… but be aware that you are more likely to make stupid mistakes
  • Always remember that frustration and anger come from fear. Focus on love instead
  • All is good that ends good. Now he has a cool anecdote to tell his friends. Life leaves scars and marks, avoid them, but wear them with pride, son.