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

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 artwork “God bless #Amurika”, on display at the Ludwig Museum (Cologne), explained

I have often criticized artists who hide behind “my work speaks for itself” or “it’s up to the viewer to interpret my work”. Nice try, but that’s bullshit.

Of course, anyone can interpret anything when exposed to an artwork! But the artist should at least make an attempt to explain the meaning behind a piece. No matter how self-explanatory (or obscure) it might be. It’s not “restricting the viewer”, it’s guiding; suggesting is not imposing.

I don’t buy “that’s not my job” or “I’m not good with words” either. Because if you can’t eloquently and intelligently express your thoughts and actions, I may enjoy your work under that framework (Art Brut, Outsider, or whatever), but I want to know. And no, I don’t want your dealer, curator, or critic to speak for you. Don’t let the establishment sequester your voice, your genius, your creativity, with the promise to make it shine and propel it to heights you can’t reach yourself: anything you do yourself is genuine, and therefore it has the maximum value… unless you are talking about money, of course. But that’s a whole different story. We are talking art here, expression, not market or money.

So back to my own work.

Like David Shrigley, an artist whose work I really like, I often find myself using hand written words all over my pieces.

I created “God bless #Amurika” on the invitation of Ludwig Contemporary Art Museum’s Art Lab in Cologne (Germany), November 9, 2016. Of course, I woke up with the nightmare news of Donald Trump being elected President of the USA. I could not think about anything else, I had to let the thoughts, feelings, fears and anxieties that the news provoked in me, out. I needed to fix them down, to exorcise them out of me, and to share them with a world that for the most part does not seem to be listening, and does not seem to care.

First I took the silhouette of a flying dove, symbol of peace and freedom, and added a cardboard cutout of spectacles pencil-painted green over it.

Notice that the spectacles do not have lenses (in the form of a different color, reflection, or any other hint suggesting their presence), so they are an intention, a symbol, rather than an actual mechanism that may be manipulated or become a restrictive thought framework.

But the spectacles themselves are the key: they are commonly associated in most cultures with science, education, knowledge, and culture.

That’s what the “dove” desperately needs, in order to fly high and above, to soar to the clouds. In order to remain free.

Inside the dove silhouette I wrote:

  • God bless #Amurika: “God”, in its broadest sense, not as much as spirituality, but as an undefined deity. That to which the irrational mind appeals (“bless”) to try to participate in a development over which it feels it has no control, but it wishes it did. Note the use of the “hashtag symbol” to denote current communication affected by social media, particularly the 140 character restriction imposed by Twitter, and the “subject ontology tagging” brought by the hashtag, which both focuses and narrows our conversations messages. “Amurika” is another reference to current departures from traditional communications, where proper form is superseded by intentional (or not) spelling mistakes and phonetizations.
  • #WhiteLash: the main real reason for Trumps’ Electoral College (not popular vote) victory. The extreme and irrational Republican Party opposition to Barack Obama’s presidency, amplified by ultra-conservative media, received by millions of latent (and even open) racist Americans has generated the perfect environment for a “WhiteLash” reaction.
  • #Trumpf: in reference to John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight show covering Trump’s family name and how it changed upon entering the U.S. from Drumpf to Trump, so #Trumpf became a calling for further inquiry into Trump’s (and his family’s) past. More info here.
  • Misogyny votes / Fear votes / Racism votes / Ignorance votes / Short sightedness votes / Selfishness votes: all those negative states of mind, personality traits, ways of thinking, ways of life… however you want to characterise it, is nothing else than, in the end, people. People fear. People are weak and vulnerable. People have fear. People are irrational and aggressive. And people vote.
  • But don’t attack voting, invest in education: and as the last line says, it is not necessarily voting that represents the problem. Voting is just an expression and tally of a choice (albeit a limited one in the case of a two-party election). Representation IS the real problem: when the vote goes to an intermediary. When your choice, your individuality, is aggregated, reduced, limited, and kidnapped by those who, enshrined in the “representative role they have been chosen to play”, amass power to abuse those whom they are supposed to represent, which again produces fear, anger and… here we go again. How to break that vicious cycle? Education. Educate people, and once they are educated, they can inform, debate, and choose freely, and directly, without the need of any intermediary. Direct Democracy. True Democracy.

Where is that dove, the embodiment of our aspirations, a quasi-spiritual figure, is trying to fly to?

In Cloud 1 I wrote:

  • Philosophy: the highest achievement of human self-consciousness. So lacking in political or scientific debate. So necessary as guiding light and principle of our social contracts and personal aspirations.
  • “Beliefs”: in brackets because it is a double-edged sword of a concept. On the one hand, beliefs are what hold us together through the gaps in knowledge. It’s what completes our rational structures to make a polished whole of each one of us. It’s nothing short of our identities. But at the same time, any gregarious movement of organized abuse (call it religion or politics) has often referred to “beliefs” as the reason and driving force behind their actions.
  • Pursuit: because no cloud is a destination, and there is no destiny other than to pursue. Or like the Zen koan puts it: the journey is the reward.
  • Improve: it is what should happen in that journey, constant improvement, aspiring to go higher. Not to trump anyone, but to gain perspective and understanding.
  • Aspire: what will drive that improvement. Not “ambition”.
  • Pride: not the kind that gives us a wrong and rotten feeling of superiority in an artificially stratified society, but the kind that we feel inside, when we overcome challenges, when we improve compared to our previous self. As “we” are always changing, for we are what we want and mean to be.
    Inspire: because, in the end, we are a group (society, species, family, ‘hood… however you look at it). And our well-being can only come from the well-being of all the members in the group. We should and must take care of each other, helping propel each other higher and higher.

In Cloud 2:

  • Happyness (I always thought it should be spelled that way, so I wrote it the way I like it): so personal, so clearly recognizable, so important, that it should drive all our actions. But not only our individual “happyness”, but ensuring the “happyness” of all.
  • Facts / “Truth”  / Data / “Reality”: we could go on and on about Epistemology, but at the end of the day, if we do not share a common illusion, we can not work together.
  • Debate / Science: to me, both are the same. To science needs debate, and there is no debate without science. But that is the only way for us to coordinate and move forward.
  • Equality / Share: Didn’t they tell you as a kid? Share. When did we stop thinking that was a good idea? When did “the other” become someone to be worried about, or even scared of? When will we realize that there is no “other”, that we are all “we”?

At the bottom, inside a “speech balloon”, I wrote:
Thank you Obama, but it was not enough
#MichelleForPresident2020
Because if we are to remain in a representative democracy, Michelle Obama might make a great president.

I added my signature, and for the date I wrote:

The day the USA woke up to reality: Nov. 9, 2016

Notice how in the picture I wrote all that in ALL CAPS to reflect the common online practice of using all caps convey a scream. A scream because this election has been more about shouting than it has been about reasoning. And because I want to shout, to scream in a different way: to reach the world, to spread the message. Finally a scream as a primal instinct. A shout because it hurts, because I’m angry, because I need to shout.

That’s, in a nutshell, what I meant, what I wanted to say.
Good luck and good night.

Last day in San Francisco: ART

Saturday, September 17, was my last day in San Francisco, and the only one I had with some spare time.

After breakfast, I went to but some gifts from Japan Town and then headed to Union Square, for the Korean Day (Chuseok) culture festival.

Then I went to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to check out Tom Sachs’ Space Program: Europa. As I feared, after the failure of Sony Outsider, Tom Sachs’ obsession with demonstrating his hand-made “bricolage style” continues. Further more, it feels like yet another bourgeois manboy “fun” exhibition. It is as if the art world is taking a more and more polarized position as if an artist and her work can only fit one of these buckets: escapist detachment from the hardships of everyday life, snobbish detachment from popular accessibility, or rejection of any institution or establishment.

My suspicion that Space Program: Europa was all about the first option was enhanced by the fact that I did not see any African-American person there, although I was there for quite a while. So I decided to test my thesis.

I wanted to go to the Museum of the African Diaspora, but someone told me it was closed today for a private event (later I found out it closed early, but I could have gotten in), so I went to the nearby San Francisco Museum of Modern Art instead.

The lack of diversity was beyond appalling. It was mesmerizing. In the SF MoMA store everyone was white, many blonde, tall, with perfect teeth… are you kidding me? After reading everywhere about it, and visiting so many tech companies, I knew this city has a diversity and divide problem, but this was ridiculous.

I walked into the museum, and the lack of diversity remained apparent, although diminished by the presence of a healthy number of tourists. Very sad, but it was time to focus my attention on the art.

What a collection! Of course, I enjoyed the usual suspects (Rothko, Calder, Judd, Warhol, Serra, Picasso, Mondrian, Kelly, Martin, Twombly, Sherman, Murata, Duchamp, etc) but I also got to experience some works from Roy Lichtenstein and Gerhard Richter that were not their best known (most certainly I did not know about those pieces), which gave me a completely new appreciation for them, and reminded me that you can’t judge an artist by one piece, just like you can’t judge a book by its cover.

I also enjoyed very much the exhibition “Typeface to Interface”, which had it been exhibited in NY it would have been packed with hipsters, but here it was full of techies (interface designers perhaps?). Special mention: the mesmerizing Sagmeister & Walsh video “Now is better”:

So with one delightful overdose of art, I headed to the airport to fly back to London.

Let’s pretend none of this ever happened

Walking towards my London Shoreditch office
to meet the Swiss investor and his impeccable suit,
leaving the City bankers’s coffee-holding fast pace behind,
I notice the absence nobody seems to
Where did he go?
His sleeping sack and pillow still on the sidewalk
as annoyingly positioned in the corner as always
But he’s gone
.
I wonder and I worry
his failing body, almost as absent as his lost gaze
with nobody to return it,
had been a constant and silent companion of my daily walk
We never spoke, but we connected
He needed help that I did not offer
but he was also longing for a contact that I did accept
with my eyes and my smile
He fed on that with desperate hunger
but I fear that could not keep his body alive
.
I look for him
Did he finally manage to gather enough crumbs in the form of coins
to enter the new temple of exclusive abundance
and be able to reach for an edible item that might keep him going for one more day?
Or did he perish, vanish, and was removed out of our sight and our path?
In that case they did not remove him from my life, from my heart,
where you all live, far away from me
.
As my gaze, still in the lookout, turns the corner
in the hopes that he’s defacing the wall with his urine,
I see the ultimate social irony:
inside the Bloomberg Space
a neon sign
someone most definitely put up for me today
reading:
“Let’s pretend none of this ever happened”

The romantic poet in me stops there
no more words, no more thoughts,
the insulting irony has spoken, in obvious terms, to nobody
.
But I can not
CAN NOT
let it go
and enraged with fury and disbelief
I go on
determined as I always was
to subvert the system
to penetrate it, hack it, and milk it
for then I will have the dirty tools the system uses to turn our alienation against us
.
And then the day will come when we will see each other as one, and the world will be full of “us”,
as there will no more “them”,
and then I will be gone
for my job will be done
.
I see you
open your eyes
.
35000 decisions a day
this is the one
I’m not hiding
.
Hello Mr. Banker
here’s my soul
give me the tools
to obliterate your world
and free you all

I stood up against a terrorist in a German train

Yesterday, after spending the day at a tradeshow in Düsseldorf, on my way by train to the hotel in Mülheim, I stopped in the town of Duisburg, which was on my way, because I heard they were setting up a Christmas market. The market was indeed being set up, but it was still closed, so I decided to go back to the station. To avoid the sprinkling rain I took the 901 tram at König-Heinrich Platz.

From the window I saw three kids (around 12-13 year old, I guess) wearing some team sports uniform, laughing and rushing onto the tram. They were not particularly disrespectful or anything, but one man standing in the platform (tall pale and bolding German, around 40 years old) apparently didn’t think so, because they did not let a woman board the tram before them. Some of us appreciate old-fashioned manners more than others, but it is hardly a crime, anywhere in the world, to not let a woman board a train ahead of you… specially when you are a pre-teen or teenager, so commonly unaware of your surroundings.

So this man started screaming at the kids. I saw that out of the three kids (two white and blonde, the other one middle-eastern looking), he was only screaming at the foreign-looking one. My German is not too good, but I picked up words like “schwein” (cerdo), “mohr” (moorish, used pejoratively for “muslim”), “Paris”, “terrorist”… You did not need a PhD in Germanic Languages to understand what was going on there: an obviously mentally unstable person, directing xenophobic fury at the wrong “target”.

Had my German been better, I would have told this person that while I defend his freedom of speech, that is no way to address a kid. Or anyone for that matter. Since I could not communicate in his language, I did not say anything, but remained alert, fearing things could get worse. And they did.

This man held the automatic tram door, preventing the departure on time, while his screams got louder, his tone more aggressive, and his body language more menacing.

I was at the other end of the tram-car, but I looked around and nobody did anything. The car was full of people, most of them German looking. But they all acted as if that was not happening. Some looked around the platform, as if looking for the police, or some “authority”.

I have found, excuse my gross generalization, that while the English are to a large degree “conformist”, the Germans are to a large degree “obedient”. Had the police, or any other form of formal authority been there, things would have gone completely different. But upon lack of authority, brutality and submissiveness took over. Sorry to sound so obvious, but let’s keep in mind the dangerous results that mixing the “wrong” circumstances, xenophobia, ignorance, and mindless acceptance can produce.

At this point, seeing that nobody else was doing anything at all to stop this violent escalation, I got up from my seat, walked across the car, and positioned myself between that kid and the aggressor. The man kept holding the door and shouting at the kid as if I was not there. Everybody else remained still.

Then, a good four minutes into this non-sense, and after having gestured several menacing signs (“cut throat”, “fist smashing”, etc), the man, who was still in the platform, reached into the car, holding the kid’s uniform and pulling towards him trying to get him out of the car and onto the platform.

This is what I call a “terrorist”. Someone with the intent to instill terror in others, particularly to prove a point or avance a particular ideology. If you find the use of this word not appropriate, ask yourself about state-sponsored terrorism, or about the constant mis-use of the term “terrorism” by the media (western or eastern) or politicians.

That was the line, that was it. I grabbed the man’s hand, twisted it (I think my Aikido sensei, years ago, used to call this “sankyo”), kicked him in the chest, and knocked him onto the platform.

Free from the man’s hold, the doors automatically closed and the tram moved on. Nobody did or said anything. Nobody even looked at me. Not even the kid.

I have witnessed and suffered my share of violence throughout the years, but what struck me the most was not a demented criminal, a “terrorist” attacking a “victim”. What struck me the most was the appalling passivity of everyone in that train.
What’s happened to us? When did we become “lambs”? Have we always been “lambs” (whether “God’s”, “the crusade’s”, or “Bush’s”)?

What happened to idealism, utopia, values and beliefs? How can an agnostic like me have more “beliefs” (or at least be more willing to act on them) than the church-going and flag-rallied crowd? What do we think we have to loose, that makes us fear helping others? How can we be so blind in not seeing that inaction will cause us more harm than putting ourselves in harm’s way to defend our values and ethics (not “morals”)?

We are so full of ourselves. We talk non-stop about modern western civilization’s grandeur. I consider myself a liberal free-thinking humanist and peacifist. We are so proud of our humanism, our liberalism, or democracy, our liberty, our rights… but all those are little more than nice sounding ideals, tergiversated and manipulated by politicians, corporations and mass media.

Is John Gray right when he talks about “The Human Animal”, the “Homo rapiens”? When I look around me, that is what I see.
But a Zen monk once told me while sipping some green tea in Japan: “we are what we choose; not so much what we do, or even why we think we chose it”. Some contemporary information technology theories, behavioral neuroscientists, as well as some metaphysical philosophers, would agree with that to a surprising large extent.

So I chose. I chose to stand up.

Attending the presentation of a new videogame as investment opportunity

On Monday I attended the presentation of Project M, a new video-game as investment opportunity, in Google Campus, London.

IMG_20150601_183112

First of all, let me congratulate the savvy business and marketing team behind it. They put together a well though-out package, their idea is unique and very interesting: a videogame that will reward players by sending them real gold + investors buying “mines” in the game and participating in the profits.

IMG_20150601_183044

Unfortunately, that’s all the good things I have to say about it. On the other hand, there were many flaws with this “lure investors in” pitch. Here is a list, in no particular order, of the things I didn’t like:

  • Wild assumptions that nobody seemed to explain or question, like: “assuming every investor has 100,000 followers in Twitter” (Say what??!!) and that “those followers they all download and play the game for three years, making in-app purchases” (What’cha been smokin’ mate??!! This ain’t no WoW)
  • The fact that an accountant signed those projections does NOT mean they are “conservative”.
  • Talking about the three “success cases” in the industry (Candy Crush, Angry Birds, Clash of Clans), without giving any context to the numbers: how many games are there in app stores that do not make a profit, or that loose money?
  • Zero room for geekiness. When did we hand technology to the suits (wearing jeans now, so they seem less “suits” and more “cool hoody, bro”)?
  • Billions of dollars, time, and effort in the pursuit of the next speculative quick-buck with another app. Why don’t we put all that effort in, I don’t know, solving real problems or something? Nothing wrong with entertainment, except the fact that a lot of talent is being hired to create idiotic apps, instead of contributing to a common good and higher causes.

The start-up and investment world is quite similar to the art world in which nobody wants to criticize anyone else because you never know who will you be working with/for next, and because nobody wants to be subjected to criticism, even constructive criticism. Perhaps everyone feels it’s all “fake-it-’til-you-make-it”, and everyone suffers from the “Stanford Duck Syndrome”, so nobody wants criticism to be out in the public for fear of scaring clueless investors (don’t tell them that, because they’ve “been-there-done-that”) with boatloads of cash to throw at “the-next-big-thing” or the star-entrepreneur struck media.

Art, as start-ups, is an ongoing process, unfinished by definition, subjective and open to interpretation. It involves many aspects, it’s multifaceted, so even “experts” can not be truly “experts” at the whole subject. So when dealing with “price” and “value” and “market”, all that subjectivity and volatility has to be swept under the rug, and pretend like everyone knows what they are doing.

It’s all fine with me if everyone wants to play make-believe. But where I come from, they point fingers, and call things as they are (or seem). Call me ignorant, but not stupid.

At the IBM Federal Summit, Washington DC

Last Wednesday I participated in IBM’s Federal Summit at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building in Washington DC.

Business aside, it was one scary meeting. There were control systems all over. From the IRS to airports, to National Security, the demos were much more advanced and comprehensive than anything you may have seen in a movie. Big Brother to the Nth degree. They know it all about you. In a second. You either get paranoid-serious about security, encryption and privacy, or you might as well forget completely about your privacy. If you choose the latter, at least demand that those who rule (and it should be “we, the people”) expose all their info too, and that we have access to all and any of their and our info. Watch the watchers.

At least I enjoyed for a fleeting second when I saw the surprised face of retired General Keith Alexander, Former Commander, US Cyber Command and Former Director NSA, Chief Central Security Service when, on his way to his keynote speech, preceded by two attractive young female assistants, and one burly bodyguard, saw the “hacker” and “come back with a warrant – EFF” stickers on my laptop and tattoos on my right arm. No time to chat, but I’m sure he can have me checked out online if he wants to 😉

The event also helped me experiment something that I knew about but had not experienced before, or if I have, I have already forgotten about it: the despicable interaction behavior modification based on perceived status derived from external symbols. Allow me to explain: the event was composed of talks-speeches (separated into 5 tracks), food, and “stands” with signs and screens displaying a host of different solutions IBM and partners, like my company, offer the US government.

Most partner companies had an executive dressed in a suit, “working the floor”, and an assistant “manning the booth”. To make the distinction crystal clear, the organizers have bright blue t-shirts to assistants. Since I was the only one attending from my company, I was given a t-shirt, and I thought it was a playful display of good spirit to wear it over my dress shirt, so I put it on. The second I put on that t-shirt the attitude towards me of those around changed completely! Mainly from “business partners”, “event organizers”, and “government officials”, but strangely not from IBMers for the most part (I guess they receive training on avoiding this).

All of a sudden I was addressed to quite unpolitely, given constant orders and directions, often repetitively as if I could no understand at first, and requested to move, get out of the way, or even simply ignored. Amazing! The same people that minutes before were networking and chatting with me, cracking jokes and trying to do business, now turned into complete *holes (without the glass*).

It was a real enlightening experience. Not that I did not know before that power structures and hierarchies were detrimental and damaging to equalitarian, fair and “decent” human relations, but boy did I get a first row seat this time! So, remember, no matter what you are wearing, who you are, or what the acronym on your title or position spells, you work WITH people. People do not work FOR you. Let’s get rid of the self-entitlement, self-righteous, dominating, and abusing attitude and behavior concentration of power seems to lead to. Open your eyes, look beyond the tie, the apron, the make up, the business card, and remember: what you have in front of you is a real person, not a “function” or an “asset”. And if you think you are doing your corporation, your stockholders, or your pocket a favor by believing there are “inferiors” and treating them like dirt, you could not be more wrong. Get your head out of your butt, and change before it is too late. Because that kind of attitude should not go unpunished.

Another lesson I learned in this trip is the importance of not having checked-in luggage:

I was recently named member of the IBM European Cloud Advisory Board, and the first meeting was to be held the next day in Nice (France), in the morning. In order to make it I had to change flights at the very last minute. My wonderful travel agent was super fast and expedient, changing my tickets as the check-in was being announced closed in front of me. I looked for the supervisor, explained that I had an eTicket confirmation and no baggage to check-in and, presto, I was allowed to board, making it on time to my meeting after a nasty flight.

Note to myself: do not fly 7 hours with torn ankle ligaments unless you fly flat-bed first class with an ice pack on it.

Cold men destroy women

Cold men destroy women,” my mother wrote me years later. “They woo them with something personable that they bring out for show, something annexed to their souls like a fake greenhouse, lead you in, and you think you see life and vitality and sun and greenness, and then when you love them, they lead you out into their real soul, a drafty, cavernous, empty ballroom, inexorably arched and vaulted and mocking you with its echoes— you hear all you have sacrificed, all you have given, landing with a loud clunk.

Moore, Lorrie

Look at the data, just look at it!

Carna botnet offers us this amazing 24 hour visualization of relative IPv4 utilization observed using ICMP Ping requests.

Look at the data, just look at it! Don’t you see people’s sleeping patterns, internet usage patterns, eating schedule habit, cultural differences, urban influence, regional inequalities…?