6 Aug

The wonderful people at TEDxRiodelaPlata invited me to give a talk in their event for a younger audience (16 to 21). And what a fantastic audience it was, thousands wanted to get in but “only” 1200 could, and they were curious, open-minded, relentless and warmhearted. I had wonderful talks with them in the intervals. It was a colorful party, for the mind and soul.

Giving this talk wasn’t as easy as I though. The subject, which I care very deeply about, is our knowledge of health but it also involved the sad memory of my father’s illness. Once I was on stage, and received the energy in the room, I felt better and better. I stayed throughout the event and saw most of the talks. It was really enjoyable and left me with a feeling of hope.

Here is the video of the talk in spanish,it has english subtitles too:

Do check out the other talks in their web site, I thought they were awesome


Summer Songs 2011

18 Feb

I am spending a wonderful summer in Patagonia. Close to the lake and my dear mountains. Been listening to a lot of music while I trekk, kayak or just sit here enjoying the view.

Here is a list of the top 10 songs(I left many out):

1) Woods – Bon Iver: The Hymn of the summer. I played it so many times it became a mantra.

2) Runaway – Kanye West: The new @kanyewest album is awesome, and the video even more so. The Black Swan of music videos. The whole record has been playing a lot.

3) Blame Game – Kanye West: Listen carefully and try not to laugh to the fabulous Chris Rock monologue at the end. Kanye has a twisted sense of humor. John Legend is incredible.

4) Song For You – Alexi Murdoch: A beautiful little song. Enchanting.

5) Elusive – Scott Mathews: Another increidble song that I’ve been listening for a while now.

6) Horchata – Vampire Weekend: A fun and upbeat song that sounds like Indian music.

7) Words – Guillemots: Fantastic lyrics and a mellow voice make this song a winner.

8 ) Twice – Little Dragon: She is a mix of Bjork and Erykah Badu. Great voice and taste.

9) Eet – Regina Spektor: A pop star with real talent. Really love her voice.

10) Something’s going to Come – Adem: What a great song. It makes me feel better.

I just started listening to the new Radiohead algum The King of Limbs. It is not included in this list, but it probably should.

Love to listen to new songs if you let me know your favorites.

Next winter I will post the Winter Songs.

Cajero Automático (short film)

11 Oct

I love cinema and videos. I’ve always edited videos since computers started to allow it.

Here is a short film I created while studying with Jose Martinez Suarez, a wonderful man and cinema teacher. Starring: Diego Claps and Juan Mora y Araujo. With music by Lulu Gueron and Matias Loizaga. Filmed in Buenos Aires and in spanish only (sorry)

Este es un pequeño corto creado mientras estudiaba con Jose Martinez Suarez , un gran hombre y profesor de cine. Actuan: Diego Claps y Juan Mora y Araujo. Musica de Lulu Gueron y Matias Loizaga. Filmada en Buenos Aires.

Love letter to the mountains

2 Oct

Dear Mountains:

I love you all. Although I have my favorite ones, even a little hill makes me feel better. I love to be around you, to adore your beautiful sunsets, to feel the roaring wind when you are angry. I try to spend most of my free time with you. I am sorry I have to leave you for months at a time. It breaks my heart when I drive away and see your indifference in my rearview mirror.

You see, I live in the Pampas, a poet once spontaneously said “the horizontal abyss” when looking at the flat endless grasslands around Buenos Aires. In the flatlands it is very hard to have perspective, your view being blocked by any obstacle. It is in the flatlands were many people live and I believe in the aphorism “more people, less freedom”. In the flats, I feel trapped in one dimension, in one long and irritating view I cannot escape.

In order to prove my love I have many pictures of you in different moments of the year. In my humble opinion you are most beautiful covered in snow, all round and fluffy, ready to be cruised with my skis as my ultimate expression of this love I can’t and won’t deny.

But if beauty is just one of your traits, wisdom and patience is your landmark. I think I have learned more about myself when I am walking on a mountain than with years of therapy. After walking 8-9 hours to reach a summit most of the endless chatter in my head stops and I feel a warm sense of achievement and peace. For many years I have done Buddhist meditation and Yoga, only once or twice I have felt the same inner calmness that you can give me with just a few rays of light shining through the clouds.

Nowadays, I have brought to you my new family, and watching my kids enjoy you has been a revelation and surely, a new and more intense form of love that it will grow along with them.

See you next summer in Patagonia and next winter in Los Molles.


My dad, according to Sofia

19 Apr

My dad, Luis Nofal, passed away on March 31st, 2010. He was a great father and grandfather.
Above all, he was a great man. I will write about him in the future, the pain is to fresh to be able to contain it in words just yet.
I will always remember him.
My niece Sofia Mendiondo wrote these words and read them at the funeral. I am posting them in spanish and in english (my translation doesn’t do complete justice to it, but bear with me):
El hombre de las mil y un sorpresas,
Siempre apareciendo con una idea nueva,
Mostrándonos que los brazos cruzados no son bienvenidos,
Que siempre hay algo más por hacer,
Y que el esfuerzo y la felicidad van de la mano.

Aquel que nos enseña tanto,
Y a la vez comprende que no podemos aprender todo;
El hombre con los tiempos perfectos,
Pero a la vez ajustados y sin descanso.

La persona más admirada del mundo;
De  una manera ambigua,
Siendo pocos, o ninguno, los que intentarían ser como el,
Pudiendo seguir sus ritmos,
Manteniendo su fuerza;
Convirtiendo cada idea en un hecho.

Un ser que en cada una de sus identidades múltiples,
Desempeña el mejor papel;
Como hijo, él mas sujetador;
Como padre, él más comprensivo y sostenedor;
Como marido, el más bueno;
Como alumno, él más aplicado;
Como profesional, él mejor negociador;
Como abuelo, el más atento, bueno, comprensivo, divertido, confiable, inteligente;

Lo más maravilloso y apreciable de él es,
Su bondad infinita;
Sus ganas de vivir,
De cumplir objetivos,
De conseguir cambios;
Estando así, en una lucha constante por el logro;

Siempre alcanzando de una manera u otra,
Finales felices,
Objetivos cumplidos;

Porque, para los que no lo conocen,
mi nono siempre,
pero siempre,

Translation(note: nono means granddaddy):
The man with the one thousand and one surprises,
Always appearing with a new idea,
Showing us that having your arms crossed is not welcomed,
That there is always something more to do,
And that effort and happiness go hand in hand. 

He who teaches us so much,
And at the same time knows we can’t learn it all;
The man with the perfect times,
But at the same time tight and relentless.

The most admired person in the world;
But in an ambiguous way,
Being few, or no one, who would try to be like him,
Being able to follow his rythm,
Having his strengh;
Turning every idea into reality.

Someone who, in his multiple identities,
Plays the best role;
As a son, the most clinging;
As a father, the most understanding and supporting;
As a husband, the best;
As a pupil, the most applied;
As a professional, the best negotiator;
As a grandfather, the most attentive, good, understanding, fun, trustworthy, smart;

The most wonderful and notable in him is,
His infinite generosity;
His will to live,
To attain objectives,
To achieve changes;
Always  like this, in a constant struggle for achievement;

Always reaching, in one way or another,
Happy endings,
Objectives met;

Because, for those who don’t know him,
mi nono always,
but always,


Why practice Aikido?

26 Feb

I practice Aikido as much as I can. I have done it almost for two years now, on and off.

Aikido is a modern (1930s) japanese martial art created by Morihei Ueshiba. He was a small man that learned most of traditional Japanese martial arts and handled weapons (sword and spear). He was a deeply spiritual man and had a very interesting life, one of the last grand masters in martial arts. You can watch him in a 1935 film performing here or watch this video when he is older.

Today, there are many workout options to keep your body healthy, lean, flexible. Yoga, Pilates, Karate, Tae-Bo, etc.,etc. In addition there are several meditation and breathing techniques to keep the mind healthy: Buddhist or Vipassana, Transcendental meditation, even meditation in motion like Tai Chi, etc.

How can you choose the right one for you? Naturally, I don’t think that one is better than the other, they all have merits and it is way better to do any of them than to watch TV. But you have to find the one that best suits you, and usually that means the activity you can sustain over time. After more than 12 years of trying out and actively practicing many of those disciplines I have settled on Aikido as my main practice for mind and body.

Let me give you 5 reasons:

1) Timeless: Aikido can be practiced from the age of 6 until very old age, if you do it continously. An injury takes a lot of time to recover after you are 40 and sometimes you don’t recover at all. If Aikido is practiced correctly, it is very hard to have injuries and if you are a good aikidoist, it is very hard to get injured doing any other sport due to enhanced sensibility and suppleness.

2) Non-competitive and Non-confrontative: There is no competition in Aikido. No tournaments, no points, no separation of levels, no fighting. Learning to compete and fight between each other is already a full time job for almost everybody in the business world and the world in general. Training yourself NOT to fight and NOT to compete as a response to the world pressures is a relief and if you do practice a lot this becomes a natural response in life.

3) Dynamic suppleness: Aikido movements are very natural and enhance mobility and flexibility, as well a strength and precision. After training an hour, you feel different about the space around you, the way you walk is more solid and direct. You gain consciousness about your own body and the space around you. It is a very addictive feeling.

4) Skill Learning: Instead of just mindlessly doing spinning or running, the workout of Aikido leaves you with something very valuable: a special skill that is yours and nobody can take away. As an example, in a typical Aikido class you fall and roll 30-50 times, so you really learn how to fall and get up again in an instant unharmed. This is not only a useful skill for doing sports or even walking on the street but think about it symbolically and you’ll see that having confidence in falling is an essential skill for life.

5) Fun and social: I’ve done Karate when I was young (from 12 to 16 years old) and although I felt very close to my training partners, it was an exception  to actually practice the moves with them. Punching and Kicking arts can never be practiced intensely between two people, because of the inevitable tear and wear of the body subjected to blows and kicks. The grabbing arts (Judo, Aikido, Jiu Jitsu) can be practiced in pairs without fear of injury and with full force. This creates an engaging atmosphere and it’s just plain fun.

Ki (Chi for the chinese) is the name of the vital energy of the universe and Aikido means “The Way of Harmony with Ki”. It is quite surprising to find the way Ki manifest itself in a very tangible and practical way when you unify mind and body. There are several “tests” you can do to see what this energy can do. But I’ll leave that for a different article in the future. If you want to know more about Ki, then follow the path of Koichi Tohei and I specially like his book: “Ki in daily life“. You can watch him practice Ki exercises and Aikido in these 5 videos. Notice de quality of his movements.

Is Aikido perfect? Far from it. You need a bunch of other people that want to practice Aikido to even start to train so the chances of doing it in a small town are slim. You have to go to the dojo at the right times, this is not a gym that you show up whenever you want to. Also, the quality of the people practicing is as important as the quality of the master because, most of the time, they are your hands-on teachers.

In Buenos Aires I have trained with three masters, Kurata , Corbal and Jiterman and all of them are great teachers with very big differences in approach and method. Even though many aikidoists become quite fanatic to defend their own special style of Aikido, there are a lot more coincidences than differences. Aikido is Aikido.

Whatever you do, do not sit all day in chair! That is a recipe for disaster.

TED U Session One highlights

22 Feb

When I was at TED last week I was surprised by the quantity, quality and variety of presenters in the TED U sessions. TED U has a much shorter talk time than normal TED talks. Between 1 to 10 minutes. Most of them are around 3 minutes. The interesting bit is that you end up seeing 14 talks in about an hour and a half. Many times, the talkers are not even talking in their main area of expertise, so they discuss more personal hobbies and interests. It is very intense.

I am trying to recall some of the best moments. I’ll start with Session One and I won’t go over all of them, just the one that caught my attention and still lingers in my mind.

Michael Martin had a very interesting talk about driving into a Tornado and he compared it with driving into this economic crisis. To sum it up: stay positive, provide leadership, look for a safe place, hang in there, it will pass. The photos of tornados were cool.

Catherine Mohr was a delight and did a wonderful talk called “Adventures in Green Housebuilding for Nerds”. She is the one that made the comment about walking back from TED to avoid the incredibly costly carbon footprint of airplane travel that inspired my other post. Her analisis on how insulation, material choice and other elements affect carbon emissions and energy comsumption were just excellent.

Felix Kramer told us to start running barefoot. It makes a lot of sense because it is less trouble for your knees and, this is added by me, it improves your perception of your foot and how you connect to the world. If people in Kenya do it….

Daniel Kraft was a doctor from the future. He not only invented this bone marrow extraction machine, but used a shock and awe technique of showing a dazzling display of nano-machines that will co-exist with us, cleaning arteries, and sending signals to the outside world about our internal state. I really wish he will prepare a full TED talk about this fascinating subject (for me anyway). We met at night and had a small chat over some drinks and music by Ethel, a great guy.

Kevin Stone presented a new way to fix ankles, knees and other body parts using animal joints from horses, pigs, etc. For a soccer player and skier like me, this is great news. I imagine a knee from a horse must be really hard to break. Check out more here.

David Bolinsky from Xvivo presented dazzling images from inside our body done with CGI. A must see TEDtalk was followed with more footage that I hope they make available soon. There are more samples at his company web site. How enlightening to actually “see” what is going on inside our bodies.

Frederik Balaggade showed us how diagnostics can be done in third world countries with a simple, inexpensive method and procedures. I think we can learn some things in southamerica from the africans, instead of looking at resource wasteful solutions from Europe/US.

Jessica Green explored the invisible in her talk. She thinks that exploring the biodiversity and biogeography in our homes and workspaces will give us very important information for our own health. In essence, we spend 90% of our lives indoors, what we are living with might be quite important. Fantastic pictures.

Jonathan Drori, which gave this tedtalk in 2007, explained us the incredible characteristic of pollen which is tiny, has promiscuous sex, is biologically active and extremely diverse. Whem blow-up by electronic microscopes it’s just stunningly beautiful. It also shows that C.S.I. has new tools because it can be used to track forensic evidence in a very accurate way.

Juliana Machado Ferreira, a native of Sao Paulo, works in restoring rescued birds to their habitats. Surprinsingly, that is not always what happens once the birds are rescued, most of them are euthanized. She was very passionate and convincing. I am never buying a parrot for myself!

Phil Zimbardo, the great Stanford professor with a very prolific life started a new venture to help train and find heroes. He thinks we need a lot more heroes in the world and it’s very hard to disagree with him. Check out more about his Hero Construction Company.

The last talk was from Cindy Gallop called If I ran the world presented a web site that can playfully set on to generate concrete action to change the world in a collaborative way. Very interesting stuff indeed.

As you can see the TED U session are as enganging (or even more) than the main stage TED talks. I hope you have a feel for them now.

Let me know what you think.