Tag: spain

Life in Spain under lockdown

Today is April 14th 2020 and it is our 32nd day under the Coronavirus lockdown orders here in Spain.


I thought I’d paint a little picture for you of how life has been for us since the state of emergency was declared by the government on March 14th. Spain has one of the tightest lockdowns outside of China with people being required to stay home except for trips to the grocery store, trips to the pharmacy for medication, and to walk dogs. Dog walking can only be undertaken by a single adult (no couples, no kids) from a household and has to be within close proximity to home. Fines starting at €600 and up to €30,000 are meted out for any infractions.

Sign announcing Parks Closed
Sign announcing Parks Closed

I took my dogs out for a walk on the first morning of the lockdown and passing a kids playground I saw a sign from the local council stating that the park was closed due to the Coronavirus. Schools had been shut the previous day so the council didn’t want children congregating in parks, potentially infecting one another. The sign was dated the day before the the state of emergency lockdown, and so the Stay at Home order very quickly made it redundant!


Empty meat counter shelves
Empty meat counter shelves

I went grocery shopping on day one as well, and found that while there was no shortage of toilet roll in the shop (!), the meat and fish counters had been stripped bare. The only thing remaining was a few plant based Beyond Meat burgers, so I finally had an excuse to introduce them to my family (two of us loved them, the other two, not so much).


Store sign requiring use of gloves
Store sign requiring use of gloves

In the following days, the supermarkets’ supply chains stepped up and now there are no shortages in the stores. Practices in shopping have changed though. Shops are pushing people to shop online and choose home delivery as much as possible. Delivery times are typically reasonable and usually come within 24-48 hours though you can be unlucky. If you do need to go to the store, shops now provide disposable gloves for shoppers and require their use when using a trolly or shopping basket.


Keep your distance and pay by credit card
Keep your distance and pay by credit card

Physical distancing is enforced when queuing to pay, and most shops now shun cash in favour of contactless credit card payments.

Interestingly Amazon delivery times are way out of whack. I don’t know if this is just a Spanish thing, but ever since the pandemic hit delivery estimates have been in the order of weeks for most orders. However, having then placed the order, it more often than not arrives in a day or two rather than the weeks that had been estimated. I’m assuming Amazon are still adjusting their logistics, taking on lots more companies, onboarding them, etc. so this too will be sorted in time. The good thing is that they are erring on the safe side, not promising delivery in a day or two, and then taking weeks to deliver!


Graph of penetration of Fibre to the Home internet connections by country
Graph of penetration of Fibre to the Home internet connections by country

Apart from the good weather, another advantage of being based in Spain is that at 44%, Spain has by a significant margin the highest penetration of Fibre to the Home (FttH) internet connections of any country (Portugal is next closest with 37%). This investment in infrastructure is now paying big dividends with so many people needing to work, or continue their education online. My home connection is a 600mb synchronous connection, so four people simultaneously video conferencing doesn’t put too much strain on the connection. Very occasionally there are glitches in the video connections, but I put that down to upstream congestion with the increased traffic on the network.

Classes are being delivered online
Classes are being delivered online

Classes are being delivered online using a combination of Zoom, and Google Classroom. Fortunately the school my sons attend made a decision a couple of years back to issue all the kids with iPads, and deliver all their educational material that way (i.e. they have no physical textbooks). The unintended positive consequence is that all the kids in the school have their own tablet containing their curriculum, and because of the high penetration of fibre, most have a decent internet connection. As a result of this, the school hit the ground running and the transition to delivering lessons online was made that much easier. This is a public school btw.


Virtual family lunch
Virtual family lunch

Other changes – traditional big extended family lunches at weekends have been replaced by virtual get togethers with the family on Zoom. It is not the same, to be sure but it helps maintain a semblance of normality.

Finally, I do venture out to walk the dogs daily. Part of my walk brings me past a (formerly) busy intersection. Now that intersection is eerily still with only the very occasional car passing. And now you hear the sound of birdsong there instead of the constant growl of heavy traffic.


Air quality February 2020
Air quality February 2020


Air quality March 2020
Air quality March 2020

The air quality has improved, as you’d expect as well. I carry a Plume Flow personal air quality meter with me at all times so I have air quality data for this area going back many months. The two screens above show the air quality in February (before the lockdown) and March (two weeks after the lockdown) respectively with the February screen having large portions of the air quality map being either yellow (moderate air quality with an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 21-50) or red (high pollution with an AQI of 51-100). Two weeks after the lockdown though and the air quality index is reading under 20 almost for the entire walk, which is a vast improvement.


Daily new Coronavirus cases in Spain
Daily new Coronavirus cases in Spain
Daily new deaths data from Coronavirus in Spain
Daily new deaths data from Coronavirus in Spain

These last few weeks of lockdown from the pandemic haven’t been easy, there is no doubt. But the outcome speaks for itself. The cleaner air is welcome, sure. But the fall in new infections and the fall in the number of people dying daily from this pandemic here in Spain is very welcome. If you are in the early stages of a lockdown, look at those two graphs. This will happen where you are too if the proper measures are taken to enact and enforce a lockdown.


Yesterday the Spanish government partially re-opened sectors of the economy to allow some people back to work. They required everyone travelling on public transport to wear face masks and they had police and volunteers in every public transport station handing out masks to those people who didn’t have any.

Was it too soon to re-open the economy? Possibly it was. We will know in one-two weeks time if we see the number of new cases increase once more. We are all just feeling our way in this new world. Until there is a universally available vaccine I think we will have to proceed extremely cautiously on all fronts. Stay healthy, stay safe, and above all, stay SANE!!!

Why are Salesforce hiding the emissions of their cloud?

Salesforce incorrect carbon data
The lack of transparency from Cloud computing providers is something we have discussed many times on this blog – today we thought we’d highlight an example.

Salesforce dedicates a significant portion of its site to Sustainability and on “Using cloud computing to benefit our environment”. They even have nice calculators and graphs of how Green they are. This all sounds very promising, especially the part where they mention that you can “Reduce your IT emissions by 95%”, so where is the data to back up these claims? Unfortunately, the data is either inaccurate or missing altogether.

For example, Salesforce’s carbon calculator (screen shot above) tells us that if an organisation based in Europe moves its existing IT platform (with 10,000+ users) to the Salesforce cloud, it will reduce its carbon emissions by 87%.

This is highly suspect. Salesforce’s data centers are in the US (over 42% of electricity generated in the US comes from coal) and Singapore where all but 2.6% of electricity comes from petroleum and natural gas [PDF].

On the other hand, if an organisation’s on premise IT platform in Europe is based in France, it is powered roughly 80% by nuclear power which has a very low carbon footprint. If it is based in Spain, Spain generates almost 40% of its power from renewables [PDF]. Any move from there to Salesforce cloud will almost certainly lead to a significant increase in carbon emissions, not a reduction, and certainly not a reduction of 87% as Salesforce’s calculator claims above.

Salesforce incorrect carbon data

Salesforce also has a Daily Carbon Savings page. Where to start?

To begin with, the first time we took a screen shot of this page was on October 1st for slide 26 of this slide deck. The screen shot on the right was taken this morning. As you can see, the “Daily Carbon Savings” data hasn’t updated a single day in the meantime. It is now over two months out-of-date. But that’s probably just because of a glitch which is far down Salesforce’s bug list.

The bigger issue here is that Salesforce is reporting on carbon savings, not on its carbon emissions. Why? We’ve already seen (above) that their calculations around carbon savings are shaky, at best. Why are they not reporting the much more useful metric of carbon emissions? Is it because their calculations of emissions are equally shaky? Or, is it that Salesforce are ashamed of the amount of carbon they are emitting given they have sited their data centers in carbon intensive areas?

We won’t know the answer to these questions until Salesforce finally do start reporting the carbon emissions of its cloud infrastructure. In a meaningful way.

Is that likely to happen? Yes, absolutely.

When? That’s up to Salesforce. They can choose to be a leader in this space, or they can choose to continue to hide behind data obfuscation until they are forced by either regulation, or competitive pressure to publish their emissions.

If we were Salesforce, we’d be looking to lead.

Image credits Tom Raftery

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(Cross-posted @ GreenMonk: the blog)

Friday Green Numbers round-up 07/09/2010

Green Numbers
Photo credit trindade.joao

And here is this week’s Green numbers:

15 Twitter tips for beginners

A friend of mine has just set up a Twitter account so I wrote him an email with some instructions on how to get the most from it.

Thinking some of the advice might prove useful to others, I genericised it and re-posted it here.

Dunno how well you know Twitter – if I’m teaching Granny to suck eggs, apologies but if you are a noob, read on…!

  1. Start off by posting a few innocuous posts – “trying out Twitter”, “Recently moved to Vancouver, anyone here from Vancouver?”, and some stuff introducing yourself your interests & why you’re using Twitter, e.g. “I hope to learn more about cleantech”, that kind of thing.
  2. Then build up your network. Start with your friends you know to be on Twitter. Start following them. But also look at the list of people they are following. You may know some of them too, if so, add them to the list of people you follow too.
  3. If you precede someone’s username with the @ symbol in a post on Twitter (i.e. “@tomraftery how is it going?”) then your post appears in the Reply tab on their Twitter page. This works whether they are following you or not. When you @reply to someone, they are likely to check out your profile and may decide to follow you. This is a very powerful way to build up your network with people who don’t necessarily know you but with whom you want to connect.
  4. Check out the TwitterGrader page for your area, for instance, if you are based in Andalucia, in the south of Spain, like me, check the TwitterGrader page for Andalucia and you’ll find some interesting people you may want to connect to, to get into the local scene.
  5. Follow some of the people there, check who they are following and talking to (@ replying to) and consider following them too.
  6. Sidenote: if you precede someone’s username with “d ” (i.e. “d tomraftery how is it going?”) this sends a private message only to them – called a direct message or DM. You can only send DMs to people who have chosen to follow you.
  7. Also, don’t be shy about asking your friends to pimp you to their followers!
  8. Then, using Twitter:

  9. On the computer – download & install Adobe AIR (if you don’t already have it installed). Then use either Twhirl or TweetDeck for posting/reading posts. I prefer TweetDeck. The Twitter web interface is still prob the best for checking people’s profiles and seeing who they follow.
  10. On the iPod Touch/iPhone use Twitterfon, on Blackberry I hear Twitterberry is good and
  11. On any other phone use dabr.co.uk – a web based mobile Twitter client
  12. Always remember, if you @reply someone looking to get their attention or hoping they will follow you, they will likely click through to check out your Twitter page. There are many bots on Twitter so to weed out real/interesting users from bots I always look at a persons most recent posts to see what they are talking about (if their posts are all links to one site, forget it!), I look at the number of people they follow vs the number of people following them. If they are following 1,000 say and have very few followers, it is a sure sign that they are a bot who just auto-followed lots of people.
  13. I also check out what the person says about themselves in the bio and click on their site, if they have one.
  14. If you want people to follow you, then ensure your updates are not protected. Someone coming to your Twitter page and seeing Protected Updates is very unlikely to decide to follow you.
  15. Purely a personal preference, but I think it is far better to use your own name on your Twitter account than some handle. It is a matter of personal branding but to my mind, a Twitter account called @JohnDoe tells me more about the user than @stargazr49!
  16. Finally, a photo is also very important on your account, be sure to add one to your profile
  17. BONUS EXTRA TIP!!! – Use your Twitter username everywhere – add it to your email sig, put it on your business cards, leave it in blog comments – don’t spam, just do it where appropriate.

Hope some of that is useful!

If there are any other tips I missed out on, feel free to add them in the comments…

Post updated after helpful feedback from JAdP and RichWalsh on Twitter!

We are off to the beach!!!

Playa de Roquetas
Photo Credit technokitten

We have been in Spain for nearly two weeks now. Most of the boxes and bags are unpacked. We have a phone line, gas, broadband, mobile and electricity accounts in our names and we put a deposit on a car (a Prius). It has been busy.

The most difficult thing to deal with has been the banks – both Spanish and Irish. Bank of Ireland have been particularly unhelpful and inflexible.

My brother-in-law has a time share in Almeria he couldn’t take up this coming week so he offered it to us. This afternoon we are heading to the beach for a week! I’ll be the one under the umbrella, trying desperately to stay in the shade!

In Spain at the minute

I’m in Spain at the moment. I flew over here on Sunday for my brother-in-law’s wedding. All good.

However, this has been a nightmare journey. I woke up on Sunday morning with a temperature of 38.8C. And Tomás, our four year old, had a temp of 38. We managed to get the kids and bags ready and arrived at the airport on time only to have our flight to Spain delayed by four hours.

We arrived at our hotel in Malaga (after deciding to overnight there) at 2:30am.

I drove to Seville the following (Monday) morning. I still had a high temperature and collapsed on the hotel bed when we arrived and awoke 3 hours later. I saw a doctor later in the day and he told me I had a bad lung infection and was heading for pnuemonia. I am now on antibiotics and getting better but still haven’t eaten since Saturday lunch!

To cap it all, Pilar and Enrique are now sick as well (Enrique’s temp was 39.9 last night) and there is no wifi in the hotel room so I am getting online extremely intermittently.

Still, the weather here is beautiful. I looked out the hotel window last night and one of the street signs which also gives the temperature was reading 17C. At 8pm. In January. Hard to beat that!

In-car GPS units

I drove to Dublin on Saturday. I had a couple of small jobs to do and I was going to the Blogger meetup in the Market Bar afterwards.

Now I don’t know Dublin well at all so I was mighty relieved when a friend offered me the loan of a Sony GPS unit for the trip. It was the Sony NV-U50 and I would have been literally lost without it!

The user interface could definitely stand some work (it took me a good while to figure out how to get it to plot a course to a destination) but once underway and following its instructions, it brought me to the door of my venues flawlessly. I didn’t even have to think about where I was going.

Who else makes these in-car units and which ones are best (i.e. easiest to use)?

I’d love to take one to Spain in a couple of weeks when we go there on holidays