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Jidai Festival, Kyoto

Gion Festival & other Kyoto goodies

Bee dance

July 15th, 2016 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture, General

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Bee dance

a bee dances on the cusp

of an orchid’s unbridled imagination,

along a brazened path that gives vent

to wildest dreams,


dreams high upon the wings

of an angel’s euphoria,

where graced by natural presence,

in high noon spellbound,

the bee entrusts its soul.


sustenance aplenty:

compass of heart

citadel of spirit

chalice of being;


amidst that persona

ambrosia, nectar, sugar,

a saviour’s redoubt,

tribute to all life


fluttering little bee,

nestling with its pink beauty

in the flower of life—

and on silken wings

pollination, honey sacs, awe


alighting spirit

in preordained design

in symbiotic embrace

in solaced destiny.


All the best,

Warren J. Devalier


Interface Inc.


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Golden Triangle, Golden Thailand

July 8th, 2016 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture, General


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In the Kingdom of Siam

sitting Buddha everywhere

avatar of divine, calming presence

sentinel of peace and respect


Verdant space,

jungle magic and mysticism,

elephants that paint and protect,

symbols of strength and patience


Rice farmer, shopkeeper, doorman, teacher:

each welcoming in traditional greeting,

prayer-like palms pressed toward heaven,

weapon-less gesture bestowing friendship


Black House, White Temple:

mausoleums to vault artistic whim;

in the food a complex jumble of flavor and aroma—

all spice and more in Northern Thailand.


At the golden triangle convergence:

tripoint of three countries, confluence of two rivers;

to the northwest red poppies of Myanmar

obscure budding signs of freedom.


All the best,

Warren J. Devalier


Interface Inc.




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Hill Tribes in Thailand

June 29th, 2016 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture

Karen Long Neck Bride—Baan Tong Luang

Karen Long Neck Bride—Baan Tong Luang


When you are in Northern Thailand, a very beautiful part of the country (as much as anything because of the graciousness of its people), a most interesting thing to do is to visit Baan Tong Luang, a small community of Hill Tribe Villages. They include the Karen long neck people and other tribes: Lalu Shi Bala, Pa long, Hmong, Kayaw, Yao and Akha.

These tribal people originated in China, Mongolia, or Tibet and migrated from Myanmar, Laos or Vietnam to their present location in Baan Tong Luang, an approximate 12 kilometer drive from Chiang Mai. If you are “game for it,” you ride by elephant to the Hill Tribe Villages from Maesa Elephant Camp and walk to Baan Tong Luang right at the end of an adventurous trek through the jungle.

The Hill Tribe Villagers have preserved their traditional culture for centuries. The women weave their beautiful clothing or farm. The men often work to train, care for, or guide the elephants. The village people are Christians but also believe in night spirits and ghosts. They are very friendly to tourists, as you can see from the photos they were happy for me to take. I only wish that I had brought a polaroid camera to give them a copy of the pics, especially for the beautiful kids.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier


Interface Inc.



entrance to a hill tribe village



bucolic village landscape



village sculpture to ward off evil spirits; there is also a bit of Freudian reference here (coital)



fishing in a rice paddy


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Muay Thai

June 24th, 2016 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture

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I used to box in high school and university and have a special admiration for Thai kickboxing, or Muay Thai, sometimes referred to as the martial art of eight limbs, the fighter’s entire body simulating weapons of war.

These kickboxers are light(40-60 kilos), muscular, and amazingly fast, fighting with hands, feet, knees and elbows.

The martial art traces back to the 16th century and was made famous in 1767 when the legendary fighter Nai Khanomtom won freedom in hand-to-hand combat with his Burmese captors. Part of the attractiveness of watching Muay Thai includes the ritual preceding each bout, when fighters enter and parade around the ring wearing colorful armbands and Mongkol, a decorative headband meaning holy spirit, luck and protection.




























































































All the best,

Warren J. Devalier
Interface Inc.


La Riviera

June 10th, 2016 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture

If you are ever looking for ideas to enjoy a luscious vacation, consider the fabulous Riviera, on the French side to include Antibes; on the Italian side to include San Remo, Portofino and Cinque Terre. Enjoy these photos I shot this spring around Nice and towards the Italian border.


All the best,

Warren J. Devalier


Interface Inc.


The Sea

The Red Villa

Promenade Anglais Nice

Paloma Beach, east of Nice

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La Conchiglia

Eye of the Needle

Evening Shadows in Nice

This is Chagall!

May 17th, 2016 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture

Blog Front


If you need an excuse to visit Nice, the Chagall Museum alone justifies a trip. Marc Chagall donated the art to the museum and actually was involved in determining where his work should be placed in it. His most memorable paintings, illustrating the first two books of the Old Testament—Genesis and Exodus—are part of the museum’s permanent collection. These are stunning large-size paintings that capture Chagall’s genius.

Admission to the Chagall Museum is free on the 1st Sunday of every month and for EU residents under 26 years old. It is located on Avenue Docteur Ménard- (Angle Bd. de Cimiez). To reach the museum, take bus No. 15 Rimiez behind Galeries Lafayette, and get off at the Chagall Museum stop. It’s a very lovely walk downhill of about 2 kilometers on your return to downtown Nice.























































All the best,

Warren J. Devalier


Interface Inc.











April 20th, 2016 | Posts By interface | Filed in: General

My Khe Beach Da Nang

In Memoriam

I wade into the jaded wild surf of

Da Nang

to grieve the loss of souls who bled here,

where sullen skies

rain pellets of bruised sorrow

and sand crabs shudder disbelief.

The beachhead, once swarming

with macabre killing machines,

is colored these days in purple melancholy,

desolate, save a lone bagpipe player, howling a song

so forlorn in its cheerlessness

that the heart sheds tears without relent.


My Khe Beach in Da Nang is deserted most of the day and stretches 30 kilometers along one edge of the city. The government was wise to prevent blocked views by the resort hotels on the beach.

Locals use the beach in early morning exercise before sunrise.

Chùa cầu Bridge, Hội An

The Japanese built this covered Bridge in Hội An, a city designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Hội An was a major trading center in Vietnam.

Chinese, Dutch, Japanese and Indians traded there.

Hội An Store Front

Hội An was a sleepy little town (population 122,000) until UNESCO designated it as a World Heritage site. Today it is bustling,chock full with restaurants, shops, bars, other tourist stops. Classic buildings have been restoredand some of Vietnam’s delights are showcased: incredible delicious baguette sandwiches and Vietnamese drip coffee, which when mixed with condensed milk, has the taste of chocolate.

Hội An Riverscape

Hội An Merchant

A wealthy Hội An merchant, pyjama-clad, watches passerbys stroll by.

Antique Bed, circa 1878

Supply Chain Management in Hội An_The old-fashioned way

Vietnamese porcelain is nice too

99 years young

The matriarch of a merchant family in business for 7 generations takes her walk from the back of the store to the front.

Gotta take care of my dog!

Hội An Temple Reverence for the sea

They love those large 'bonsai' in Hội An

Another 'bonsai'

China influenced Japan’s written language and culture. The Japanese adapt and refine whatever they bring from abroad. They miniatured large potted plants to fit the requirements of space and a penchant for simplicity of design. Way Zen!

Temple Scene in Hội An

The large hanging cylinder-shaped items are month-long incense dedications to the heavens to wish luck and prosperity.

In olden times separate (Yin and Yang) Temple entrances

Cham People Temple Ruins

The Cham people also traded in Hội An in the 16th and 17th centuries. How they built their temples, another UNESCO World Heritage site, is a mystery, and there is speculation about where they came from, although it i highly likely that they came from India, since they practiced Hinduism and Sanskrit writing can be found on their temples.

Cham Folk Dancers

Vietnam is a beautiful country with graciously friendly people. It’s worth a visit among your travel destinations. Go for it! Go to it!

All my best,

Warren J. Devalier


Interface Inc.

Cherry Blossom Viewing

April 20th, 2016 | Posts By interface | Filed in: General




Renewal, awakening casts Kitanomaru Park,

where resplendent is the koi carp, king of clear streams,

and myriad-colored butterflies dance in tender space,

glazed in the light of purpled nostalgia.


To songs of wild birds in the forest chamber

a congregation of spot-billed ducks parades

in quest of food, party, limelight,

bemused by merry-makers canvassing pathways above;


chary of a solitary black-breasted leaf turtle

perched at water’s edge, regal in ambition,

rivulets of pride running down her back;

calloused from promises hollow and forsaken.


Yoshino cherry trees champion this day,

pink-white five-petal blossoms

piercing air in shade, comfort, peace,

calming rip currents of feeling within Chidorigafuchi Moat.


A yearning, low-pitched sigh utters from the blossoms,

messaging from Nature’s God-spirits:

The weeping cherry tree

weeps for no one‑—and everyone.

Not an end or beginning is

Spring’s timeless recycling.

Breathe easy in blustery March winds;

bask in the warmth of sweet radiance.





Don’t leave me out


Wild Flowers along the Moat


Purpled Nostalgia


Pathway to Zen


Bambo Friends


Hey don’t forget us


I like Hanami too


Lets Dance!


Party Time!


Fresh Spring Leaves

Jidai Matsuri

November 1st, 2015 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture, General


Festival of the Ages—

rite of passage through time

through halcyon days of unwavering homage

to demi-gods basking in the frail autumn sun

Here venture the nobility of varied stations:

in crested armor a legion of samurai, stoical and proud,

poised with a quiver of arrows and angst;

mounted on stallions bridled with unbounded energy

Now maiden beauties in painted visage

trail in their footsteps

diadems of plum and fuchsia poppies

adorn heads of unabashed charm and humility

Townspeople draped in hues of crimson and gold,

bearing chests filled with the Shogun’s treasure,

walk steadfastly to the Heian shrine

resplendent and welcoming to the gatherers

An orchestra of flute players, a sole conch shell trumpeter

wail a siren call for war or peace

primordial blast of the human condition

mantra of sound and promise

What hope this procession carries with it,

despite modernity’s stealthy encroachment;

banished are the topknots, the long and short swords,

piercing wind and mist, certain in their ambition;

buried in a scabbard of ironclad disbelief

Omnipresent are the waistcoats, the girdled hems,

parlor charlatans ushering in reformation,

feigning pacific time, hawking the industrial age

of stilted progress, of guns and machinery

Across swollen waters the maudlin sky dampens,

its teardrops in remembrance of past glory;

bruised temperament, mottled dreams

lure the casual observer

On Kamogawa River, a skein of egrets flies to the heavens

while satiated, weary-eyed onlookers saunter homeward,

the festival gala ringing in their memories,

a brief respite in the drone of their lusterless routine.

































































My friend Don Ugo Ravera Martini

August 17th, 2015 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: General

Silk screen of a samurai

I moved to Chile in the summer of 1974, not long after the fall of Salvador Allende. An executive with Exxon Corporation (trademark Esso in Chile), my job as general manager was to normalize the company’s operations through investments aimed at reconstruction, and later, at diversification into copper business.

I decided to live in El Arrayán, enraptured by its natural beauty and bucolic feeling. I also enjoyed the daily commute to my office in downtown Santiago. It was a relaxing time to do some quiet pre-work thinking.

Our landlord introduced us to a few people in the neighborhood, and in that way I met the Raveras. Ugo and Toty were our first guests at home—and I recall that evening as if it were yesterday. Ugo asked me if I had ever done any mountain climbing and talked exuberantly about the benefits of living right at the foothills of the Andes. I told him I was inexperienced in mountain climbing but stayed in reasonably good physical condition— and was eager to try.

Ugo alongside his recreational vehicle

And that began our burgeoning friendship. About a week or so later Ugo drove by in his landmark white camper and we drove the short distance to the base of the Pochoco to launch our climbing adventures. We used to climb the Pochoco on most weekends, and sometimes, when I could finish work early, on a weekday, especially during the long-day summers. At first I struggled to find a steady aerobic pace, yet Ugo was an ideal coach, trainer and mentor. He introduced me to a trekking pole, the right boots and clothing, crampons and other equipment, and he showed me the rhythm and discipline of climbing. I got to the point where I could scamper up the Pochoco in an hour and 20 minutes. Ugo could summit in it in less than an hour but he always held back to encourage me. We talked about anything but business. Ugo was famous for his joke-telling and on all our climbs kept me entertained with his humor and stories. It reflected his warm heart and kept my mind away from thinking how tired I was. Sometimes a young boy, Jimmy, joined us. Ugo was multi-talented. He had been a professional signer, raced cars with his older brother, and won a national contest for the best dancer of the Argentine Tango. His partner was a former secretary in Uruguay, whom I introduced at my despedida party in Santiago.

Ugo photographs Jimmy and me on the Pochoco

There was a small community of aficionado climbers of the Pochoco that we usually saw on Sundays, but mostly we were in communion with nature. We never saw anyone along the trails when Ugo extended our climbing to other mountains in the region. I thought about the people who had hiked those trails in the thousands of years of human history —how they lived, who they loved, who they fought.

When we finished our climbing, Ugo usually invited my family to his home for a late lunch, buffet-style, or light early dinner. He and Toty were most gracious hosts. At those wonderful Sunday affairs I met Hugo’s brothers, Toty’s brother, and Ugo’s daughters Antonella and Pia, as well as fellow climbers, poignant memories for me. Ugo loved to show us slides of past climbs and adventures. Among these he presented pictures of a mummified child found in the high Andes, and was fascinated with the picture of a UFO that he had taken from his balcony and turned over to the US embassy, an unsolved mystery. On a climb of the Pochoco, in the area below the sighting, we found an unaccountable burned-out area the talk of hikers on the mountain.

Mysterious burned-out area on the Pochoco

During the years I was in Chile, Ugo led me on many climbs in the Andes, including Cerro Boniguita and Cerro de la Provincia. On ascents, leaving a village, the bark of a dog or cry of a baby would fade until all you would hear was the sound of your own breathing, and on descents, toward the base of the mountain, the sounds of the village would return. From the summit of the Pochoco, we could continue indefinitely for hours and hours through the mountain range. I had negotiated Exxon’s investment in La Disputada and on another trip, arranged a startling beautiful overnight climb up the mountain in the vicinity of the mine. We slept on the summit in a refuge that had been used as a satellite tracking station.

"on top of the world" with Ugo

We were more than friends. We were like brothers. There could not be a truer, kinder, finer climbing partner. If I was grappling with a personal issue, Ugo was always there to support me. On a longer climb, he made sure we always took a short break each hour, and carried cookies or fruit to provide an energy boost for us. When I was dead tired, Ugo would always say: “Just five minutes more to the summit,” his technique to motivate, even if that five minutes usually stretched much further.

Ugo’s dream was for us to climb El Aconcagua, if not in the season we summited El Plomo, then in the next season. El Plomo was a warm-up. I corresponded with champion American climbers to get advice on oxygen equipment for climbing at altitude, which you just don’t find in a convenience store, and Ugo assembled the components I brought from overseas.

I vividly remember the early morning we left El Arrayán on the road to Farellones to a village, where we were to meet the mule driver who would carry us and our equipment to the base of El Plomo. The sky that day was the purest cobalt blue and the air was as clean as a whistle. It was my first experience riding a mule the many hours it took us to get to the base of the mountain, past the Piedra Numerada where a group of campers greeted us.

We pitched our tent at Refugio Espejo, intending to get a very early start the for the summit next morning, but the winds were so blustery that Ugo decided to hold up until they subsided.

Other than a fall towards the lower end of the glacier, which I arrested with my ice axe, the climb was uneventful, but spectacular. We were on the summit of El Plomo by the early afternoon and, as usual on our climbs, did not stay long. We shook hands, enjoyed the breathtaking view of the Aconcagua in the distance, and prayed quietly in reverence for all climbers. Ugo told me he would head down first to get the mule driver who had retreated from the base to protect the mules from the frigid cold and begin packing. I could see him descending and the driver and his mules below, like ant specks.

A tumble down the glacier of El Plomo

By that time I had exhausted my oxygen supply but thought things were fine. However, traversing the face of the mountain, I felt giddy as I bent down to adjust a crampon. It was the last thing I remembered until waking up in the middle of the night in a military hospital, delirious and desperate for a drink of water. Two prisoners in beds on each side of me convinced a nurse to give me ice to suck on.

What I learned later is that I had fallen 400 meters in two stages. I fell 200 meters, somehow staggered up, and fell another 200 meters. Ugo rushed up the mountain, dug a snow hole on the mountain side, changed my bloody clothes into some of his own, and rushed back down in the hope of finding a way to rescue me.

Little did I know that I was dying, having lost liters of blood. I was semi-conscious of a feeling of warmth, and have faint memory of the shouting of voices, and maybe the noises of whirling helicopter blades. A year earlier a Swiss climber had fallen on the glacier of El Plomo and died instantly. A concatenation of several events, each of which was implausible, occurred to save my life.

The most important of these factors was Ugo’s heroism. Unwilling to accept defeat, he told the mule driver to rush back to the nearest town to get help, at any expense, and he went up and down El Plomo more than once that day to lead my rescue. Ugo was too modest to tell me what he did to save my life, but Toty said later that when he returned home late in the night that his neck had swollen twice its normal size from the stress he endured.

A second factor to explain my survival was exceptionally good physical condition. I had trained as a boxer and learned to avoid being knocked out by recoiling a millimeter from a heavy punch. Although I was in no state to realize it then, I believe that instinctively I cushioned the blows to my head by “rolling with the punches” as I was tumbling 400 meters down the glacier.

Other factors were simply “Fortuna,” or in a spiritual sense, you could say “someone up there liked me.” It would have taken the mule driver hours to reach the nearest town, but the same climbers we met at Piedra Numerada on the way to El Plomo showed him a shortcut, saving precious time. They also gave the helicopter pilot directions to find me, and that helicopter, barely stable at high altitude, was already in the air when the mule driver reached town, gaining more time. The helicopter landed on the mountain as the sun began to set.

Recovering at home with my son

With traumatic head injuries (I received 50 stitches in the military hospital where I was taken), my condition was critical. Again luck was on my side, as one of the world’s most famous neurosurgeons was Chilean, and in 48 hours I was transferred to the hospital where he practiced. Fortunately, I never required brain surgery. My jar was wired to heal a hairline fracture and I broke my left index finger. The nurses nicknamed me the “Bionic Man” because I recovered so fast and was released from the hospital within three weeks. I spent another month at home before returning to work.

In 1976 I transferred to Miami. Ugo was not of the Internet age and had no personal commuter. We corresponded infrequently by hand-written s-mail or phone and always exchanged Xmas greetings. Often I dreamt of returning to Chile and actually returned twice to see Ugo. I spent one summer on an assignment in Caracas a year later and flew down to Santiago to visit Hugo and Toty. One evening he took me to feed homeless dogs at the base of the Pochoco. He did this volunteer work every day. About a hundred dogs from the area came, and for most of them it was their only meal of the day. We climbed the Pochoco, and one of the dogs, who loved Ugo, climbed the mountain 100 meters ahead of us, now and then pausing like a sentry until we caught up.

The other time I returned to Chile when Ugo was alive was with my family, for the Chile Marathon in 2000, which I joined as a runner. I had rented a hotel rooom, but Ugo insisted that I stay in his home. Ugo followed me in his Fiat and he or my youngest daughter gave me grapes every 5-10 kilometers along the course. As Ugo was a volunteer mountain rescuer and had a special badge; he arranged for the broadcaster at the stadium end-point to announce: “And here comes Devalier from Tokyo, Japan! Hilarious.

I had the grandiose idea of walking Chile from North to South (or vice versa) and yearned to invite Ugo on this adventure. I got official maps of the 15 regions and did detailed planning for the expedition, intending to return to Chile to discuss it with Ugo. I was sure he would join. To walk 5,000 kms from Arica to Cabo de Horno was exciting. But the years passed and I was too late.

I still dream of Ugo. I have visions of climbing the Pochoco, but in my dream the mountain is commercialized, with an elaborate building-like tunnel for some of the trail, hordes of climbers, and many shops and restaurants along the way. I visit Ugo and Toty at their home, exchanging thoughts without words.

I love Ugo as a brother and as my soul mate. He is indeed the “Señor of El Pochoco,” with the spirit of a Samurai, heart of a lion, and nobility of character like no one I have ever known.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier


Interface Inc.

Japan’s World Champions

June 3rd, 2015 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture, General, Leadership

2015 World Kendo Championships

A major event took place in Tokyo this past weekend at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. Held were the 16th World Kendo Championships, and Japan swept the games across-the-board, winning 1st place in the men’s, and women’s individual and team competition.

Men’s Individual Matches:

1st Place  Tadakatsu Amishiro        Japan

2nd Place  Yuya Takenouchi            Japan

3rd Place  Man Uk Jang                   Korea

3rd Place  Hidehisa Nishimura       Japan

Women’s Individual Matches:

1st Place  Mizuki Matsumoto           Japan

2nd Place  Yung Yung Hu                 Korea

3rd Place  Bo Kyung Won                 Korea

3rd Place  Yukio Takami                   Japan

Men’s Team Matches:

1st Place                                              Japan

2nd Place                                             Korea

3rd Place                                             Hungary

3rd Place                                             USA

Women’s Team Matches:

1st Place                                              Japan

2nd Place                                             Korea

3rd Place                                             USA

3rd Place                                             Brazil

Japan Men’s Team Winners

Men's Team Winners Receive Their Awards

The US Team

Japanese Men's Team alongside the Italians, good fighters

I was surprised, and somewhat disappointed that these championships were not widely covered in the Japanese press, although NHK TV did broadcast the men’s team championships on the last day, Sunday.

The World Kendo Championships represent the “World Cup” of Kendo and are held every three years in rotation around the world ever since the first world championship was held in 1970. They have only been hosted four times in Japan, the first one in Tokyo, the 4th one in Sapporo, the 10th one in Kyoto, and the 2015 championships back in Tokyo. The next World Kendo Championships will be held in Inchon, Korea.

Internationality at its best

This is a truly international contest, with nearly 50 countries participating from Asia, Europe, and Latin America. I’ve wondered why this truly magnificent martial art isn’t included in the Olympic Games (along with Karate) and was pleased that the Vice- President of the International Kendo Federation indicated that for Kendo to join the Olympics was his goal.

Curiously, Hawaii had its own men’s team apart from the US team, as did Taiwan, Macao, and Hong Kong and China. Not surprising, most of the players on the Hawaiian and US teams were Asian-Americans.

Men's Japan, Korea Teams Square Off

The most exciting matches were between the Japan and Korea teams. The Korean players were powerful—tall, muscular and aggressive— but the Japanese outpointed with their finesse, grace, agility, and technique. These qualities are great Japanese strengths to be very proud of.

In for the "Kill"

Korea and the US Lock Swords

A champion in the making

Whenever I see champions in any field, whether in the martial arts, other athletes, the arts, business or government. I am always reminded and sometimes chastened by the extraordinary effort that any champion makes. We recognize the greatness but can’t fully grasp the “blood, sweat and tears” that these champions experience to get where they are.  Raw potential is not enough no matter how great. It’s the effort, the hard work, the toil that brings a champion to the winner’s stage.

The All-Japan national championships will be held at the Nippon Budokan next November. It is such a splendid and fitting venue for such a beautiful art, reflective of the Samurai spirit.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

Interface Inc.

©2015 Warren J. Devalier

The Game of Squirt

May 6th, 2015 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture, General

Retiro Station, Buenos Aires

A balmy Sunday morning. Maya blue hues the sky as far as Palermo, and an unabashed Sun bathes the high-rises in golden temperament. A pleasant breeze pushed by the mammoth Rio de la Plata makes it delightful to walk the streets of Buenos Aires, through its magnificent gardens and prime neighborhoods in Barrio Norte and Recoleta.

Japanese Garden in Buenos Aires

“Henry, let’s stroll past Plaza San Martin to the Botanical Gardens and then visit the Evita Museum,” Silvia suggested. “It’s such a gorgeous day and I’ve read in my guide book that the Evita Museum is a top spot in Palermo. Could we do that?”

“Sure Silvi,” Henry said, “if you’ve feeling up to a nice stretch of around 20 kms to and from. “After the museum we can take a late lunch, Argentine-style, and either walk or taxi back, depending on how energetic you feel.”

“It’s so quiet here,” Silvia remarked. “I suppose the Argentines sleep in on Sundays and brunch late.“

“For sure,” Henry confirmed. “But up ahead, you can already see a few old ladies making their daily walks, chit-chatting, gossiping, chirping like the courtship serenade of Blue Martins. These are upper middle-class neighborhoods. Look at the beautiful old buildings, constructed at the beginning of the 20th century, when Argentina with its great wealth and flirtation with things French was said to be the Paris of Latin America.”

“The impact of technology never ceases to amaze me,” Henry went on. “The development of the windmill and sawmill provided Holland with cheap energy and construction of ships that made the country a global economic power. Likewise, the invention in the late 19th century of trains and ships with refrigerated containers turned Argentina into a major exporter of plentiful beef to Europe.”

That’s my Henry, Silvia reflected. Always equipped with his little mini-lectures. I wonder where he finds the time to pick up such information.

“I rather think of Buenos Aires as a mélange of three European cities, Madrid, Rome, and Paris,” she replied, returning to the subject. “What was it like when you first came here?”

“Buenos Aires was my entrée to Latin America,” Henry said, “though it wasn’t safe then.” There were terrorists operating here, members of the People’s Revolutionary Army, Ejercito Revolutionario del Pueblo or ERP, as they called themselves. I was constantly vigilant and changed hotels frequently. Usually I disguised my identity with a wig, beard, or mustache,” tugging at his chin as if a faux goatee were still there.

“And the caution was well-founded,” Henry explained. Later on my senior colleague was kidnapped and ransomed for US$11.2 million after a long captivity. As brilliantly managed as the company was, it had a cultural blind spot. Carlos, our negotiator, kept telling executives to pay up, but they were stubborn. In the end, the ransom payment increased a million bucks.”

“Well, we’re safe now, aren’t we?” Silvia asked, an apprehensive tinge in her voice.

“Safe as a sea turtle beneath its shell. There are no sharks around these upscale neighborhoods,” Henry quipped. “The most you have to watch out for is water dripping from the overhead window air conditioners in the older buildings and dog shit on the pavements. Rest easy.”

“Anyway, I’m glad we left our passports and credit cards in the hotel,” Silvia commented “I read in my guide book to avoid carrying around much cash, wearing fancy jewelry, or needlessly flashing electronic stuff.”

French Embassy, Buenos Aires

“Hey Silvi, not to worry!” Henry said, putting his arm around his partner. “It’s not like we’re in Peru, or Columbia. Guidebooks sometimes overdramatize safety, risking that you become paranoid as a tourist. This is Buenos Aires. Incidentally, there’s the French embassy across the street, in all of its stately pomp and circumstance.”

“Wow, Argentina did have a love affair with France,” Silvia commented. The older buildings around here remind me of Paris.”

“They were built between 1880 and 1910,” Henry edified, “together with the splendid parks and expansive avenues you see, in the tradition of Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s renovation of Paris.”

“I’m sorry we missed the Jacaranda blossoms,” Silvia lamented. “My guidebook says the gorgeous purple flowers peak in November. Oh Henry, don’t look now but there is a man walking behind me carrying a menacing wooden stick!”

“Those are working poor, Silvi, and I have a great respect for them. They self-employ to pick up and recycle whatever they can find in those green garbage bins you see all over the city,” Henry explained. They wouldn’t hurt a flea. Watch and you will see he passes you up and uses the stick to keep the bin lid open while he rifles through the garbage.”

Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina"

“Walking around here, and the Casada Rosada on Avenida de Mayo,” ‘Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina’ is ringing in my ears,” Henry added. “I can’t wait until we reach the Evita Museum.”

“Well you won’t have to wait long. I see the museum banner right up the street,” Silvia remarked. “They said she bought the house in 1948 to temporarily lodge women coming to Buenos Aires for work. Lucky women. The museum is described as a reflection of colonial Spanish and Italian Renaissance architectural styles,” she added, glancing at her guidebook.

Light, coherence and spontaneity mark Evita’s home, beautifully appointed in its original furnishings, a cultural treasure house of artifacts and antiques. Subdued is the museum’s lighting and tone, celebrating the most iconic woman in Argentine history. The tiles on some floors and walls have a Moorish taste reminiscent of Andalucía.

In style is the characteristic usage of moldings for the door frames and white walls with deep niches for windows. The walls echo the spirit of Evita, who offered women a shelter as long as needed— until they found work and a more permanent home— in her words “a table, a bed, consolation and motivation, encouragement and hope.” Evita’s clothes, hats, shoes, paintings, writings and other memorabilia adorn the many rooms, snuffing out the propaganda films of Juan Peron. Whether one does not know her, knows her but wants to learn more, or comes just to pay homage, this is Evita’s place. Her spirit is omnipresent.

Evita Museum, Buenos Aires

cynosure of all eyes

“Coming here you really get a feeling for how much good social work Evita did,” Silvia remarked, “much more than what came across in the movie: her building schools for orphans and for nurses, and buying homes for transient women. It is hard for me to imagine a residence for them as grandiose as this place. The other thing that strikes me is how elegantly simple, pure and stylish was Evita’s clothing. Her dresses would look so good on our daughters,” she commented further, walking away from the showcase with the flourish of a model.

“Indeed they would,” Henry says, “as fashionable as anything coming out of Paul Smith these days. “Anyway, if you’ve seen enough, let’s go find some place to eat. I’m hungry, aren’t you Silvi?”

A family restaurant in Buenos Aires

Milanesa de Ternera

Silvia relished the cozy Argentine trattoria Henry chose for their late lunch and found the milanesa de ternera, carbonara, and mixed salad she ordered especially delicious, washed down with a superb glass of Argentine red wine.

“What’s this wine?” Henry, she asked. “It’s exquisite.”

It’s hard to find a bottle of Argentine Malbec that isn’t smooth and hearty,” Henry said, “but if truth be known, my taste buds aren’t sensitive enough to pick up the blackberry, plum and raspberry flavors described on the label, and I can’t really sense the floral, sage and thyme aromas,” he added with a smile and a wink. “To me, it’s just succulent, inexpensive red wine characteristic of Argentina. The Malbecs produced in Mendoza like the Catena Zapata we’re drinking top my list.”

“Oh Henry, that was such a nice spot,” Silvia remarked later. “I’m pleasantly full. Why don’t we skip the taxi and walk back, along the way we came, past those lovely residences and boutique leather shops. It’s a good way to digest our meal and a little training for our trek across northern Spain next year.”

“I too found the lunch delightful,” Henry replied. “You can find these neighborhood family-type restaurants everywhere in Buenos Aires. If we get started now, we can be back to the Plaza San Martin to watch the sunset from the park.”

Considering the long way home, Silvia began to have second thoughts, but the window shopping along Calle Arenales had a mesmerizing effect, and she soon got over her hesitation, sometimes walking a few feet behind Henry, stopping to notice and comment on a store item, sometimes stepping ahead.
Henry’s walking was leisurely at best so that most of the time she set the pace.

Obelisk, Buenos Aires

“Lookit, Silvi, with all the shops sights to capture our attention, we’re already past the Avenida 9 de Julio and just a few blocks from our hotel,” Henri said, looking forward to a relaxing sauna in the hotel’s fitness center. “It sure has gotten quiet, almost as if Buenos Aires were deserted.”

“Henry, damn if I didn’t get splashed from oil or something dripping from the air conditioner above,” Silvia shouted, turning around. “Oh my God,” Henry, it’s all over your shirt too and in your hair and on your backpack,” she shrieked. “What a mess!”

A middle-aged woman approaches Silvia offering tissue paper to wipe the oil and Silvia thanks her graciously in the basic Spanish she has acquired. She then invites Henri over to wipe the soiling on his shirt. Another passersby approaching from the other side also offers Henry tissue paper, gestures towards the building balcony above, and says pájaro, meaning bird in Spanish, but Henry waves him away, embarrassed.

“That sure was a nice Argentine lady,” Silvia said, as they walk towards the hotel. I guess she lives in one of the apartments in the neighborhood. But this oil smells awful, like rotten fish.”

“The Argentine guy who came up behind me said it was bird shit,” Henry pointed out, “ironic because I was telling you to watch out for the dog shit on the pavement. When we get back I’m going to wash my hair a couple of times. Whatever it is that fell on us, it sure stinks,” he repeated, echoing Silvia.

“By the way, did you notice the lady that helped you sitting in a taxi?” Henry asked. “I guess she was in a hurry to get home. For a second I thought she was going to offer us a ride back to the hotel.”

Back in the hotel, Henry and Silvia shower and change into fresh clothing. “Let’s get these stinky garments down to the laundry as quickly as possible,” Silvia said. “I can’t get rid of the smell of that oil or whatever it was.”

“You bet,” Silvi, “I’ll ring for the chambermaid. Can you fetch a few dollars from my wallet to give her? It’s in my backpack.”

“Oh no Henry, your wallet isn’t in your backpack!” Silvia shouted. “Don’t tell me you brought it when we were walking to the Evita museum,” she gasped out the words.

Gravesite of Evita Duarte, Buenos Aires

A flock of blue-green collared feral pigeons sweeps down on Florida St., changing directions in a flash of movement to feed on the scraps littered by fast-food consumers scurrying to Retiro Train Station, inured to the incessant Cambio, Cambio chanting of blue-market money changers. While to the northeast near Recoleta Cemetery, Evita’s final resting place, a taxi driver in on the scam and his two passengers patrol the streets scouting around for their next prey.

Interface Inc.
©2015 Warren J. Devalier

Time Management

December 19th, 2014 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: General

Dali: Persistence of Memory

At the year draws to a close, we think about the past year and make resolutions about what we will do in the new year. Here’s one you might consider: better time management.

I work with clients to develop time management skills. Finding enough time in a day to do the things we would like to do in and outside our work, achieving that optimal work-life balance, is a challenge that many people face.

Some are naturally more inclined than others towards the orderly use of time. They prefer tightly set agendas, schedules, closure. Others prefer to live and work with more spontaneity, less restriction on the way they use their time. For all, time is limited, so that the ideal goal is to find the right balance. Anyone who works at it, no matter what their personal preference, can improve time management and productivity

Here are tips to help you improve time management. Try them out and pick the ones that work best for you.

  • Get organized.



Organizing time involves two main facets, planning your work projects or leisure time activities, and prioritizing those tasks and activities. Some people like to prepare lists and others to use an organizer (hard copy) or online software, for example, the iCal application included on my Mac, which includes a “to do” list and facilitates planning a schedule by days, weeks, or months.

I am not a list-person and don’t use the iCal program, but you may find iCal or a similar program useful. I jot down important action items on my schedule book, and occasionally send myself an email as a reminder. I keep that “list” of priorities alive and running in my head. What works for me may not work for you. Experiment.

To prioritize doesn’t mean that you put off less important tasks forever. If you never give some time to the items at the bottom of your list, they’ll never get off the list. Dedicate time every day tackling those lower priority items.

For example, you may spend time early in the morning responding to routine emails. Not to answer them within a reasonable time creates a bad impression in the mind of the sender. On the other hand, responding to an email the minute you are alerted that an email comes in or snapping to attention whenever your cell phone rings is counter-productive. Strike the right balance.

Also, take major tasks and break them down into manageable chunks. Those big projects will become less daunting and more subject to effective time management.

  • Don’t procrastinate.

It’s easy for anyone to procrastinate and to rationalize the reasons for postponing the tackling of an important task, never getting to those less important items on your list. Such procrastination causes stress, particularly as deadlines approach. The tension may cause an “adrenaline” surge of energy to propel you to action and compete your work on time, but usually procrastination is just a stress-builder, and stress can cause sickness, mental and physical.

If you tend to procrastinate getting started on an important task, try launching into the work for a time that you negotiate with yourself, even if just for a half hour. For example, commit to prepare an outline or make a few notes, rather than putting off the project until it becomes too late. You may find that once you finally get started the work proceeds smoothly and you extend the time you said you would spend.

  • “Kill two birds with one stone.”

Multi-task. It’s among the most important strategies to achieve effective time management and boost your productivity.

This personal example illustrates multi-tasking to achieve improved work-life balance.

Physical exercise is a critical part of wellness, and I set a goal to work out 5 times a week. I also work a full day managing my company. I manage limited time by looking for ways to “kill two birds with one stone.” I treadmill while watching TV and instead of taking the bus to my gym I run there, giving me the aerobics I want. Great ideas have popped up when I am jogging.

Some tasks, though, merit your undivided attention and shouldn’t be multi-tasked. In your planning and prioritization, identify the work deserving your complete dedication.

  • Eschew distractions.

Good time managers focus. They aren’t strayed from a priority by unproductive distractions. You needn’t turn into a zombie and neglect the basic amenities in an organization, the usual greetings, the polite behavior expected of a teammate. Just don’t fritter valuable time or find excuses to put off priorities.

  • Delegate.

If you try do everything yourself when you can “farm out” tasks to subordinates on your team, you are not managing your time effectively. Learning to delegate frees you up to concentrate on what’s most important and empower others. Learn to let go, sharing ownership. Keep a watchful eye and a helpful hand while entrusting ownership of part of a project to your teammates. It is a development step in your management.

  • Learn to say “no.”

Learn to say “no” to unreasonable requests that chew up valuable time. Someone interrupts your work flow with a request that can be dealt with at a later time or makes a request that places an unreasonable burden on you. Say “no” politely yet firmly or  negotiate meeting the request at a more suitable time. It’s nice to extend a helping hand to a colleague but not to the extent that you are continuously picking up the slack of others at the expense of your own priorities.

  • Have guts.

Suppose it is the boss who makes an unreasonable request or assigns you useless or redundant work. We have all had bosses who assigned the same task to different people. You most always be diplomatic in these situations, but needn’t simply comply with the request because it comes from the boss. Negotiate extension on an unrealistic deadline or show how to cut redundant, unnecessary work. If the tasks are routine, ask yourself whether they can be mechanized or assigned to clerks in your organization. It’s not a matter of proving that you can do everything. It’s a matter of focusing on the work where you can add the most value. Offloading tasks to capable assistants can increase their motivation and take the pressure off you.

  • Set realistic goals.

Set challenging targets for yourself but avoid setting unrealistic goals that stretch you too far. You will only wind up missing the goal,  causing frustration.

  • Don’t “bite off more than you can chew.”

If you get involved in too many activities and become overloaded you will break smooth time management and eventually drop the ball. You know yourself better than anyone. In managing your time, choose the activities you take on carefully, mindful of your priorities and your time limitations.

  • Never make a promise you can’t keep.

This includes promises to others and promises to yourself. If you say you are going to do it, do it. If you aren’t sure, don’t commit. To make a promise you can’t keep disappoints the person you promised and leaves you stressed.

  • Flex.

Things rarely go exactly as planned. Unforeseen contingencies occur despite the best of planning.  Life events, never predictable with complete certainty, change the game plan. Adapt a flexible style so that you can adjust your strategy when circumstances warrant a change. Persistence is a virtue but refusal to change when circumstances patently justify it is stubbornness. Being flexible doesn’t mean wavering or changing your plan every other day. It entails the wisdom of knowing when the plan you timetabled is simply no longer realistic.

  • Keep a journal.

Try keeping an electronic or hard copy learning journal of the approach you take to time management, jotting down a few notes of what works and what doesn’t, the challenges you faced, and how you dealt with them. You needn’t make this a rigid requirement that in itself becomes a needless drain on your time. Just let the journal record milestones that make you more mindful of time and record your progress.

  • Chill out.

Once in a while, hang up the tight time management and just chill, particularly in leisure time. Be disciplined at work, relax outside of work, where the use of your time productively won’t be evaluated. Sure, plan, but occasionally throw the list to the wind and spend the day free from a rigidly defined schedule. This chill time can be the refreshing space you need to gear up for a faster, agenda-driven pace in your office.

I multi-tasked blogging this article, writing, listening to the sound track from Les Miserables, and sipping on a Starbucks holiday blend!

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

Interface Inc.
©2014 Warren J. Devalier


December 11th, 2014 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: General, Leadership

People often ask me to describe a leader. My pithy answer is to suggest that you will recognize a leader when you see one in action.

Some confuse leadership with management. Of course a manager can be a leader and a leader a manager. The distinction is that a manager’s focus is to keep things running, whereas the leader moves things in a new, different direction. The manager keeps the earth spinning on its axis; the leader moves it forward in space.

Often people limit the concept of leadership to the person at the head of a hierarchy. The titular head of any hierarchy in effect holds the reins of leadership, but anyone, anywhere in a hierarchy can exercise leadership, no matter where they position on the totem pole.

Think of flat organizational structures  where each worker pulls the oars of a vessel in co-shared leadership. Sure there is a boss, a titular leader, but the effective leaders in this organization are emergent. Anyone can exercise leadership who looks around, notices that something can be done better, convinces others that that idea makes sense, and galvanizes action, whatever their position. Round the edges in this hierarchy so that its triangular form becomes circular, and each member supports the team like spokes on a wheel. This is very much the organization structure of a learning team in an MBA program. Envisioned this way, the interrelationship of leadership and teamwork is apparent.

In defining the qualities of a leader, I begin with self-awareness. Leaders understand their strengths and are cognizant of their vulnerabilities. They can discern the strengths in others and have the prescience to know that sometimes success occurs despite their actions, not because of them.

Leaders have vision. They know where they want to take an organization, their brains are fertile with ideas, they have seemingly boundless energy, and they are passionate about their beliefs. If they do not believe what they espouse, who else will believe them?

I have never known a leader whose communication was not concise, who could not message, who did not inspire. They might be extroverted or introverted, but in all cases could articulate their vision with the concision (and precision) of a laser beam. As such they are adroit negotiators.

Leaders are good at teamwork, at attracting supporters who embrace their vision, at building a so-called coalition of the willing. And just as they are passionate, they are compassionate and empathic, sensitive to the needs of others and appreciative of the support they receive. They generally set high standards for others and are toughest on themselves. They display mind and heart.

Last but not least, the leader has integrity. The organization may have a written code of ethics that fills a library, but it is the leaders who set the ethical tone with their actions. History is replete with ruined organizations whose leaders did not act ethically. Enron is a prime example.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier
Interface Inc.

©2014 Interface

Caveat Emptor

November 18th, 2014 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: General

Business Week’s  2014 ranking of MBA programs makes the magazine surveyors a laughing stock. It takes little analysis to poke holes in it wide enough to drive a Hummer through them with yards to spare:

Business Week ranks Fuqua the No. 1 MBA program in the US world,  while the venerable HBS drops to 8th place. It does not seem to matter that Fuqua’s selectivity, an indicator of how difficult it is to get in, is 25%, while Harvard’s is 12%, or that Fuqua’s yield (the percentage of students accepted who actually go to a school) is 52%, while Harvard’s is 89%.

It gets worse. I have long said that people pursue MBA studies for one overriding reason: JOBS. If they are company-sponsored, it is to accelerate their career track in the company sponsoring their MBA; if they are paying for their MBA education on their own, the vast majority of applicants worldwide, it is to make a career transition to a different industry; if it is to teach in business school, the MBA (or DBA) is the necessary prerequisite to qualify for that role. Tuck ranked a mere 15th in the 2014 Business Week ranking. Its has a slightly better record than Fuqua in job offers extended to graduating students and has a program cost nearly half that of Fuqua’s $114,109.

Business Week ranks The University of California, Berkeley (Haas) 19th, below Indiana, the University of Maryland, and Emory.
All of these ranking surveys have inherent biases, as I described in Best Guide to MBA Programs. In that guide I provided an exhaustive analysis of the selection factors to consider in deciding on what MBA programs to apply:

MBA School Selection Factors

Brand Name
Career placement success
Strength of alumni network

Learning Environment
Quality of the students
Curriculum & Functional strength
Teaching quality
Class Size

Living Environment
City Size

Tuition & Living Expenses

If you ask me what factors are the most important to consider in addition to overall ranking, I would cite these three:
•    Brand name
•    Quality of the students
•    Curriculum and functional strength

Brand Name
You can’t ignore the brand name, because it will contribute to job leads and eventually job offers, and because the brand is enhanced by the strength and activeness of the alum who represent it, and those alum will help you in your career.

Quality of the Students
You’ll notice that when good students attend an MBA school, the schools is generally strong in most if not all of the selection factors. Top schools do an excellent job of selecting top students. In visiting a campus, you can almost sense the student atmosphere in a school by attending class, and spending a little time in the student lounge. Don’t miss the opportunity. Schools strongly encourage students to make campus visits for the purpose of assessing a program. They are just as anxious as you are to impress you with the features of their program.

The people you will be studying with are a critical factor in how you much you benefit from your MBA experience. You’ll learn as much from them sharing experiences and perspectives as you will from the textbooks you’ll use or the professors who teach you. You’ll teach them what you know. They’ll complement your strengths and be your principal support group in school. Your learning team represents an essential core, and as you go through the program, you will extend your relationships within your cohort group and within your class. Students will work with you on projects and feed you information about jobs. They are the foundation of your network.

Moreover, your classmates will become part of your alumni group. You’ll keep in touch with your closest MBA friends for the rest of your life, just as you remain in contact with your university classmates, and you will have access to all of them through your school’s alumni association. In developing your portfolio of MBA program targets, consider the quality of your fellow students carefully. Develop email or direct personal relationships with current students or alumni of the schools that generally appeal to you. Many schools make available a list of students that you contact. Use your network of existing MBA holders to build a network. Talk to MBA students during campus visits, asking yourself whether the students you meet are the people you would want as classmates.

What do you want to study, and does an MBA program offer strength in that field? How strongly are you attracted to the learning environment? If you want to study entrepreneurship, the California schools are excellent. New businesses are created in California daily. The area is abuzz with entrepreneurial spirit. Other schools also offer strong programs in entrepreneurship, and in finance, marketing, or other fields.

Look beyond the overall rankings to see what a particular MBA program offers in its curriculum that will develop your skills and meet your needs, maximizing your appeal to a company recruiter. Leading MBA schools “practice what they preach,” striving to make continuous improvement so that they maintain their competitive advantage and prosper. Don’t judge an MBA program by some stereotypical image in your head of what it was 20 or 30 years ago. Check out its strengths today. MBA schools have made tremendous changes in their curricula over the years.

Top MBA schools are like Grand Cru Bordeaux wines. Each has its unique character and strength. Never make the mistake of following blindly a ranking survey like Business Week. Do your own analysis of what you need from the MBA schools you apply and what they offer to meet those needs. Visit them and see with your own eyes. Talk to the students, talk to the school’s alumni. Network to your advantage.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier
Interface Inc

©2014 Interface

A Connected Walk in the Park

September 2nd, 2014 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: General

Wednesday, September 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day. This year’s theme is ‘Suicide Prevention: One World Connected.’

On this day, TELL (, which offers free, anonymous telephone counseling and support across Japan (TELL Lifeline: 03-5774-0992), is sponsoring a number of walks around Tokyo and in nearby communities, in collaboration with Morgan Stanley.

We will be organizing a walk in support of Tohoku March 11 survivors and all others affected by depression. I know that this is a workday but hope that you can join us, and if you cannot take a half-day off, please invite your partner or friends to walk and talk with us in support of an important cause.

Here is the course itinerary:

We will start the walk at 9:30 am at Yebisu Garden Place in front of the Saint-Germain Bakery & Café, Clock Square, 4-20-5 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku. Look for people with TELL Talkie Walkie tote bags.

Participants will proceed along the Ebisu Station walkway to Komazara-Dori to the TELL Wesley Center, then along Roppongi Dori past Roppongi Crossing, continuing past the US Embassy to Toranomon Hills, and walking through Hibiya Park, where we will close with a little picnic lunch.

This will be a leisurely walk of about 3 hours. If some wish to shorten it, they can join us in front of the TELL Wesley Center. We should arrive there by 10:30 am.

Wesley Center 2F, 6-10-11 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0062

TEL: 03-4550-1191

The Google Map below shows the general route, but don’t let the 16 kms scare you; the distance is less than that and we will not be walking at a fast pace. We are connected, we are one.

To register for this Talkie Walkie, please go to this link:

Alternatively, if you don’t have a PayPal account, you can just send me an email ( and I will take care of the event fee and bring a tote bag for you to the Yebisu Garden Place starting point. All you need bring is yourself, your good will, and a bottle of water to keep hydrated. We start walking at 9:30 am come rain or shine. We will order picnic sandwiches for the group en route or you can carry your own provisions if you prefer.

See you next Wednesday!

Warren J. Devalier

©2014 Warren J. Devalier

Nice, une place magnifique!

July 31st, 2014 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture

Green Parrot in Le Vieux Nice

There is an Italian flavor in the city of Nice on the Côte d’Azur. This is not surprising considering that the city, France’s fifth most populous after Paris, Lyon, Marseilles, and Toulouse, jockeyed back and forth over the centuries between Italian and French control. In 1561 the Duke of Savoy established Italian as the official language in Nice. In 1860 Nice, then part of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, was ceded to France as a reward for French assistance in the Italian War of Independence against Austria.

Overlooking the Promenade des Anglais

Nice Centre

Nice Plaza

Classically Italian

Easily accessible by hi-speed trains that run frequently (and comfortably) from Gare de Lyon station in Paris to central Nice in about 5 ½ hours, Nice is home to one of the world’s most beautiful beach scenes: its beach culture unfolds for kilometers along the Promenade des Anglais. Stroll along this paradisiacal walkway to the rhythm  of the Mediterranean Sea, nature’s breathing, where plankton paint shades of blue, azure, and turquoise waters.


Châteauneuf de Grasse

Nice is a place whose beach captivates you immediately, and as you come to know it beyond this initial dazzle, recognize that it is a city immensely rich in much more than beach culture. Drive 45 minutes north and you will find some of the most beautiful old French villages imaginable, like Châteauneuf de Grasse (pop. 3,000), or pristine wilderness that communes humans with a natural environment of mountains and rivers that would catch Thoreau’s envy.

Stained Glass Window in Chagall Museum Nice

Nice is home to the Musée Picasso (adjoining community of Antibes), Musée Matisse, and Musée Marc Chagall, in themselves a stand-alone reason to visit Nice. The Chagall Museum is among the most impressive museums I have been privileged to tour in the world, and I have been to most of them. Chagall donated 17 large paintings from his Biblical Messages series including 5 versions of the Song of Songs and personally assisted in the arrangement of this largest museum collection of his work.

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Nice, une place magnifique!

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

Staying the course of Abenomics

May 15th, 2014 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: General, Interface Times

The S&P's Chief Global Economist

Yesterday I listened to Paul Sheard, Chief Global Economist and Head of Global Economics and Research for Standard & Poor’s Rating Services comment on the progress of Abenomics thus far. He was speaking at a professional luncheon at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.

Sheard has a long working relationship with Japan, having previously worked as Global Chief Economist and Head of Economic Research at Nomura Securities, a position he earlier held at Lehman Brothers, where he was also Lehman’s Asia Chief Economist.

Sheard framed Abenomics not as 3 arrows but rather as two policy pillars, one pillar aggressive monetary policy coordinated with fiscal policy and the other pillar supply-side structural reform to spur economic growth. Sheard considered Abenomics as “conventional” in concept of orthodox economics but in a Japanese context a sharp break from previous BOJ policy.

He referenced economic statistics that are striking to describe Japan’s two-decade battle with deflation. From an all-time high of 112.70 Index Points in the 4th quarter of 1994, Japan’s GDP deflator fell to a record low of 89.60 in the 1st quarter of 2013, before increasing to 92.70 in the 4th quarter. Since its peak in the 4th quarter of 1997, Japan’s nominal GDP has been -8%, compared with an increase in nominal GDP of 96% in the US. Four factors severely aggravated Japan economic results: the 2008 financial crisis, Fukushima disaster, yen strengthening to 75, and Eurozone debt crisis.

Regarding the first policy pillar (or 1st and 2nd arrows) of Abenomics, Sheard gave the Abe government (including the Kuroda-led BOJ) good marks.  He considered Kuroda’s policy shift a revolutionary shift in thinking, with the resolute message of “Yes, we can, yes we will” end deflation.

Is Abenomics working? The reflation objective is going well, with nominal GDP growth spurred by public investment up 18%. Public sentiment is good. But victory is not yet secure. The BOJ is on the right track but the handicap of deflation, so long embedded in the economic fabric, is not easy to overcome. And there is not yet strong evidence that Japan corporates are convinced of the enduring benefit of Abenomics.

Regarding the second policy pillar (or 3rd arrow), results so far are less impressive. Growth can come from 3 sources: increased labor, increased capital, and increased productivity though innovation and greater efficiency. With Japan’s population projected to decrease from 128 million in 2010 to 100 million by 2048 and 68 million by 2060 (fertility rate of 1.41 (2012) vs. 2.07 needed to maintain the population steady), Abe must increase the labor participation rate through measures designed to increase female workers and enlightened immigration policy, a holistic approach.

Sheard was firm in his belief that the Abe government should stay the course on monetary policy, even doubling down on monetary expansion. He steered away from making quarterly forecasts of GDP, indicating that S&P emphasizes a longer-term view, but did recognize both a widely expected strong 1st quarter result and a downturn in the 2nd quarter influenced by the impact of the consumer tax increase. Just released: Japan’s 1st quarter GDP rose 5.9%, the best showing in 2 1/2 years.

Staying the course is Japan’s best bet for ending deflation and achieving economic growth.  Abe has an unusual window of opportunity—the turnover of prime ministers in recent Japanese history is frightening (8 in the 21st century). We should give him an ample chance to prove that his policy works.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

©2014 Warren J. Devalier

A worthwhile bet?

May 8th, 2014 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: General

The bold and the traditional conjoin

At 35.65% Japan has a higher taxation rate than any other country in the world, except the United States (40%) and United Arab Emirates (55%). The corporate tax rate in China is 25%, Japan’s largest trading partner (total trade 1.62X Japan’s trade with the US). South Korea’s corporate tax rate is 24.2%, Taiwan’s 17%, Australia’s 30%, Thailand’s 20%.

Most of these trading partners have reduced their corporate tax rates over the last 10 years, and as part of the Abe government’s growth strategy, Japan will likely propose lowering its corporate tax rate from 35.65% to 20% next month. This reduction is intended to encourage companies to increase capital investment in Japan. Also being considered are tax breaks to stimulate greater investment in start-ups.

It remains to be seen whether the corporate tax reduction under consideration will substantially boost Japanese corporate investment in Japan. Other factors driving Japanese investment are wage costs and the strategic objective to expand markets overseas to offset the impact of a declining domestic population. In general, the preference would consistently be to manufacture in Japan assuming that the overall investment climate, including the wage cost factor, is favorable.

Large Japanese companies don’t really need the cash flow benefits of tax reduction. They  are awash with cash. “Japan, Inc” is sitting on a cash pile the size of the total Brazil economy.

The Abe government is betting that the tax cuts will pay for themselves—that the initial decrease in tax revenue will be offset by greater corporate investment and profits, bringing in greater tax revenue.

This is a big bet, as the initial effect has to be offset elsewhere. Increased Japanese government bond financing? Japan’s public debt as a percentage of GDP (214%) is the highest in the world, higher than Zimbabwe(202%), Greece(161%), Portugal(129%). Even if held domestically, this is leverage to the hilt and at some point is unsustainable.

If corporate taxes in Japan are reduced to bring the level competitively in line with other countries, the government should offset that loss in revenue by getting a lid on the wasteful spending on projects that placate cozy vested interests.

Tax breaks to encourage start-ups make sense but the criteria should be well-thought out. Simply throwing money at any harebrained scheme squanders public resources. Incentives to angel investors might be effective since those investors have skin in the game, as do venture capitalists.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

©2014 Warren J. Devalier

Economic Outlook ’14

January 15th, 2014 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: General


Yesterday I joined a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan at which three leading Japanese economists, Hiromichi Shirakawa of Credit Suisse Securities Japan, Masayuki Kichikawa of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and  Masamichi Adachi of JP Morgan, presented their economic outlooks for 2014.

The “bottom line” is that all 3 speakers presented a positive growth forecast for Japan this year.

Here are their GDP projections for fiscal year 2014:

Credit Suisse 1.8%

BOA 1.4%

JP Morgan 0.6%

The economists believe that the effects of the increase in the consumption tax from 5% to 8% in April will not be lasting, offset by an expected government stimulation package in the 2nd half of the year and corporate tax cuts.

They did not dwell much on the 3rd arrow of Abenomics, not  even mentioning TTP, although it came up during the Q&A period. One of the economists emphasized the potential for growth brought about by reform in the agricultural sector, which represents a puny 1% of Japan’s  total economy. Stronger branding of Japan food, as achieved by the French and Italians, could double the size of agricultural industry as a component of Japan’s economy. Many people are unaware that Tokyo has topped the list in Michelin’s Guide of top restaurants for 3 years consecutively. Kyoto itself has more starred restaurants than Paris.

The economists’ foreign exchange forecast for the yen anticipated continued weakening, in a range of 110-120 yen/dollar.

In response to  a Q about  the risk of tense Japan/China relations (e.g. island disputes) an economist commented that Japan exports to China 20% of total exports, and auto exports account for 15% of that 20%. He indicated what seemed a relatively small impact on GDP if there is a Chinese boycott of Japanese goods.

I believe that  he understated the potential risk. If China orchestrates large-scale protests (everything in China is large-scale) the impact on Japan’s economy would be very disturbing. Discretion is here the better part of valor. Prime Minister Abe should keep his mouth zipped from provocative statements and stay away from revisits to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine. Better stick to a focus on Abenomics, which in its first year has produced stellar results. It seems that Japan is finally escaping from the economic stranglehold of deflation plaguing the economy for so long.

Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu.

Warren J. Devalier
©2014 Warren J. Devalier

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