Sunday 6 October 2013

Nice & weird people in the Canary island (oh: I went there for work too!)

The past one has been a very interesting week, which I've spent visiting the University of Las Palmas, in the Canary Island. Since it was the last week on maternity leave for Marta, we all went. I knew the weather would be good, but we didn't expect it to be so nice $-$ like proper summer weather!

We were really lucky to start with, as while we were driving to the airport last Saturday, I accidentally got the wrong turn before entering the motorway and by doing that, we were able to see a massive queue ahead. So we decided to ask our phone to drive us to the airport through the Surrey back roads. We got a bit scared because the navigator kept telling us to turn into small roads that looked nothing like going to the airport, but in the end we actually got there on time (unlike 15 people who actually missed the flight).

Of all the family, XY has enjoyed the week the most. He has spent most of the time eating, walking around and being chatted up by the nice, friendly people in the streets of Las Palmas. At first he was a bit puzzled by people speaking in Spanish (I guess it sounded close enough to Italian, but not quite Italian, so it freaked him out a bit). But then he got used to it and started waiving at people when they were stopping us in the streets to say that he was so "precioso", or "lindo", or "guapo".

Speaking of which, I found it amazing how we could relatively easily get by with our Spanitalian. In fact, I did study a bit Spanish, which was helpful, but for most things we could speak to people without resorting to hand-waiving or English (of course that's not ground-breaking news $-$ but it was nice).

Which brings me to the actual reason of the trip, which was a week of meeting with Miguel Negrín and Francisco Vázquez Polo. We mainly talked about some work in health economics, specifically related to the application of utility functions different from the standard net benefit (which is defined as $ke - c$, where $e,c$ are the variables of clinical effectiveness and cost, respectively, and $k$ is a willingness-to-pay parameter, used to rescale the benefits and put them on a monetary scale). 
In the beginning I wasn't quite convinced about their argument, but then we got to talk and, while I'm still not 100% sure of all the implications, I think this is an interesting problem and definitely worth investigating. So we'll try and work on this together, which is a good outcome of the visit $-$ and I'll post about this, once we (I) have clearer ideas/material. I also gave a seminar on the structural zero model, expanding on the talk I gave at GSK a few days back. I think this is really interesting and I seem to get useful comments, which I'll definitely use in my revision of the paper.

The last day we rented a car and decided to tour the island of Gran Canaria. We'd never been there before, so we didn't really know much, but Miguel and Francisco made a couple of suggestions. While we were walking around in Maspalomas, a weird Italian lady stopped us and started to blab. She looked interested in us, but in fact asked us how old we were 3 times in the space of 5 minutes and told us pretty much the same things about 20 times. As it turned out, she was working for a holiday resort (apparently they have taken some sand from Bahamas and brought it there before building the resort $-$ I am still annoyed with myself that I didn't turned around and left as she actually said that, as if it was some amazing thing which was supposed to make me want to divorce Marta and marry her instead). Anyway, she wanted us to get some sort of scratch'n'win ticket. We weren't really interested but she started scratching a couple and apparently we won either an iPad, a free one-week holiday (in one of their "amazing resorts"), or €500 in cash. To get the prize we "only" had to go and see the resort with the Bahamas beach, which we could only do by going with a cab that she had to call (and there was no other way, "because those are the rules"). We went back to the car and actually visited the nice little town of Teror (not very big and not very much to do, but still quite nice and much less hot!).

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