Thursday, January 24, 2008


...thus crushing Be's fantasies of seeing Paul run against Kucinich in the general election. Poop.
Was just talking to our controller about the French Banking thing. He (and later the Frenchie) brought up some interesting points:

1.) Guts. Amazing guts.

2.) Could I even imagine having $7.1 billion dollars to lose?
  1. Heck, how much was whoever playing with to end up with a loss like that?
  2. Even more interesting, how much did the company gain from this?
  3. Wonder what sort of commissions were paid out?

Regarding the lost money, found this little visualization from the Libé helpful:

4.9 billion euro? Five projects for the suburbs or 500,000 Twingos...

A young trader just lost a fortune at Société Générale. But what does that represent? Libération wants to give you a hand at visualizing.

His name is Jérôme Kerviel and he lost 4.9 billion euros for Société Générale. Apart from being an awful lot of money, how much is 4.9 billion euros exactly? Let's do a bit of role-playing:

You are Fadela Amara. With that amount, you could finance nearly five "plans for the suburbs."...or choose to strengthen 250 neighborhoods instead of just 50.

You are Hervé Morin.
You could just about pick up for the Ministry of Defense two new (French) aircraft carriers. Or one new and one second-hand, no problem.

You are Bertrand Delanoë. That would cover eight months' budget for the Paris Community (city and department, for the sake of precision!)

You are Nicholas Sarkozy (yes, yes!). You'd get paid 20,000 years worth of (your new) salary. Awesome!

You are Vincent Bolloré. You could buy 320 new Falcon 900s to replace your old jet.

I don't have a picture of the jet, but I do have one of the galley.*

You are Jean-Michel Aulas. Your Olympique lyonnais would still be decked out and paraded about for another 25 years.

You are generous. You could start 100 charities for the 2004 tsunami or 50 French Telethons.

Maybe you're a little crazy? You could buy 500,000 Twingoes even though you'd not have anyplace to park them.


*The Frenchie sketched this after the November train strikes in response to the over-repeated use of the term "galère" by the French Media (and curiously uncritical American commentary) to describe the train-metro conditions.
Count your blessings, no matter how small.

Woke up to the phone ringing early this morning. The Frenchie wanted to chat about this. My pre-caffeinated brain heard millions instead of billions which led to the side commentary of -hmm? why is he going on about this? It's chump change, for crying out loud.-

Get into work and see this.* Oh dear.

Much as I hate my job, at least I don't work there. Much as I hate my bank, at least it's not them.


* Though I wouldn't necessarily call Société Générale a "victim" of anything save poor internal control. Guess they never heard of Barings, or even Credit Lyonnais, for that matter.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Someone once told me that trying to relate my organization's process and controls to those of a real company was like trying to determine the sex of angels. That sounds about right.

Onward now to start redoing everything I lost a long weekend trying to finish after having had a deadline pushed up by over a week.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The end of the year was hectic, sick-making, an all-around misery. I was forced to suck up my pride and ask for an extension for my class, as there was no way in heck I'd finish in time. Am relieved to say that it was readily (and gladly) granted.

The format of the course is more-or-less an independent study-type, so I either mail or hand in the assignments as I finish them and, in the fullness of time, the instructor mails them back. It's nice if you have the discipline to push yourself, but more difficult than the standard sit-in-a-class format. Anyway, I'd finished three of the five assignments (4-5 page essay answering one of two questions posed on the assigned readings), but, as of Christmas, had not received any feedback. This disturbed me, as the last time I'd done this kind of work was perhaps 15-20 years ago. As far as I knew, I could well have gotten a failing mark on any or all of the papers I'd submitted.

Last week, a big envelope arrived. The contents were unmistakable. Figuring that I might as well deal with stuff rather than let the worry fester, I opened it. Inside found a nice note from the professor telling me that he was putting the paperwork for an extension through for me as he figured I'd not have time to finish. Looked at the essays and found that I'd received pretty stellar grades on all three. On one essay, there was a little note telling me that I had a great depth of understanding. On the second, he commented on my clear, forceful language. On the third, I found just the words "keep it up!" This did my heart good, as, though bright, I've never been a particularly good student and have very little confidence in writing in this language.


Have had to work all weekend, so the readings for the final assignments has been slow. I hope to get a large chunk of that done tonight and tomorrow evening, then to finish writing in time for the start of the new semester. I've decided to take the continuation of this course (American History Part Deux: Civil War to present), as it's a good exercise for me and has been more or less been keeping me out of trouble. Also, I've always been a sucker for a good potboiler. Am considering taking another survey as well, given that my knowledge of most history comes from my music/art history and literature studies.

Sometime, if I can find the time/money to do so, I'd like to try out some economics courses, as well.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

To celebrate the score, I got dinner. Stopped at the market to pick stuff up, then learned how to prepare it.

Oyster shucking is surprisingly easy if you have a well-sharpened tool and you use the right technique (am left-handed and would use a screwdriver before so the work was miserable). The Frenchie made a gift of his favorite knife and promised to sharpen my other one the next time he visited.

As much as I like East Coast, I am pleased to no longer be dependent on their raw bar, as it is kind of pricey. Courthouse is much cheaper, and the owner is a joy to chat with. I also get a kick out of the manual dexterity required of me.

I'd been bugging the Frenchie to take me there for some time. This last visit, he finally gave in and drove me to Bougival for what was to be a more thrilling experience than Galeries Lafayette and Printemps combined.

We walked a bit around the campus, tried to make friend with some of the many itinerant cats we met and gazed on some of the views that inspired a number of impressionists back in their day.

Sisley's view of Bougival

Be's view.

Of course, we shopped. The Frenchie got himself another slide projector, as well as a book of the history of Suresnes (his city) from it inception to just after WWII. I found a book by Levy that I'd not read yet, a few trinkets and toys for friends, and about the grooviest bit of faience I've yet to come across:

10 plates for 16€! I've not been able to find them in the States for less than maybe $30/plate, oysters being a luxury item and all.

It also pleased me to think that the little bit that we gave in support of the organisation was probably better managed than at a lot of the equivalents here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Frenchie makes me laugh because in a lot of ways he's just like me. I remember a couple years being all outraged because the VCR (that I'd bought used from an ex coworker) had crapped out after 10 years. I'd vowed never to buy another again because stuff isn't made to last. Eventually, my roommate at the time who worked for some big programmable TV/DVD tech company brought some amazing NASA-built model home from the lab. Very nice of him. Especially since I can now hook up the DVD player my Mom gave me to the nearly 25 year old TV I coopted from my brother when he joined the Navy.*

Around Christmastime, the Frenchie's clothes dryer died on him. Down we went to his laundry room to check stuff out. Not only did we find a broken ball bearing in a sensitive place, we were also treated to a free dead bird in the exhaust vent. After both these issues were resolved, it was determined that the dryer had more serious issues. Since the Frenchie had paid a decent sum for it just 20 years ago, he was pretty anxious to find the parts and fix it himself. It took a bit of soul-searching and comparison shopping to get him to even consider my advice to "laisser tomber."**

Just after New Year, we were wandering around Versailles when something sparkly in a window caught my eye. "Pretty," I mentioned in passing. Wondered what proportion of my rent the trinket would set me back if I were to do something rash. Then...enlightenment!

"Hey, Frenchie," I asked. "What did you do with the old ball bearing?"
"It's in my desk drawer; never know when it might be useful."
"May I have it? And could we go to the mercerie to pick something up before going home?"

At the Versailles equivalent of Windsor Button, I got about 3/4 of a meter of waxed cotton cord in what the nice lady called khaki (actually, I think it looks olive-colored). Stopped at the bakery to get some bread and a galette des rois, then headed home.

It was my turn to cook, so I sent the Frenchie up to his office to find the ball-bearing and clean it. When he was finished, he gave it to me and I knotted it to the end of the cord like so:

Sorry for the glare, had to use the flash.

Told me that mine was better than the original, and not just because I saved myself several hundred Euro.

The original. It's nice, but who would pay nearly $500 for that?

I think he was tickled to know that his 20 year old dryer and its five-year-old ball bearing didn't die in vain. I'm tickled at all the compliments I get on my new necklace even before people know the story behind it.


* Hey, where would anyone plug in a TV on a sub, anyway? I'm going to be so out of luck when we switch over to digital signals in...'08? '09? because I just can't see myself going out and paying what they want for a new TV.

** Though he promised to buy a new dryer, I think he's still scouting out parts. Once a mechanique, always a mechanique, I suppose.

Gare du Nord.

Returning was really hard this time around. I've been back for about a week, but have been too tired/uninspired to write. Part of it's the weather, I'm sure. Part of it's jet lag. I miss my friend, too, of course.

We both were really tired out - him from school and home, me from my before vacation adventures. Did manage to complete some household projects and to get into the big bad city for a bit. Next visit? February break in New England for the Frenchie. I'm saving my time and pennies for a springtime in Paris jaunt.