Sunday, August 17, 2014

Les Crottes de Chien ~ Summer Awards

Voici my first (and possibly last) blog entry wherein I give awards for various items of special mention and excellence in their fields of, well, whatever.

To start things off, let's have a look at Mother Nature.

Why pick on Her?  The answer is very quick and easy.  It's because the weather in July and August here in the City of Lights has, frankly, sucked.  It's been cold and wet for going on two straight months.  But, you say, at least June was nice.  Right?  Um, sorry.  Everyone was still working Like a Dog two months ago.

Things are so bad that tourism is down.  Way down.  In some places we're welcoming 50+ percent fewer guests.  In the most popular places there are at least 15 percent fewer people than last year.  Rappelez-vous that last year tourism was down in France due to a bunch of people running around and chucking things throw the air in London.  Even the Rom thieves left Paris for London to see the Olympics and to pick up a few quid along the way.

It's serious.  The weather is depressing.  Just look outside and you'll see what I mean.

In spite of the tourist-dousing weather, Jude and I have worked on our tans.  It's good enough to fool most people into believing we've spent a good month or two away on les vacances.

Having said that, Harry the Diplomat tells us that come Septembre the French will return home from les conges annuels in a very grumpy mood.  Afterall, what mood could one possibly be in after spending a Glorious Month away from the city... um... under a gray and many times spitting sky?  No tan.  No beach.  No sun.  Ugh.

Mother Nature, this one's for you.

The second Crotte de Chien award goes to an American company for taking a business that used to be ranked #1 in the industry (Test and Measurement equipment) to #3 in a field of three in five short years.

How'd they do it?  They mistook a high tech company for something it most definitely wasn't and stripped assets ("free cash flow!") beyond any ability to recover.  The acquiring group paid $3BILLION for the business and wanted to get their money back as soon as possible.

What better way to set the tone an impose the new corporate culture than to piss off the employees?  Jim Lico laughed in the face of an employee who innocently asked (in front of a rather large crowd, mind you) if he was moving manufacturing to China.  Within six months her's and thousands of other jobs were given to the People's Republic of China.  Is it any wonder that American companies that rely on virus/malware-free software stopped buying from them?  This was, of course, only after Jim had threatened the Governor of the State of Oregon with moving jobs overseas if he wasn't granted a huge tax break.

One of the next faux-pas they made was to bring in the Loose Canon. This man fears that CEO (Larry Culp) will find out he doesn't know what he's doing.  So his bravado is even greater than many "senior executives".  While twisting the company this way and that, wringing out as much money as he could, Amir Aghdaei foolishly laid off the group of engineers who knew how to make the widest, fastest, deepest analog to digital converters in the world. 

Amir thought he could buy the parts the business requires by going to an outside company that had never made these kinds of parts.  His claim was that instead of waiting five years for world beating performance parts (the old group told Amir it would take that long to move to a newer technology), he told everyone we'd have great parts in a year.  That was five years ago and still there are no new parts.

Well, Larry seems to have wised up, realized that it takes knowing something about technology to successfully run a technology business and has moved Amir out of the company he single-handedly mis-managed into near oblivion (going from $1Billion/year down to struggling to make $400Million/year on the original core business). 

In a rather telling comment the CEO told the media that "...our task and challenge is to innovate as best we can."  But, you might ask, the New Guy doesn't know anything either, right?  Interesting times, these.

Try acquiring something that doesn't exist (the take-over group is very "acquisitive", as they say on Wall Street).  Try rebuilding a team of skilled engineers half a decade after you've gotten angry at their proposed schedule and arrogantly sent them into the un-employment line.  Try "innovating" your way cheaply into success by relying on Chinese engineering when engineers in that country don't believe in the laws of physics (ask them if grounding of electronic equipment is required and prepare to pick your jaw up off the floor at their reply).

In the meantime, Tektronix has become only one in a rather long line of "rollup company" controlled zombies.  No real way of generating "organic" growth (one of Larry's favorite phrases) after you've Kaizen'd out the door everything that's not nailed to the flow, including probably the single most important innovating engine the company ever had.

So, to Danaher Corp goes our second Crottes de Chien award.  Great job, guys!  Pray Wall Street doesn't find out how "well" you really understand your markets, customers, and how you really run your businesses.

Lastly, we would like to address a few things about how "stuff" gets done around these parts.

Take, for instance driving une kilometer par heure over the speed limit.  It's a ticket-able offense here.  If one of the 1,000 police cameras record you, you receive a Nasty Gram in the mail demanding 137Euro.

Here's another example of what I'm getting at.  The month of August typically allows free on-street parking every weekend.  Let's say you pull up to the curb, park, and walk up the street to enjoy a relaxing three hour lunch on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  Let's then say you spy a little green piece of paper on your car's window after downing the last glass of chardonnay wine.

What is it? you might ask.  Well, it's a little note from the police saying there has been an infraction.  It gives absolutely no indication what that infraction was.  Further, there is no indication of the time, date, nor the number nor name of the officer who gave you this late-afternoon gift.

You're left to wonder what happened.  All you can do is stand there flat-footed with a growing sour-churn in the stomach.  Soon a letter arrives that explains everything.  It indicates you parked without paying the meter and putting a sticker in the window.

What changed?  The law.  That's what changed. How does one know the law has changed and that parking is no longer free on weekends during the month of August in Paris, France?  Search me.  I have no idea.  The French themselves don't seem to know.

To make matters worse, unlike in the US where you can go before a judge and cry your Crocodile Tears, in France there is no case.  There is not one single person you can see who will listen to you and, perhaps, take pity on you.  You simply have to pay.  Or else.  Period.  End of sentence.

How can the French stand it?  I smell a revolution.  That's what I smell.

The bright side of this little tale is that Jude and I do not own une voiture.  We moved here to explicitly enjoy the libertie, egality, fraternity associated with not owning a car.

Still, this is nasty business and I can see why the French tend to be grumpy.

This final award, therefore, goes to Those Who Shall Not Be Named, but who sneak things in on you when you're not looking.

[A short note regarding les crottes de chien.  Jude and I spied these today when we were out for a walk.  We just had to scurry back home to pick up our cameras.  The French have such a wicked sense of humor.  Sometimes.  When they're not working on being grumpy, that is.]


  1. Just a few small corrections - you don't actually get a ticket for doing 1km over the speed limit. The radars are already set with a little leeway in them, and when you are flashed, there is an automatic reduction of a certain number of km off of your speed (this number goes up as the speed limit goes up). So for example, if you are going 56kph in a 50kph zone, 5km will be taken off of your speed, leaving you at 51kph - so technically still over the 50kph limit. Had you been flashed going 55kph however, there would have been no fine.

    Also, 90% of normal pay spots in Paris are free for the month of August, and not just on the weekends. You must have gotten unlucky and picked one of the 10% that are not free! You can check which ones are free and which ones are not here:

    As a side note, you can contest the ticket. What you received on your windshield was just the e-notification. You will receive the real ticket in the mail soon enough, and it will state the time/date/location of the infraction. On the back of that ticket will be the address you can right to if you want to contest. Hope that helps in case of future tickets. :)

    1. Thanks for the clarification.

      The comment about the speed limit comes from someone who received a ticket for being 1km over the speed limit. We questioned them closely and they stuck to their story.

      I'll pass along the site to our friends who had no idea how they got the ticket. They might be interested. But, they're the same ones who were ticketed in front of Monoprix one day for... what...? Nobody knows.

      It's interesting that you can indeed contest tickets here. That's not how we heard it. From several people. Maybe I can now go back and query more closely, eh? :-)