Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport: a metaphor of the evolution of France

As a researcher working with an international standard committee, publishing papers and attending international conferences, I travel a lot. I often visit Europe, and, coming from the USA, the Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport is where I take most of my connecting flights. Last, as a french-native, I sometimes come back in the country to visit my family and then, land at this airport.

cdgdropoff
The way to the passenger drop-off. You have big baggages? Be ready for a nice workout and work on your arms!

As a french citizen and having lived in this country for more than 27 years, I am ashamed of this airport. It does not make justice to this country and its capital, which deserve better than that. This airport reproduces everything you can hate about france.

I regularly took this airport since 2008. I tried to provide feedback, I thought that it might help the airport to improve itself. This airport is also rated as one of the worst in Europe (see here on CNN or here on offeurope or here ). So, with this in mind and also with regularly feedback from its users (I hope I was not the same to send feedback), I was hoping progress would have happened over the last years. But after 8 more years, all what I see is just an airport that is a real mess, where passengers get lost, transiting from two gates within the same terminal can take more than 30 minutes and does not even provide basic services such an airport deserves. This is what you want to show to the visitors of the most visited capital in the world? Probably not.

For example, let’s see at some of the reasons the airport is so bad:

  • accessibility between terminals: terminals are a mess and for some terminals, you need to take a bus to move within the terminal. But not for all terminals! It can take up to 30 to 45 minutes to navigate within the same terminal. So, if you have to switch terminals, at least one hour is a reasonable bet
  • accessibility within the airport: stairs and lift are very very narrow and disabled people might have a hard time moving. Like everything in france, everything is narrow and small (french have this tendency to associate “petit” with all the words). Unfortunately, tourists coming for 2 weeks have big baggages. So, using the stairs is just a mess and most of the times, this is just a pain to carry your baggage. Also, when you arrive at some terminal, you have to use stairs and there are only small lift if you have heavy baggage or if you are disabled. Welcome in france, the country where we welcome everybody, especially the people in good health and will not stay too long!
  • accessibility of restrooms: there are very limited, their maintenance is terrible so that you might not even use them. Most of them no longer have soap and dryer are not working. I understand no why my US friends think french people do not clean themselves
  • lack of information of baggage claims: when you exit your flights, signs for baggage claims and information about where to find your baggage are hidden and not available. On my last flight, I found my baggage on a random ramp. Sure, there was a screen to give information but there was nothing on the screen itself. Ah, the pleasure to find your own baggage at 9pm!
  • lack of information at border controls: recently, during a connection, I got stuck in a corridor because of ID control. While I understand the airport has no control on the requirements of french authorities, it could at least provide accurate information to passengers. Instead of waiting 30 minutes while connecting flights in a corridor without giving any information, I would expect to wait in a big hall/room where the ID control takes places (what you have in most US airport) and where people can seat, go to the restroom or have access to water (if there was any water fountain). But as the room dedicated to ID check is as big as the stairs (remember, in france, everything is small), there is no space and so, people wait in line in a corridor and just wondering what is going on. This is probably a way to show to our tourists how dedicated we are to them.
  • wireless: the wireless requires to authenticate, give your name, e-mail, nationality, etc so that they can trace you and send you obnoxious ads. Fine. But you have to authenticate every time you move and your device connects to a new access point. So, you land: you have to authenticate. You try to access again when moving: you have to authenticate again every minute. You arrive at your gate: authenticate again. I think this is a way to promote the Minitel, a french thing that was supposed to beat the internet. Seriously, this shows the incompetence of the airport to provide a reasonably sized and user-friendly wireless network.
  • availability of water fountains: most airports now provide water fountains. This is important for an economic and ecological perspectives: why do you want to buy plastic bottles if you carry your own? And why paying for water, this is not a common good, especially when the Mayor of Paris previously declared the tap water was as good as bottled water? While there are plenty of water fountains in other airports (probably one next to every restroom in the USA), I found one or two in the whole airport. No kidding. I tried to reach out on twitter about this issue, the airport staff told me they can give me a map of the water fountains. So, just to make sure: every tourist that want water would need to contact the airport to find a water fountain! Please do not be too thirsty and take enough time: if you have to go to another gate, it might take more than 30 minutes to fill your bottle and so, more than one hour to come back to your gate. France is definitively a leader in the green economy!
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Taking the terminal E2? This is the bus map with all the drops. Ask an attendant at the airport, some are not aware there is a bus!

These are just some issues I recurrently experienced as a user of the airport. I am ashamed to know that tourists arrive to this country by such a airport. It should be a convenient, pleasant and useful place that welcomes and helps you when you arrive. It should be easy to use and navigate and go to the city (and I did not even talk about transportation to the city which is also a real shame). Not the actual mess we see every day and that people actually hates.

I do not understand why the company that manages the airport made this mess. The airport is not too old and I do not understand why there are so many accessibility issues (people using the terminal 2F can probably testify about the restroom accessibility). This is the hub of the most visited capital, so, having a good airport is a strategic investment. Other European cities develop very nice airports (particularly Amsterdam with Schiphol, very convenient), which proves making a big HUB with a lot of tourist transits is possible.

What astonished me is that the evolution of this airport sounds exactly as the evolution of this country. We changed the appearance, it looks nice from the outside (there are a lot of fancy shop in the airport, you can buy all the bullshit stuff that makes france famous) but they did not invest in the fundamentals: moving, getting around, services, connecting and having information. This is also the general feeling I have when I see this country: a strong focus on trying to work on the unnecessary cosmetics details whereas the fundamentals are still being neglected. Beyond these issues is the denial of the people: when you tell people that the airport have issues, they reply to you that there are no issue and that you are doing things wrong. They are telling you that the airport is not the problem and that you are the problem. Unfortunately and currently, facts and numbers showed the reality: the airport is considered as one of the worst in the world and it seems that france is definitively a sinking ship people are trying to escape.

Sad.

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport: a metaphor of the evolution of France

I love you Prague

I tried to maintain a weekly mileage around 60 miles and I almost failed last week. My love for programming came back recently and I spent some (probably too much) time prototyping new tools. I finally met the weekly goal before taking of for Prague. The weather in Pittsburgh was still cold but I still used running to commute. I even attend the fundraiser event of a friend that will run across Haiti, team Tassy (special kudos for this project to support the community of Haiti, you can also contribute)

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Supporting Team Tassy at Franktuary

 

Traveling had always been a good reason to explore new cities. And running is an efficient way to explore many places when you have a limited time, especially when you are in a conference all day. And that time, even with icy sidewalks, I enjoyed running in Prague. For sure, there is not so much elevation, but who cares?

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At the top of the city

Eastern Europe is definitively underrated while countries like France are insanely overrated and have a really poor service. This is my second time in Prague and I am surprised and astonished by the culture, the service and the respect I got from the residents in this country. And the food is also excellent! Way better than what I get in European countries that usually attract tourists. If you want to visit Europe, it might be worth to have a look at the East part of Europe.

I presented a my new research project today at the MILS workshop collocated with the HiPEAC 2016 conference. It is very exciting to present this new work and get feedback from the research community. After the talk, somebody came to ask me a question: “I noticed you are wearing Hoka shoes, are you an ultra-runner? I am one and will be running UTMB this year!”. I assume my running profile is more appealing than my research profile!

The next stop will be in Toulouse to present past research results at the ERTS 2016 conference and discuss with the AADL standardization committee. And also give a talk in the Formal Methods Forum. And probably to say hi to some french folks.

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Notre Dame in Paris? No, this shot has been taken in Prague.

There are a lot of projects in the pipeline and I can’t wait to work on these. In a nutshell, the main goal is to facilitate the production of verified secure systems. Something that might be important when designing critical systems, such as a car, train or a plane. You might want to make sure the car you drive or the plane you are taking are secure. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. I am planning to complete the project by the end of this year.

Ah, and apart that, with some luck, I should be able to come back into a regular training cycle sometime in March and get ready for the two 50k I am doing in April. I am slowly starting to be exciting to run the triple crown this year. I might need few more weeks of rest and sleep inside my warm bed in order to be fully rest and ready for it.

I love you Prague

Race week-end ramblings

The
The “Arc de Triomphe” at 5am – when you get up early to run some miles and late night-goers are drunk on the Champs-Élysées, waiting for the first metro to come

After one month of travels between Seattle, Ottawa, Paris and Cedar Rapids, it’s time to come back in Pittsburgh and running Tussey Mountainback 50 milers on Sunday. Between meetings, conferences, family reunions and hanging out with friends, I gained 10 pounds, did not run any hills since a long time and the training has been way less intense than usually. This race will be an interesting experience.

Cheese shop in Paris - at least I know how I gained some pounds
Cheese shop in Paris – at least I know how I gained some pounds

Whatever, it will be a good time. And after this race, it will be time to stay home for a while, lose the fat, train slightly and enjoy some time with friends.

It is exciting to be back, and start this week-end. It will be fun.

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Interview at the SCADE User Group Conference in Paris, thanks to Graziella and Chloe for covering the event!
Race week-end ramblings

30 ans: le bilan

Il est courant de considerer que tous les dix ans, on passe par une crise. Cela m’a toujours semblé assez mystique et il semble que ca commence à 30 ans. Pourquoi? Aucune raison et il est commun de parler de la crise de la quarantaine et enfin, la cinquantaine. A croire qu’après, il ne se passe plus rien et qu’on est tellement lobotomisé qu’on s’est resigné à accepter la vie qu’on s’est formé. Du coup, je me suis dit que cela pouvait être intéressant de dresser un bilan avec les 10 règles les plus importantes retenues. Lorsque j’arriverai à la crise de la quarantaine, ce sera sûrement l’occasion d’en rajouter une autre dizaine.

Le-kit-SOS-crise-de-la-trentaine

  1. On apprend davantage de nos échecs que de nos réussites. L’échec est une opportunité. Lorsque nous sommes bloqués, les murs sont présents pour nous montrer combien accomplir un projet nous est cher.
  2. Accomplir un project nécessite un investissement conséquent, que ce soit temporel, psychologique, physique ou financier. Il est rare de voir le réel investissement derrière l’entreprise d’un projet.
  3. Être contrarien, penser à contre-courant. Refuser tout affirmation sans avoir pris le temps pour la juger et se forger sa propre opinion. À l’inverse, éviter de clamer ses doutes et son désaccord afin d’éviter les jugements contre vous à l’emporte pièce.
  4. Acheter peu, réfléchir avant d’investir/acquérir. Accumuler les biens sans réel n’a aucun sens et ne rend pas plus heureux.
  5. L’herbe n’est jamais plus verte dans le champs d’à côté. Elle est juste différente.
  6. Se méfier de tout a-priori et tout raccourci. Un jour ou l’autre, nous en serons la victime.
  7. On peut probablement compter ses vrais amis sur les doigts d’une (ou deux si on est chanceux) main.
  8. Se connaître soi-même, s’assumer, s’aimer soi-même avant aimer autrui et avoir le courage d’être soi. Réaliser ses rêves et faire fi du qu’en dira-t-on, peu importe les raisons.
  9. S’instruire continuellement, lire des livres et éviter la pensée pré-mâchée en provenance des médias de masse. Réfléchir, se forger une opinion prend du temps.
  10. Se fier à des faits concrets, tangibles et non sur des hypothèses invérifiables. Éviter a priori toute promesse et toujours se reposer sur les fondamentaux.
  11. (bonus) Éviter les réseaux sociaux. Hier, c’était le Bistro de la Place, aujourd’hui nous avons facebook ou twitter. Discussions similaires, le côté bobo/hipster en plus, la convivialité en mois.

 

30 ans: le bilan

Passer Outre

Interlude. Il est habituellement plus facile de s’exprimer dans sa langue natale plutot que dans sa langue d’adoption. Et de nos jours, il est aussi difficile de s’exprimer et de reellement trouver sa place au milieu de ce monde desormais interconnecte ou la pensee est service pre-marchee et ou la reflexion est devenue l’exception et non plus la regle.

Lever de Soleil sur la riviere Monongahela
Lever de Soleil sur la riviere Monongahela

Il m’a toujours semble amusant de penser que la vie procede par etape. Nous nous donnons des objectifs, qui, une fois atteints, definissent nos nouveaux buts. Et si vous apprecions ces etapes et savourons ce que la vie nous offre, il est parfois difficile de distinguer ou le voyage nous emmenera et se finira.

C’est une des principales difficultes ou nous echouons souvent (parfois que temporairement, heureusement): savoir mener sa barque afin de definir les prochaines etapes sans trop deriver du plan de route global. Cela necessite de se connaitre: de savoir ce que l’on souhaite (volonte) mais aussi ce que l’on peut faire (capacite). Est-ce si simple? Savez-vous vous meme ce que vous souhaitez ou ayez la force d’accomplir reellement?

Pendant les semaines a venir, cet espace de pseudo-liberte va ainsi se transformer en une sorte de defouloir experimental. Histoire de parler d’une vie d’expatrie depuis maintenant plus de 5 ans. Ou encore evoquer mon gout particulier pour les Etats-Unis et pourquoi vous devriez etre vegetariens pour sauver les ours polaires. Ou tout simplement pourquoi, au fil des annees, la vie est toujours plus enrichissante et passionante. Et peut-etre tout cela a la fois.

Oui, cet espace va se transformer en joyeux bordel. L’occasion de sentir que j’ai encore quelquefois l’esprit frenchy.

Passer Outre

Five Rules to Reach your Goals

To reach your goal, just follow the road - simple but hard
To reach your goal, just follow the road – simple but hard

Last months have been the opportunity to take the time to step back and try to have an objective point of view on how things are going. Being critical with our inner self is hard: you are judge and party, torn between these two conflicting roles. But this helps you to move forward: we are all wondering if we are doing the right choices and what would have happened if we have done something different. What if we had listened to our parents, continue to study and got this diploma degree instead of getting a shitty job just after high school? What if I finally take this job oversea and left all what I built so far? And what would be my life if I had the gut to make the first move with this girl I always loved? One day or another, such questions come into our mind.

Less than 10 years ago, when I was 25, I realized my life will come to an end one day and then, defined what I really want to achieve. What and how I wanted to be. At that time, my life did not look like it is today – it was the total opposite of what I am today. This was time for change. Today, several of these goals have been met and some are still pending. Among them, one of them was moving and working in the USA. Another one was to develop the capability to explore, visit different countries, meet people and discover new cultures. This goal requires to be able to travel but also fulfill my own needs. Another one was to adopt a healthier and sustainable lifestyle.

For sure, I have not met all my goals but after a few years, I met most of them. Also, as years will pass by, new ideas and challenges will come. I do not know what the future is made of but so far, during this journey, few rules helped me to reach these goals. I wanted to share them, I thought it could be useful. This list is the one that worked for me and there is no proof it would work for you as well.

  1. Know your friends: A friend is somebody that will be there for you no matter what. Keep in mind that you do not know who are your friends until you have a really bad time. Everybody will be there during the party – very fews (and maybe nobody) will be there when you will be a mess. Think about who actually knows and cares about you? Probably not so much. Know your friends but do not blame others that claim to be your friends: if they lie to you, this is their business, not yours. They might be fun, good acquaintance to hang out for a night. But you cannot trust them.
  2. Believe in yourself, not others: We often try to take others responsible for our own failures. When doing this, we are just escaping reality and being irresponsible. Take back your life, your responsibility. Believe in and trust yourself. Take responsibility when you fail and pride when you succeed. Embrace the failure: success comes after a number of bad experiences that finally help you to become better and eventually reach your goal.
  3. Spread the love: do not waste your time and energy on blaming people and create negative energy. For any reason, if somebody was mean or unfair with you, this is their problem, not yours. They might have an issue, had a bad day or just think you are an idiot: the list of reasons to hate somebody is endless. Again, this is not your business,  do not focus on blaming others, invest your time with people you love, motivate and elevate you. Your time on this planet is limited, you cannot afford to waste your time with such people. Which will let me introduce to the last point
  4. Invest your resources strategically: whatever it is – money, time, energy – invest wisely. Avoid wasting resources and try to spend it efficiently. Read (a lot), study, learn from people that inspired you or have successfully reach similar goals as yours. Your resources are limited, so, avoid useless spending and invest wisely. For example, stop wasting your evening browsing on facebook when you can read a book and learn new skills or cultures. Avoid buying a ton of stuff you’ll end up to throw it in the garbage when you’ll move in a few months: you will waste (1) money on it (2) time to throw it in the garbage and (3) resources that were used to produce it. Think twice about your impact before investing anything.
  5. Embrace change: no matter who you are and where you are from, change (good or bad) will happen. There is nothing you can do about it. And this is pointless to even try to revert it. You might lose your job tomorrow, your wife might ask for divorce or you can learn that one beloved family member suddenly died. Change can be hard to accept and can destroy your life. You can deny it for years and waste your time blaming whoever or whatever you take responsible for your lack of luck. But instead of fighting change, embrace it. Take it as an opportunity to have another point of view and change your own life.

Achieving your goals is not about being smart. It is about the ability of keeping up, even when people try to divert from them. Some people might claim they are your friends but they will disappear as soon you experience a hard time. Investors can tell you to put all your money in some stocks but you have to invest them wisely and stick to the fundamentals of the stock market. Some people might hate and disturb you, trying to divert you from your objective, you have to ignore them and keep your objectives in mind. As a runner, I often think that achieving goals is like a race: it is simple (you just have to move forward) but hard (long distance, elevation, etc). But this is definitively not about having a special ability or skill, just the capability to keep your objective in mind. I wish everybody to be happy and get whatever they expect from their life. If this list can help at least one person, then, the time required to write this post was definitively well invested.

Five Rules to Reach your Goals

Honte

Depuis quelques jours voire semaines, j’ai honte d’etre francais. Non pas que je sois un amoureux et defenseur du pays du fromage et du bon pinard, mais il me semblait jusqu’a present que la nation d’ou je viens reposait sur des valeurs et des principes fondateurs. Pas besoin de longs discours philosophiques mais il semblait jusqu’a present que les libertes individuelles et la protection de la vie privee faisaient parti de ces concepts importants.

Les recentes lois liberticides qui sont passees font simplement honte a notre pays. Certes, ce n’est pas la premiere fois que de telles lois passent (rappelons-nous DADVSI et le cirque que cela avait genere a l’Assemblee – j’etais dans les locaux a l’epoque) et cette fois-ci, c’est au tour de l’opposition de porter atteinte a votre vie privee. Certes, dans le fond, ceci n’est guere surprenant. Mais en etre conscient et voir un tel projet se realiser est different et au final, ne laisse que peu d’espoir quant la protection de nos libertes. La tendance est a imposer, dicter a autrui ce qu’il doit faire. Fini l’originalite, les idees qui vont au dela des frontieres definies par la police de la pensee.

Cela devient meme pire: les personnes qui sont legitimement elues transforment les droits en devoirs et si vous aviez hier la liberte de voter pour les personnes qui vous dirigent, certains pensent a vous imposer un choix. Encore quelques annees et demain, nous serons proche des ideologies des dictatures que nous avons critique jusqu’a present.

J’ai beau ne pas vouloir revenir sur les terres gauloises, mais voir le pays ou j’ai grandi etre ainsi transforme dans une quasi indifference generale me fait honte. Depuis quelques jours, j’ai juste honte d’etre francais.

Honte