Monthly Archives: March 2014

Museum of Playing Cards (Paris)

During the past week we spent some days in Paris and we were staying at a hotel in the suburb Issy-Les-Moulineaux (1). One of those days, I had to spend some time while Luca was studying and I decided to go and visit the Musée Français de la Carte à Jouer (French Museum of Playing Cards), which I learnt that same day that it was located just some blocks away from our hotel.

The museum is the only museum dedicated in France to playing cards and one of a few in Europe (apparently it received in 1999 the European prize for the museum of the year). The museum covers the origin of playing cards (certainly from the far East, even if there are different hypothesis), the uses they are given (to play, to learn (to memorize things, to learn to count…), to fantasize (tarot)), some historical facts related to the cards, etc.

At first I thought it would simply cover the playing cards we are used to when playing poker or bridge and explain different games, but I was mistaken. It did not enter into the games themselves, but it covered many other types and variations of cards, used for different games. Think of role plays, think of the cards used in games such as Monopoly, think of theme cards, etc…

As always that one visits a museum I was looking for some practical take away to learn.

  • Taxes: it was Charles V (or I, in Spain) who charged taxes over playing cards for the first time in history, in Castile in 1543. That measure was quickly copied in other countries. In France, those taxes were introduced by Henry III in 1581. In the France right after the revolution a fiscal framework for playing cards was established that lasted till 1945. It reserved to the National Print the right to print in black the cards of the figures… In England it was ace of spades the card that the administration kept the right to print.
  • Spanish playing cards: in the picture below you may see 3 packs of Spanish playing cards, printed by Heraclio Fournier (2). You may notice that the suits are different, using golds-cups-swords-batons instead of spades-hearts-diamonds-clubs. Secondly, you may notice that there are slight differences in the figures are dressed and the symbols are drawn. That is because the 3 different sets use different portraits:
    • (left) today’s called Catalan portrait: that was the old Spain’s national portrait, not used anymore in Spain but the one most often exported (to Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil…).
    • (middle) Cadiz‘ portrait: also derived from the national Spanish portrait but differentiated in kind of clothes used and the inscription “Ahi va” (there it goes!) in the knight of cups. This portrait is also mainly used in exports (Mexico).
    • (right) portrait of Castile: its creation is relatively recent (end of XIX), at the initiative of the company Fournier, and is the one commonly used in Spain nowadays. (3)
Sets of Heraclio Fournier palying cards (printed in Vitoria, Spain).

Sets of Heraclio Fournier playing cards (printed in Vitoria, Spain).

If you happen to be by Issy-Les-Moulineaux, I recommend the visit of the museum (4.5 euros entrance fee).

Finally, the museum includes a documentation centre of the village which includes a small room dedicated to the history of aviation in Issy. This makes the museum a must-see of Paris (4). But I will discuss that in another blog post.

(1) If you are curious (as I was) about the etymology of the name of the village, Issy-Les-Moulineaux, can be found at the corresponding article of the Wikipedia. As a side note: the termination -y in the name of several villages in France is derived from the Latin -acus (“land of”), as Luca explained in her blog post “Ac Alors!“.

(2) There is in Vitoria a playing cards museum related to the company, see information about it here.

(3) I will leave to another day the explanation of my firm belief on the superiority of the Spanish game mus over any other playing card game that the reader may know.

(4) To my taste, at par with the Louvre museum ;-).

1 Comment

Filed under Travelling

WWI aces: Fonck and Baron von Richthofen

In an old post about French aviation pioneers I had already written about René Fonck. He was the top French (and allied) ace during WWI, second only to the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen. In a previous post I wrote about the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, in Le Bourget. In that museum you may find a section dedicated to WWI aces.

There is an article in the Wikipedia about WWI aces. Figures with the top 2 aces match: 80 for the Red Baron and 75 for Fonck, not so for the 3rd, as in the museum Mannock is credited with 73 and in the Wikipedia is only credited with 61, even if the claim of 73 is referenced.

I wanted to write this article for a couple of reasons:

  1. Despite of the fact that aviation has just over a century of history, I find that there are lots of controversies as to the history of aviation, while it should ideally be rather easy to get the facts right with the information technologies at our disposal nowadays and possibly having the records of the different happenings still in existence. We are not talking about archaeology here.
  2. At this respect, museums play an important role in trying to get history right. In relation to the aces and the official figures about the 2 top aces, the museum in Le Bourget seems to get them right. The 3rd ace seems not to be so correct, but this does not bother me. What bothers me is the reference attached to Fonck’s victories tally in the panel at the museum, which claims that counting not officially recognised victories the tally could reach 127 (from 75 official ones). The museum then fails to mention that von Richthofen also has a number of claimed victories unaccounted for.

What is the role of the museum here? Trying to educate and teach about aviation, convey some history facts or rather play a game in such a way that a French ace seems to be on top no matter what?

I would expect more fact-based independent treatment of information on the part of museums and historians.

1 Comment

Filed under Aerospace & Defence

Getting married seen as a call option (finance)

I am currently following in Coursera the course on “Financial Markets” given by professor Robert Shiller. When the course finishes I may write about the experience and main takeaways from the course. Today, I only wanted to share an anecdote from last week’s lectures on futures markets and options.

At some point of the lecture the explanation from the professor went on as follows: 

[options] They occur naturally in life. I remember Avinash Dixit was writing about options and he said “when you’re dating someone and you know the person will marry you. You have an option which you can exercise at anytime by agreeing to marry.” Now, one of theorems in option theories is you usually don’t want to exercise a call option early. And so Dixit would say, well, maybe that that’s why a lot of people have trouble getting married. [LAUGH] You know why, they don’t want to exercise their option early

What we’ll see is that options have option value. They give you a choice, and so there’s something there. When you exercise an option, that means when you actually buy the thing (or in the case of a put, sell the thing), then you’re losing the  choice. So you’ve given up something. Of course you also have to exercise eventually if things are going to, to make sense.

[text excerpt from Coursera]

The reason of sharing the anecdote is to point at the humor and the kind of connections that these minds (such as Dixit and Shiller) are able to make. If only for that, I would recommend to always keep searching for such opportunities for continuous learning (be it from this type of courses, reading academic papers, books, interviews, etc.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Education

Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace (Le Bourget)

The Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, in Le Bourget (north of Paris), is yet another great aerospace museum. It reminded me very much to the Aviodrome (The Netherlands) in the chronological point of view of the visit and the local aspect to it (1), paying special attention to French aviation pioneers, flying aces, French fighter aircraft, etc. This is possible, as the role France has played in the development of aviation is, no doubt, crucial.

You may see the distribution of the museum and its galleries in the plan below:

Plan of the museum.

Plan of the museum.

I will now list some of the things that in my opinion make this museum unique (I will leave some anecdotes or details to future blog posts), accompanied by the respective pictures.

Model of Alberto Santos Dumont's Demoiselle (1908).

Model of Alberto Santos Dumont’s Demoiselle (1908).

Alberto Santos-Dumont was a Franco-Brazilian aviation pioneer (2) who with his 14-bis, “Oiseau de proie“, on the 23rd of October 1906, in Paris, performed the first officially witnessed unaided takeoff and flight by a heavier-than-air aircraft. In the picture above you can see him aboard another of his early models, a Demoiselle from 1908.

Workshop of the brothers Voisin (L’Atelier des Freres Voisin),

Workshop of the brothers Voisin (L’Atelier des Freres Voisin).

Some of the construction pioneers at the time were the Voisin brothers. The museum has model of how an aircraft construction workshop could look like at the time, “L’Atelier des FrèresVoisin” (this reminded me of the William E. Boeing Red Barn at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, see a post about it here).


Nacelle of a dirigible  Zeppelin LZ 113.

Nacelle of a dirigible Zeppelin LZ 113.

Not everything in aviation are heavier-than-air machines, above you can see the inside of a nacelle of a Zeppelin LZ 113 used in war operations.

Old Le Bourget airport hall ("8 columns hall").

Old Le Bourget airport hall (“8 columns hall”).

Le Bourget was the first civil airport in Paris, opened in 1919. It was in Le Bourget where Charles Lindbergh landed his Spirit of Saint Louis in on the 27th May 1927 when he first crossed the Atlantic Ocean. The museum today occupies part of the old airport. In the picture above you may see the main hall, designed by the architect Georges Labro in a tender made in 1935 the ministry of aviation. The building was inaugurated in 1937 (this hall reminded me of Berlin Tempelhof, you may see a post I wrote about it here).

Models gallery.

Models gallery.

The museum includes an aircraft models gallery. As a collector of models, I liked to spend some time wandering through these models. It also helps to test your own capabilities as a spotter without having to walk or wait a lot.

Inside a C-47 Skytrain Dakota

Inside a C-47 Skytrain Dakota.

In this museum you can get on board a C-47 Skytrain (Dakota being the British designation for the airplane). I believe this was the first time I was inside a DC-3 (an aircraft of which importance to aviation cannot be overstated (3)), as if I remember well, in the Aviodrome you could get inside a DC-2 not -3.

Cut out of a Dassault Mirage F1.

Cut out of a Dassault Mirage F1.

In other museums I had seen cut outs of engines, here in Le Bourget you may see a full size cut out of a Dassault Mirage F1, a wonderful entertainment for engineers and aviation enthusiasts.

747 and Ariane 5

747 and Ariane 5.

In Le Bourget you can see replicas of the Ariane 4 and Ariane 5 (4). That allows you to get a picture of both in the same frame or to get them with a Boeing 747, as pictured above.

Inside of a Boeing 747 cut out.

Inside of a Boeing 747 cut out.

The Boeing 747 is legendary aircraft in itself (5) and the chances of flying in it are decreasing by the year as more airplanes are being retired from service. In Le Bourget, you get the chance to see it really from the inside, as parts of it are really cut out so you can admire its structure, systems, etc.

Concorde: prototype 001 and series airliner.

Concorde: prototype 001 and series airliner.

Some museums around the world have the Concorde as a highlight. In some of them you may get into it. Here in Le Bourget you may get into 2, one of them being the prototype 001, where you can see some flight test installations used for different experiments made with it.

I definitely recommend to visit this museum if you happen to be in Paris. It is located at Le Bourget airport and the entrance is free of charge. A ticket to get into some of the aircraft (747, Concorde, C-47) is sold for 8 euros. I would suggest to take no less than 4 hours to visit the museum.

(1) In the Aviodrome the local focus is put into the figure of Anthony Fokker.

(2) See in this post a review of French aviation pioneers.

(3) See more of the DC-3 in this post that a wrote as a tribute to Douglas Aircraft Company.

(4) So far, I had only seen a replica of the Ariane 5 at the Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse, see here a post I wrote about it.

(5) See here a book review I wrote about “747” by Joe Sutter, the programme chief engineer.


Filed under Aerospace & Defence, France

El Clásico: en streaming y de forma legal

Quería compartir en esta entrada como estoy viendo hoy El Clásico entre Real Madrid y Barcelona.

Estamos pasando unos días en París, y dada la hora del partido no me apetecía acercarme a un bar para verlo. ¿Solución? Verlo por streaming en el ordenador desde la habitación del hotel y de forma legal.

Desde hace un par de años estoy suscrito a beIN Sports, la cadena que tiene comprados los derechos televisivos del fútbol español en Francia. La suscripción a beIN Sports la gestioné en su día desde Free, el operador de telefonía e internet, a través del cual también recibo la televisión por cable.

Pues bien, beIN Sports me permite ver sus canales desde cualquier punto por internet (1). Disponibilidad. Esa es una de las claves si se quiere acabar con la piratería, como señalan en las siguientes entradas Jefotecs, “Receta contra la piratería: disponibilidad y precios razonables”, y Enrique Dans, “Una cuestión de disponibilidad y precio” (podría enlazar muchas otras entradas de ambos blogs u otros).

Mucho debe aprender la infame industria de contenidos en España.

El Clásico en beIN Sports.

El Clásico en beIN Sports.

(1) Por no hablar de la posibilidad de ver repeticiones por internet en cualquier momento, de la fracción de banda ancha que reserva Free para que sus usuarios podamos conectarnos por WiFi desde cualquier punto donde haya señal de Free, etc .

Leave a comment

Filed under Twitter & Media

Buffett and Branson on airline business

While reading a few days ago Warren Buffett’s Letter to the Shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, I was reminded of NetJets, the fractionary ownership of planes business which has as parent company. The fact that BRK owns such a company is quite ironic bearing in mind the following quote from Buffett:

“The worst sort of business is one that grows rapidly, requires significant capital to engender the growth, and then earns little or no money. Think airlines. Here a durable competitive advantage has proven elusive ever since the days of the Wright Brothers. Indeed, if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down.”

But then again, Richard Branson, another prominent businessman, founded Virgin Atlantic, which is now part of the Virgin Group, chaired by Branson, who is quoted saying:

“The quickest way to become a millionaire in the airline business is to start out as a billionaire.”

Are these cases of “do as I say, not as I do”?

Leave a comment

Filed under Aerospace & Defence, Investing

My first landing in Blagnac (LFBO)

I think this post is better understood just by watching the video (find referenced charts below):

Find the Visual Approach Chart of Toulouse Blagnac (LFBO) [PDF, 846KB] from the Service de l’Information Aeronautique (SIA). Main pages to follow the video are shown below:

Visual Approach to Blagnac. Special attention to route followed from Lasbordes, EN - EA - EB.

Visual Approach to Blagnac. Special attention to route followed from Lasbordes, EN – EA – EB.

Visual Landing in Blagnac. Special attention to waypoint EB (water tower) and clockwise aerodrome circuit to land on 32L.

Visual Landing in Blagnac. Special attention to waypoint EB (water tower) and clockwise aerodrome circuit to land on 32L.

Taxiing in Blagnac. Special attention to the crossing of 32R by way of M4 and N4. Note parking Golf. Departure from 32R by way of N1.

Taxiing in Blagnac. Special attention to the crossing of 32R by way of M4 and N4. Note parking Golf. Departure from 32R by way of N1.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aerospace & Defence

Aerospace & Defence assets employed in the search of Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 flight MH370

Few months ago I wrote a post about Europe’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and the need that EU countries have clearer policies, commitments, roadmaps, resources… I started that post with the following reflection:

Security and Defence is a topic which only makes it to the front pages of the media when there are actual war operations. Rarely a debate is centered on whether the country needs to foster its capabilities, invest in new defence technologies, or protect a certain industry base. I cannot recall a single electoral programme calling for such initiatives. The defence is not popular in today’s (European) society.

These days, we are witnessing a 24/7 coverage of the search operation of the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 flight MH370. In this post I just wanted to highlight the aerospace and defence assets involved in that operation, as reported by one of The Wall Street Journal’s blogs, “How India’s Effort in Search for MH370 Matches Up Globally“. See the graphic below:

Aerospace and defence assets employed in MH370 B777 airplane search operation.

Aerospace and defence assets employed in MH370 B777 airplane search operation.

According to the article, among those 12 countries, they are employing about 32 aircraft (fixed wing), 14 helicopters, 63 boats (ships, destroyer, patrol boats…) and 10 satellites. It goes without saying that before such an operation can be put in place, the assets shall be owned (acquired) by those states, they need to have been maintained, the crews need to have been trained, etc. All those activities and assets, need to have been performed and funded (ideally) in times of peace, when the public opinion is less prone to think that those assets and activities (and the budget directed to provide them) are needed.

A second after thought I had reading the article is the continuous need to educate about aerospace.

I see (and have circled in red) in the graphic a distinction between “aircraft” and “fixed-wing aircraft“, or “helicopter” and “search and rescue aircraft“. I am aware that the distinction comes not from The Wall Street Journal but from the information source, Jane’s. Jane’s is a well-known publishing group which offers information of aircraft and other warfare, and inventories of those assets owned and operated by different government services around the world (e.g. Malaysian Air Force, Navy, etc.).

  • When Jane’s differentiates aircraft as fixed-wing is to differentiate them from rotary-wing (i.e. helicopters) and not from “aircraft” such as the P-3 Orion or the P-8 Poseidon cited in the graphic, all those are fixed-wing aircraft. Thus, the split between  “aircraft” and “fixed-wing aircraft” was unnecessary.
  • When Jane’s differentiates helicopters (or rotary-wing aircraft) as “search and rescue aircraft” is to differentiate them from others but from the operation point of view, thus, “search and rescue” versus “transport”, “attack”, “gunship”… thus, here, again, the split between “helicopter” and “search and rescue aircraft” (SAR) was unnecessary, as the only SAR included in the graphic is another helicopter.

I am afraid that a similar confusion has been created when using the terms ship/destroyer and maritime vessel/patrol boat, but since I am not an expert in the field I will not comment.

Finally, I wonder where The Wall Street Journal has taken the pictures to symbolize aircraft and helicopters. The icon used to represent the fixed-wing aircraft is a Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, which is indeed a fixed-wing aircraft, but it is a ground attack aircraft (rather than maritime patrol or search and rescue aircraft) only operated by the United States Air Force, not by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, Vietnam or Singapore, as the graphic may lead to think.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aerospace & Defence

Turboprop market vs. oil price (ATR figures 2013 update)

Few weeks ago, the Toulouse-based aircraft manufacturer ATR (Avions de Transport Régional) published a press release reporting some of its numbers from 2013 exercise (being a private company, owned by Airbus and Alenia, it does not publish full financial annual report). Some of the key figures were:

  • Revenues increased 13% to 1.63bn$.
  • A new record of 74 deliveries (+16%).
  • Sales of a total of 195 aircraft (89 firm orders and 106 options). (1)
  • Backlog at year-end of 221 firm aircraft orders.

About 3 years ago, I wrote a post, “Turboprops market different dynamic“, in which I discussed:

[…] how civil turboprop market is unrelated to the larger and more known turbofan civil aircraft market and how its dynamics are completely unrelated to World GDP growth and thus world air traffic growth. […]

When calculating correlation between the different variables, I discovered that the correlation between GDP and deliveries is rather low, despite of the time lag applied (be it 2, 3, 4 years…). However I found that the oil prices and deliveries did correlate very well with a lag of 5-6 years, yielding coefficients of 0.55-.65, which are rather high.

I wanted to update the calculations I made then with the information of the last years.

ATR deliveries vs. GDP growth and oil price (2013 update).

ATR deliveries vs. GDP growth and oil price (2013 update).

With the last years’ data, correlations are similar:

  • Between oil prices and deliveries: high, above 0.54 from 1 year time lag, increasing through 6 years time lag (when it reaches a maximum of 0.77).
  • Between GDP growth and deliveries: low, not more than 0.26, and negative correlations up from 1 to 4 years time lag.

If there was causality, we could infer that the from the moment that oil prices are computed, till they are taken into regional airlines’ models, the fleet planners identify the need for new turboprops, the case is approved by airlines’ management, discussions start with ATR, negotiations are closed between the airline and the manufacturer, the aircraft are built and delivered to the airline… it takes about 6 years. (2)

(1) 15 cancellations (4 ATR-42 & 11 ATR-72) that took place in 2013 go untold in the press release, though they are easily deduced comparing orders and backlogs for 2013 and 2012.

(2) About 3 of those 6 years are consumed from placing the firm order to getting the aircraft delivered, as we can see by the current figures of backlog (221 a/c) and yearly deliveries (74 a/c).

1 Comment

Filed under Aerospace & Defence

The coolest boarding pass

Today I started the day working in Madrid. I had to take the 17:10 Iberia 8770 flight to return from Madrid to Toulouse. At 16:05 I was still in the office. I had yet to pick the rental car in the company parking lot, go to the gas station to fill up the tank, return the car at the rental car station in the airport, get the invoice printed… and get the boarding pass.

Yesterday night I tried to check in online but at some point of the process the website did not load. Luckily I had tried. By the time I reached the Iberia counter at the airport the check in for my flight was closed, as the attendant informed me. “Here we close it 45 minutes before the departure time.” But since I had tried it the previous night, I did have an assigned seat, 22D. She would only have to “make the boarding pass manually”.

Boarding Pass for flight IB 8770 on 2014-03-13.

Boarding Pass for flight IB 8770 on 2014-03-13.

Without a doubt, this is the best boarding pass I have been given ever. Just wanted to have it reflected here in the blog. Cool! 😉

Leave a comment

Filed under Miscellanea