Saturday, November 28, 2015

There is no bad experience!

Yesterday, on the chairlift, a 50 year old man was telling me how bad his experience had been when he ventured on one of Jupiter's black diamond runs.

I told him that he must have learned something very important in doing so.
That there was never a bad experience as long as whatever made us stronger didn't kill us.
That success and plain happiness don't ever teach us a thing, and that in the great scheme of things, were probably activities to avoid in life.

The man listened, thought for a while and finally agreed with me.

The importance of good floor plan

The first two houses I had built had problems tied to dysfunctional floor plans. Architect are woefully incompetent when it comes to designing functional, free-flowing floor plans.

Instead, they get carried away by the external shell of the house and, then, do their best to jam a floor plan inside.

In our third home that we just built, I spend 80% of my time and efforts on the floor plan, and then – only then – I worked the outside appearance. From this positive experience, I can offer the following rules for designing the best floor plan possible:
  • It must incorporate the input from all stake-holders 
  • It must match the user's lifestyle (eating, resting, entertainment habits) 
  • It must offer a natural traffic flow that works for all users 
  • It must maximize location, views and sun It absolutely must be created in 3-D so every stake-holder can see how it looks like and works including its ceilings (a crucial detail!) 
  • It must contain all furnishings and furniture so there's no last minute surprise 
Only then, can one worry about the outer shell...

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The real Thanksgiving story.

Popular culture associates the holiday with happy Pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a big feast, but the reality is different. It all began in 1614 when some explorers sailed home to England with a ship full of Patuxet Indians bound for slavery. They left behind smallpox which virtually wiped out those who had escaped their raid.

 When the iconic Pilgrims got to Massachusetts Bay in 1620 they found Squanto, an Indian, that had escaped slavery and spoke some English. He taught them to grow corn, fish, and negotiated a peace treaty with the Wampanoag tribe. When word spread in England about this new world, some religious extremists (same as today), called Puritans, began arriving in large numbers.

Since there were no fences around the land, they seized it, captured strong young natives as slaves and killed the rest. But the Pequot Nation that had no peace treaty with the Puritans fought back in one of the bloodiest Indian wars on record.

In 1637, near present day Groton, Connecticut, over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival, just like our modern day Thanksgiving celebration. In the predawn hours, the sleeping Indians were surrounded by English and Dutch mercenaries who summoned them out, massacred all of them and burned alive their women and children inside the longhouse where they were hiding.

The next day the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared "A Day Of Thanksgiving" to mark the occasion.

As for us, Thanksgiving is totally non-violent. It's just a family celebration that is marked by a delicious fondue and a heartfelt “thanks” for being together and in good heath.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Where are Congress priorities?

If you listen to Republicans in Congress, you'll hear a litany of “repeal Obamacare” or “put boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq”, but never a vote to put an end to the types of corporate inversions that happen by way of merger with companies in lower-tax foreign countries.
This is just like what was announced on Monday between Allergan and Pfizer, for some $160 billion. This is the direct result of our representatives being bribed by “big pharma” or the rest of corporate America.

Our politicians only do what's good for their political career at the expense of giving up collecting taxes in the process. Time for our do-nothing-congress to put their money where American people's mouth is, not their re-election coffers !

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The affordable American croissant

I love croissants and my infatuation for this French treat has made us eat them religiously every weekend, for some time now.

While a typical croissant can be purchased for around 2 to 4 dollars in an American “bakery”, the delicacy is available throughout France for significantly less, namely for around 1 euro.

Generally, their taste, size and quality vary vastly and buying croissants at an unknown retail place is always a crap-shoot. Most of the time they taste poorly or okay and only in very few instances they'll be delicious, and this applies to both Europe and the United States.

Occasionally, on some weekends, we used to purchase our croissants at a local bakery; they were expensive and their taste varied greatly. About three or four years ago, our beloved warehouse store Costco, began to offer croissants.

We tried them, they were made on premises, they tasted very good and most importantly they were... incredibly cheap at 53 cents a piece. So the bottom line is that America still can manufacture good products at competitive prices, from Costco lowly croissant to SpaceX space rockets!

Monday, November 23, 2015

On the road to persuasion...

Recently, I opened up a fortune cookie that read: “People are not persuaded by what we say, but rather by what they understand.”
This message caught my attention and made me think about all the times I've tried to convince others to absolutely no avail. My story might have sounded good to me, yet it didn't make much sense to those who were listening to it.

Now, I'll keep in mind to always verify people's take-away from my admonitions before I'm convinced they know what I have worked so hard to tell them. If they fail to regurgitate what I want them to remember, I'll tweak my tale again and again, until it hits where and how it should.

I'm grateful I've learned this rule that doesn't just apply to persuasion, but to any form of communication as well!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Back on the boards!

Yesterday was my first day back on the ski following a six month lull. It so happened that it was also the beginning of my 63rd winter season on a pair of skis (now, I'll leave to your imagination how it all began...)

As usual, I still remembered how to ski, proving once more that my slight anguish prior to sliding down was totally unjustified. All directional sides worked (left, right, and straight down), my legs didn't wobble too much and in spite of very marginal conditions and far too many people on the hill, I still want to return for more.

I showed up at 2:15 pm and skied until closing time. That enabled me to find a convenient parking spot and avoid the chaotic congestion that prevailed earlier in the day. The skies were crystal clear and in spite of the biting cold, I had a great couple of hours.

As any skier knows, there's never a single dull day when you can be on skis. I did and dedicated all the turns (and schusses) that I had promised to a good number of friends, but haven't decided yet if I'll return today!