Monday, December 31, 2007

Centered and quiet

As my friend and ski buddy David S. puts it: "the essential secret in skiing is to stay centered and quiet,” and all goes well. As I stated it previously, skiing is 90% mental and with a sound technique is mostly a matter of letting the skis do the job, have enough muscular strength to resist the downhill pressure, be concentrated without being stiff and stay right in the middle of the skis (i.e. “centered”.) Of course, all of that is easier said than done, but when we keep it simple, don’t gild the lily, and don’t panic it works wonderfully. Try it… in 2008!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Like Parisians do

For years, I’ve always believed that there’s only one right way to place skis on a car rack; namely, tails first and tips behind, in consideration of proper aerodynamics. In the past (mostly when I still lived in the French Alps,) I would scorn folks for placing their tips forward on their roof and with my friends we’d think that only “Parisians” would do that. You see, in the Alps, Parisians are often seen like New Yorkers in America; a bunch of “know-it-all”, yet not very practical. The years have passed, skis have evolved and cars have changed too, and today there is no way I could place my skis with tips pointing back. Don’t ask me why; perhaps it’s the roof design, the shorter, wider skis and their elaborate binding systems and perhaps the way the tailgate hinges on most station wagons and SUV. So for the last seven years, with lots of misgivings and a tiny bit of shame, I have had no choice but placing my skis like “Parisians do.”

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Planning resolutions

It’s almost year’s end; are your resolutions ready yet? Please, give me a few more moments; I'm still working on them. This is not a yearly habit of mine as most often I begin and end another year without aiming for any special goal. Setting none is possibly the best way to make sure it won’t get dropped along the twelve-month long period. For 2008, I've decided that a select few New Year’s resolutions might be in order for me. How useful, challenging and life-changing will they be? I won’t tell you; that’ll remain a secret. What I can tell you though, is that they won’t be many; two or three at the most, and they’ll likely be hard to keep. Why? I’ve tried the exercise before and know that nothing will come through if not seriously fueled. In other words, I'll have to pay the price for the success of these resolutions (work, pain, discouragement and the like) and this time I hope I'm up to the task...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Quality demands resources

As I watched a (bad) French TV show last night, I was reminded once more that good ingredients are badly required to turn out a good product. That show, which accidentally can be at times good and funny, mostly through the quality of its guests, fell into the gutter last night, when no bright personality was on the set to prop-up some entertainment value. Instead, it was filled with “below the waist” jokes and was a total waste of time. It dawned on me that with a limited French audience, it becomes impossible to create a plethora of quality shows in that language to air on too many channels; there’s so much you can do with limited resources. When there is no sufficient time and money, then there are always shortcuts, and these aren’t pretty. From reality shows to everything-goes, it’s a strong reminder that the path of least resistance is always lurking around. The good news is that when faced with these “sub-prime” shows, I now have the fortitude to move on to something better or turn the set off…

Thursday, December 27, 2007

In search of harmony

Harmony is such a neat concept; I’m not talking about the musical meanings of the word, but rather that of friendly agreement and pleasant arrangement of things or circumstances. There is no question that a harmonious life is both more desirable and fulfilling than a chaotic one, and the main satisfaction comes from the common good, in that case, that of the of the people or the element that are part of the harmonious collaboration. Like for its musical counterpart, harmony requires a lot of preparation, attention, goodwill and give and take. If these ingredients aren’t present, it won’t happen. Harmony is a smooth ride without potholes or unexpected bump. Will it be boring that way? Not necessarily; we retain the option of adjusting it from pure tranquility to a series of ups and downs of various amplitudes, all seamless and nimble, to produce some exhilarating sensations!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Don’t count luck out

I believe luck plays a huge role in life; probably bigger than good looks and intelligence! Since it can either be good or bad, I mostly see the good kind since I’m generally optimist and I also can’t say that it's evenly distributed between good or bad because I believe I’ve received more than my fair share. What’s clear is that without some good fortune, life wouldn’t be as fun as it can be at times. While I’m one who has benefited a lot from luck, I’m at a loss to classify this strange power. Even for a non-religious guy like me, good fortune has a spiritual ring to it. I see it playing the same role as a puppet master that pulls the strings to actuate head and limbs in very specific directions; there’s someone or a force in charge that oversees our lives and prevent us from making some big mistakes. Just like a protective umbrella, it probably is related to its cousin “Karma.” I realize I need all the luck I can get to carry on my simple life and certainly can’t afford to count it out.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Fear of learning?

I have decided to learn a new software that will enable me execute my daily activities more rationally and hopefully with improved results. The problem is that I am in a situation in which I under a kind of “writer’s block” and can’t seem able to get started. What’s exactly causing that stalling? It probably is the aversion we all have with adapting to new a situation, the sensation of looking like a fool, the hatred of effort, in short the fear of change. Learning is the pathway to knowledge and knowing is the best ammunition to take change in stride. In the few reminding days of 2007, I intend to seriously get on with that new procedure, so I just hope I can break through my fear of learning and keep growing in the process!

Monday, December 24, 2007

The bell rings…

It is 7 pm, pitch dark outside and we’re not expecting anyone, I run down the stairs, open the door and find myself in front of a jolly group of carolers! What a surprise! Actually that's not quite true, for the second year in a row since we’ve lived in our little house, a group of neighbors and their kids come to sing door-to-door carols for the wonderment of all of us. We never had that in our former ritzy, big-home-neighborhood where everyone was busy practicing egocentric individualism. One mischievous little kid even took advantage of my getting outside to throw a snowball on me, but I guess that comes with the territory. The group sang their carol, we cheered, thank them profusely and they all went on to another house. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Listening to my iPod

I’ve just discovered that there’s more than one way to listen to an mp3 player. Until now, I’d always use the shuffle mode, which brings music unexpectedly making listening fun and full of surprises. When I ski alone, I listen to my iPod and have its volume set never too loud, so I can talk to other people while riding the chairlift, but still can hear the music and hopefully preserve my eardrums for a few more years. As I was both skiing and listening to music yesterday, I discovered that much more than once, I heard – in a row - the same song performed by a different artist. I thought I was perhaps hearing voices or that the machine was “skipping” After a while I finally understood that it was playing in alphabetical order, like it had never done it before. Should I also tell you that I was listening all afternoon to songs titles starting with “w” and there was an endless stream of them!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy Holidays

As the year draws to a close, we hope that everything important to you ends 2007 on a high note. We wish you fun, health and happiness in 2008 and until we hear from you or perhaps see each others, take very good care of yourselves. If you wish to receive our Holiday Card we’ll be glad to forward it to you. Just let us know!

Friday, December 21, 2007

The joy of driving

Last night we were to pick up Charlotte at the Salt Lake City airport at the same time a major snowstorm was getting ready to hit Utah. Normally the 36 mile trip between our house and the airport only takes 36 minutes, but last night was a totally different story. We left at about 5:10 pm and traffic was incredibly heavy on the four-lane highway that leads to the Interstate; snow was starting and winds were very strong. Traffic was already backed-up and we thought that it was just rush hour and once on the main freeway, things would go much better. Well, not really, they actually got worst once we reached I-80 and the snow kept falling on very heavily; by that time every vehicle was bumper-to-bumper and traffic was crawling. The situation kept on deteriorating as we started to climb the Parley Summit hill to the point that nothing was moving anymore. Small trucks with bald tires and no load in the back were stuck spinning their wheels, huge trucks were stopped on either sides of the freeway, cars seemed abandoned on the shoulders and in the dark, without any visibility, the whole situation looked quite spooky. As we were barely moving, we kept on calling Charlotte whose flight was delayed out of San Francisco and made arrangement to have her brother pick her up and stay with him for the night. It had taken us 2 full hours to drive just 10 miles! We then slalomed through giant trucks, flirting with the ditch on the right and managed to drive to the Parley Summit exit, where we luckily turned around and drove back home on the eastbound lanes that were snow-covered, but passable. These monster snowstorms are not common occurrence, but when they happen and we’re on the road, we do remember them!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

How many humans…

…can be sustained on this planet? Is it 6.63 billion (today’s number?) I seriously doubt it; intuitively, it would seem to me that around 3 billion might be earth’s maximum population if we are looking at sustainability and long term survival of the human specie. But of course, it could also be 2, 4 or perhaps 5 billion; who really knows? Before I start researching the subject, is there anyone who could shed a light on that issue?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Aging and flexibility

The older we get and the stiffer our joints tend to become. Exercise and yoga will help some, depending on how dedicated we are, but this pretty much is something written that we can’t fully control; Insha'Allah! Today, I’m going to talk about a different type of flexibility; that of the mind. When we’re kids, our minds are super nimble, malleable and adaptable. We can learn languages in a snap, mimic adults and we’re generally terrific actors. As we grow older, dogma seeps in and suddenly we use prefabricated concepts that we have concocted and accumulated over the years in order to respond to specific situations. Not only is our spontaneity gone, but we’re slowly sinking into tunnel vision and can’t see options other than our own when we’re faced with a choice or a decision. Sure, experience plays a giant role in shaping us in that manner, but I do believe that most of the time we overreact and build up think blinders for ourselves that deprive us from embracing audacious solutions. I’m convinced that we can get mentally much better as we grow older, but it simply is a matter of paying attention where our limited resources are channeled. I propose that we always focus on alternative possibilities when we reach a crossroad, and make a generous use of our imagination to envision a wide array of exciting new options. It’s about time we resurrected our inner child’s mental fluidity!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

“F” as in "Failure"…

...and “F” as in "Fertilizer" go hand in hand. Failure should be seen as what fertilizes future success. Why is that? Simply because failure is loaded with great lessons for those who are paying attention; charged with painful emotions, these teachings are much harder to ignore and forget than the ones we learn at school or at the very best university. They also leave a deeper, longer-lasting imprint on ourselves and in the way we’ll behave long after the experience. So the bottom line is that we should never fear failure, but cherish it when it cares to stop for a visit.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Solutions that pop-up

Every question should always lead to a solution. At least that’s the way I tend to think about it. Usually, when I am confronted with an issue or a conflict, there has to be an incubation period during which my subconscious is looking at the situation and – I presume – searching for an angle to solve it. Suddenly, as I’m waking up in the middle of the night, or when I’m running, a solution pops op (no sorry, I have yet to have these revelations when I’m in the shower!) I’m not suggesting that all of these solutions can be fully effective, but at the very worst they’re a step toward some kind of resolution. I simply hope they keep on popping-up…

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Managing uncertainty

Most of us would all like a black and white life, where most of the issues are clearly delineated and in which the so-called “gray areas” are few and far between. If that were the case, everything would be much easier. From going to school, to picking the right job, the perfect mate and living happily ever after... The reality is that we have very little choice but accept a certain amount of uncertainty. Generally, the more we can tolerate, the farther we’ll go and the more thrills we’ll get. As a result, the price tag required for that kind of elevated (albeit not guaranteed) outcome it a greater share of both anxiety and risk. So far, this makes pretty good sense. The next dimension to consider is that of time-frame. A generous dose of uncertainty is much more palatable at age twenty than it is at age sixty. Perhaps a more flexible approach would be to cut down on the amount of required uncertainty as we grow older?

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Generally seen as a religious issue, faith doesn’t have to be. It can in fact be quite secular and removed from the spiritual life. I see it as the essential building block to someone’s optimism. For instance, the most elementary form of faith is to believe, at night, that the sun will rise again next morning. Most of us can do that. Taking it one step further, we can apply the same rule to our outlook towards the future. Is the planet going in a hand basket or is it going to survive, man’s imbecility. I, for one, believe strongly that the earth will carry-on, preferably with a good group of humans left on it. The fossil fuel crisis is another example of seemingly good reasons for despair. Conversely, I see it as great opportunity for inventing something that taps into renewable energy sources. We haven’t tried hard enough so far; that’s all. My simple form of faith is intertwined with all the cycles that are part of life, all the ups and downs. Sure there are moments when keeping faith is difficult, but this is what makes the exercise thrilling. Only totally unrealistic ideas are what make faith so hard to keep. My ideas are pretty simple and squarely rely on nature’s and man’s survival skills; certainly not miracles.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Volunteer on skis

For the past three years I have volunteered for the Park City Race Department. The first year, I gave about 25 days. Last year and this year, I will have done much less, but I still work at the first ski races of the year, the Eric Hays Memorial, a series of junior alpine races consisting of two giant slalom and two slalom over a four-day period and fielding some 240 youngsters. Yesterday started with a giant slalom for both girls and boys; the girls starting first. It was very cold; 0 degree early in the morning and never above 20 during a day that was overcast and snowy. My job was that of a “slider” the most menial there is. Armed with a snow shovel I went up and down on the course, all day long, making sure the course stayed smooth through the two-run event. This meant that I moved a lot and apart for some very cold feet, I manage to stay “alive” during that very long day. In the past, I have been a starter, which requires a lot of concentration, is very cold, because there’s no movement involved, but the continued task makes the time go faster. Do I enjoy that work? Not really when it’s that cold, but I do my best to do it right and that probably why it’s called a volunteer job!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ignoring or Embracing?

When unpleasant events happen or when we encounter unpleasant attitudes in others, we generally have one of two choices; ignoring or embracing. While I don’t have any steadfast rule for taking one direction over the other, my general attitude has been to ignore the negative situation instead of engaging it head-on. When we take the time to reflect on that issue, there might be benefits in taking a more active attitude in tackling on own terms what at the outset appears to be charged with negative elements. By just ignoring, we may get instant peace but won’t change bad situations, learn anything or acquire any new skills. If instead, we engage, we’ll learn more and we stand a chance to make a change; hopefully, a positive one. I believe that every bit of (good) change can help, so from now on I’ll try to embrace more and ignore less…

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It’s all in the head

A few days ago, I complained that early season skiing felt pretty hard, and I really believed it. Monday saw my second “serious day” on the slopes, for just about three hours in the afternoon. I skied Thaynes, ma favorite spot in Park City. I love to run “laps” there. The chair only serves a 875 feet vertical slope, but in a special way it’s more than just very steep. It starts gently then plunges viciously before it compresses a bit then goes convex one last time with a lateral profile that's a tad concave, allowing for “rebounding” GS type turns. I know it’s a bit hard to fully grasp what I want to say, as my description may sound ethereal. As I was there, I tried to ski as I normally do, namely non-stop, and found myself out of breath after the first run; I thought it would again be very hard work. On a few occasions my skis kind of crossed each other while at times initiating new turns gave me trouble too. Then, there was a second lap, followed by a third and all started to come together. There was harmony, fluidity, speed and no more panting breath. I had reconnected with that run and with a smooth skiing style. In fact, my mind had “decided” that it was okay to let go of fear and that it was time to let the skis do the work. I had emptied out my bag of inhibitions, my head was clear and I was finally back! After 13 laps, I went home feeling whole and realizing – once more - that 90% of one’s skiing is just all in the head!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stein Eriksen turns 80!

A legend on skis, “Stein” as folks call him around his Park City hometown, won the gold medal in the Giant Slalom event at the Oslo 1952 Winter Olympics and three gold medals at the 1954 World Championships in Åre, Sweden. He was successfully able to parley his skiing achievements into a lifelong career of ski ambassador for a variety of American ski resorts, and to this date, continues to be director of skiing at nearby Deer Valley. I occasionally see him on the slopes, and more often when I go to the post office to pick up my mail. In fact, he is so much attached to that resort’s image (he has a bronze statue there, a luxury hotel is named after him, and he regularly takes admirers on mountain tours) that there is no way Deer Valley can afford to have him quit. They would in fact allow snowboarding, long before they'd think of replacing Stein Eriksen. So, today he is celebrating his 80th birthday with no hint of retirement in sight. In fact, it is rumored that the owners of Deer Valley are feverishly working with a large team of Nobel Prize winners in an attempt to clone him. Their objective is that by 2025 (just before Stein turns 100,) they’ll have a handsome blond teenager, identical to Stein in every possible twist of DNA, appearance and athletic skills, ready to step into his skis and his Bogner suit. Only at that point, will Stein be able to retire and live happily for many more years in his Montana summer home, which by that time will enjoy a climate as warm as that of Arizona today. Happy birthday, Stein!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Reclaiming our “ski legs”

Yesterday was my third ski outing, but first "real one" of the season into deep, natural snow as Park City Mountain Resort opened more terrain; I had a chance to enjoy three steep runs non-stop, top-to-bottom, into cut-out deep powder tracks and I could sense that my legs had to work really hard. Alpine skiing is a unique sport in that it's quite passive as it essentially requires strong retention, mostly produced by the thigh (quadriceps) muscles. When the effort is significant and the body is not yet trained to that kind of exercise, the “morning-after” pain can be quite evident. The thighs, knees, calf and – to a lesser extent - abdominal muscles can feel a bit sore. Regardless of the previous dry-land exercises performed before hitting the slopes (i.e. running or biking) we'll need to rebuild our strength gradually as we get back into the sport. That’s good news, because I was starting to think that my age was finally getting the best of me!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Less is generally best…

…but is also more of a challenge to produce… The simpler, more concise, most elementary things are, the better and the more reliably they'll work. Complexity opens the door to breakdowns, errors, unforeseen reactions between multiple components and need for extra maintenance. The path to simplification requires more time, more research and more innovative solutions, but it generally yields positive results. In many ways it resembles and works in ways quite similar to nature’s principle of evolution. So whether it’s building a home, writing a letter, or designing a better mouse trap, smaller, shorter and more compact always breeds good progress. Minimalism rocks!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Snow removal

We seem to be desperately looking for snow, and when it falls we’re equally desperate to clear it. Lots of options are available to us in Park City. Obviously, you can ignore the snow, drive over it all winter long with your vehicle but soon you’ll get gigantic ruts and ice that will rock you through the end of March. Another solution is to pay someone who comes with a truck outfitted with a snowplow blade and cleans up after each snowfall. You can pay the service on flat rate basis, for the season (good if there are tons of snow), or per occurrence. That solution is not only expensive, but it will also break a few things around your house; I guess this comes with the territory. Then of course, you can always do it yourself, with a snow shovel or if you’re mechanically inclined, with a snowblower. We own both set of tools but since we pride ourselves on being “green”, we only use the blower when it’s really necessary.

Today was one of these days; as we got up this morning, we found at least 14” of fresh snow waiting for us. We fired up our Honda snowblower which started on the first pull, in perfect Japanese fashion, after nine month of hibernation. While I was operating it, Evelyne was doing the finishing work with her shovel. Between the driveway, pathway and backyard patio, the whole job took us close to one hour. Then we drove to Old Town and repeated the same operation on a building that we have there, but this time, it was all handwork and we had to move 18” of new snow off a pretty large area. When we returned home, we saw one of our neighbors, whose husband was out of town, and who was trying to clear her driveway with just a shovel. We took pity on her, restarted the snowblower, and proceeded to finish it off. But before I completed the job, the blower caught her daily newspaper that had been thrown into the deep snow and the machine came to a screeching, frightening halt. Bad news! I had that happened before with a thick Sunday paper and I had to have the machine brought back to the dealer. I ran home to fetch a large screwdriver in order to free the auger, but by the time I returned, Evelyne had done it by hand. This made for an even more memorable first giant snowfall day!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Running in the snow

Today saw our first major snowfall of the season and as we went for our daily run, we rediscovered the joys of running on icy patches and into slush and snow. The principle “two steps forward, one step backward” is quite fitting to these conditions. Even though we shorten our course from 4.4 to 3.6 mile during the winter months, the end result on a snowy day feels more like a good 6 mile, as there’s a lot of “slippage” going on and it becomes necessary to lift the feet much higher in order to clear all the white stuff. Tactically, we also need to be much more attentive. As we run in the morning, many streets and roads have yet to be cleared, making for narrow lanes littered with big chunks of snow and covered with icy tracks. Even though we try to run facing the traffic, we also need to watch our backs as cars and trucks can be all over the place, especially early in the season. Then there are snowplows backing up in driveways that won’t see us and homeowners fighting against their snow-blowers and showering pedestrians unintentionally. This is when running becomes an art in traction, avoidance and fluidity…

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Chaotic dreams

When I can remember them, my dreams are generally not scary or sensual; they’re just very hectic and rough. For some odd reasons, most of my them send me back to the days I was working in the corporate world and always involves high-pressure situations (we talked about those yesterday) that take place at trade shows or at important meetings, with company’s investors, management team, sales force or clients. Often these dreams place me in some impossible situations where the old gets mixed with the new, the trivial detail becomes highly relevant, nothing is logical, everyone’s mad at me, and I’ve seemingly lost whatever good judgment I thought I had. When all blows up, the dream finally collapses, I totally wake up; it's now 5:30 am.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The different faces of pressure

Working, thinking or exercising under pressure is almost always a cause of stress. Of course, if stress often causes pain, it can also lead to great joy. Regardless of the end result, it seems that only a minority of people deal well with pressure. For those few who seem to thrive under it, this extreme environment is probably the ideal situation for them to produce at their utmost. With that in mind, the meaning of pressure varies vastly, not just in terms of its sheer intensity, but also in relation to the subject’s personality and ability to absorb it. Since it is voluntary, self-applied pressure stands at the opposite end of the spectrum; finding something difficult, but having ultimate control over it is a lot more acceptable than having no personal say about it. This is another reason why - based on one's vantage point - pressure can run the gamut from sheer agony to pure exaltation…

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

At long last, here's the “Mondo”

Today, as we were driving and listening to the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate on NPR, the subject of China reluctance to let its currency appreciate came up in the exchange; as she often does, my wife asked one of her disarming questions that never fail to upset my conventional thinking: “Now that’s the world has shrunk and is said to be flat, why don’t we have one single currency?” I sure was surprised and I couldn’t think fast enough on my feet to utter something pretentious or stupid; instead a long silence ensued. Seconds later, I finally recovered and agreed that this might indeed be a good idea.

I thought of the Euro and the first attempt it represented to unit a significant basket of currencies within developed countries. Initially, everyone was predicting its quick demise, and today, tables have been turned as the Euro is seen as a serious alternative to the Dollar. This is how I drew a parallel between the Euro as a continental currency and its worldwide equivalent that I named “Mondo” for discussion’s sake. As a new worldwide, universal currency the “Mondo” would offer huge benefits; among others it would level the playing field and put and end to the parity games played by countries like China or Japan that keep a lid on their currencies to stay ahead with their trade balances. Likewise, a “Mondo” currency would go a long way to further stabilizing the world’s commodity markets. Of course, there would be rules and penalty to make sure that all participating nations are fiscally responsible; for instance, national budget deficits would be severely limited and sanctioned when they occur. This, without a question, would be an extremely complex proposition but its benefits would be enormous in terms of world trade, harmonious globalization and, down the road, in securing world peace. Now, may I tap the smart brains that might read this article? What would it take to make that unique currency work effectively within a united world central bank, without surrendering the sovereignty of each participating Nations?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Exceeding expectations

Always managing an excellent outcome or a great surprise is one of my favorite concepts in our daily life. Too many times, we over promise and end up under delivering, ignoring that well-managed expectations should be a number-one rule in business. A few industries like on-line commerce have been excellent at applying this principle, and have been handsomely rewarded by it. As for the rest of us, we need to resist the attraction of letting other believe that things will be great when we know from the get go that reaching the promised outcome will be tenuous at best. We should accept to take some losses in advance in order to reap benefits later, but we’re fooled by our need to look good immediately and cannot envision that we’ll look like idiots when the good deal promised fails to materialize. We just need to reprogram ourselves

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Learning how to write

When I was in school, creative writing was probably my favorite and best subject. Was I a story teller? I’m not quite sure, but I really enjoyed writing. I was never excellent at it, but with the proper training and coaching I believe that I could have improved a lot. More than thirty years ago, when I came to America, I was terrified to write in English, and especially to write business letters and other memoranda. Obviously, over time and after countless trials and errors, my writing skills improved to the point that I began to enjoy the activity and did my very best to crafting the quality of my written pieces. In the meantime, my French took a hiatus as I hardly ever used it, except for a few hand-written letters and notes to my family. About two years ago, as I left my last job and wondered what I would do next, I considered that writing might be a great creative outlet and promised myself that I would plunge into it. I had a long list of ideas that I accumulated over the years and thought that it would be easy to pick one up and turn it into a… book. Boy was I naïve! I forgot that - just like with running, my favorite addiction - one’s need to develop a discipline and a habit for writing. As a result, my good intentions stayed just that for the past one and a half year, until that day of March 2007 when, while skiing, I ruptured my Achilles’ tendon. My temporary disability gave me the opportunity to start a daily blog, which I decided would be bilingual (English and French) to reconcile me with my native tongue that I had ignored for so long. There have been ups and down in the writing and publishing of my blogs, but recently, I’ve been more consistent with it. I now enjoy it much more, think about it at night, look for ideas, and I hope to expand the scope of that activity in the very near future!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Revisiting Che Guevara

A few nights ago, while watching our French TV satellite channel, we saw Danielle Mitterrand, the widow of France’s former president, promoting her new book "Le Livre de ma mémoire" on “On n’est pas couché” one of Laurent Ruquier’s shows. Poor Danielle; she appears to have a big chip on her shoulder and does come across as both a very angry and frustrated radical left-winger. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say that she’s still a die-hard supporter of the Che. She continues to believe that he was fantastic and to this day, believes that he remains the romantic icon of socialist leadership. She probably never read any biography on the man or any account of the Che’s recklessness and atrocities. At best, she probably only saw the “Motorcycle diaries” movie, and still has a poster of the revolutionary hanging in her bedroom…

Friday, November 30, 2007

When less is more…

Have you ever been amazed at circus acts, gymnastics or ice skating performances, and observed how seemingly little efforts produce stunning results?
The same is true of skiing, cooking, playing violin or plastering walls… The pro always goes through the motion effortlessly, precisely and with peerless results. The reverse seems to hold true, the more we grit our teeth, tense our muscles and expend huge amounts of energy, the less efficient we are and the closest we are to failure... Like "the road to hell is paved with good intentions," something has to be said about expanding a minimum to achieve greatness. I just find it inspiring!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rock bottom

I think I love to talk about cycles and ups and down. A costly mistake early this week gave me plenty of reasons to be depressed, angry and feel right at the bottom of the barrel. Immediately after that incident occurred, I didn’t want to face the music and instead, I try to rationalize things. At the end however, it took me two full days to absorb and - I guess - fully mourn that stupid move. What have I learned from it? Well, when you screw up you need to fully face up to it, really feel the pain, and certainly not avoid it. Finally, when you’re done hurting, it’s a clear signal that you can move on. Oh yes, don’t ever forget the lesson learned in the process. Generally, the more pain felt, the higher the retention. That’s good news.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Back on skis

Yesterday saw my return on skis after eight months following my Achilles’ tendon rupture. For the past ten years, I never stayed such a long time without skiing; it was more like five or six months at the very most. The run was 100% on good man-made snow, off the Payday lift. My new Scott Mission skis behaved very well and so did my new DalBello Krypton boots. No feedback from good-old-right-Achilles’ that remained quiet and didn’t raise its voice; skiing must be good for the soul and for the sole of my feet!

Monday, November 26, 2007

When it's good to be “controlling”

A few days ago we discussed how it seems possible to choose one’s attitude for the day and carry on. As we all know, it’s not that easy and not that simple. There are bumps on the road that are intent on making us trip or mean mermaids singing to a totally different tune and wanting us to change to a less upbeat music. Simply put, these negative influences want to control the way we feel and want to take over our attitudes. So that’s this simple; it becomes a choice between us being in control or outside events or people taking over. The transfer is every bit as devious as it’s subtle so we better pay attention and only obey our own set of orders and no one else! After all, being a controlling person may not be as bad as people make it…

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Alex Dusser, 1942 - 2007

Last night a memorial was arranged by Jeannot, Raymonde and Claude Mercier to celebrate the life of our common friend Alex, who passed away this summer at his Spanish vacation home. Following a mass at St. Ambrose Catholic Church, a group of 40 or so friends and acquaintances from the Utah French community as well as from Park City, had dinner at the Market Street restaurant in Holladay, near Salt Lake City. After working as a Chef on the “France,” a luxury transatlantic liner, Alex came to the U.S. in the late 60s and first worked for one of Paul Anka’s restaurants in New York City. He then moved to Sun Valley where he ran “La Provence” through 1985. When he came to Park City, he opened and operated “Alex Restaurant” until 2003. He was looking forward to retire in the French Pyrenees and his survived by his wife Mireille, his son Dominique and wife Irène, and two grand-daughters. We miss you Alex!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Maintenance costs

Coincidentally, I took for my car for its 60,000 mile service and inspection at the same time I had my last physical check-up, read the 60 years service - give and take a few weeks. While the prognosis was pretty good in both instances, the respective bill amounts were enlightening. I was expecting to pay more for the car and less for my body. At the end, the bill for my German-made car came at $485 while that for "yours truly" set me back some $674. In the past, servicing the car was the expensive part, but now the tide has turned thanks to skyrocketing health care costs and my getting older. The good part is that I’m feeling extremely valued as I’m now getting more expensive to maintain than a luxury car. If that’s bad for the wallet, it’s perfect for the self-esteem!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Dry start in the dry State

This will be our 23rd winter in Park City and also one of the driest. After regular and bothersome snowfalls almost every two weeks in September and October, the skies have dumped out all the moisture they had. Thank the weather god for our Arctic weather. With about 10 degrees Fahrenheit every morning and temperatures staying below freezing during the day, our local ski resorts have finally step up to the plate, opened their wallets and started to fire their snow guns; till now, they’ve just “played chicken” hoping for a freebie from Mother Nature. Today is opening day with only one run served in Park City. I won't ski as I believe I deserve better conditions and, as I mentioned earlier, continue to entertain no expectation as far as when real snow will come. While some wash their cars, start a snow dance or go in pilgrimage to Lourdes, I just wash my hands off all that snow fever nonsense; it’ll come soon enough!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Finding contentment

On this Thanksgiving Day, I wanted to talk about contentment, the ability to “stop wanting stuff” and the sudden realization we can be quite happy with what we have. Is discontent on a same path as desire for growth? That's quite possible; we always want better things; bigger house, faster cars, better education for our kids. We want to make the best out of everything; our lives, our health, our exercise, our time, the food we eat. Tell me, where do we stop? Is there a spot where we can just "park" and be content? What’s wrong with just being happy with what we have? What about accepting a less-than-perfect state and be able to live – happily – with it? The “growth thing” seeps everywhere and can be rigged to fit what could be seen as our more noble purposes. If we allow it, the door is open for all kinds of excesses, like over-exercising, obsessing about one’s weight, etc. Can’t we just relax for a day and accept for a moment at least that while we’re not growing, we could perhaps just enjoy ourselves, our family, company, stage in life, etc? What a really nice concept that would be!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Old skis never die...When there’s no better use left in them and if they can’t be recycled, they just take a trip to the dump and who knows what happen to them. I really hope the good ones won’t just pass away into oblivion. This morning I begged farewell to three of my former gliding companions; one pair of Rossignol 9X, quite narrow and barely able to carve, one pair of Dynastar Skicross 66 that introduced me to carving and contemporary skiing (even though they were still relatively narrow) and one pair of wider planks, the Dynastar Intuitiv 74, that – of the three – were the most beat up (with about 6 inch of steel edge missing on one of them.) The Rossis had seen the least use as I’ve never had much affinity for the brand. My only previous experience with it was actually a pair of Roc 550 that I used for teaching skiing in Australia in the early 70’s. By contrast, the Dynastars were true workhorses as well as loyal servants; they've been through a lot, witnessed tons of fun, plowed into miles of deep Utah powder and made very fast moves. I’ll miss them both very much! As for what will happen to their ski soul, I really am wondering. Given their taste for speed and need for adrenaline, I sincerely hope they’ll re-incarnate into a glider airplane, a composite wing or perhaps - more realistically, but far less glorious- an Adirondack-ski-style chair. Who really knows?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cultivating creativity

Is creativity like a veggie garden? Can you saw one day and reap something valuable a little while later? I think so. As many will say, creativity is one of these “organs” that if not used it regularly, may eventually atrophy and dry up all together. Here again, some regularity in the way we exert our “creative glands” should play a significant role in increasing our output. When I worked for Look ski bindings, Jean Beyl, the founder and then owner, used to say: “Observe a frog for a few moments every day, and you'll discover details you’d never suspected existed and could certainly never grasp in just a casual glance.” The same is true of creativity. If you’re stuck on a problem, observe it from a variety of angles. Stop looking at it for a while, then go back to it. Don’t pressure yourself with finding an immediate response, stay cool about it. Repeat the cycle as needed and eventually solutions will crystallize. If golfing, skiing and a lot of other skills and activities are just “in the head” you can bet that creativity stands on the very top of the heap. Be nice to your head, don’t pressure it – just expose it gently and repetitively to the creative task at hand!

Monday, November 19, 2007

How mood colors a day

A good or a bad mood is like a colored lens. Choose to wear one of the two, or even the one in between and it will have a huge impact on how you'll see the day and on how other people will see you. This concept settled in my mind when I first became familiar with the “Fish!” book and the associated training program, advocating, among other precepts to “choose one’s attitude” akin of picking the clothes that will be worn for the day. For those familiar with the book, you may think it’s a bit trite, but in my opinion it works. A bad mood will invariably reflect on the day’s events and most importantly with the quality of our interactions with others. I’m not saying that I always wake up and go to sleep in a perfect mood, but I always try to make an effort to chose my attitude at the day’s onset and keep it that way through my daily routine. Sure, there’re always bumps on the way that may momentarily deflect that good direction, but in time, choosing one’s daily attitude makes a lot of difference over a week, a month, a year, and why not, a lifetime!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thinkin’ of a new kitchen…

Here’s a new project; we’re going to redo our kitchen. The idea germinated this past spring, but now we’ve decided to have it done by the end of next May. So what’s the big deal? Well, we’re talking about a really small room with space at a premium and we must be extremely good in designing something that will maximize the space, plus bring a good selection of original solutions. We’ve barely begun thinking about it, done some general sketches and seen a couple of builders. So far, the best contribution came from Juju who suggested cutting part of the wall that serve as partition between the kitchen itself and the rest of the living room to bring more light and open things up. Next, we need to squeeze our creative glands really hard plus give it the right amount of time before we harvest the cool design we’re about to get. We’re just starting our engines!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Finding strength in adversity

You don’t need to read many biographies to find out that any road to success is generally paved with its share of hardship. This gives a lot of credence to the expression “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” While it’s hard to argue against these truths, the trick is to manage a low point and transcend it into extra strength and future success. This is the topic of this blog. All of us have been there before from the time we fell from our bike, missed an exam, failed a job interview, messed up a major business opportunity, made an avoidable "big mistake" or received a significant “haircut” in a stock market transaction. What's also true is the more often we fall, the more practice we get, and the easier it becomes to get back on our feet. Although there’s no magic formula, here is – for what it’s worth - my approach to handling these heartbreaks.
1. Accept the situation. A critical step; never let the string of “couda, wouda, shouda” seep into your mind. Instead, fully embrace the reality, smell it, sense it and experience it with all the pain and unpleasantness that comes with it. Give it the necessary time, but once mourning is over, realize that you’re alive, nothing is forever lost and all can be rebuilt in stronger and better ways. At this point, don’t let other people tell you otherwise, feel sorry for you, or remind you how unlucky you were. It’s your deal, not theirs. This turnaround builds a clean, unambiguous new start and clears up the dead-weight of second-guessing and regretting.
2. Deploy a focused response. Thrust every resource you have into the reconstruction process, making it your single largest goal. Develop a calendar and a plan incorporating any lesson learned. Both will serve to measure your progress and keep the desired outcome in view at all times. Being competitive helps, but maintaining a sharp focus is crucial.
3. Push the envelope. Strive to exceed your plan, both qualitatively and quantitatively, without going crazy, but by always trying to grab any opening for going a bit farther and for pushing a bit harder.
4. Keep your sanity. Have fun whenever there’s an opportunity; don’t take the issue and yourself too seriously, keep important things like your health, your vitality, your personality, your family and friends into perspective and appreciate every moment to its full extent.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mounting new skis

Yesterday, I mounted my new pair of Scott Mission skis with an existing pair of Look bindings that I took from my trashed Dynastar Intuitiv 74. Ever since I have been in the ski industry and actually before I went to work for Look bindings, I’ve always installed my bindings, with very few exceptions. This is a special work that I love doing. I don’t have a jig, so I end up measuring every hole with a watchmaker’s precision and it’s done! Perhaps it’s a rite of passage into the winter season. I remember my first pair of Dynastar Compound RG5 purchased for the winter of 1964-65. I bought them at the factory, in Sallanches, when the company was still called “Starflex” and didn’t belong yet to Rossignol. These skis – just like the Dynamic VR7 – were the first fiberglass “wrapped” torsion box construction made. Their tips were very low and would often dig into big moguls. Between the time I picked them at the factory and the time they were mounted with an elementary Salomon toe-piece and a basic Look turntable plus long thongs, I would go everyday in the back of my parents’ house storage room to admire them, flex them, and dream about all the good skiing I’d be doing on them. Things haven’t changed much. I still have a lot of reverence for my ski equipment. Today, in installing my new set, I felt once more the same pleasure, filled with positive anticipation.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

No snow yet?

If you’re a skier or a rider and are anxious about early snowfalls, just remember how to manage your expectations. After more than 5 decades spent in the mountains and working closely within the snow industry, I can admit that I’ve worried more than my just share about whether we’d get snow or not. I’ve looked up towards the sky, hoping, dreaming and sometimes even praying. In the long run, I have learned, like many others, that most of our worries are a terrible waste of time and mental energy. Today, I’ve changed my tune for the better. I’ve now succeeded in training myself to expect very little or almost nothing in terms of snowfall when the season comes upon us. This way, any change in my expectation, as far as snow is concerned, is likely to be an excellent surprise and great news. This zero-expectation approach may sound a bit cynical, but it works and is the best antidote to disappointments when rosy schemes fail to materialize. While I now religiously apply it to snow storms, its field of use is pretty much universal and it can be put to work against any uncertainties that may cause endless worries and eventually, high stress. My next move is to apply it to investing in the stock market…

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dressed for school?

When we went running this morning, the temperature was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit and we really felt the bite! Half-a-mile into our route, we came across what could have been an 11-12 year old girl walking to the school bus stop. While we were running – not walking – and wearing hat and gloves, this girl had a just a pair of jeans and a shirt on and was wearing… tongs. When we saw that, we hoped that all the stuff she carried in her backpack would keep her warm, but seriously we could not help thinking how in the world her dad or mom would let her go out in that skimpy attire in such a cold weather. The reality, however, might have been that her dad and mom were long gone to work by the time she left home…

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

When bad is good

If you’re an active investor, be prepared to the psychological roller-coaster of being successively elated and depressed. When the market is going up and your positions are doing well, you will instantly come to the conclusion that – somehow – you must be some kind of a genius. When this mode of thinking starts seeping through your little brains, you should sell and take your profits if you are indeed very smart. That seldom happens as we’re not nearly as bright as we think we are. The reverse is totally symmetrical. When hell breaks lose and the market goes down, despair becomes the order of the day and you want to disappear, go into profound hibernation or even die.
The paradox is that when you hit bottom is when the best buying opportunity is found. Without a doubt this theory sounds like music to everyone’s ear, but to be able to exert that option, you should have listened to your first admonition, which was to sell (raise cash) when the going was good and when you were convinced that you were SO intelligent. Easier said than done…

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Strike a vein

Today, I went for a blood test as a follow up to yesterday’s annual medical checkup (it’s been in fact a couple of years.) As a joke and since it’s timely as we’re just in 2007, I call this procedure my 60,000 mile service. So here I show up this morning and a young male nurse undertakes to draw blood from me. Before hand, I warn him that it would be easier to draw blood out of a turnip, but it doesn't register. We try one arm without any luck; then the other with the same result. At each time, the very-hard-to-locate vessel rolls under the needle and instead of blood, a great deal of invisible frustration percolates into the plastic conduit. At that point, I’m about to suggest that the nurse slits my throat open and we put and end to that game. Not willing to go for my final solution, he undertakes to poke the top of my right hand and a microscopic drip starts filling the tiny tube; just like a movie in slow motion, or watching grass grow. After 30 minutes of that game of patience, the three test vials are somehow filled up and I’m on my way back home.

By the way, I’ve decided on yesterday’s blog question. All my very serious thinking (is that an oxymoron or what?) will appear in Go Politics, my other English-only blog and we’ll leave that blog and its French counterpart intact.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

About this blog

I really started this blog immediately after I sustained my Achilles’ tendon rupture, just to do something during my recovery and to get into the habit of writing regularly (or perhaps not to lose the little I had altogether.) For similar reasons, I chose to write it in both English and French. I’ve been irregular at times with it, but decided – back in September – to either do it consistently or just drop it. At this point, I’m looking at focusing its direction and its contents towards issues that are important to me, rather than just trivia or daily happenings. In the next weeks, I’ll decide whether to discuss issues that are important to me; most are political and involve immigration, right to health care, planet preservation and democratic tools. Some that are inextricably connected to the former are religion and humanistic philosophy. So please, stay tuned…

Friday, November 9, 2007

Can we still trust God?

When I see what our dollar is fetching these days, I just wonder who was in charge and would let that happen. This is especially striking when you stare at the “In God We Trust” motto emblazoning all of our dollar bills and ask yourself “what for?” To be frank, I think that God, whom we have trusted so much for so long, has just not been paying attention lately. I’m not just talking about the falling dollar, but 9/11, Katrina, AIDS, the obesity epidemic and the sub-prime crisis to list a few issues. It might be time for us to do something about his mediocre performance. Last week, this is just what happened to E. Stanley O'Neal, the CEO of Merrill Lynch and Charles Prince, that of Citigroup, who both had to resign after they brought some very bad news to their respective shareholders. I’m not suggesting we should fire God, but Treasury Secretary Polson and Fed Chairman Bernanke, who are both decent men, should nicely pressure him to resign, or at the very least, be re-assigned somewhere else. God could for instance move to that new solar system “55 Cancri” where a planet looking like earth was spotted this past Tuesday, over on the other side of the Milky Way, only 41 light-years from here. There would be a lot of benefits if God were to resign and move there; for one thing, he’d get a most deserved change of venue, we could check on him with a powerful telescope but he wouldn’t see us, and it would be a bonanza for our planet. Most armed conflicts that are raging at the moment would suddenly come to a screeching halt, birth rate would immediately go into a free fall, and soon, life on earth would return to full sustainability. Then, what’s the government waiting for?