Monday, April 30, 2007

The tartiflette has landed...

For the first time in the thirty-plus years I've lived in America, the tartiflette has finally made it to the prestigious New York Times! For those who don’t know the tartiflette, it’s a chunk of cream-soaked potato and smoked lardons covered with a melting layer of reblochon. The tartiflette is one of the most comforting dish in all of France's Haute-Savoie.

Reblochon got its name from 13th-century farmers working for a Lord or an Abbey, who would first partially milk their cows, and then do it covertly a second time for their own benefit. With that fatter milk, they'd make cheese, the name of which comes from the dialect "reblocher," which means to milk again, and of the fraud that it was, called the “rebloche.” Now, if you'll excuse me, I’m very hungry…

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Switching switches

This weekend, I finally caught up with a job I wanted to do for a very long time. Switching the old switches that were in our house, for new, “rocker” style ones. My son had done that in his home before and had warned me that it was a big job. That’s indeed the case; nothing is ever as simple as it appears!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Remembering the fall

As I'm trying very hard to be patient and wait for my Achilles tendon to heel (a little like watching grass grow), I can’t help but think how I could have avoided the stupid fall that led to the injury. Again, and as like to say, a fall is rarely smart; I could have hurt myself even more and there's no sense trying to replace the toothpaste inside the tube…

Friday, April 27, 2007

Never the same again?

Yesterday, as I was crutching my way out of the Racquet Club, following my daily workout, an older man (much more dated than me, for sure) saw me with my handicapped attire, smirked and said in a caustic tone of voice: “You’ll never be the same again!” How nice it is to run into folks with such a positive outlook on life… He went on to say that he had hurt himself years ago while skiing in Alta and he’d never go back again on a pair of skis. He valued his tennis too much to do such a folly. I told him that I could care less and let him ride away on his crummy bike while swearing to myself that I don’t plan to be the same again, simply a whole lot better, when I hit the slopes next season.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Ticking time to heal

It’s now 24 days since I had my operation and I feel so much better! The lingering pain felt all day and night is now gone and for the first time, I feel my Achilles tendon pulling a (very stiff) calf muscle.

Since yesterday, I started bearing some weight on my right leg, which I consider a great breakthrough. As you see on the picture, I was told the operation would be largely “mechanical”, and also that it would take a long, long time, hence the watch cogs seen through the “x-ray”…

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The French ski instructors race

At the end of each ski season, French ski instructors participate in a series of races that bring together 2,500 participants. The 57th “Challenge” as it’s called, is currently taking place in Avoriaz, my old stomping grounds, in les “Portes du Soleil”, the large interconnect that straddles the French and Swiss Alps.
All instructor-racers compete in 25 races including alpine (where slalom remain the main focus of the series), cross-country, telemark and snowboard, to determine who the national champion will be in each event. Each year, a different mountain resort hosts the festivities and the races once took place as far as Vail, Colorado in 1986…

France may be the only country where ski instructing is seen as a legitimate profession and not just “ski-bumming”. French ski instructors are self-employed and only give a small percentage of their revenue to pay for the administrative cost of their ski school that’s totally independent from the lift company. There are 15,000 instructors in France who earn between $13,500 and $31,000 in a four month season. While their American counterparts even earn less, a full-day private instructor will only set you back $365 in France compared to $500-$600 in the U.S.!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

How bad do the French want change?

No matter who gets elected president of France in less than two weeks, he or she will have to work with a population that has never been willing to embrace difficult or unpleasant things, and in particular letting go of social perks. To voice their displeasure, the French use strike as a formidable tool.

The most effective strikes are those crippling the economic life of the country when truckers block the roadways. Since the French love to eat and live well, a deal is soon made, the trucks clear the roads and the populace keeps what it wants. It will be interesting to see how the new president can neutralize that form of blackmail to move the country forward, or if his, or her hands, are tied by the nation’s temper tantrums...

Monday, April 23, 2007

France needs business stimulus

The otherwise blend Centrist Bayrou emerged as a surprise and a strong number three from the first round of the French presidential election. This was due to the “so-so” choice voters had between Royal and Sarkozy. Do the French want a center party? Probably not, but rooting for Bayrou was a way for many to deflect their concerns about Segolene Royal’s lack of program, weak substance and light experience on one hand, and the aggressive ambitions and the shoot-from-the-hip style of Nicolas "Kärcher" Sarkozy on the other hand.

While Sarkozy is most likely to win in the end round, his party and his own track record while in the government haven’t always met the needs and wants of the French. Some drastic change need to take place. My personal view is that the key element to a successful presidency has to be focused on business development and the ensuing creation of jobs. Good things will then follow.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

No longer in Limbo

Yesterday, the Vatican announced the closure of limbo. The actual reason behind the shut down is hell overcrowding; a tri-party task force involving the housing authorities of purgatory, hell and heaven have been meeting for sometime to plan a massive remodeling of the so-called Inter-Hell-Heaven section that includes both limbo and purgatory. Limbo was an old storage space reconverted in the middle age into a special holding area for babies who died prior to receiving baptism. The place is rather small (compared to purgatory) and its infrastructure is no longer meeting code and requires a significant and expensive upgrade.

Lucy Siscistysis, Satan’s chief of staff stated, “hell was never planned for a global population of 6.5 billion people; it’s become overcrowded and it’s is time for us to expand; frankly, we could have used the entire purgatory as well.” Saint Peter, who couldn’t be available for an interview, indicated in a written statement that all small guests from limbo will in fact be relocated to purgatory where a vast nursery is being built. The communiqué quoted him as saying “there are key issues like insulation that must be addressed as we are moving the purgatory partition next to the ceramic firewall of hell."

One HVAC engineer who wished to remain anonymous went on a limb and added that overheating had always been a problem; he said temperature in purgatory was set not to exceed 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 Centigrade) but that was rarely the case, compared to a more comfortable “San Diego” level of 72 Fahrenheit (22 Centigrade) in heaven. Once moved to purgatory, all babies may choose to grow up to an age of 21, then take the elevator to heaven as space becomes available and as their behavior allows it (heaven’s population has been recently dwindling due to massive out migration towards hell by guests seeking more diverse entertainment options.)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Good, cheap and slow

For the little time that we’ve owned our home, each spring sees the start of a new remodeling project. This year is no exception as we plan to further maximize our limited interior space. To that end, we employ the services of a great fellow, an older handyman who does a truly wonderful work. The only problem is that his slow pace strongly tests our “type A” personalities.

You may know the adage about good, cheap and slow; for instance, if something is fast and cheap, it can’t be good, or if it’s good and fast it can’t be cheap, etc. Well, our beloved handyman performs an outstanding work, delivers an excellent value, but… is dreadfully slow! That’s probably why when it takes him forever to complete a job, we get smitten with the results. Here you have it; we better brace for a long summer of saw dust, debris, noise and disruptions. We’ll let you how our mental health evolves as the work progresses...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Please, convert me!

Yesterday, two Mormon missionaries rang our doorbell in a brave attempt to convert us. Since I was downstairs in my office and not really mobile (remember I’ve got that huge boot and the crutches.) Evelyne recommended that I stay put and not go out of my way to meet them.

This probably was wise, knowing my propensity to blurt something bad to these poor devils; me, the heathen, who believes that “a good religion is an oxymoron”. When no one showed up to answer the door, they left their card on the mat, with a cell phone number to call if I wanted more details about their program, their free planet, Donny & Mary Osmond and so forth.

Come to think of it, I may call them today… Who knows, they might offer a spring sign-up special including a free toaster, some frequent flyer miles or even a small iPod Nano. Besides, I don’t have much to do at the moment, so I figured their stories might be quite entertaining and would make the weekends go faster.

Yeah, I’m gonna call them…

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hang on!

Around 1 pm on April 15, one of the seats of the Ruthie’s Express chairlift in Aspen (a Poma high-speed triple installed in 1997) broke and caused one passenger to fall. Fortunately, at that particular spot the height was only ten feet and the falling skier was not hurt. As a matter of fact, the unidentified man skied away; perhaps he felt guilty about having too much to eat for lunch and caused the seat to rupture…

The two other fellows on the chair managed to hang on until the Ski Patrol arrived. Aspen’s press release says that the lift was shut down and all the seats were checked after the mishap (one would hope so!)

Jeff Hanle, the resort spokesperson also said that he had never heard of a similar incident before, as dog owners always say after their pooch has bitten an innocent passerby “this truly is the first time this dog ever bites someone”...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Time to exercise

I haven't exercised since my accident on March 23; in fact, my not being able to run daily has been the worst punishment of all. Yesterday, we went to the nearby municipal racquet club to get a three-month pass to their health club after we inspected some of their work-out equipment. I’ve laid my eyes on an elliptical cross trainer! This is what I will start doing today, keeping my injured, right leg lifted in my back for at least 30 minutes; we’ll see...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Lucky day?

This morning looks like a blue-bird day, albeit quite cold (27 degrees F). With my cast removed yesterday, and a stiff, black boot in its place, I’m now looking forward to my next visit to the doctor on May 15. This means that the trip to Chacha’s graduation in New York is off and that really is too bad!

We’ll need to make up for that… The black boot is great though and allows for great mobility around the house and particularly up and down the stairs. If I’m good, in one month I should be able to start walking around and seriously begin my rehab. This weekend is also tax time and a reminder that when there are a few checks to write, there has to be income and that certainly beats the alternative.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ski season ends...

…in spite of wintry weather and frigid temperatures in the past 3 days! This weekend will see the closure of all Utah resorts except for Alta and Snowbird that will shut down by the end of April. While last year our local resorts received 600 inches of snow by March, Alta (the snowiest of all) only claimed 257 this year! In comparison Aspen had 242, Lake Louise 159 and Squaw Valley 257. With less than generous coverage, all Utah resorts still had near record or record numbers of visitors this winter.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Crash site revisited

I was skiing in my favorite spot, up in Jupiter where a bunch of unexpected big rocks caught me by surprise, stopped my momentum, made me fall and broke my Achilles tendon... Skiing down "Tower 13" as the line indicates looked like a good idea at the time. Tell me, where's the "undo" button?

Monday, April 9, 2007

If you can’t go to the lift…

…have the lift come to you! That’s precisely why we took delivery of this modest, garden-variety chairlift. This two-seater comes from the old “Supreme Lift” in Alta and is a genuine Yan product.
As evidenced by the picture, Evelyne must consider that I have made enough progress in my recovery to take me on a ride with her!
Now, how am I supposed to unload with crutches?

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Beautiful day, global warming?

Looks like today will be warm and beautiful and more snow will melt, ushering an early spring into the Wasatch Mountains. Is it just the end of one rare mediocre ski season or is it the beginning of a long, dry trend?

December, January and February were quite cold and negated a massive warming trend in the Rocky Mountains. Also, Mr. Winter is not quite done yet as the rest of April and most of May could be downright cold and wet up here in the mountains.

Still the glaciers and the polar caps keep on melting… Will we still ski twenty or thirty years from now, when all Chinese and Indians households own at least two automobiles?

Why don't we regularly blast dormant volcanoes to make them spew massive amount of sun-blocking particles into the upper atmosphere? I have heard of other hi-tech schemes like launching rockets to create a sulfur screen, but I’m not quite sold on that yet.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Stairs and crutches

When I received my brand new pair of crutches no one told me how to use them. I just assumed that I would easily figure these walking sticks. That was until I went down the stairs with them. Juggling with imbalance, gravity, fear and enormous luck, I landed unscathed at the bottom of the staircase.

I then realized that the law of skiing “what goes up must go down” also applies to crutches. I have since done some research on the net and found some safer methods for navigating in style, up and down the stairs.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


While post-surgery was quite comfortable, pain suddenly came out of nowhere yesterday... And what a pain that was, especially last night; the stinging, relentless kind (voodoo style, pins included). I spoke with the nurse and she said that it came from some upset nerves. Come to think of it, fixing that ruptured tendon came with... strings attached!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Almost... seamless

I underwent surgery yesterday at TOSH (that's The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital in Salt Lake City). It's amazing how low-tech these institutions still are! From my first visit with the orthopedic surgeon last week, I've been asked the same questions or have filled out the same forms over and over... Seems to me that data could be entered once and for all by the patient on a digital tablet or some P.D.A. Aren't we in America? Going digital would shave costs off an increasingly costly health care system.

In spite of that cumbersome way to handle records, the operation went perfectly well. Getting the I.V. in worked fine (usually, no one can find the largest of my veins!), the anesthesia was smooth and easy, and when the nurse woke me up 75 minutes later, I was so awake that I impatiently asked her when the operation was scheduled to start; I felt perfectly clear, a bit elated (a shot of morphine always does the trick) and after 30 minutes extra rest was able to converse with Evelyne as we drove back all the way up to Park City.

Dr. James Morgan (the surgeon) and Dr. Farnworth (the anesthesiologist) did an almost seamless job (I still have the stitches;) I can barely wait till my next accident and surgery!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

My Achilles Heel

For years, my two Achilles tendons have always done a fine job. That was until March 23, 2007, when the right one decided to break apart from my loose federation of free and flexible limbs.

Sure, the break-up took some provocation on my part: I went to a place where I wasn't really supposed to be, gathered too much speed, ignored the mystery of blind corners and wham! I hit a pile of huge rocks that caused a tearing deceleration and a spectacular separation of the man from his skis and tendon...

Today, I suppose that most of that poor Achilles tendon hides all curled up into the depth of the right calf muscle that reluctantly plays host to the intruder. Ever since the incident, that muscle has been protesting, sending me a daily dose of painful signals.

Tomorrow, a modern shaman will attempt to reunite the tendon with its heel attachment and will pour a white cast over the whole thing in order to contain the crisis for ten to fourteen more days.

I'll soon let you know how the relationship patches up...