Thursday, May 31, 2007

Alex & Mireille

Both have made their life for almost 40 years in America, with more than half spent in Park City. Last night they came for dinner and, as always, we all had a great time. Today they'll move out of the condo they've just sold and will return to their home in France’s Pyrennees mountains to spend the summer. They’ll be back in the fall, to run for one last season the restaurant of a popular tourist sleigh ride before leaving into the sunset to enjoy retirement in their home country!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Old acquaintances

Yesterday, as we were shopping in a warehouse/store called Disegna, just outside Park City, that a friend had suggested we check out, we ran into its owners, Kim and Karen. At first we didn’t recognize them, they had both changed a lot; I had not seen Kim in more than 12 years! I used to know him when I was in the ski business and when he worked for Marker and Kästle. Later, he started his own ski pole company and experienced ups and downs with it. Today, he distributes an Italian line of sportswear. The moral of the story is that we should keep seeing people on tight and regular intervals so we can always recognize them at once, and our changed appearance isn’t going to scare them away…

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cost of jeans

Yesterday, we drove to the Factory Outlets to check out their Memorial Day sales. Aside from huge crowds spending their remaining dollars and the last of their three-day weekend, we didn’t find much in terms of bargains. I was actually the lucky one. I got two Levi’s jeans model 505 for just $46.77, tax included. Okay, what does that mean? The element that comes to my mind is a full tank of gas, say 14 gallons of regular. For reasons that I won’t explain here, I remember paying $20.50 in 1977 for a similar pair of Levi’s while gasoline was available at $0.65 a gallon. Now, if we factor in the CPI, the jean that should cost $70.72 today can be purchased for just $23.39 while the gallon of regular that should only cost $2.24 is today hard to find at $3.35. Perhaps that after cooking oil and ethanol, some ingenious aftermarket tinkerer will come up with a conversion kit for combustion engines that runs on old Levi’s!

Monday, May 28, 2007

A pretentious world?

Living in a ski town is a fascinating experience. I won’t count the years during which we lived in an Alpine ski town, and will solely focus on our twenty year plus, Park City experience. Over that time period, many people from diverse backgrounds have flocked into town and grown the population. Some are great and some are a bit too concerned with their image; from the car they drive, to the house they live in, what they do or how they’ve done, or how they see themselves in that little mountain community.

It is therefore refreshing that not everyone falls in that latter category. These other folks are of course the most enjoyable and most open you wish to run into and interact with. They get interested in others instead of themselves, they remember how to laugh and they stay humble. In their presence, there’s very little need for competition and it’s possible to be yourself; what a concept!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Friends for dinner

Last night Don and Charlotte as well as Tom and Judy came home for dinner. The day before Evelyne had prepared a delicious onion soup and some great rabbit that she cooks like no one I know. We all ate on the deck and had the most pleasant evening. The weather was just perfect and our guests stayed from 6 to 10 pm! Don and Charlotte were able to really relax while Tom and Judy were as funny as always…

Saturday, May 26, 2007


This morning we went to help Thomas and Juju complete the move to their new house. It’s a much larger place that their previous one in a very quiet and nice neighborhood, with views of Mt. Olympus and the imposing entryways to Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons. All the big stuff was handled yesterday with the help of some young and muscular friends of theirs.

Today, we just did the little stuff, and when I write “we”, it was in fact Evelyne who handled most of the tasks, between vacuuming, packing, loading and unloading. I sorted and packed Thomas’ tools from his workshop, placed them into the moving van, and for a while forgot that I was still convalescent. Ouch! I soon had to seriously slow down.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Reaching the goal

Today’s topic was brought to mind as I am reading a career politician’s biography. We like to say that when there is a will, there is a way. In my life, I have seen and have also personally experienced that if you really want to achieve something you will, given a decent amount of good luck and proper timing.

Yet, I have also found that any measure of success comes with a price tag commensurate with the level of difficulty. If someone is really ready to pay for something he or she wants, there’s most of the time a way to get it. The mode of payment may take many forms: Health, relationship quality, time or hard work. It can also be nefarious like dishonesty, treason, or criminal deed.

Of course, our ultimate goal should be the pursuit of happiness and if other goals are built on shady schemes, finding lasting bliss by choosing that road is likely to be impossible. The bottom line is that there still is no free lunch and that before accomplishing any goal, better take a long look at the price-list as well as payment options. Not doing that might bankrupt the ambitious goal-seeker in more than one way!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Physical therapy?

Between the daily exercise on the elliptical bike, the walks in the street gradually getting longer and the regular, self-administered massage and stretching sessions, I really don't believe I need to go to physical therapy. I’m wondering what kind of better treatment I could receive from it. I have no balance problem and my right ankle has now fully recovered its previous “range of motion”… Okay, you’re entitled to think that something is wrong with me and that I've become a tiny bit too cocky...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Coffee over computer

Yesterday morning I did the unthinkable, yet very likely deed; I spilled an entire cup of coffee over my laptop keyboard. After the initial shock, it took me 2 ½ second to react sanely and turn the machine over to let the liquid drip, get the hair dryer in action and pray to God, but the damage was done, the brew had already seeped into the device's vital organs. When the spill occurred, I was watching a video and almost instantly, the sound started to gurgle and become subterranean. Seconds later, the machine overdosed under the strong caffeine content and went into a profound coma. I then spent the best of two hours talking to a Dell support technician in New Delhi and little by little, after multiple false starts, my laptop slowly resurrected. Well, not quite yet as some keys remains a bit stubborn and needs some banging on them to work. I hope it'll get better; at any rate, watch these tips now before you spill soup, coffee or beer on your precious laptop!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Q & A

It’s amazing how Google and Wikipedia have made it so much easier to get answers to questions. Well, the system may not be totally perfect yet, but it’s a quantum leap compared to what was available say, even 5 or 10 years ago. If you have questions ranging from health, to car repairs, travel, or about someone, chances are you will get a lot closer to an answer, in less time than ever before and right from the comfort of your home!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Summer guests

For several days we’ve noticed a male and female house finch making frequent visits to our covered porch. They particularly seemed to enjoy an old wicker, fly-fisherman basket that decorates the house wall. It’s only yesterday that I caught the male stepping inside the square opening of the lid and entering his summer “apartment.” Since there is about a 10 inch drop between the lid and the bottom of that basket, we wonder how the little ones, if there are any, will be able to get away once they get their flying license? To be continued…

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Snowbird’s closing day

It’s a tradition; I usually never miss the final day at the ‘Bird, the last Utah’s ski resort to shut down. Generally, that day falls around the last holiday weekend of May; two years ago I was still making turns on June 16, but wasn't dedicated enough to ski all the way to July 4, that season's closing date! This year, as I’m nursing a ruptured Achilles tendon, I can only roam the mountain in spirit. This spring, with significantly less snow, only Little Cloud Chairlift is running. Then, the only way back down the valley is via the Tram. No top-to-bottom skiing or riding! This sunny Sunday is the 180th and ultimate day of lift-accessed skiing and riding at Snowbird; a relatively short season that still managed to span seven months from November to May.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Empty seats on jetBlue

I thought I’d never see an empty seat on a long haul jetBlue flight, and this is precisely what we discovered when we flew back from New York to Salt Lake. There were actually several empty seats, and a very welcome one between Evelyne and me. This flight is very popular and every time anyone we knew took that flight, it was packed.
Is it a sign that the low-cost carrier popularity has peaked or that the last Valentine Day’s fiasco when passengers were stuck in the planes for over 10 hours at Kennedy Airport deflated the company’s loyalty bubble? I guess the future will tell, but in the meantime, it’s perfectly possible to expect empty seats on jetBlue.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Home, sweet home

The more we live in it, the more we seem to appreciate our small home. The size is very manageable; the interior is coming along and will soon be as comfy and modern as one could wish. The bonus though is found where the deck and garden are located; it’s both private and charming. Later this summer, as my foot heals, I plan to complete a flagstone patio by the trees where our “swing-chairlift” will be put in place. Exciting, isn’t it?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

East vs. West

Returning in the East for a few days confirmed what we’ve always thought for over twenty years: Nothing beats the West. The Northeast region seems stagnant and depressed, and certainly not as modern as the West is.Did I mention the climate? In the East, as soon as the sun shows and starts warming things up more than normal, everything feels sticky and uncomfortable. This in fact is why we picked the West in the first place!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

GPS: Easy travel

In countless years of travel, our road trip from Syracuse to Ithaca, New York and then to Niagara Falls and back, was the first time when we didn’t have to open up a map and frantically check our directions. Except for the few instances when we second-guessed the verbal admonitions of the device or when we couldn’t pick a minute detail off the small screen, we never got lost. The only challenge is that someone must program the device for it to work. The ancient computer adage still hold true today: “Garbage in, garbage out” or better yet: “If nothing is programmed, we’re not going anywhere!”

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Falls, facts & figures

Formed 12,000 years ago by the Wisconsin Glacier, the Niagara Falls take their name from the indian "onguiaahra" meaning "a thundering noise". Height and water flow combine to make Niagara Falls so unique. One record that Niagara does hold is for electrical generation; more power is generated from its rushing waters than in any other place in the world. The Horseshoe Falls are 180 feet high and discharge 6 million cubic feet of water every minute(that is about a million bathtubs full of water every minute!) Over the years the Falls have attracted lots of crazy folks, starting with Blondin, a funambulist who performed numerous crossings during the mid 1800s, sometimes blindfolded, at others carrying a stove and fixing an omelet, or even carrying on his back his 148-pound manager. In 1901, Annie Taylor, a Michigan school teacher was the first person to travel over the Falls in a barrel. She emulated other stunt artists who challenged the cataracts in home-made barrel contraptions; while many made it alive, quite a few didn’t. More recently, a couple of individuals attempted to survive a plunge over Niagara Falls in a kayak and a jetski; both perished. One reported happy ending took place in 1960, when a boy, Roger Woodward, survived a descent over the Falls after a boating accident upstream. So if you plan any boating on top of the falls, watch out!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Back to Niagara Falls

The last time I came to the famous cataracts was on October 13, 1971; that’s quite a long time ago. My memories were quite vague and I am glad that we returned here today. Not quite satisfied to watch from a distance, we decided to literally get to the “bottom of things” and went for the “Maid of the Mist” cruise. As Evelyne said, we just paid the boat ride to get wet, but the experience was definitely worth the spraying. Our hotel room sat 14 stories above the Canadian Horseshoe Fall, the view was terrific and at night we all enjoyed a great pizza!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Chacha’s graduation

It was great to be back in Ithaca, New York for Charlotte’s graduation. We were really grateful that my rather fast recovery allowed us to jump in a plane and come over.
The ceremony has been very intimate and we were lucky to meet a lot of people, including faculty and support staff that worked closely with Chacha, other students and their parents including those who came all the way from Europe to cheer their “LLM” graduates. The first and last time we were in Cornell was in June of 2003. The place is as hard to navigate as ever, but again, the experience was priceless!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

No strings attached!

Last fall we attended a huge clothing and accessories sale at Rossignol, here in Park City. We bought a backpack that at $30, seemed like a good value. I used it a few times this winter when I volunteered at the Race Department, stuck my lunch and water bottle in its main compartment and that was it. Yesterday, as we were packing up for our New York trip, I asked Evelyne to find a padded pocket in that backpack for my car GPS. She located an area a bit more padded than the rest, opened the zipper, and pulled... a woman’s black string. Guess what, I suddenly had a lot of explaining to do!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Gizmos and me

Back in February 1975, at the ISPO Ski Show in Munich, Germany, a Japanese co-worker gave me one of the first small hand-held calculator available (the size of today's smart phones), with LED display if you are old enough to know it means. It had no memory but could extract square roots. I was so happy with my new possession that I couldn’t find enough things to figure out. Without a doubt, this wonderful little gadget was what made me fall in love with computers and all of our modern gizmos.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

38,000 Service

This is just a euphemism for my medical examination by Dr. Morgan, on Day 38 following my surgery. After waiting for more than one hour, my surgeon finally showed up. His first reaction was to look for my crutches… that weren’t there! He said that I was doing just fine, in fact better than most and said that after another two weeks I’d be out of the “boot” and can start physical therapy.

He also gave me a protocol to measure the exercises that I would undergo at that time and use it as a benchmark towards my actual progress. Last, but not least, he also told me to remove some of the huge wedges off my boot so I could walk on a more even keel.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Back behind the wheel

Do you remember the feeling when you first got your driver’s license? Well, this is almost what I experienced yesterday when I got back behind the wheel. What an excitement! I first drove to the nursery where Evelyne wanted to check out some plants, and then to the post office to pick up the mail. Later that day we drove again all the way to Salt Lake and shopped at a couple of places. All went well. My right leg and tendon perfectly held together and pressing on the brake and the gas pedal was not hard at all. This was Day 46 after the accident and Day 36 after the operation. Life is good…

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Just do the math…

In 1881 Germany's Emperor, William the First envisioned workers' retirement. In 1889, Bismarck began its implementation for those reaching the age of 70, which was later reduced to 65. At that time, the average life expectancy was only 47 years. With negative financial exposure, that move made perfect sense! In the USA, the Social Security Administration premiered its program in 1935, with a retirement age set a 65, while the average life expectancy had grown to about 67 years. Today, in the USA, our retirement age has advanced from 65 to 67 for the spoiled baby boomer generation, but their average life expectancy has leaped to 82.5 years.

Something is wrong with that picture. The number of folks over 60 years keeps on increasing. The United Nations says that by 2050 it is projected to reach two billion, about 22% of the world’s population. If the trend continues, most retirement systems in the U.S. and everywhere will go bust unless our politicians have the courage to make some tough decisions. Those are simple, but highly unpopular: We can keep on advancing the retirement age into a worker’s seventies, reduce the amount of benefits received, or significantly raise the contributions paid by the working population.
Just do the math…

Monday, May 7, 2007

French appetite for socialism…

…has changed a lot since the Mitterand’s years and the party's leaders don’t seem to get it. They badly need to move towards modern Social Democracy and start embracing market economy, but they’re still light years before grasping that. Can they merge with Bayrou’s new centrist movement? I don't believe so. Can their current leadership turn things around? Don't bet on it.

My view is that Ségolène Royal was the sacrificial lamb on the French socialist party’s altar in its last-ditch stand to test the results of the status quo. Today the socialists must recognize that their “market” is gone, or at least has become too small to afford them a political majority. Their future leadership will have to radically move towards the center.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Go Sarko, go!

Now that he’s won the French presidency, Nicolas Sarkozy will have to shake things up and demand from the French that they seriously start working. This means that for his presidency to be a success, the entire population will have to embrace a bundle of sacrifices. First, the French will have to work more, something they expect a bit, but also work harder for more years in their life, as the French retirement fund is as bankrupt as in any other western nation. In addition, the entire population will have to expect less coming from its central government as the overtaxed social safety net must be unloaded drastically.

In the meantime and for the next weeks, Nicolas Sarkozy will also have to tap into his “political capital” or election momentum to make sure a majority of his countrymen and women elect a legislative chamber that supports his program and prevent a socialist, along with a centrist majority, to play havoc with the reforms he wants to implement. The heavy workload he says he loves can’t just be brute force; it will also require a sensible strategy able to “sell” the French on a medicine they badly need.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Snow in May…

…keeps global warming away! I’m not so sure about that adage, but what we’re certain of is that for the third straight day we’re freezing. The heat is back up in the house and the only silver lining is that it makes my lack of mobility a bit more bearable. In fact, dreadful weather in May comes with the Rocky Mountain’s territory; just two years ago we hand-repainted our entire house amidst rain, sleet and frigid temperatures. Well, there’s always June.

Friday, May 4, 2007

European cousins

For a couple of days, we had the visit of our European cousins, Benoît and Stéphanie. Benoît and his wife Isabelle hail from Bordeaux, France, while Stéphanie lives in Haute-Savoie, not far from Geneva. Both are the children of my cousin Robert who also lives in Haute-Savoie. Maylis, Isabelle's sister was the fourth member of the team.

While the weather misbehaved (we had snow yesterday and this morning was very cold), having four young and energetic people in our small home meant a burst of energy, lively discussions and some great exchange of ideas that culminated last night when our son and his wife joined us for dinner.

This morning our four visitors left for Southern Utah, the Grand Canyon and (hopefully) for some warmer weather…

Thursday, May 3, 2007

French presidential debate

Like millions of French TV viewers, we watched the long, two-and-a-half hour oratory dual between the two presidential candidates. Here’s our take; Sarkozy had everything to lose, Royal everything to win. She was a bit nervous, he managed to keep his composure. For us, Americans, Nicolas Sarkozy’s program seems a better fit for France. Ségolène Royal plans are weak and bet on the come for their financing, namely the country’s economic rebound.

At one point, Ségolène lost her temper and Nicolas jumped all over it. The later, although relatively young, is already a political animal. Lawyer by education, he’s quite articulate, knows how to “address the jurors” and ably taps into each one of his opponent’s error. I think Sarkozy is both a manipulator and a demagogue. Royal is still “green” and lacks preparation for this kind of debate.

I can’t help but think that Hollande, her significant other, and the socialists who have nominated Royal, set her up to fail against such a ruthless adversary. Perhaps this exercise will be the prelude to another attempt five years from now? Sarkozy claims that he’s a workhorse and a doer; once elected, he will have to turn that claim into concrete results. This will have to be a departure from his five year government tenure that the French don't seem to appreciate. Things are easier said than done; time will tell…

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

30 years ago today…

…we were leaving France for the United States. There was a lot of crying and mixed emotions; we carried all of our possessions inside a large blue metal trunk, a suitcase and a couple of duffel bags. We still have the old trunk; it’s in the shed, inside we have wires, ropes, and a variety of straps. We arrived in Elmsford, New York late that afternoon; it was hot and humid. We stayed at the Ramada Inn for a week or so, until we found an apartment in nearby Whites Plains.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Timing’s everything

Last night, the first of two PBS installments on Mormonism focused on the religion’s founding and on Joseph Smith “contacts” with God, Jesus and the angel Moroni, to name just a few. No matter what anyone says, that religion’s credibility lies with Joseph Smith and his controversial character.

If the mainstream population was able to accept fables of that caliber at the turn of the 19th century, it would be extremely challenging to start a similar religion filled with weird ideas and naïve concepts in our modern western societies. Which begs to say that in religion, like in sports, timing is everything..