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?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sarko goes to Washington

Yesterday, the president of France was Washington’s host of honor and had a chance to address a joint meeting of Congress — a rare privilege for a foreign head of state. Mr. Sarkozy did his very best to say what his audience wanted to hear, which is the quintessential quality of an effective politician. Among other platitudes he expressed his love and admiration for a variety of American personalities ranging from Elvis Presley, Ernest Hemingway to Marilyn Monroe; I’m glad he didn’t add Cheney, Rumsfeld or Wolfowitz to the list. I would have perhaps understood if he had included his countryman-rocker-friend, Johnny Hallyday with his American-sounding name, but he was limited in time. At least he showed up as a man of passion and, for the day, counted as the most eligible bachelor in the U.S. Capital…

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Yesterday – the first Tuesday of November - was our traditional voting day. We had to elect 3 council members and give our opinion on two initiatives; one for state wide school vouchers and the other for a $15 million “walkability” bond within our little city. When I checked the results this morning they were not quite in line with my vote, but I got two right “answers” out of five possible. Not bad after all. When I think that I could have flunked the entire test…

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Things we like

As we were talking yesterday, Evelyne told me that she gets a quick out of not having to fill up her car for a long, long, time. Not that I love to pour gasoline into my tank, but for me, this same matter leaves me indifferent. My excitement comes from doing projects. These are mostly seasonal or spur of the moment. This summer it was laying flagstones in the garden, more recently it was working on our holiday card. Things we like the most are often bizarre, they may sound trivial to many and generally have no big material impact on our lives, but somehow they can produce great pleasures. At any rate, they are wonderful antidotes to our society of never ending consumption…

Monday, November 5, 2007

"Liquid" fondue

I’m not what you’d call a real cook. I certainly do barbecue, crush our breakfast bananas, officiate over raclette, and do cheese fondue from A to Z. Over the years, I have always managed to produce delectable fondues, with two notable exceptions. One was about a year ago, when our entire family was ready around the pot, and the two types of cheese we had tried to mix behaved like separatists and forced us to eat something else instead. The second was this past Saturday, when I suggested a fondue dinner for my spouse and me. I have neglected to mention that, over time, we’ve reduced the cheese portion from the traditional 200 gram down to 125 gram per person. Since the ratio between cheese and wine is critical, and that 10 centiliter of wine are to match a 200 gram serving of cheese, I had to run down to my office, punch in my calculator the 2 servings needed, namely 250 grams, to figure out the required quantity of wine. I came up with 12.5 centiliter. Since I tried to relate that quantity with the clear plastic measurer that we use, two times 12.5 made ¼ liter which precisely falls on one of the markings; for some odd reasons, I kept that round figure in my head and poured it into the fondue pot. Very quickly, I discovered the “fluidity” of the situation, tried to let the fondue boil a bit to evaporate some of the extra liquid, but even a dressed-up pig remains a pig, and at the end, I had to acknowledge my miscalculation. My spouse was a good trooper, didn’t give me any hard time and, by pulling together, we finished (I should say, drank) the entire dish. I promise that the next fondue will be more… solid!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Sacred passion…

When I was a little kid I loved to draw a lot, I mean cartoon characters, small objects and the like. At age ten, my creations even won me a contest that sent me flying through Europe for a week with other children my age. Later, when I was in school or helped in the family business, drawing was still my passion except that it was seen as in interference with work and therefore strongly discouraged and repressed whenever I got caught doing it. A few nights ago, I saw a TV show about the life of Charles Schulz, the creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip, and it made me reminisce about that fire that had burned in me for so long and still burns... Morale of the story: Always do what your inner self screams for you to do and ignore everyone else’s admonitions…

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween visitors

As tradition dictates, we got ready last night for another Halloween night. I now regret that, over the years, we haven’t bothered to keep a count of our colorful visitors - we only started last year - but based on our tally, last evening was a great success. Perhaps the transgenic, fat-laden candies that we had stocked for the occasion or the new lighting that we set up (we just added a new solar-powered light that spots our house number) vastly contributed to a high visitation. While we recorded 18 groups for a total of 62 individuals last year, we broke that record with 22 groups totaling a small crowd of 82 visitors. Some costumes were pretty good, although no nurse wearing fishnet stocking and other sexy paraphernalia showed up as the media had announced. All goblins, spiders and other bees that came to our door were for the most part polite and didn’t even smash our token pumpkin.