Monday, November 30, 2009

Swiss minaret

A large majority of Swiss don't seem to appreciate slender minarets clashing with the beauty of the Alps as almost 60% of the population rejected additional construction of these architectural accessories to mosques. They are saying loudly what the rest of Europe doesn't have to courage to articulate, namely that extreme religion is extremely bad for everyone and a secular society that works well doesn't have to go out of its way to roll out the red carpet to fanaticism.

Since religion isn't my cup of tea and I see absolutely no reason to promote this lingering form of superstition, I do agree that the irrationality of faith is a permanent time-bomb waiting for the next charismatic Jim Jones or Ayatollah Khomeini to explode out of the blue, into full-blown totalitarianism like the kind we're seeing these days in Iran. Further, snowy peaks and minarets remind me of Sarajevo and while this might be for the wrong circumstances, I see bad omen in the combination of Muslim spires and Alpine vistas. In closing, a word of advice to leaders that govern us: We need lots of efforts placed on re-inventing our economies, no more bricks and mortars for erecting minarets!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cuche and the margin of superiority

Yesterday, I couldn't resist but watch the Lake Louise downhill ski race and, once again, was struck by Didier Cuche's technical class and total mastery, in spite of his age, when he won that relatively easy downhill made very difficult by a combination of poor light and wind. It showed me once more that in skiing, in sports, in business and in life, in order to do well, it's always better to have some reserve and not solely operate on the edge of possibility and by counting too much on Lady Luck's largesse. Through the entire course, Cuche stayed in perfect control and seemed to have a constant amount of reserve left all the way to the finish line. In fact, it shows that serious training, deep experience and a cool head will always prevail – day in, day out – and this superb athlete gave us yesterday a beautiful lesson that we skiers, can confidently take to the slopes and that all others can apply into their lives.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

“High Peak” Dispensary

Park City has always been a renegade town that couldn't quite ever live within the tight boundaries of Mormon ethics. After its last houses of ill repute were closed and its gambling hall reluctantly shut down in the late 50's, Park City rebounded with a nascent ski business and its out-of-control parties like the Beconta Freestyle Cup in the early 70's. In the 80's Wasatch Brewery went through the hoops of the Beehive State's Liquor Commission and began operations on top of Main Street.

This year saw the beginning of High West Distillery on the opposite side of old town, and if a whiskey maker wasn't enough to quench the thirst of our 8,000 full-time residents, another one is rumored to jump in the fray pretty soon. So today, what's missing to complete Park City ideal picture? I know what is; after Breckenridge voters legalized the use of pot earlier this month, our little town doesn't simply needs to follow into their footsteps, but also has a moral responsibility to provide good medicinal supplies to its suffering Californian clientele that, after all, constitutes its primary source of business.

That's right, Park City now needs its own dispensary, not for healthy folks like you and I, but for these countless “medical cannabis patients” that populate the Golden State. I already have a name to suggest for that new storefront: “High Peak Dispensary” and all we need now is seat down with the State of Utah officials to find common ground and make sure that all the sick Californians can continue to get their medicine while carving turns or shredding our famous Utah powder. Nothing outlandish, just some grass and an outpouring of compassion!

Friday, November 27, 2009

A different breed of consultant

I you think a consultant is likely to “think out of the box” you might be expecting too much! In the vast majority of cases, whether these hired guns are great or mediocre, affordable or quite expensive, they'll tell you things you want to hear and that are solidly anchored in previous practices and proven outcomes. They generally won't take a chance and as a result, very seldom innovate. Sure, they'll assure their clients that they are providing them with leading-edge counsel and solutions but in fact they'll never take a chance or hardly ever question the path followed by the majority.

Obviously, this may suffice for most assignments that are requiring a simple recipe or a routine, step-by-step implementation plan. It won't work too well when serious problems have to be confronted head-on, complex developments or never-before seen situations must be handled and innovative solution need to be made available. This explains why, in most instances, few clients are fully satisfied with the consulting services they purchase. In these specific instances two heads might often prove better than one, and – as a simple safety measure – asking two experts instead of just one might be the most productive path to problem-solving.

While one is expected to deliver a “how-to” or a “standard” solution, the other is more likely to creatively rethink the whole process and find some effective ideas to extract the client out of a logjam. The beauty of “out of the box” consulting though is that it can - and probably should - be used when everything else fails or comes short of expectations. In that case, the small additional investment should be seen as extra insurance, as it provides an alternative approach and a built-in second opinion that will go a long way in validating or transforming the prescribed solution...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Egg, sperm and Thanksgiving

I usually like to say something on this special day, but don't feel like writing platitudes or expressing thoughts that are common place. Yet, I believe that this American Holiday is quite unique and serves a great purpose in making us think what we ought to be thankful for. I've always thought it was a wonderful thing, just to be alive and to have “made it” so far into the world. Not just me and my family, but everyone who is breathing at this moment, on our wonderful planet.

I often think, however, that for me to put these words on paper, my parents had to couple at precisely the perfect time for that aggressive little sperm to fertilize the one possible egg. I've read that the odds for this to happen are 3 million to one and that's only the tip of the iceberg, because the same chain of event had to happen to all my forebears. That makes me dizzy to think about this, especially when I also realize that from the turn of the 13th century until today, we each have, mathematically speaking, approximately two and a half million direct ancestors! Of course, that's only the egg and sperm portion of the miracle. Today, I'm very thankful for thinking that far and feeling so lucky!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Slip and fall

Walking is a very tame sport, right? Looks like it, at least on the “surface...” Two days ago, as our afternoon stroll was coming to its end and as we had almost dodged all the slippery patches of the roadway, I suddenly lost it as I wasn't properly paying attention. I slipped and couldn't do anything but fall, as elegantly as a 165 pound... elephant! The problem was that Evelyne and I were walking arm in arm and she got locked into me and had not other option than following me down onto the icy pavement. I just had hit a patch of black ice and kaboom!

We were both licking our wounds after we got back up; not a pretty sight. The act of falling is always humiliating and is one of these rare situations where the figurative meets the literal meaning. All my landing mass had been totally absorbed by my right little finger, while my better half fell on her right shoulder that has been bothering her for a long time. After a painful afternoon and evening we gradually felt better and realized, once more, that falling is never a good option and that it's not necessary to be perched on a mountain bike or sliding on boards to “feel the pain.” We learned that we need to be even more careful when we walk around our little neighborhood. We might say, “slip and learn!”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Running traction

Yesterday morning was the second snow day of the season, with enough snow left on the roads for traction between running shoes and ground to become significant. For about 30 years, I've been a Nike user, except for two when I tried Adidas. Since Nike fits my narrow foot a little bit better I returned to the American brand.
This time, the last two pairs of shoes I've used have prematurely worn out in the toe area, where the critical “quick” occurs and with these two bold areas, the result is not pleasant on snowy road as the impulse is somewhat lagging. This is odd; usually the heel – which I'd call “brake” – wears out much, much faster than the toe - the “accelerator.” So yesterday morning I got a full workout while running. I probably lost a third of my efficiency, especially on the steep and that made for a healthy, strenuous exercise. That's it, my next pair will again be Adidas; sorry Nike but you've lost traction with me!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Jesus and the environment

Yesterday was a snowy day, and since I had nothing better to do, I notice that Jesus has just logged into Skype. I called and as always got an audio-only response.
Jesus: Hi! Is it you Go11? I see you've got snow coming to Park City... 
Go11: Right, but we're not expecting much; how have you been?
Jesus: Not too busy; it's the off-season there too. What's on your mind?
Go11: The Copenhagen summit on the environment. Do you really buy this global warming trend?
Jesus: You bet; with you and the Chinese spewing so much bad staff into the upper atmosphere, what else can you expect?
Go11: Okay, could you slow it down? I'd still want to ski for a few more seasons...
Jesus: When I see a Prius inside your garage, maybe we'll have a constructive conversation.
Go11: I know, I'm a bit of a procrastinator, but on the whole, I'm pretty good. I recycle, compost, grow my own salads, don't water my lawn and have installed new furnaces this spring...
Jesus: You should have gone geothermal!
Go11: Right, but it was three times the cost and the tax-credits were not really worth it...
Jesus: Never heard something as dumb as that. Your tax breaks more valuable than the environment!
Go11: Well your dad started it all when he said to Adam and Eve “grow and multiply,” we're now six and a half billion on this planet!
Jesus: My dad never quite said that, besides he warned that man should be “good steward to the earth” and if the first couple had deciphered the fine print on the other side of the warning label, you know the one that says "illegal to remove," it clearly stated “maximum occupancy: 2 billion.” I realize that Adam and Eve couldn't read, but your grand-parents were able to. You guys are a bunch of cry-babies!
Go11: Alright, don't get mad; how can we fix that?
Jesus: Raise more predators to get rid of the excess population, re-introduce tigers and lions in big city streets, pour tons of sharks and alligators around Malibu, St. Tropez and the other beach resorts and let pumas and grizzlies roam bars, shops and ski runs in your mountain ski towns. You'll see a dent in population really fast!
Go11: I see what you mean, but that's not quite "PC" and it's real hard to implement. Can't you intervene, say in a more godly way?
Jesus: I've tried the tsunami thing, but the earth internal pipes have become so corroded that the whole thing hit people that didn't deserve it and I won't try it again, at least for a moment. Besides, I'm done with miracles; It's time for you to clean up your own mess!
Go11: Thanks for being so helpful, Jesus!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Where to house the Guantanamo detainees...

In order to fulfill Barack Obama's promise to shut down “Gitmo” by the end of the year, we must find a place to house the prisoners. Obviously, no one want this guys with their orange outfits in their backyards, and as the debate goes on, nothing gets done. Always eager to come up with a solution for every earthly problem, I found one. We'll bring them to the Rocky Mountains and house them in those big mansions that seat empty for most of the year and that realtors seem totally unable to sell. After years away from the rugged Afghanistan countryside, they'll be finally back in the kind of mountains they love and away from the huge, black cockroaches that can be seen all over the chain-link fences.

Here, they'll finally positively participate into our community; we'll give them a crash course in sliding up an down the mountains and use them as lifties during the day and, to literally channel and cool their “moudjahidin ” drive, we'll ask them make snow in the middle of the night. Instead of costing the taxpayers between $400,000 to $520,000 each, these tough guys would finally earn their keep, be given brooms and snow shovels instead of AK-47 to work on maintenance all year round. They would also receive some new atire, used one-piece suits by Bogner, Descente or Spyder - please, no dayglow patches! - for winter, khaki shorts and blue golf shirts the rest of year . Of course, when they'll hear about my idea, every ski resort from Aspen to Zermatt will wants its share of the 226 inmates left in Cuba, but Park City will take most of them; given the way this season is shaping up, we could use the publicity!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chasing a bad idea or turning around?

Sometime we stick with some ideas or actions because we're afraid we might look bad if we gave up. That can happen in our professional or personal life. In all cases it generally ends up being a bad calculation. Why? Simply because we are too dogmatic, don't have the courage to make a u-turn, flip-flop or do something we fear might hurt our “image.” Concerns about self-image should never an overriding priority when the current strategy simply doesn't add up. We perhaps get so close to the issue that we become infatuated with it, but that's no excuse.

Now if we project this concept into governmental issues in general and to the war in Afghanistan in particular, a smart majority is convinced that we have no business there, that Afghans hate us and that Karzai is not worth fighting for. Yet, we are staying and even talking about adding more troops on the ground. The argument is that America would “look bad” if it left now. My counter argument is that it is an opportunity to show that we have guts, we've learned from history (Vietnam) and must cut our losses now. That's what we need to do. No more, no less, but it will take a really big man to muster the awesome courage required to turn things around...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Economic books, weak prescriptions

I just finished an other “eco-financial” book about the current crisis and what to do about it (Past Due by Peter S. Goodman.) Well sorry to bring this, but the book with its good summary of what went wrong falls far too short of prescribing a convincing cure. I have said parts of this before, but we can only get out of this crisis by pressing the “innovation pedal” to the metal and making it a national, what am I saying, a global priority.

We will have to survive on far less and therefore introduce some kind of novel alchemy. Making energy out of almost nothing, using available space better, learning faster, creating new ways to cure, all this by changing our quantitative paradigm. This world is bulging at the seams, overcrowded with humans. Our economic model should no longer rely on expending numbers but must growth in quality and no longer in numbers.

I didn't even mentioned that we'll need to get used to much thinner incomes (remember, fellows in India don't earn as much as us and we'll have to share some...) and finally we must embark into bringing up to speed nations that are culturally backward, that means that still cling to hurtful practices (polygamy, too many births, spiritual “stiffness” and killing humans as a last resort.) Call that a civil service in which well-off citizens would go out and spell the gospel about what it will take to save the planet. If we look at missionary zeal in that scope, we might end up saving countless souls too, but in a much more “here and now” fashion...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

When is a good time to start a business?

Early this month, I wrote about a subject that is so close to my heart that, probably “blinded by the light,” I missed the whole point about it. Serendipity came to my rescue and presented me with a magazine article in Fast Company that hit the nail on its head by answering simply and appropriately to my life long question about the proper timing of starting a company: “When you have a good idea;” what a concept! Just meaning that timing doesn't really matter as long as you have a gem of an idea.

All my life, I've been a frustrated entrepreneur with only two or three good ideas that I've let pass and rot away simply because I had a plush job at the time and didn't want to bother giving up the comforts that position afforded me. Today, and since I have technically been “retired” I have been looking for this magical idea, like a single individual looking for a romantic soul mate that keeps on eluding him or her. Today I finally know; I first need the idea, the rest will be a piece of cake. Feels to me like I may brainstorm like crazy to find that pristine concept after all...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mourning the loss of a “Facebook friend..."

As of this morning, I count 153 Facebook friends, but have just found out that an early one of them is now missing. A bit to my surprise, he had joined my exclusive group and had stayed there for a few months before defecting to cyber-nowhere. I'll miss him, because I knew that guy for 35 years, he had over the years been my both my boss and my business associate, we had traveled in Europe and Asia together and at times were quite close.

He was larger than life, both literally and figuratively and I was happy to have him as a FB friend because he helped me cross that all important threshold of 100 friends and could have contributed to my reaching the 200 mark, but it looks that I 'll be short of one buddy for attaining that critical level and his absence will somehow delay the process. Being “dumped” is definitely not a good feeling; what went wrong? Did he not mean it and press the wrong button? Didn't he like one of my posts or finally had he got second thoughts about that electronic relationship?

I really have no idea and assume that famous experts like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates don't know either. While inconsolable, I'll have to make do with his absence and will conduct a daily roll-call so a defection like this never happens again!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Setting the “daily mood”

I generally feel upbeat when I get up in the morning; first I'm definitely one of those “morning persons” who can do more things and do them better in the early hours of the day. Still my days can vary a great deal depending on what type of information first percolates inside my brain. Obviously, I need to be able to extract myself out of bed, realize that I'm still alive and that my limbs remember how to carry me around. If there is no physical problems with me and the rest of my family, I already feel exalted. Then if the weather suits me (sunshine most of the year, rain when we badly need it, deep snow fall overnight) it's another good omen.

If I have specific plans for the day and activities that I look forward to, it gives me a valid incentive to get even more excited, if the stock market indicators appear to be going in a direction that suits me, here's another plus, if everything around the house seems to be working fine, from the refrigerator to the hot water and all the way to the internet service, I do appreciate it too. That's where a simplified life style has a huge impact on my happiness, because with less toys available, there is less chance of having one of them break down and spoil the day. It's funny, but all the news whether local, national or international don't affect me that much; it's true that they generally are so negative that I have made a habit to ignore them systematically. Oh yes, my early morning coffee remains the critical detonator that ignites this wonderful synergy!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Education, experience and common sense

We all look to so-called “experts” in trying to understand our surroundings, shape our future, make tough decisions and feel secure that we're doing the best for ourselves and the people we love. Now what happens when these models fail to deliver or even mislead us? The poster-child for that is our former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan who gave a renewed meaning to the expression “the emperor has no clothes...” We're pretty angry and even more cynical about the world around us when we run into these false prophets.

The challenge is that it takes a good number of ingredients along with the right distributions of key attribute to produce a reliable expert. The first one that comes to mind is education; sure Harvard sounds more impressive than an unknown state university, but is no guarantee that a graduate at one school will be significantly better than the other. Same thing with the degree and we can go on and on... Experience falls in a similar category. It's not so much the number of years than the quality of the experience that will make a difference. Diversity of situations, crisis resolution and ability to make many decisions often, also weighs in the balance.

Finally, stands my favorite, good old common sense that is not learned so much in school than at home and often is a genetic trait. Without it, school, degrees and experience don't mean much. Oh yes, there's another ingredient that I forgot and that may be the frosting on the cake; it's called luck and is a handy filler that will never fail to embellish the final product!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cause and symptom

Our high-paced life and need for quick fixes invariably focuses us on the symptom instead of looking for the cause. It's often true that it's a lot easier to spot a symptom and patch it up than spend sufficient time to isolate the real reason behind a problem and round up strategies and solutions to address its root cause. This means more work in the immediate term, but a perhaps lasting solution for the long term.

The bottom line is that when something wrong surfaces, we need to place it in a proper context, make sure it's standing on its own or if it happens to be just the tip of some huge iceberg, we need to carefully examine its immersed portion; it's probably what deserves all the attention. Issues are never what they appear to be and solutions can take roads that no one expected!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The art of perfecting

Life presents us with a multitude of choices and experience. Depending on how we navigate our own existence, we respond to events or situations with our own style and our own habits. Some folks choose indifference; they don't seem to get annoyed by any of the ripples that surround them. Some go crazy but don't necessarily take action as they internalize the negative elements, some respond unpredictably and take unreasonable actions and finally – a small minority, I assume – always draw a useful lesson and take positive steps.

I happen to think the latter approach it's a good one, and would like to add it to my personal habits. In summary, when something happen, I will endeavor to ask myself: How can I best respond to that? What can I learn from this event? How can I incorporate this experience into my life from now on? I'm sure you get the idea. Like many habits in life, this type of response almost require no effort but can pave the way to a much better life for us and for the people we come in contact with. I plan to do my very best to stick to that type of response...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Stats and Friday the 13th

I don't know about you, but I personally couldn't care less about Friday the 13th. Yet, for many superstitious souls that combination of day and date means either good or bad luck. To me, it's just like another day and I can only tell you that it will occurs at least once, but at most three times a year.

Another interesting rule of thumb is that the 13th day of any month will fall on a Friday as long as that month begins on a Sunday. In 2009 this applies to the months of February, March, and November; the good news is that, after today, we'll be done and the entire system should be flushed of anything extremely bad (or great) for the rest of this year. For those of you that are already worried about the next time we'll get three Friday the 13th, don't worry, it won't be until 2012. I don't know why some individuals consider that combination lucky, but can tell you why most think the contrary; it's simply an overlap of two old superstitions: One that thirteen is an unlucky number and another that Friday is an unlucky day.

While in numerology, the number twelve is considered a “perfect” number, (twelve months of the year, twelve signs of the zodiac, twelve hours of the clock, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve gods of Olympus, etc.,) thirteen is viewed as being odd, irregular and transgressing this completeness. There is also a superstition, thought by some to derive from the Last Supper or a Norse myth, that having thirteen people seated at a table will result in the death of one of the participants.

As for Friday, it's been considered unlucky since the Canterbury Tales, and many occupations have regarded that day as the wrong time to undertake new projects or even travel. Black Friday has been associated with stock market crashes and other disasters since the 1800s and finally, Friday's terrible reputation was sealed the day Jesus was crucified. Now, good luck if you can make sense of all this silly data...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Letter to President Obama

Yesterday was Veterans' Day and for the first time, I wrote Barack Obama a letter. Here it is...

Dear Mr. President,

I voted for you because I admired your intellect, your selflessness and because I trusted you.
I'm writing to you today because I'm concerned about what you'll decide about Afghanistan in the next days or weeks.
I believe that the United States went there after 9/11, botched up its work and distracted itself in invading Iraq for no valid reason. Today, Osama bin Laden is probably dead and perceptive people know that 9/11 happened because of the way America never took the plight of the Palestinian people seriously enough.
So the Jihad against our country will only be silenced if we take care of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This has nothing to do with Afghanistan. Its population wants us out and Karzai is a brigand. We have no business in being there.

This is what you must feel deep inside, but I realize that you must are under intense pressure from the military, your defense secretary and Mrs. Clinton to keep the war going. You've got to stand up to them and say no. You need to listen to your guts and your sense of pragmatism.
You see, Mr. President, I was born in the French Alps from a very modest, should I say poor parents. I never went to college education but came to America in 1977 with my dear wife, our two suitcases and tons of common sense. We worked hard, were very thoughtful, had a good share of luck and did very well for ourselves. Not by doing what folks on Wall Street do in stepping over others but by working assiduously, intelligently and being "street-smart."

Now, having said, let me come to the most important point of this letter. Using the same “street-smart” qualities you have, project yourself ten or twenty years down the road and try to see what would happen to Afghanistan whether we were to pull out today or carry on for five more years with 50,000 or even 100,000 more troops. The place would be the same mess, because it will take at least three generations to change the culture of that country if the nefarious influence of religion could ever be neutralized.

So, with that in mind, why prolong the torture and continue the exercise if it's indeed for naughts. Our country needs all the help it can get and the top priorities are waiting right here, at home.
Mr. President, with all due respect, be courageous, say no to the military-industrial complex and pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan now! You are to smart and too important to America to get bogged down into this fruitless conflict!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A two-state “solution” will never work!

It's been my long-held opinion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the reason why we're stuck in Afghanistan. I also think that a “two-state solution” is a pipe-dream and a product of political compromise that will never work economically and politically if we consider that the 11 million inhabitants of the region are equally split between Jews and Arabs, but that the former enjoy 80% of the land and a per capita GDP ten times greater than the latter.

It's time for Israel to give up its status of “Jewish State, ” become inclusive and emancipate its entire Arab population including its Palestinian enclaves and let the refugees return. Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't want it and instead wants to buy time, hoping among other things that Obama will only be a one-term president. Yet, a two-state solution won't happen if we don't return to the 1967 borders and maintain interfaith access to Jerusalem. The world has already enough serious problem without tolerating that stalemate and it's time for our leadership to muster enough courage to tell the Israeli government what to do.

No political pundit and head of government ever thought that the Berlin Wall would fall; it's time to change our paradigm about the middle-east and embrace a secular one-state solution integrating both Israelis and Palestinians. What happened in Germany shows that “Gated Communities” never work and are a thing of the past in this global age. If you disagree with that view, let's discuss it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fiat & Chrysler: Another Italian miracle?

No one wanted to tackle Chrysler and the only car manufacturer that did was the brand no one wants: Fiat. When the Italian brand-acronym that stands for “Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino” left the American market it was essentially better known for “Fix it again Tony.” Today, it has raised the bar to unprecedented heights by setting totally unrealistic goals for the number three domestic brand it now controls. Mercedes tried and it failed and now Fiat wants to use Chrysler as a Trojan horse to sell its Fiat 500 to Americans...

Am I the one delusional or what? The only intelligent point made by Sergio Marchionne, Fiat's megalomaniac CEO was to recognize that the only brand with some equity in that new group is Jeep, but that's likely to be an asset he sells down the road to a Tata in order to shore up his company finances. Aside from that, even including a typical Italian miracle, with saints, Pope and processions, I bet ten to one this marriage is doomed. Okay, I'll admit, I've been wrong before!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Welcome to Poop City

Responsible dog owners should use dog poop bags, right? That would seem to be the least they should do. We run in the morning along McLeod Creek, a pristine little trail, neatly asphalted and bordered with willow trees. As we've been for several years into a brand new millennium, you'd think that people who live in Park City and walk their dogs along that path would be civilized enough to pick up after their pooch; no, too many still don't and make sure their dogs leave their dropping right in the middle of the path.

You would perhaps think that these same selfish folks would feel a tiny bit guilty and muster the strength to kick the poop sideways, out of plain view. Nope, they'd never bend over to pick up a twig and do the job or, God forbid, kick the pile with their own shoes! They'd rather have you and me step smack in the middle of it! I'm not finished; among the exceptional individuals who walk their dogs equipped with poop bags, some “conveniently” drop them to the side, presumably to pick them up on their way back, but guess what?

Many often “forget” the little, white wrapper; put this on the account of absent-mindedness... Some are of the “saving” type and may be betting on canine feces taking off as our dollar nosedives. These speculators pile them up behind a rock at the corner of Holiday Ranch Loop Road and we've got another daily eyesore to contend with. I'm telling you, now that it has built its own canine park, Park City is irreversibly gone to the dogs!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Three-wheel wheelbarrow ride

Risk taking has always attracted me and it can be traced back to my very early years. One of my first high-stake adventure happened when I was about five years old and was playing around my parents home in the French Alps. My dad had a 3-wheel wheelbarrow, an unusual contraption that could only be found in Haute-Savoie, I guess. That unique cart, used mostly to carry manure, was parked behind the house and next to a steep slope that dropped more than 200 feet below to “La Dranse” the local torrent.

While still a tiny tot, I managed to climb into the cab and began to roll the front wheel with my two hands. Slowly, I managed to maneuver the heavy wheelbarrow so it pointed straight into the slope and before long, it barreled down like a rocket with me as its unique passenger. The first part of the slope was about 20 degrees followed by a short, flatter ledge before plunging again into a 30 degree slope that generated a high rate of speed close to actual flight.

Amazingly, I managed to hang on during the ride, hopefully enjoying the acceleration until the steep section transitioned with the much portion near the riverbed. The wheelbarrow hit the transition with great force and I flew up in the air before landing in the meadow while my ride continued and came to a stop a few yards short of the water.

I then managed to crawl half the way up the steep hill, because one of my knees was hurting badly, and was met by my 12 year old brother who after seeing both the wheelbarrow and his younger sibling missing, ran almost all the way down, picked me up and carried me back up the best he could until he was met by my panicked parents who had just figured out the situation. I had enough strength and audacity left though to tell them that if they had put that terrible wheelbarrow away, I wouldn't have been hurt. I obviously survived the ordeal to write this blog, only had a sprain knee but a lifelong appreciation for high speed and for becoming an adrenaline junkie. Even today, I still wonder why I never mentioned this remarkable performance on any of my résumés!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Want vs. need

Since I broke my mountain bike bell wen I fell, I had to replace it and yesterday morning went out to get a brand new one before our daily outing. I found a fancy yellow and pink bell that would not have been my first choice, but was among the few left-overs the store still had from its summer season. When I returned and dangled the brand new accessory in front of her eyes, my wife asked me if I had also bought one for her own bike. I said no, you don't NEED one.

Since, I'm always ahead, I'm the trailblazer and the only one who needs to warn other bikers or hikers of our impending arrival, before a blind corner or when we're in the woods. She was utterly disappointed and told me that she had – just the day before – requested a bell too for her own bike. She agreed that she didn't particularly NEED it, but she WANTED it, and me – the macho and overly pragmatic husband – had just denied her that basic wish under the guise that she didn't need it. That same day, I went to Jans to grab another copy of that all-important warning device. Now, I love that bell's contrasting color and the crystalline sound it makes; whenever I'll hear it, I'll remember forever the fundamental difference that exists between want and... need!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mountain bike: Don't fall!

Yesterday, I took my first spill of the year while mountain biking. Thanks god, I wasn't riding too fast but was also not paying enough attention to the turn I was in the middle of. Suddenly my rear wheel skidded and I went head over heels into the providential sagebrush that surrounded us. A few minor scratches and a broken bike bell were the only unpleasant results from that flight over the handlebar causing a brush with the native vegetation. In retrospect, I felt extremely lucky that no sharp rocks where hidden in the scrub; had that been the case, there would have been plenty of blood gushing out to color the incident.

It's also quite possible that if I had not been using pedal clips, I might have altogether avoided the fall; an important safety feature sacrificed on the altar of performance? Something to seriously ponder, when at my age, falling from a mountain bike is never a good option...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

French extremism

For the most part, the french people I know are not too much into the internet. They don't create much, most just forward jokes, slide-shows or video via email, often with little or no comments. Many of the pieces that circulate are downright racists and are aimed at the French Muslim community and the undocumented folks that have ended up living in France.

They certainly are an expression of free speech, are often sent with a “tongue and cheek” tone, but are filled with so many innuendos, so much unfounded information and other bias that they won't help France deal with the situation and instead, will just keep on tearing the social fabric of the nation apart. They are toxic and I have yet to tell these people, some of whom are my friends, to stop sending those to me and find more constructive ways to deal with their frustrations and their fears...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Park City just voted with its heart...

...Certainly not with its head, as it should have in these uncertain economic times, but the people have spoken and all we can do now is hope that our current mayor presides over a term that's good for the community and that the two city council members can show what they really have under the “hood.” Now, this once more begs the question as to whether government is able or not to affect the economy, whether it's a the local or the national level? This time, my response is pretty clear: I hope not!

Starting a new business

For the past few days, I've been thinking on an idea a friend of mine shared with me in order to start a business together. Like any new business idea worth considering, it's original, has some potential and could be fun to tackle. The process of researching around it has re-awakened a subject that's always been dear to my heart but that I've never really could bring into my life. Most definitely because I lacked the right idea or that I was too far ahead of my time when I was tempted to make a move.

This brings me to say that we need to have a profound faith in an idea before investing one's personal time, energy and money. The concept has to be able to solve or improve something in appreciable ways. It should also be unique, new, original and it chances of success should be real, even if they represent a 50-50 wager. The entire project ought also to be very exciting to sustain all the work, doubt, disillusions and other pesky problems that will not fail to pop up along the way. Most importantly though, its first result or response at the time it's introduce should be a resounding success.

There isn't any room for early, dismal failures and for single or multiple “resurrections” with novel ideas. Last, but not least, the concept must be timely; as Jean-Claude Killy's famous Rolex ad said, “in sports like in business, timing's everything...” If all these ingredient are present, it doesn't really matter what the economic mood is at the moment and this might be a sufficient indication that it's time to jump in!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Off the record: Karzai and Obama

Here's what really happened yesterday; at any rate this is what should have happened...

Obama: Hello, Mr Karzai, I wanted to go on record to congratulate you on your second term...
Karzai: Thank you very much Mr President, but what do you mean “on record?”
Obama: Well, Hamid, that means that I'm now going to tell you a few things “off the record.”
Karzai: ? Silence
Obama: For the past five years, you haven't done anything but lined up your pockets and those of your entire family and I seriously hope that these next five years will be vastly different...
Karzai: It was really hard Mr Obama, none of the institutions I set up worked as they should have; it takes time, Afghanistan is not America, you know.
Obama: That I certainly know, but where I fault you is for not trying hard enough; instead of royally sporting your coat and your smart hat, you should have rolled up your sleeves, said no to pocketing bribes and refrain from siphoning most of our aid money for your own personal needs. You also have created a power vacuum for the Talibans to return with a vengeance and if that wasn't enough you had the guts to rig this last election so you'd enjoy another five years of absolute power...
Karzai: I beg your pardon, but the Talibans are a force to be reckoned with and their return is truly Pakistan's fault...
Obama: I don't care if it were Monaco's fault, you dropped the ball Hamid, and let me just tell you that if you don't clean up your act very soon you'll be left alone to deal with the Talibans and their thugs.
Karzai: What do you mean?
Obama: I mean that we're going to leave Afghanistan if you don't show resolve and start working on bringing order and rule of law to your country; as simple as that. I'm tired of seeing our young men and women die while you twiddle your thumbs and could certainly use the billions we're pouring into your country at home. Now, I won't give you specific goals, but if things haven't changed dramatically my the end of May, we're out of there! Got it? Have a good day, Mr Karzai!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Will the snow-gods be offended?

The latest installment in my home-improvement program is something I've been considering for a long time. It's a gauge, actually a measuring stick that will allow me every morning, after a new snowfall, to measure the precipitation and see the accumulated depth in real time instead of having to guess or exaggerate. This is a rather elaborate measuring tool that combine both low and high technology. Low tech, because I recycled a broken tape measure for the reading portion and high tech, because I used a television antenna stem for the stick. Now, the problematic part; the device can measure up to 6 foot of snow, which is unheard of in my backyard. I'm a bit concerned that I might get jinxed because of my inflated expectations and cause a freeze on snowfalls for the entire season. We'll see, but my intentions are good so I'll keep my fingers crossed!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween: A downtrend...

It's always with great anticipation that we get ready for Halloween night. While some neighbors conspicuously make sure they're not home or out of town for the occasion, we always make a point to welcome all “trick or treaters.” This year we went so far as to proposing a choice of treats between a (processed) Cliff Bar and a (natural) banana. I also made the extra effort of sporting my trademark béret and at 6:56 pm the first group showed up. To our dismay, this year Halloween turnout was the lowest since we've lived in our new neighborhood and since we began to take records. This in spite of falling on a Saturday night when all parents had plenty of time to take their little ones out into the streets. At 9:00 pm, the visits stopped, we turned off all the lights, set aside the excess goodies and called it an evening. Let's just hope we'll see a rebound in 2010, along with the economy!

Too good to be true?

Our neighbors across the street are out of town, presumably on vacation. For the past few days, their youngest son who is about 19 has been busy filling their front yard with lumber that has been cut with the clear intent to turn it into firewood. My wife and I were a bit envious in watching the fuel accumulate on the lawn and were thinking “what a pleasant surprise the parents will have when they return from vacation; a ten-year supply of great firewood, their son's a real sweetheart!”

This afternoon, as we left for our walk, we talked to the apparently tireless young man and his buddy and congratulated him on how kind he was to work so hard at gathering all that timber for his parents' fireplace. He said they had cut these standing dead trees in the nearby Uintas mountains, 45 minutes away. Yes, it sure was a lot of hard work, but he and his friend were going to make some good money in selling everything... for their own account. So much for another random act of kindness...