Monday, May 31, 2010

Tapping top minds to stop BP's leak...

America is the universal center of invention and the starting point for the best ideas, yet I'm appalled that no one in high places whether in government or in the oil industry, hasn't called yet for bright minds in this country and the rest of the world for that matter, to come up with creative solutions capable of stopping the devastating oil leak that so far BP has been woefully unable to contain.

There should be tons of candidates for the assignment, from college students, engineers, scientists, lone inventors or even kids. If a series of prizes were put on the table, from a trip in one of the last NASA shuttle mission, to free air travel for a lifetime, $200 millions cash or even a weekend with George Clooney or Angelina Jolie, we might be able to get our very best minds working at the speed of sound, and if not, I'll concede that we have become a country filled with brain-dead citizens and we're done for.

I've conducted a few quick searches on the internet and particularly on Youtube that have led me to discover an impressive number of home-brewed solutions that range from the utterly crude to the intellectually sublime. To me, my meager harvest would pale in comparison to the flood of fantastic as well as workable ideas we'd get if we set up a worthwhile contest to plug up that horrible man-made mess. Any candidate?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A new day is a blank slate...

I'm a forgetful individual and all the things of the past don't seem to bear on me as much as they do on most people. I'm quite grateful for that and this is why, when I wake up to a new day, more often than not I see it as a brand new opportunity
to start fresh or reconsider whatever I feel my life should be or become. This (perhaps) immature view of the world serves me well and is a good cleanser that works wonder on cynicism, negative attitude and stinky status-quo. Call it a rebirth of sort. And on this beautiful morning, as I look at all the natural beauty coming through my office window, I really feel like “starting over...”

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pursuing a priority

We all have different priorities at different times. Some are more pleasant than others and therefore much easier to focus on and bring to a positive term. Some can have a huge impact into our lives while many are just trivial and barely worth mentioning. Some can also be handled expeditiously while the execution of others seems to take forever. Finally, these important objectives we set may sometimes appear totally vain or gratuitous.

Yet, whatever the reasons, a priority should remain a priority and the way we approach it should be disciplined and systematic to eventually address it once and for all. I've been wrestling with one single priority for more than a year, with tons of ups and downs, spurs of enthusiasm, waves of disappointments, while expanding a great deal of attention and energy, unfortunately without any positive result to show for all that effort. So what's the offshoot of all this work? This priority remains in my book as my number one and I remain confident that I will make it happen sooner than later. It has become my largest focal point and is now mobilizing all of my attention. I'm re-channeling my frustration into it and turning it into that daring bet and fierce peak to climb as another way to challenge myself...

Friday, May 28, 2010

The “lumbagometer”

Let me introduce a tool that I've just developed for measuring the evolution of my acute back pain, or lumbago, as they still must call it somewhere in Little Italy. I've came up with the idea because I always end up - as you probably do too - forgetting the negative side of things as well as my occasional physical suffering. Since I have been battling that nasty little injury, I'm trying on a daily basis to pat myself in the back and in the process making a sincere attempt to boost up my morale by gauging my progress.

The problem is that the parameters involved are always shifting at different speeds and it makes it very hard to get a fair idea of the actual result. Since I'm faced with the variability of pain and mobility and that, on day one, these two elements added together created a 100% nasty experience, a full recovery should bring it down to zero. With this in mind, I have generated my first table so you can measure my remarkable recovery after only five days. An update accompanied with some philosophical comments will become available when I reach physical nirvana. Promised!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Keeping a strong mental attitude

When things are not going the way we'd like them to go, when bad luck piles up and when we believe we're being targeted by some dark force, it's really hard to maintain a positive outlook on things, on people and on life.
Yet, this is in these times that staying on the sunny side of the issues becomes essential. This is especially hard to harness as it requires us to overcome a sea of gloom and stick to our true values. In this realm, self-pity has no place and we can only count upon ourselves. Perhaps this suggests that when the going gets tough, we must go beyond our negative environment, focus more than ever on our core beliefs and stubbornly stay the course. A solitary path, once more, but who ever suggested that going through life wasn't essentially so?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

An encouraging visit...

Yesterday, we went to see Dr. Zaman for my acute back pain. This was a very positive experience. He first listened attentively to what I had to say, then asked me more questions before proceeding with a series of physical tests to evaluate what was ailing me. He came up with encouraging conclusions and said that I should get better with almost no drugs and some exercise. This was by far better than my first acupuncture experience the day before and it gave me all the hope I needed. I didn't jump for joy, as I evidently couldn't, but was able to envision the brighter side of my present pains. Thanks, Dr. Zaman!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The test of pain...

On Sunday morning, in celebration of our lousy, wintry weather, I had no better idea than plunging into the world of acute back pain, also known as “lumbago.” It came out of nowhere and for no apparent reason. The feeling was unique in the sense that I could no longer sit down, stand up or lay down without incredible difficulties and horrible pain. As anyone does nowadays, I researched the ailment on the internet and by matching the symptoms to a condition, I was able to come up with a home-made diagnostic that satisfied me alright but didn't get rid of the excruciating suffering.

After I booked an appointment for this Tuesday with a Pain Management, Physiatrist – Yeah, there must be such an occupation! - I decided in the meantime to try acupuncture with our local Chinese specialist Dr. Ding, which I underwent in the afternoon; I never had it before. When I stepped into his busy office, I was coincidentally starting to feel somewhat better.

The session made me feel just a tiny tad better. I also checked Wikipedia which provided me with the mixed overview of the age-old technique and showed that its “proven” results were few and far between. Depending on my progress, I may cancel the traditional doctor and do one more session with Dr. Ding. I've read (and I hope) that this acute back pain is said to go away as mysteriously as it comes. At least, that experience will have made me appreciate even more how lucky we are when we're perfectly healthy!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Europeans unite!

It's clear that Europe has a big debt problem, won't be able to afford its regal social benefits for much longer and will have to make some very painful cuts into the benefits, the services and the overall comfort it provides its population. Like anywhere else, what should be done is clear, but highly unpopular and very tricky for the political class to set in motion.

Recently, Angela Merkel choose to go alone with a number of measures that might give her some temporary political relief from her constituents but her unilateralism is tearing apart European unity; also, what she's been focusing on is placing the blame on the speculators that are shorting the Euro. To do what needs to be done and effect the big surgical cuts that can help, European leaders must act in concert and show their electorate that there are absolutely no other ways to dealing with the current and evolving credit situation than by making huge sacrifices and that it will have to happen in concert within all the other European countries; something like applying the “everyone else does it” logic that is so popular with teenagers.

Short of that, and it European Leaders want to continue with measures that are “too little, too late,” nothing effective will be done and the entire continent will continue to move closer to the cliff...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Thoughts on the 2010 Census

Counting more than 300 million Americans this year should cost us at least $11.3 billion, if all goes according to plan and if costs stay within budget which I doubt very much. Just listen to our story if you want to appreciate our dysfunctional this project is; we have a PO Box address and therefore never received the form (yeah, that was the “plan”). We found this out when we realized that we had not received the form in the mail and after talking to a census staffer camped at our public library and who gave us the forms, plus a free grocery bag. We filled the form, mailed it out, that was 6 weeks ago. What about the internet? This was an available option in 2000, but not this year; No, I guess it would have been too easy, cost-effective and too much in keeping with our times. This would have meant huge savings in terms of paper, postage and labor costs!
While we were out this week, one of the many individuals hired for counting stopped by our home and left a note with his phone number. We called back and told him that we already had mailed the form. “Never mind,” he said, “I'll return anyway” and set up an appointment for this past Saturday morning. The man showed up for the appointment and wrote down on his sheet what we already had jotted down more than a month ago. He said he was making $17 per hour, plus mileage, thought the whole process was utterly disorganized but that it was a great gig for him. I can appreciate that the project gave a lot of people otherwise unemployed a chance to work, but it remains a huge waste of taxpayers money as 90% of it could have been done on line saving all of us at least $7 to $9 billion!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The day I fired God...

Believe it or not, I did not fire God from my life because I was mad or had a particularly bad day. From the start, the situation between us never was perfect. I frankly could never be enthused or convinced by this associate; I kept on questioning our relationship because my family was constantly putting pressure on me, because God came with my cultural heritage and was to a great extent part of my early social life. I also kept him, because I was bribed through trinkets and benefits, albeit of insignificant value. I think what really took our relationship south was the bunch of contradictions that had become a daily occurrence, the cycle of kindness and violence and also many folks around me that were virulent in their critics.
What's remarkable is that I let the situation deteriorate over a long period of years. One day, some thirty years ago, I gradually became agnostic and a long time later, that ambivalent condition evolved in full-blown atheism. I'm sure this evolution was some by-product of living near the Mormon's Holy City of Salt Lake as it would have happened if I had lived in Rome, Atlanta, Jerusalem or Tehran. It finally was only a few years ago when I cut loose with God, without much explanation, Cobra or severance package. I was amazed to be making such a clean cut and said to myself as we always think in these situations “I should have done it a long time ago...”

Friday, May 21, 2010

Deleveraging in real time

More than a year ago, I was predicting that deleveraging would really hurt when it gets on the scene. If you've not been paying attention recently, the ugly thing has arrived. We thought that since we had suffered more than our share since 2008, it would be time for a reprieve, but not so fast... A second market correction is underway, Greece is losing its shirt and, with it, Europe is losing its ways. America is spooked because it finally see its reflection in these new “Eurofollies” that are being played just before our eyes.

Get real folks, we've been having that huge party among other “developped nations” while we were finishing to plunder the rest of the world. Now, there is less and less to steal and we may have to start counting on us. What a concept, uh! Our kids and grandkids may have to learn a manual trade instead of becoming another trader, engineer or cosmonaut, and perhaps go back tending the fields. I don't know for sure, but even though I'm the strongest optimist around, I know that this one will hurt a lot. We'll simply need to deleverage, that is do as much with much less and rediscover contentment. Not such a bad idea after all.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Big projects, tiny pieces

Large overwhelming ideas or projects are a lot easier to handle when we break them down into small pieces. The difficulty resides in our ability to precisely envision all these pieces of the completed puzzle at the single level. It certainly is a lot easier when the task a hand is a concrete one. We can picture its finite elements or more simply, put it on a piece of paper and make sure each of them will fit. It's also easier when the project is something we've already tackled or is similar to a work we've already seen in the past or can observe around us.

When things gets more complicated is when we are treading into some abstract concepts or into undertakings for which we have no per-existing patterns to follow or can get inspired from. We then need to create the sub-elements of an abstraction from scratch and make sure that, as we proceed into our general plans, all the pieces will fit together and won't end up creating a monster instead of the perfect result we want.

That in fact is when things can become interesting; there are moments when the tiny component can take a life of their own, show us new ways or ideas that we never before thought of before and may affect the end-result for the better. What is guaranteed is that – if we apply ourselves and pay great attention – we may end up with a project that is of much superior quality and performance than the rough dream we started from. How should we call that bounty? Synergy or creative abundance?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lessons from negotiating

A negotiating process never fails to reveal a lot about the persons sitting on the opposite side of the table. Besides their varying degree of experience with give-and-take situations and overall business acumen, it also tells a lot about their goals, their work style, their ability to communicate,
their decisiveness or lack thereof, their punctuality and of course their ability to deal openly and honestly. Sometimes, as the discussion progresses it becomes totally evident that they might no longer be the individuals we initially thought they were and that it might be better to have no deal at all than a shaky, miserable relationship with some unstable and immature business partners. Like many other experiences, negotiating is another evolving journey filled with all kinds of surprises...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Another miracle!

As we grow older we become increasingly focused on good health and its growing impact on our daily lives. At the same time, and as they continuously seem to pop up, pains and aches are often confusing as it's hard to always determine if they are serious “mechanical” problems or just old-age hurts such as rheumatoid arthritis or something hard to define .

This week, I suddenly develop an accuse ache in my left knee while walking and it stayed with me for the following two days. My wife suggested that it probably was some arthritic pain; I dismissed that notion as I already anticipated that I must have tore some cartilage or done some irreparable damage to my knee.
When I went running yesterday, the pain was gone as mysteriously as it had come. Once more my wife was right, I was wrong but I was healthy and in the final analysis that's the only reality that counts.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The challenging life

The more complex or existence becomes, the more problems seem prone to pop up at any moment, and since we live in a world that is getting tighter with its growing population and its “just in time” approach in the way it operates and it's constructed, there appear to be less “give” and flexibility built into the system to absorbs the bumps and the pot-holes that normally pepper the roadways of life. A crisis in Greece sends tremors on Wall Street, a spill in the Gulf of Mexico replaces energy policy front and center and a volcanic eruption bankrupts the airline industry.
All this sends a signal that future misbehavior even by our most tiniest neighbors are likely to be felt by all of us. Yes, the earthly “bus” is full and with no more elbow-room any wrong gesture from just one single passenger will suffice to make everyone nervous and create chaos. Some say that a global harmonization of rules, exchanges and behavior is the next change we must now prepare for. Does that mean that there's even more homogenization in our future for all of us to move into an increasingly crowded and unbreathable future?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The value of persistence

What I enjoy most about living is that I keep on learning things and it seems that the most I study a situation or labor at finding a solution to a problem, most of the times things suddenly clear up and I overcome a momentary difficulty and often, in so doing, I also acquire new knowledge. Yet, I have often been tempted to give up when faced with problems that appear to difficult to solve or when the time it takes to address them doesn't seem available or worth my while. I have also at time given up just out of sheer laziness and impatience. So when we focus on it, persistence might be, for some of us, just a mental game that keeps us going and that we enjoy because we hate to lose, or we can't accept to see ourselves capitulating when we're overwhelmed with something we've never handled or conquered before. It must have something to do with a competitive mind, a survival instinct and a desire to always better ourselves and our environment.

There's also an add-on element that we can ignore. The more time we spend on a given endeavor, the greater the investment we have in it and the more difficult it becomes to let go of it; it simply becomes invaluable. When we've poured so much or our energies into something, the challenge somehow becomes a personal property that we no longer can break-away from. This naturally leads me to the extreme value of that wonderful quality, that if left uncontrolled will lead to stubbornness, the land of much diminished returns and the path to bankrupting the precious gains made on the way up, but of course, we know better than that and won't even get there...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mentoring a nation...

Yesterday, I brought up the idea of mentoring Haiti, but the concept could be extended to a host of other struggling nations whether they are failed, poor or barely developing ones. It could be called nation-building, but it would be a better solution for managing the planet as long as it provides mutual benefits for the mentor(s) and the country that is helped in that way.
In stating my view, I obviously forgot many important elements, like the eradication of corruption, citizens exploitation for reasons of culture, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation or social origins, and the biggest one and root of most evil, the establishment of effective family planning, the number one answer to all of our environmental woes. That's it, I made these points, now I'd love to read your feed-back!

Friday, May 14, 2010

A solution for Haiti?

I was watching last night an update on the situation in Haiti, where progress is slow, contradiction is rampant, government is conspicuously absent and where the situation on the ground seems only “controlled” by NGOs, hence Haiti's nickname, the Republic of NGOs. While this situation isn't new, it has gained increasing prominence following the January 12, 2010 earthquake. Some suggest that funneling so much aid through NGOs perpetuates a situation of limited government capacity and weak institutions. Rather than looking to their government for basic public services, Haitians look to NGOs and it still today their government remains invisible and ineffective.

This is how I came up with that idea of mine; why not let a well-structured and well-organized country take over the management (government if you prefer) of that poor country? I was thinking of Canada, Germany, Japan, Scandinavia, and not necessarily in that order. I wouldn't give that task to Italy, Spain or Greece, nor would I give it to the United States or the U.K. (we seem to get nowhere in Iraq and Afghanistan) but it might perhaps be a smarter idea to consider a consortium of Francophone countries, like Belgium, Canada, France and Switzerland.

All along, this effort would be monitored by the U.N. Whoever would take charge would be in charge of putting in place strong institutions, a capable and effective administration, educate the masses and bring rule of law. At the same time, it would also invest in the country's infrastructure by rebuilding whatever needs to be, bringing sustainable manufacturing activity, schools, universities, research centers, hospitals and well adapted tourism. After at least three decades of nation building (all that time, because it's a whole generation) the mentor nation or nations would be able to either continue its presence or progressively move away depending on the level of prosperity and sustainable development reached in that small nation. I like the idea; do you?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What's my work worth?

To the outside world, I pretend to be in retirement, but that's not quite true. I still work; not just around the house, but also by managing my investments that are feeding me before I start collecting my retirement, something that's still four years down the road. So how much are my management efforts worth?
The answer is pretty simple and consists of another question, namely how much would I have to pay someone to replace me in doing that sporadic but rather complex, diverse and important work? I sort of figured it out and the amount impressed me so much that it gave me a brand-new appreciation for my concept of “self-worth...”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tight negotiating?

Negotiating often implies the idea of extracting the most out of a give-and-take process and skinning the deal in such a way that both sides can get as close to a “true” win-win situation as possible. This approach in my view is at best a utopia and at worst a difficult, time-consuming and dangerous process. By wanting to get so close to the “optimum” threshold, we often run the risk of ruining everything and particularly of aggravating and exasperating the other party. From either sides of the fence, the expectations of a true win-win and a “fair” outcome are likely to be vastly different and no one will ever be happy.

It would seem to me that smart and seasoned negotiators are those able to leave something on the table to make the opponent feel good and even think that they've got the better side of the deal. In my view, it's preferable to make a multitude of good deals than sometimes one or two exceptional ones, or in a worst-case scenario miss them all... Do you happen to agree with that philosophy?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My macroeconomics views

I always try to oversimplify things because I find that it always help me catch the “30,000 feet view” or better yet, the “out-of-space vista” and by doing so, bring everything into understandable perspective. Today's high view is about world economics and a reflection on the fact that after centuries of colonialism and neocolonialism, pilfering the planet's natural resources, exploiting human labor and destroying the earth environment, we're running out of options with each one of these various sources of wealth and while the developed nation enjoyed a huge feast during the second part of the 20th century, the party is now getting to a close. We'll now have to getting used to tightening our collective belt. So whenever I hear economists or “smart” individuals hoping for a recovery that will reset everything back to 2007, I kind of smile and think: Fools!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Makaraba and head protection

If you read this blog with any regularity, you're aware that I'm not (yet) a fan of ski-helmets. I do wear a “head bucket” for mountain biking, but that's about it. That was until I heard of the makaraba, this creatively decorated South African helmet, that will be the rage during the upcoming world soccer championships. I could see a ski or bike version of the product.
With its multiple protrusions, cavities and “antlers” of all kinds, it could be used to hang a camera, cell phone, powder straps, ski passes, snack and many more things that normally go inside our pockets, but since there's always the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” problem, we never know where these items hide when we need them. The great news is that I have all summer to work on a design and color-combination flattering enough for me to test-wear the item when the snow flies in November. Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The power of inspiration

When I was a kid I could draw inspiration from a wide variety of individuals I was looking up to, without prejudgment and with my brand-new illusions. The dose of inspiration I tapped in during my early years would become the fuel
that would contribute to modeling me the way I am today. My point is that inspiration is to a human what light is to a plant and we can always use more of it. As years go on, delusions set in and as cynicism grows, that magical material becomes less abundant and as we grow older the well quickly dries up and that's really too bad. Last month, as I was skiing in Snowbird, an older guy, neatly geared up was in the tram and I could identify him as Junior Bounous, the local director of skiing.

The man was born in 1925 and growing up in Provo Canyon, was quickly exposed to the full pallet of winter sports. He instructed in Alta from 1948 to 1958, prior to moving on to California's Sugar Bowl, then returned to Utah to what's today Sundance before becoming the chief instructor at Snowbird in 1970. So that day, the 85 year old was in the company of what appeared to be a client and ready to crank a few turns. I've also heard that he skied down Pipeline couloir in Snowbird when he was 80 which made a strong impression on me. In view of all that and in spite of his native Mormonism, I decided on the spot that this unassuming fellow would become my skiing inspiration for at least the next couple of decades, and that made my day...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Terrorist training

In the old days and through 9-11, terrorist training used to work swiftly, seamlessly and lethally. After the British shoe bomber, the Nigerian-born Christmas bomber and the Time Square SUV propane bomber, cracks are starting to show in the Jihad, terrorist-sponsored training, as it no longer produces the expected results and shows sloppy as well as unreliable, amateurish prep work. Don't get me wrong, I'm not lamenting on failed Jihadist plots, but simply realizing that technical education in that domain, like elsewhere, is starting to go to the dogs.

Since I like to look at the better side of things, and after Afghanistan and now Pakistan are evidently providing a botched-up education, which region country would you suggest Radical Fanatics look for for their members future training? I was thinking of Idaho or Michigan with their spooky Aryan militia, but someone might suggest a better match outside of the USA that offer higher quality-control standards. I'm waiting to hear for your suggestions...

Friday, May 7, 2010

The real estate profession

Our recent experiences have demonstrated to us that American real estate agents are indeed a strange breed of people. We knew that already, and it once more begs the question: Is it possible to have respect for realtors? Hardly, it seems. This category of people – frequently compared to prostitutes – will do “whatever it takes” to make a sale and their only value seems to be the exorbitant fee they charge for not doing much. Clearly, 90% of the agents producing 10% of the sales make the other 10% that generate the other 90% of revenue look bad! A joke heard in Park City goes like that; the 500 or so “workers” in the old-days Park City red lamp district have been replaced by 1,000 modern times “realtors.”

Do I even know what I'm talking about? You bet; I tried the profession between two job and quickly drew the conclusion that it was – at least for me – a psychological dead-end and a sure path to self-destruction. I couldn't feel good doing it, felt no sense of accomplishment out of it and the only positive reward was money. That's right, just a real quick buck; not much different from what a street walker would feel about the job. The feeling of emptiness that comes with the real estate trade is in fact quite elusive. In my opinion, it has to do with the fact that there are no barriers to entry into that line of work; anyone can do it, from the street bum all the way to the attorney. There is also little loyalty from clients that can be quite fickle and who never fail to generate an unhealthy conflict of interest between buyers and sellers.

It's also a place in which luck plays an even bigger role than in any other occupation, and the money earned feels fake and bears little relationship with real skills, knowledge and effort. This business feels empty like a shell and builds very little equity in terms of knowledge and even less job satisfaction. Then there are the co-workers that are so stressed that it never fail to make them appear hollow and sleazy. So if you can't get turned off by the job, something must be really wrong with you, but I'm probably getting ahead of myself. In fact why am I writing all that? Did I have a nightmare last night? Perhaps I just wanted to warn you not to try to do this at home!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Is Rossignol losing its way?

With the departure of Julia Mancuso (switching to Völkl) and Ted Ligety (moving to Head) Rossignol is dropping yet another pair of highly visible U.S. athletes and seemingly turning its back to what made it the racing standard for decades. What's really behind these changes? Budgetary constraints, change of focus, misreading of Rossi's culture, or Head's unstoppable quest for top talent?

My take on immigration reform

I'm trying to see more clearly how immigration ought to be “reformed” in the USA. It's pretty obvious that first and foremost,
laws on the book have to be enforced and that a path to legalization of undocumented workers should be established, including significant taxation or fee system for doing so. In addition, we should heavily penalize what I'd call “shady big businesses” like the poultry, meat packing industry or certain agro-businesses, among many others in that league, for hiring and low-bowling undocumented immigrant workers.

The best part of any meaningful bill however, would be to encourage “knowledge workers” i.e. engineers and scientists to come and work in the US. Our universities educate so many bright folks that it's criminal to let them return to their own country in order to compete against us and accelerate the debasing of America's economic leadership. Last, but not least, we ought to encourage health workers, including nurses, doctors, medical specialists and surgeons to come and establish themselves here as well. This would be a wonderful way to start chipping away at the astronomical cost of health care that is caused by a monopolistic culture and is another contributing factor to our economic woes.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

How many good friends?

Tough question because the true answer never fails to be an eye-opener. I have just under 1,000 names on my Rolodex. Some are friends, family, current and former business associates or relations I built over the years. Now, how many true friends do I have out of this multitude?
I would guess less than the fingers of my two hands? Wait a minute, probably just one hand will do. I have not even included in the grand total the more than 200 Facebook “friends” I amassed in the last 18 month or so, but let's face it, are many of those friends beyond “virtual” quality? I've not started the count of my real friends yet and perhaps won't do it any time soon, but my guess is that I'll end up between 3 and 5 at the very most. Impressive? No, sobering and definitely worth remembering...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The job offer

I generally have a hard time remembering my own dreams. Not last night though; I was somehow back into the “job market” and Philippe Blime, my former boss while I worked for Look ski bindings, somehow resurfaced and offered me a position, for what exactly, I couldn't begin to tell you. Always being the venal person I've always been, I just remember asking what the salary would be. He offered “$112,000 a year.” I said, “what kind of bonus?” He answered “there's no bonus for that job.” I really was very disappointed, me, the incentive-driven person. Philippe probably read my face and went on, “but I'll get you a company American Express card, that way you'll be able to take your wife out for dinner from time to time..."  A silence followed. I needed the job, but wasn't sure I wanted that particular one. I told Philippe: “Please, give me at least 24 hour to think about it...”

The retirement quandary

While I know a few of my friends and ex-business colleagues that are retired, about half of them, if not a majority, are still working. When I ask the busy bunch “when are you going to stop and start smelling the roses?” they respond that they don't know, that they're enjoying their occupation so much that it's more fun than work for them and that, in the end, they don't see themselves giving up their activity. I'm certain that if we want to be brutally honest, those of us who are tied to an occupation secretly envies the group who claims to be retired, and vice-versa.

Very few of us actually retire by choice; many do it, because a career comes to an abrupt end as a company changes hands, a job is eliminated, or we're let go because of economic circumstances, redundancies, we cost too much or don't perform well enough. Getting a new job at 50 is hard and, except for menial jobs, almost impossible when we become sexagenarians. So what's the magic window of time for exiting the “rat race” and slowing down? Is there even one? I would be tempted to say that the previously listed circumstances are wonderful alibis to let us into this “other side” of life that is retirement, but with one caveat, we must keep on doing lots of things that we never had the time to achieve while we were busy earning a living.

My wife and I stay very busy and our daily world is fully absorbed by our hobbies, sport and all. It certainly pays to have other interest in live others than work-work-work and to make money. We don't live a life of rich and famous but exercise religiously, eat very well, read a lot and enjoy everything we do. This may sound like a banality, but at the end of each day, we never fail to ask ourselves: “How could we manage to live and take care of all these daily chores of life when we had to work for a living?”

Monday, May 3, 2010

The journey and the destination

This Sunday morning was loaded with promises; the snow was falling like crazy and my friend Dirk Beal and me drove to Snowbird for what would be an incredible ski day. The roads were snowy, we had to wait till the avalanches were cleared in Little Cottonwood Canyon, made it there just before 10 am in what appeared to be between 12 to 18 inches of new snow.
Peruvian Express was reopened as the tram was temporarily out of service; we hiked the tunnel, skied Mineral Basin and we managed to weave our way into the large crowds and ski till our bodies couldn't in a creamy, deep but dense snow that got the very best inside of us. Truth is that we took the time for a leisurely lunch and the beer we had killed whatever juice was left inside our legs. The bad news was that when I tried to shoot videos of our runs, my camera ran out of batteries, so I ended up capturing most of the journey to that epic day, but not what happened at the destination which evidently was beyond words, and... pictures!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Weather or not...

This morning opens up with another “magical winter landscape,” trees covered with delicate white lace and shivering in a temperature well below freezing point. This is in fact the way spring is – most of the time – in our Rocky Mountain region. I like to oversimplify and tell those who ask me: “We just have two seasons in the year; one dry from mid-May to mid-November and another one wet (or snowy) the rest of the year.” Nothing is truer than that, especially after observing nature for over a quarter of a century in Park City.
While Fall season is noticeable because of the colorful and beautiful leaves turning that never fail to repaint our mountain landscapes every September; Spring in fact is a non-entity, a victim of this “bi-polar” season system. The first warm days in March or even April are just teasers and even the true locals always fall for them. You'll see folks wearing shorts and riding bikes, but these audacious attempts never fail to be short-lived. So for the moment, most of us will marvel at the fleeting wintry scene and some crazy (I know who those are) will hit the bottomless new powder snow at a nearby ski resort...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Dear piece of wood

This week, I needed a small decorative piece of wood, roughly five-inch square and two-inch thick with a faceted top, to replace a missing one on a building. I went through the Yellow Page (yes, I sometime use those) to find a woodworker that could fabricate that replacement item for me. I found a few, emailed them a sketch of what I needed, asked for an estimate based on 1, 2 or 6 pieces.
I was expecting to pay a reasonable price for it, but after two bids came in, I quickly realized that the cheapest offer was at $65 and the most expensive one was topping... $275! Of course, I'd get a dozen pieces (which I didn't really need) with that latter estimate. I could have redirected my search towards Mexico and Indonesia and requested the piece mailed to my U.S. address when ready, but got spooked by the “carbon footprint” this would create, so instead, I drove my car to Home Depot, picked up a piece of wood that ended up costing me $2.15 from which I intend to carve the missing ornament. So much for “supporting” my local economy!