Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Adventures in implant land...

Back on June 16, I broke a three-tooth bridge and was pretty mad at myself, the world, nature and all the rest. To be truthful, the crown was anchored on a tooth that was hanging by its own skin and it was just a matter of time until it would go its own, separate way. The consequences however were pretty grim because I now looked like a toothless bum and it would cost me a bunch of dough to repair the damage. My dentist re-glued the crowns in place and told me that, short of remaining toothless, a few implants and brand new crowns were my sole option, so I immediately went shopping for all these items.

My first stop was at my oral surgeon who had already performed four implants procedures on me. The first two failed after five year, but their replacement are now ten year old and seemingly going strong, so I had reasonably good reasons to trust the guy, and on top of that he had successfully separated eight invasive wisdom teeth from my two kids. So I went to see him, he took a quick, old-fashion x-ray of the damaged area, pinched my inside jaw bone in a “caliper” fashion, and determined (how could he?) that I needed a bone graft, and after four month of binding time, would install the implants. The whole process would almost last a full year, would be very costly and I didn't like what I heard.

I then wen to see ClearChoice a company that aggressively advertises on TV and they gave me the full dog-and-pony show, telling me that I could walk out of their place, the day of my operation, with my new crowns and that their process was a true one-stop repair. Too good to be true? Most likely, but what I liked was that they didn't just take an x-ray of my jaw, but a true three-dimensional scan of the bone structure, so they could instantly see that there was enough jaw bone and that I didn't need any bone graft, saving me both time and money. If you're still with me, I began to feel much better because of the shorter time it would take and of the savings it would mean, but I still didn't believe that crowns should be anchored so soon in the process.

So I searched for more oral surgeons and, lo and behold, found one just in Park City who was able to neutralize my skepticism and gave me enough sound reasons to go with him, including state of the art scanning equipment. I decided to go with him and also choose not to have a full anesthesia, as the aftermath is always an experience I could very well do without, and I'm also curious and wanted to see the whole procedure from the “comfort” of my seat. So last week, I bravely confronted my task, took my iPod and sat on the torture chair. The surgeon first had to extract the faulty tooth and it took him lots of time, attempts, and re-strategizing before he could separate me from a pair of roots that didn't want to leave. It was interesting to see his ups and downs, with his losing his temper at time, getting nervous and the whole bit.

As he started drilling to seat the implants in place, as was second-guessing his technical skills and his ability to center properly the tiny implants; to my relief, he took a couple of x-ray in the process to verify what he was doing. The whole process was a noisy, vibrating and very uncomfortable one, but I stuck with it and since I had little other choice, I kept on imagining that I was practicing some sort of very dangerous sport, the kind that produces a flow of adrenaline and that keeps you wondering if you'll make it out alive. Again, I was mostly concerned about precision drilling and wasn't sure my implants would be place in the right spot; I was also concerned that the surgeon might lose his cool, give everything up, flee to Canada and leave me strapped on my chair!

This mind-game kept me in the chair till the bitter end, and after that, I ended up being totally exhausted. To top it off, I had to go and see my regular dentist to get a temporary set of teeth affixed to my mouth for the five month during which the implants will have to bond with my jawbone, but all in all, all this excitement made up for a very adventurous afternoon...

Monday, August 30, 2010

My Sunday in India...

Recently, my wife reminded me that I had not been on the phone with India or the Philippines for quite a while. She was absolutely right and, of course, was alluding to these long technical support sessions for remedying problem with computers, cameras and the like, that are always funny because neither the tech nor myself understand each other and that invariably blow my top in the process!
That was until yesterday
afternoon; a few days before, I finally stepped up to buy a wireless printer so we could print something noteworthy from different spots in the house conveniently and without wires. Little did I know that this would be opening a monumental can of worms...

After unpacking my new toy and following the quick installation set of instructions, I slid the disk in my drive and discovered that I was for Windows 7 only and not Vista 64 bits that I run on my desktop. I called tech support, got transported to India and spent the next one hour and a half on the phone with a local guy. We got the wireless set up on my desktop and after lunch, I began all over again with my wife's laptop and my notebook that both run XP. All told, I spent the whole day setting up a $150 printer which would be worth much less than my time if I only was paid $20 an hour! I've decided that after that little incident, I was done talking to India or anywhere else in Asia between now and the rest of the year!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Finding mushrooms

Since we've had a tiny bit of moisture in the past few days, we decided to go for a hike yesterday in search of those rare fungi, at least in our Utah's high-desert climate where they don't show up every year. We rode the Canyon's gondola and climbed our way up towards the ridge; the hike in itself was a lot of fun and yes, we managed to find a few boletus and lactarius, we even spotted a few dry chanterelles that had come out much earlier. While they can be easily found in Colorado, mushrooms in Utah are almost a unique event, more like a fully solar eclipse. The last time I picked mushrooms in our region, was in nearby Brighton in 1999!

More recently, I had picked tons of chanterelles in Vail, Colorado, just by the side of the trail. When they show up, you only have to bend over and pick them up; unlike the Alps when everyone and his brother is eagerly tracking down these delicacies, they are totally ignored in the Rocky Mountains.
Only a few Italian, Eastern European and weirdos like me, will lower themselves to pick them up. I think thanks to Walt Disney, Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs, the fear of poison mushrooms is deeply instilled into the American psyche. Even my dear wife isn't so sure about my mushroom identifying skills and when our kids lived with us, they were downright terrorized when I brought wild mushrooms home and always refused to eat them. We had our little harvest made into an omelet last night and yeah, I survived to tell the tale!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pakistan, Katrina and Government priorities

On the fifth anniversary of hurricane Katrina and as Pakistan Indus river continues to destroy everything in that poor country, it's hard not to draw a parallel between the two catastrophe and see how the “invisible” little folks get treated when disaster strikes. In each instance, both respective heads of state can't connect with that misery and are woefully unable to draw the necessary resources for exerting the compassion they profess to having. Their priorities are elsewhere, like enriching themselves and making sure their loyal supporters are well-taken care of. Oh yes, I forgot, they also want to make sure that their nuke arsenal is updated and up to the task...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cheaper than a high-speed quad!

I just read that the one-chairlift ski resort of Silverton, Colorado, just above Ouray, is increasing its uphill capacity this winter by 50% just by adding more chairs on the cable. By reducing the spacing between chairs (why not, right?) the operators hope they can eliminate the lift line that sometimes forms for the first chair of the day. This is something everyone should have thought about before inventing high-speed chairs and spending fortunes to install and operate them. Just put a plethora of fixed-grip chairs, and voilà!

The feeling is probably much tighter, you can have an intimate conversation, or perhaps play cards with the passengers in the front and back of you as long as the motor is beefed up to carry the extra load. You also hope that everyone gets off well at the summit. If not expect a monstrous pile-up at the top. This what I call creative engineering in these times of belt tightening!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

25 years ago today...

...Our family set foot in Park City after a five day cross-country journey, the four of us packed inside the family sedan. Our final “stage” started in Vail, Colorado, took us to Steamboat Springs and brought us to a place where trees were conspicuously absent. That evening, the house we had just bought wasn't ready for us and our moving van wasn't there yet, so we all had to sleep at the brand-new Landmark Inn, located at nearby Kimball's Junction.
As our children explored their new home, Charlotte who still was a toddler, stepped onto a thin hot-tub Styrofoam cover and sank all the way into the cold water, screaming from the bottom of her lungs; what a way to get acquainted with the place's amenities! That's right, in these days Park City was a very strange place for all of us; it wasn't the “ritzy” destination it's become today and it took a good year for each one of us to find their bearings. Today, my wife and I are so happy to be living in such a great place, that we're looking forward to at least another 25 years in that town. God willing, of course!

Never too late to go mountain biking!

I know how it feels; we're now almost at the end of August and you haven't ridden your mountain bike yet as you had promised yourself! Well, it's never too late and in fact the next few weeks are likely to be the best in the entire summer for straddling a mountain bike and getting a taste of what a fun recreation it can be if you have never tried it before, or refreshing your memories as well as your skills if you have experienced it in the past. Deer Valley is the perfect place to do it, should you decide to take advantage of the resort's lift-served mountain biking options by either riding the Silver Lake Express or the Sterling Express lifts, rent some great great and also receive some friendly advice.

Early fall is also the perfect season to do it; the weather is much cooler and the crowds are generally considerably thinner. In fact, the resort offers an impressive 55 miles of trails meandering through woods, canyons and meadows, offering a blend of the best vistas available and the most exciting terrain. In case you wondered, I've heard that Deer Valley Resort has been rated by some mountain biking publication in the top ten best destinations for mountain biking...

So now where do you begin? Check your mountain bike and make sure it's still trail-worthy or doesn't lack modern suspensions, decent tires and good brakes. If it has hanged in your garage for more than ten years, you might be surprised to find out that technology has passed it by; if that's the case, rent one at Deer Valley Resort, that will enable you to familiarize yourself with the new technology from modern gears to clipless pedals, and give you an opportunity to make up your mind should you decide to invest into a new machine. If your bike still looks the part, make sure to have it tuned up and have its tires and brakes checked before going out, and while we are on the subject of personal security, don't leave home without your bike helmet!

Then, if you're still a bit uneasy, there's always the opportunity of taking a refresher course. Don't think you need one? Well, this might in fact be a great opportunity to not having to relearn everything or re-discovering... the wheel. Deer Valley's Mountain Bike School can give you that bit of extra-confidence that will make a huge difference. It's open daily and someone's available at either Snow Park Lodge or mid-mountain next to Silver Lake Lodge from 10 am to 5:30 pm to assist you if you really want to discover something new. There are in fact a host of things you can rediscover or learn, like sharpening your visual skills on single track courses, balancing and positioning your body according to the changing terrain, cornering like a pro, braking smartly, descending and climbing more effectively and many more very valuable tips.
Lift-served mountain biking is also an excellent way to get you started without suffering too much and gaining some critical training before you can do the whole thing on your very own, if you decide to. The passes are quite affordable and your kids or grandchildren below 5 years of age will ride free. So enough procrastinating! You only have between now and Labor Day, plus the following weekend of September 11 and 12 to get back into, or get acquainted with this great sport while weather and temperatures are still ideal!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Heated seats...

Not to be left in the cold (!) Park City Mountain Resort is responding to Canyons' new high-speed quad with bubble and heated seat by retrofitting its Jupiter chair for the coming season. As its newly minted president Jenni Smith puts it, “Jupiter is Park City's highest chair and it serves an area marked with tons of snow and extreme weather; it made sense to experiment up there with heated seats. We won't add a 'bubble' to our Yan chairs because we feel that it add extra burden that could further slow down the entire lift and it also would interfere with Jupiter Bowl's scenic views...”

The seat heating system will use the proven hot water bottles that will be nested into a seat encasement, right where the rider rests. There will be two, two-quart hotties per chair. Their presence not only will provide the much needed heat, but will also enhance the riding comfort by offering added cushioning. They will be put in continual service from opening date through the end of February and then will be available depending on weather conditions. When asked how the whole system will work, Ms. Smith said that “ we'll have a two-people crew of 'retrievers' working at the base of the lift, whose job will be to grab the incoming cold bottles and replace them with hot ones” She recognizes that the job will demand quick reflexes and excellent coordination, but feels confident that it can be seamlessly integrated into the normal operation of the venerable lift.

A large water heater located nearby will replenish the hotties and also provide hot water to skiers and snowboarders intent to grabbing a hot tea or coco on their way up. “The operating costs are pretty high, but the investment is negligible, in keeping with our company's overall philosophy; if the experiment is successful, we hope to adapt the system to our large fleet of slow lifts such as Town Lift, Pioneer, Mother Lode, Thaynes and even Three King, enabling us to extend their useful life well into the 2020's” added Jenni Smith. There's little doubt that Park City's response will take some significant wind off Canyons' sails and their bold marketing innovation...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Making a deal happen...

Doing business used to be easy and straightforward and even though I'm now sort of “retired” I have spent the last 16 months working almost full-time in an effort to put a business deal together; it's only yesterday that we successfully concluded it, not before I came across some 42 interested parties. What happened is a perfect reflection of today's economy. Speaking of the War and the Royal Air Force, Churchill used to say that “Never was so much owed by so many to so few...” I could almost paraphrase him by saying “Never was so much work produced talking to so many folks for so little result...”

Out of that army of 42, and aside the usual “curious” and “lookers,” many were genuinely interested, but when the money question was put on the table, they all faltered; it wasn't that my price was unreasonable or too high, they just didn't have the money. They were bled, they were dry. Which goes to say that our economy is really in bad shape and that beginners in all fields should not refrain to replying to any business opportunity. Today, I feel relieved, but what a long year it's been!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Living vertically

As a mountain native, I've always liked to be on top of something and be able to discover vistas and experience the sense of freedom that comes with being somehow elevated. I don't feel well when I'm stuck in plains or at the bottom of some pit. My first reaction is to get some altitude. This feeling is analogous to flying or to climbing that both provide an undeniable sense of liberation from the tyranny of gravity and a bird's eye view. In the past few days, as I was repainting the exterior trim of our house, I did a lot with ladders and got my share of hanging at 27 feet over the ground. I got very good with moving these climbing tools around, climbing them up and down on multiple occasions and always making a point at staying very concentrated the whole time as falling down is absolutely not a good option. I enjoyed the exercise, it stimulated me and I felt sad last night when I had to put my collection of ladders away...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A nearby ski resort invests to improve...

When all other resorts are tightening their belts and trying to survive the crisis the best they can, one of our three local Park City ski operators, The Canyons, is playing contrarian and will be offering two more high-speed quad chairlifts this season, improving access to its slopes and confirming its stature as the largest ski area in Utah with 4,000 skiable acres. One of the chairs will have a bubble, and even heated-seats, but who frankly cares! As skiers, we're pleased, because it's where we ski and we have long recognized the place's superior terrain and potential. Not just content to offer all these improvements, The Canyons is renaming itself to just “Canyons.”
Another silly move in my opinion and a forth name change in the resort's short life. This “Datsun” to “Nissan” re-christening name is not just dumb, it's costly and confusing. Originally in the seventies, the name of the place was Park City West which was short lived and changed almost immediately to Park West; this name contraction made a lot of sense as it geographically related to Park City, the next-door resort, and built on the “Park” name, more like Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands have been building on their same core destination name. Then, in the nineties, a new owner decided to name it Wolf Mountain before selling it to the flamboyant Les Otten and its American Skiing Company which concocted the more recent name of The Canyons, adding to the confusion with the resorts at Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, commonly called that way, and including Alta, Brighton, Solitude and Snowbird. Today, the new marketing team is changing again to Canyons. Had they been a tad smarter they should have gone – almost – full circle and renamed it Park West, but that would have been far too clever, right?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Old bands, for how long?

Last night we went to see “Earth, Wind and Fire” at the Deer Valley amphitheater. We had no particular expectations, but were really pleased by the forty year old R&B group. The three main protagonists are almost 60 years of age and one wonders how long they'll be able to deliver the major effort required to show up on stage and do more than just produce a decent show.
Do they still need the money to remodel their Los Angeles homes, work to pay the bills or simply perform because showmanship run still very deep in their blood? I hope it's the latter, but who knows... I don't think we'll ever see them again in our lifetime, but their performance was stunning, we had a great time and realistically, thanks God these guys are still around otherwise we'd only have Lady Gaga as an option...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Nurturing the right balance

We ought to find a happy medium between doing things we love, sharing good moments with others, accomplishing useful endeavors and helping others. We should do it in a balanced manner so just one of the four doesn't overwhelm the rest and become our sole interest. I've never looked at that aspect of things, I just got inspire to write this (call it serendipity) but it seems to me that it is a four-legged stool I could comfortably live with.

At first glance, it seems to me that as of now, I focus most of my energies on just two of these four domains and it signals that the other two are conspicuously ignored or at least not developed as much as they could. Some food for thought and a heck of a great idea to add to whatever I should do next...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The good running form

Some runners look a bit weird and this is probably because they don't run often enough and their general form isn't fully functional.
Except for foot-related problems, like excessive pronation or supination as well as other joint issues, there is no reason for someone to stick out when running. After years of jogging, the body finds a way to adapt and become as efficient as its morphology allows it. As one advances in age, it also become crucial to make the best out of an overall dwindling energy supply.

This is when I make a conscious effort to adapt my skiing theory of “floating through the air” to my running and when I do, it really makes a huge difference. I feel that I literally bounce off the pavement, I feel like flying and really move faster. I suspect that when I focus on “floating” my feet are more springy, I limit my energy expenditure to what's necessary and my joints feel far less impact. But again, all this is where it should be – inside my head!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Time management holy grail...

I value time so much that it sometimes becomes an obsession and while I've read a lot of advices, how-to and diverse opinions on the subject, I've generally only been able to see a two-dimensional view of the process, which can be resumed into something like “how can I fit a maximum of stuff into my allotted time?” This way of thinking often leads to cramming and multitasking, which have been proved to be woefully inefficient. Early this month, I was suggesting that we should use the “maturing” power of time and start staging events into it, hence bring a tri-dimensional concept into our good use of time.

That's right, not just fitting a maximum of pieces into a given time frame, but instead “farming” them by planting projects at staggered dates so time can naturally mature them and we can revisit them regularly to re-assess them and “tweak” them if needed. This of course requires much more forward thinking, good planning and managing – by paying close attention – to all theses “irons in the fire”
or projects in progress like a talented and fast acting restaurant chef. This way of organizing can be a lot of fun and resembles conducting an orchestra or managing and ant-hill if that were humanly possible. It also demands a significant effort in mental anticipation (something that in truth is always terribly painful) and a lot of imagining, but in the end is certainly a much more efficient way to harness time than trying to do two things simultaneously and accomplishing none of them well enough.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ecological bankruptcy

According to “Global Footprint Network,” Earth Overshoot Day marks the day in which we exhaust our planet ecological budget for the year. Once we pass Earth Overshoot Day, humanity will used up all the ecological services nature can provide for the year. This will happen on August 21. Last year it was on September 23 and to return to the day we were still "balanced," we'd need to go back to the late 80's! Today, humanity uses the equivalent of 1.4 planets to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste.
This means it now takes the Earth one year and five months to regenerate what we use in twelve month. Moderate UN scenarios suggest that if current population and consumption trends continue, by the middle of the next decade we will need the equivalent of two Earths to support us. And of course, we only have one. To reverse that trend there is only one practical solution and it's to take steps for reducing world's population. Most people still think it's a terrible idea. When are they going to change their paradigm?

Monday, August 16, 2010

“Walking” my mountain bike...

Yesterday, following a morning ride with my wife, I felt so good that I decided to go the The Canyons and ride the Mid-Mountain trail down to the Spiro trail in Park City during the early afternoon. I rode my bike from my home to the gondola, and in minutes, was ready to roll at 8,000 feet. All went well until I hit a trail closure right where The Canyons is building its new Iron Mountain lift. Then a several mile long detour, rough and steep series of switchbacks got the very best out of me and forced me to “walk” my bike for several miles.

I assumed that I was getting older and had reached a significant threshold forcing me to dismount when the going was really over my physical abilities. I was tired, dusty and literally out of steam until I finally began my descent towards the Park City side of the mountain. Only when I rejoined the asphalt, did I realized that my front derailleur had been set all along in the middle position and that it had forced me to labor like a slave during the entire ride. I felt good in realizing that I wasn't finished after all!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What kind of recovery should we expect?

For most Americans, a full economic recovery means returning to full-employment and to a GDP close to what it used to be in 2006 and 2007. The reality may be starkly different as the high-numbers attained prior the this “great recession” were already the by-product of an economy on “steroids,” essentially based on real estate speculation and delusional financial schemes. So the question that has not been answered yet, nor even tackled, is what is a reasonable, sustainable and achievable economic performance, taking into consideration a significant amount of deleveraging, a drastic change in consuming habits and a return to savings by household and individuals.

Another way to say it, is can we regain the high watermark of 2007 “economic prosperity” or if not, how high can it be? Does it also factor in a roll-back in manufacturing that until now was systematically shipped abroad? Then are we as serious about pursuing a new “moon shot” like new energy development and other innovations that should have been made a true national cause? These are essential questions that until now have seemed willfully ignored and swept under the rug. My sense is that we ought to lay all of these cards on the table and look at the entire picture so we don't delude ourselves into a fake sense of where an achievable economic recovery really stands.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The house takes a shower...

This year, we've decided to clean the house from head to toe, from the roof down to the gutters and and all the way to the ground. I'm talking about the exterior. You see, Utah is so dusty, gets hardly any rain and when it precipitates it's just snow, that a shower every two or three years is no luxury.
In fact, we had never done it so extensively since we repainted the house five years ago. It took us two days to get the job done, going up and down the roof, moving ladders around, washing everything in sight with high pressure water, getting everything out from the largest bird poop to the smallest spider web. This exercise, like meticulously washing a car gives an intimate understanding of a dwelling since no single square inch and none of its nooks an crannies can escape scrutiny. This way we can see what has deteriorated, gotten bad and need fixing. A general home check-up!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Redefining who we are...

As time goes on, we're shaped more often by our experiences and by outside events. Over time, these exterior factors affect our values, the way we act, think and see the world. That change is mostly passive and generally happens without us being even aware of that transformation. This is perhaps why some more conscious and controlled ways to make adjustments to our changing values might be in order at regular intervals in order to keep a certain control upon the way we inevitably end up thinking and acting.

From a practical standpoint, this calls for a critical re-assessment of who we are and what we do. Although quite logical, this process feels very unnatural and demands a real effort in making time for it and thinking it through carefully. How often should we do it? At least every five years, and maybe more often if we can. How should we proceed? I don't know any existing “step-by-step” method that might help and haven't thought of a method yet, but there might be ideas out there and if not, I might want to design one...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When Pakistan screams for help

Another natural tragedy is hitting Pakistan and it seems only normal that this impoverished nation is asking for aid from everyone else. Last night I heard that the U.N. was asking a contribution by member nations to the tune of half a billion dollars. Fine, but wait a minute; are Pakistan's priorities as they should? That's right, this developing country has chosen to put most of its small resources into building nuclear weapons.

With an arsenal comprised between 50 to 100 nuclear warheads, Pakistan has squandered its wealth and its security reserves into developing weapons of mass destruction. This is a perfect opportunity for a majority of nations to make its voice heard: “Okay for financial assistance, but since the emperor has no clothes, time now for dismantling nuclear arms you obviously can't afford.” This should be a prerequisite step; what's your take?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The end of a fifty-year love affair

Hot passions usually don't last that long, but this one did. In fact, it perhaps began as early as 1959. Then, still a kid I wanted a pair of Levi's jean like today's preteens would probably pester their parents for an i-phone, so after enough praying and cajoling, my Mom bought me one. She had a hard time locating them and wasn't sure it was such a good product after all. She probably didn't notice the two horses trying to tear the garment apart by pulling it on either sides, as pictured on the stitched, fake-leather label on the back, but the main thing was that I got them! Since that time, I probably have “consumed” 80 to 100 such jeans, in various denominations, from 501 to 550, never straying away from the brand and skillfully avoiding names like Lee or Wrangler. I was a true believer, a customer-for-life!

This was until yesterday. In the past, I have at time committed the American consuming crime, consisting of buying more than one item at a time, in order to stock them up, under the pretense that they were on sale, it was a great deal and I thought I was saving money. Sometime last year, I bought two pairs of Levi's at once. In recent years, my waist line had more or less followed the stock market by fluctuating, the peak coming in 2002 when I needed 34” to feel comfortable inside my pants. Recession, lots of exercise and more sensible eating brought that down, first to 33” and now to 32”.

Since one pair of these two jeans bought last year had not been worn and still had the labels on, my wife took them first to the Levi's Park City store to exchange them, something quite routine where we live. The employees gave her a terrible time and refused the exchange because she didn't have the receipt with her, even alleging that she could have “stolen” the precious, thirty dollar pants. Yesterday, I finally put my hand on the receipt and returned to the store with my it and over-sized Levi's under my arm. First they couldn't find the size I wanted and finally unearthed a different model that I didn't quite like but was nevertheless ready to accept. Then they saw my receipt and lectured me because it said on it that returns were only accepted within 30 days of purchase. This wasn't a return, it was an exchange, but I didn't argue, I just told them that Levi's had lost me as a client forever...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Making the best out of what we have

Life deals us the cards and it's up to each one of us to do the best we can with what we are given. Whether it's our physical or mental abilities, special skills or talents, nothing is ever apportioned to us on an equal and fair basis. As life goes on, our circumstances keep on changing and it's up to us to actively continue to adjusting and dealing with our fluctuating day-to-day situations and the challenges they present. Faced with them, we can either despair, stop fighting or start seeing the potential left for us and use it to transform it into something good and uplifting.

I'm reminded of this every moment I think of a friend who, last spring, became quadriplegic. There sure are things left for him to do that can be transformative and highly beneficial for his own sake and for his environment. His assets may appear significantly diminished but, somewhere, there probably is a way to magnify and leverage them. From a visual standpoint it's like looking at a variety of glass sizes and visualize them full. That should be our pursuit in life, so no matter our current stage, there's always a way to fill the container given to us to the rim...

Monday, August 9, 2010

The joy of hiking...

Between running, mountain biking and walking around town, there isn't much time left for just hiking in the mountains. Yesterday, after a morning mountain bike outing, I felt it was time to get back into the mountains and do what I used to crave on when I was a kid and a teenager. I rode the gondola at The Canyons and in minutes I was whisked up at 8,100 feet, ready for my fist mountain hike of the year.

It was in fact the second one, as Evelyne and I had hiked down “Holly” a mountain back trail one month or so ago to check it out before we'd redo it straddling our bikes – this one however was all “up” with 1,150 vertical gain. Initially, my deep motive was too search for mushrooms, but I soon discovered that the summer had been far too dry – so far – for any delectable picks to be found. I couldn't quite reach the 9990 ridge, but decided to put it off for my next outing. In the meantime, I rediscovered how fun hiking is...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Living in a resort town...

Whenever we leave Park City and go to a large metropolitan area, or visit some rural places, we're always surprised to see how old and frozen in time, everything seems to be.
The fast-paced change and constant evolution that applies to a tourist place has little currency in locales that don't need to show their best faces at all time in order to survive economically. On the other hand, resort communities or any places that receive a large share of visits from outsiders are always called to re-invent themselves all the time. Of course, they need to keep up with competition and this creates a very healthy and progress-oriented emulation, but their local governments are also richer through larger than normal tax revenues of all kinds, which give them the material means to keep investing in beautification, infrastructure and events of all sorts. This also serves as inspiration on the rest of the population and creates a positive cultural current.

These special circumstances put resort places on the up and up from the get go. So what's the downside of all that? Cost of living is one of them (mostly in terms of housing,) job opportunities is another one, large income disparities causes pressures of all kinds, and raising kids may bring a host of special problems in these “tiny paradises,” but by in large all these pesky little hurdles are more than compensated by a wonderful quality of life, and this, after all is the main benefit!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Raymond Muffat, 1932–2010

When I was a kid growing up in the Alps, Raymond and his wife Lina were our next door neighbors. Newlywed, they moved into an old chalet next to our home sometime in 1959, that over the years would be transformed into a large and beautiful residence. I was still a little kid and I would train slalom in front of their door, in the steep slope that dropped 150 feet to the local creek below. I packed the course myself, set it up with makeshift poles that I had cut into some bushes and would side-step uphill after each one of my runs.

Both were my first cheerleaders... They saw me grow up, leave for school and then, one day of 1977 depart for America. An early-riser, Raymond was always up before sunrise, either returning from fishing or already tilling his vegetable garden; in winter his window was always the first to be lit. Both Lina and Raymond were great neighbors and had a wonderful family. This year, around the middle of June, Raymond had to go to the hospital for a very serious operation. He came back home two weeks later, weak, depleted by the procedures and had a hard time recovering. Late July he was once more hospitalized and passed away on Sunday, August 1st. I'll miss your quiet smile and your steady good demeanor, Raymond!

Crossing Nevada

Recently, we drove through the State of Nevada both ways on Interstate 80. Each way is about 340 miles long. We've done it several times, mostly on the same route, and once to the south on Route 50 rightfully dubbed the “loneliest road in America.” Even though the scenery is quite varied between Salt Lake and Reno, this is not an exciting itinerary, with only few places of interest in between the two cities. It starts with the exit to the Bonneville speedway, just before the gambling city of Wendover, at the gates of Utah, then Wells, a glorified truck stop, followed by Elko, the gold mining city, Battle Mountain, a Shoshone reservation and Winnemuca then Lovelock end up punctuating the lonesome drive.
Of course, as we get near Reno, we pass the Mustang exit and its infamous “ranch” that has been so much in the news in recent years. Shortly thereafter there's what's nicknamed the The Biggest Little City in the World that come in sight at the foot of the Sierra Nevada. Today, as we are still in the midst of the “great recession” Las Vegas' little sister appears sad and uninviting, crowning the drive monotony. Yet, with all the boring aspect of the journey, time and miles tend to fly very fast at more than 70 mile an hour on average...

Friday, August 6, 2010

The art of using time wisely

Just like our brain, time is too precious a resource to waste. The problem of course, is how can we use it in the best possible manner, since it is an element filled with contradictions; on one hand, we need it to mature thoughts as well as things for us, and yet, we also want to harness it when it's available to us. That mere observation is so overwhelming that we hardly ever handle it as we should. Of course, if we wait idle, time goes away and soon there's nothing left! There's obviously a wise way to do this. We need to start by putting an end to procrastinating and get as many projects as we need underway.
The more we'll be able to handle that, the greatest our harvest will be down the road. Then, day by day, month by month and year by year, we'll tend to our many projects that are queued into our personal pipeline. We'll tweak them here and there, now and then, until they mature to perfection. When one specific issue is ready, we can replace it inside our incubator with one or several new ones, making sure to keep that pipeline as filled up with important issues as we can comfortably tend to. In fact, the fine art of dealing with time resembles more to “farming” it instead of just managing the volatile commodity, and it's why time is so hard to harness well and leverage to our advantage, without always seeming powerless in its face...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Deleveraging is so painful!

In past blogs, I've been talking about the inevitability of deleveraging for everyone; individuals and companies alike. The process is a grueling one and this is why – as the United States is just in the midst of it – there is such a malaise everywhere you look.
Real estate isn't selling as it should, because, deep inside, sellers haven't come yet to terms with the reality of a practical floor. Companies aren't hiring, because they don't see a visible bottom in their activity. Landlords are reluctant to rent for less, because still under the influence of pre-recession, high rents. Job seekers are still dreaming of stratospheric pay scales when in fact these have come down crashing. A new reality is already everywhere, but the old paradigms die hard. In summary, we all know what needs to be done, something like more with less, but we haven't come yet to accept that need as a new reality. As a result, everything freezes up, deal-makers hesitate, everyone is wishing for an uptick in some opposite direction that isn't taking place and in the meantime, time elapses, and we all waste crucial time.

This reminds me of some time when I was out of job, wanted a replacement work very badly and took a position for 50% less money than I was making in my preceding post. I took it; showed what I could do, and in no time was back up to my former salary and very soon was ready to earn much more. Deleveraging means less consumption, a smaller GDP, less money to go around and obviously, less earnings! The perspective of deleveraging is scary, but there is healthy bottom from which we can all regroup and shoot up from there, always keeping in mind that the cream always rises to the top...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mixing business & emotions

Everyone likes to project that they're great business people and can handle almost any situation with skills an savvy. Yet, today, I'm literally in the middle of a business negotiation where two opposite parties are in a stalemate because they're allowing their emotions to get in the way of concluding a mutually beneficially agreement.

The two entities are “mad” at the opposite side, believe they're being lied to and don't seem able to act with pragmatism and with a cool head to achieve a deal that would be in their best interest. So what gets in the way? Immature emotions, big ego and poor judgment; at the same time they pretend and would like to project that they're are top when it comes to business; I'd laugh if I had no vested interest in the outcome!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Point Reyes

At the urging of a good friend of mine, we visisted Point Reyes Station and Poin Reyes Seashore, located about one hour drive north of Berkeley. This is a 70,000-acre park preserve located on the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County, just North of San Francisco. As a national seashore, it is maintained by the US National Park Service as a nationally important preserve within which existing agricultural uses are allowed to continue.

I was expecting some very picturesque vistas and instead was treated with huge expanses of seashore. I was a bit disappointed, but remained a good foot soldier. We had a good picnic, walked along the beautiful beach and then went along a one-hour hike through the woods, saw a jack-rabbit, and an eagle. We also sampled a delicious dozen of local oysters, and returned home filled up with a dose of marine air, we never get to ever breathe in our landlocked state of Utah...

Monday, August 2, 2010

The German Feast

Yesterday afternoon, we attended a German Fest, a “Biergartenfest” organized by the “Tourist Club” in Oakland. Since we didn't own a a pair of lederhosen or a dirndl, we came as we were, in jeans and t-shirts, our daughter and her boyfriend came along and this made for a really fun afternoon.

There was a good live band, a group of dancers who all performer folk dances in the traditional garb, good bradwurst and polish sausages, some good desserts and of course German beer! While only some of us danced the polka (this was never was my forte) we indulged in the chicken danse, which by our own assessment, we performed very well and enjoyed a great lot!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Running along the Bay

I've always enjoyed running around the San Francisco Bay. For one thing, we never have to run in the streets; instead, we look on the map for a parking spot by the Bay, which gives us access to the running path that circumnavigates the huge body of water. This always makes for a very pleasant run. The morning fog keeps everything cool and comfortable and besides a small amount of humidity, which brings up all kinds of scents.

It never gets too hot and uncomfortable, especially in the early morning. I've never run there in the spring time, so I never had a chance to experience the scent of the season, but instead, I've always been there in the summer and in the fall season, when the vegetation is already past its prime and beginning to rot. The smell is quite unique to the area and has made its mark for decades inside my memory. This time, we've been running east of the Berkeley Marina and that was another enjoyable five mile course alongside the Bay...