Sunday, October 31, 2010

I'm getting mad too!

This November election, most Americans are mad against something; I wasn't until this early morning, but at 6 am I became incensed too! I was reminded that the Bush administration had changed our daylight saving time to contradict my alarm clock display that had been programmed, long, long ago, to automatically show the twice annual change of time until the cows come home or till the end of times, whichever comes first.

Now it says 5 am when it should say 6 and for a full week, I'll have to wrack my brains each time I call someone in Europe to figure out what time it's already over there or watch my favorite French show on satellite TV, not to mention re-setting my bedroom clock again next week as it won't automatically know that time. Out of almost 400 million American, I must be the only one with programed time devices because I'm not hearing any one else complain. At any rate, I continue to believe that this business of time change is really stupid and should be eradicated from the face of the earth. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tariq Aziz's turn

If you follow the news, you probably heard that Tariq Aziz, Iraq's foreign minister and later deputy prime minister, was sentenced to death earlier this week by an Iraqi court for crimes against members of rival Shiite political parties. It's not that I'm a fan of Mr. Aziz, but I continue to believe that the death penalty is barbarian and shouldn't be part a country's toolbox that pretend to start anew like Iraq does. I don't think either that, in terms of Iraqis' deaths, he bears nearly as much responsibility than do, for instance Messrs. Bush and Cheney.

It is interesting to note that Tariq Aziz was born from a Chaldean Christian family, and that just weeks before the American-led invasion in 2003, he had an audience with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. Since Aziz was sentenced to be hung, I was glad to hear that the Catholic Church had taken position against his execution on the grounds that the Holy See was against the death penalty and that such an act of clemency would "foster reconciliation and the reconstruction of peace and justice in Iraq after great suffering" according to its spokesman, Frederico Lombardi.

The Vatican wasn't alone as it was joined in its cries for clemency by the United Nations, the European Union, Amnesty International and even Russia. The United States, which motto is “in God we trust” and where most folks believe in the sanctity of life has said nothing...

Friday, October 29, 2010

What must change

Very few Americans are pleased with our current political system. For lack of a better word, it's broken. Only a few of its elements need to be changed in order to get it back on track and make it work for the good of the nation and for turning our fortunes around. Here's my prescription:

1. Get money out of the electoral process; campaign should be government financed.
2. Change terms: Congress and presidential terms are too short; bring them to five year with a two term limit. Senate can stay at six, but also make it a two term limit.
3. Encourage other parties (Green, Tea Party, you name it,) to break the two-party monopoly
4. Get God out of politics and government
5. Get our elected officials to work together and stop bickering.

These changes are drastic, imply tinkering with our “sacred” constitution; they're also simple and would work. This is correct, I'm a dreamer.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Obama and me

There's no question that President Obama has been getting an unfair rap thanks to the Republican malevolent propaganda machine, but there's also a undeniable reality that genuine kindness, impressive education, hard work and a remarkable intelligence aren't always able to trump basic good common sense, strong gut feelings, mean assertiveness and experience. These latter pieces have been woefully missing in our leader and it now shows.
From the get go, I've a been a staunch supporter of Barack Obama and still remains, but I now realize that, he too, had his failings and wasn't able to read or anticipate all the pitfalls that were thrown in his way. I sincerely hope the results of this mid-term election aren't as bad as the media make them and also that Mr. Obama will be able to hang on for a second term. By that time, he will have learned an awful lot and be finally well rounded for the good of the United States that, at this moment, will still be in dire need for all the good leadership it can get.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Check under your car before you go...

I never used to do it, but I will from now on. I just heard this morning that when Yasir Afifi, who lives in California, took his car in for an oil change, his mechanic found an unusual wire hanging from below. It was part of a black rectangular device attached to his car by a magnet. After posting photos of the gizmo online, where it was identified as a GPS tracking device, the young man received a visit from some FBI agents asking for their equipment. It's not that I don't like to be spied on, it's just that I don't think dragging extra stuff under under a car is smart, besides, I know it's bad for gas mileage.

If that had happened to me, I probably would have been subpoenaed by the FIB for excessive visits to the Home Depot or suspicious and overly frequent patronage of our nearby ski resorts. They wouldn't have been able to track my religious attendance though, as we don't have a mosque in Park City, yet. I deal with enough electronics and wires in my life without having any extra dragging underneath my car, so that what I'll do,  is just check everyday, that way I can always remove skunks, cats and other road kill that could be hanging in there...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The sinking American Dream

Like anything else on the planet, our concept of the “American Dream” is an evolving moving target. It certainly isn't the same as it used to be more than 30 years ago went I came to this country. Right after World War II, the United States was the only world player with hardly any competition. Today, we are just a big participant among many, lean and hungry players. Growing global competition, corrupt politicians, poor governance, waste and overall complacency have killed most of the lifeblood that lived inside that dream.
While most Americans are scratching their head about ways to “create” jobs the old fashion way, I think it's now time to rethink our entire economic and political approach from scratch and bring forth profound reforms in the ways we are being governed, our politicians get elected and how long they stay on. We also need to re-invent the way we conduct international trade and - without being protectionists – incorporate simple balance in each of our bilateral trade agreements. How fast can these reforms begin to be implemented will decide if America is likely to keep on sinking or begin emerging again in a much more complex and highly competitive new world...

Monday, October 25, 2010

The effortless approach...

Before the snow had blanketed Park City overnight, we spent our weekend indoors, under an incredible downpour, so we watched more TV than usual and on Sunday, we had a chance to follow the first ski races of the season in Austria as well as some figure ice skating in Japan. What struck me, while I was observing some of the athletes, was their seemingly lack of efforts in executing the high-performance moves they were supposed to deliver during these competitions.

That's when it downed on me that in sports, and particularly in skiing, we focus far too much on achieving the best technical gesture, in attaining the flawless form, while in fact we should be much more focused on attaining effortlessness. We should first think that we're light, nimble and float on snow, and this would surely lead us to accomplish everything the in the most natural manner possible. Paying too much attention to the perfect gesture and the ideal body placement stiffens the athlete and often goes against the natural way we're built. Going with the least amount of effort and a greater dose of softness lets our bodies speak their true language and look naturally beautiful. That's right, form follows function!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Doubt as a mean of salvation...

Critical thinking might very well be the medicine that will save humanity from all the fear mongers and other folks praying on the gullible and other easily influenced individuals. Nothing illustrates that better than the current American mid-term election campaign in which the right wing has been extremely successful at selling their simplistic views, all articulated on hollow as well as mindless slogans. No wonder that most religious folks are following that gospel as if it was the one preached in their own churches. That same set of cliches works wonder in other parts of the world where the influence of religion is a strong antidote to critical thinking and free choice.
From Iran to Israel and of course, to our American Bible Belt. Developing critical thinking rests of course on good secular education and rejection of superstition and other esoteric beliefs that can only poison young minds and make them an ideal target for being brainwashed by unscrupulous politicians when they need to be elected to office. Critical thinking should be a protective helmet that all of us must wear when we open a newspaper, read the news on the net, listen to the radio or watch TV. The challenge is how do we deal with the masses that are already contaminated by simple-mindedness and can no longer be brought to think for themselves?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Are we what we drive?

Yesterday, my good friend William Bocq couldn't resist to show his surprise when he read my daily blog and exclaimed that he never thought of me as a Lamborghini man. Instead, he was picturing me as an F350 or Dodge Ram driver; you see, the cowboy type. Well, he was wrong on both counts actually. As I responded to his post, I said I wouldn't mind driving a Lambo, but would be concerned of extracting myself out of that tight and low riding car when I'm done driving. I'd need some outside help and be very fearful of hurting my lower back.

I know, when I was a teenager, I was dreaming of owning a “Fournier Marcadier” (what's that?) which in France at the time was a “poor man's Lambo” that I would have had to put together myself as it was sold as a kit and motored by a tiny Renault engine. I never got to do it and, my acne gone, that dream evaporated quickly. Today while I don't drive a huge pick up as Bill assumes, I drive something I like a lot, but that is - believe it or not – not quite my dream car yet.
Today, the auto I fancy happens to be a “cult car” in Alaska, Colorado, Utah and Vermont, it's semi-utilitarian, but it precisely fit my very desires - yeah, I didn't say “needs.” I've owned a few of them in the past, and when I return to that set of wheels, I'll tell you what it is...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wants, needs and government

As most of us know too well, there's a huge difference between “wants” and “needs.” For example, I want a Lamborghini, but I simply need some mean of transportation.
Political events and social news around the world fall into that same category. For instance, it would seem that French people want to work less, but their country needs to pay for retirement and needs to keep its deficit under control. In America, we the people, want to pay even less taxes, but need to balance our books, etc. I could go on and on with that subtle difference between “wants” and “needs” but suffice to say that next time, we WANT our government to do certain things, let's ask ourselves first, what we really NEED and go with the later...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

When government looks bad

Two incidents took place this week that further undermined our opinion of governement services. The first one was about our venerable US Postal Services that failed to tell us that they had received a parcel that we found later had been sitting for over two weeks in their backroom.
We use a PO Box and whenever a large object is shipped to us, there always seems to be a snafu. The right hand doesn't seem to know what the left is doing. Their competitors, Fedex and UPS don't seem to have these kinds of problems. They get things done, fast and almost always to the users' satisfaction. My conclusion is pretty simple, before our postal service raises the cost of stamps for yet another time, we ought to privatize it, get employees who care and aren't afraid to work. We'd save tons of taxpayers money and we could focus on getting our things done instead of worrying it about our mail being delivered the right way.

The other incident occurred when I went to our local Court to file up some parperwork. First the sheriff manning the secure entrance wasn't able to direct me correctly, then when I finally got where I wanted to be the clerk had no clue as how she should handle what I thought was a rather routine request. She had to go back and forth to her supervisor and 30 minute later I was finally reassured as to what to do. Privatizing our court system might be another challenge altogether, and I'm not advocating that we go ahead and do it, but we should “wake up” these government employees who grow fat and lazy, with their generous pensions as their sole horizon. Would strong morning coffee do the trick? I doubt it; at least not in Utah!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Do I look like my dad?

These two pictures were taken when my dad and I reached the same age. Can you pick up a resemblance? Sure, even though I wear a hat, one big distinction is that I have almost no hair left. For one thing and unlike me, my dad labored very hard all of his life, from the time he was a tiny kid to the days he entered his seventies. Work, work, work; no sports, no cultural experiences and no leisure activities.
Just showing up early in the morning and finishing up late at night. No vacation either and hardly any luxury; just a good meal on rare occasions, but always plenty of good, rich food cooked by my mom. Probably too much of it, in fact. In spite of all that, my dad was a good man who lived to be 85 (he was born some 108 years ago.) Something I hope to emulate, but without any guarantee...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Flying on the edge...

Yesterday morning, I heard a story on the radio, about Azul, a Brazilian domestic low-cost airline established on 5 May 2008 by David Neeleman, the founder and former-CEO of America's JetBlue, another low-cost carrier. What was remarkable about the story was that the business scheme Neeleman had designed was further pushing the risk envelope and blatantly playing with fire by innovating in giving the farm away.

Consider this: The airline is aiming at competing against Brazilian buses, and for its passengers that neither have the cash nor the credit card needed pay for the fare, Azul is willing to extend credit. This to me is the epitome of craziness! Not only is this “low-cost” airline already working on the edge of profitability, but it also has the audacity of thinning out its margin by selling on open, unsecured credit. This sound like the “flying sub-prime” and it makes me wonder if the human race will ever learn anything from its past mistakes!

Monday, October 18, 2010

I had seen the future... In Japan!

In the early nineties, I traveled a lot to Japan and never failed to marvel at that country's advance in so many fields, including of course consumer products and technology. I would always tell my family and friends “If you want to catch a glimpse of the future, visit Japan!” Unbeknown to me, that assertion was already unraveling as Japan was in the process of losing its luster in the early stage of its post “bubble” era.
But there was no question that, until the mid-nineties, the land of the rising sun was a peep-hole in which the future could be seen with all of its luster. Today, after a twenty year struggle and a variety of unsuccessful stimuli, Japan still can't seem to regain its footing.

From there, it's very easy to draw a parallel with what's currently happening in the USA and what soon might affect Europe. A situation in which a country runs out of room for keeping on expending or even worse, being totally unable to return to growth and “normal” consumption, which begs the question as to whether that consumption was healthy and sustainable to begin with. The more I dwell on the subject, the most our economic system appears to be a deliberately built-in house of cards which, by design, can't sustain itself. That of course, is fodder for yet another economic discussion...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The prayer thing...

I used to pray; that's right, not a lot, but quite regularly. That was some thirty years ago and while it wasn't exactly a religious prayer, it's been really rewarding to me. It was a short series of daily affirmations that I would recite twice a day; early in the morning and then at night just before falling asleep. Did it work for me? Absolutely! How come? It was a bit like programming a GPS; I'd put my destination in and would keep on repeating the itinerary needed to get me where I wanted to go.

I'd do it over and over again and my stated goals would gradually manifest itself in the form of some real achievement. Why did I quit doing it? Probably I foolishly thought that "I had arrived," but I should have known that in life there is no finish line; okay, there's one but it should come as late as possible. Should I revisit the prayer practice? Most definitely; I just need first to think over what my future destinations will be before I build some good itineraries. Exciting, isn't it?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The “training effect”

Generally, the more we keep on doing something, the better we become at it. That's not just limited to working skills, but also to sports, even the ones we practice just for fun. In recent days, I've been mountain biking a lot and for the first time in six seasons of regular practice,
I'm making measurable progress. Not so much in my climbing abilities, which remain average and still feel “hard” on my legs, but mostly on my faculty to ride faster when I find myself in fairly flat or descending sections of the trails. I'm simply acquiring greater confidence, read the terrain better, react faster and become much less apprehensive.

All these factors come in at an age when I clearly thought I might see my overall performance declining steadily. While this has undeniably happened with my road running performance, this doesn't seem to be the case yet in sports where skills play an important role and honing them seems to be an endless pursuit with infinite potential. I'm thinking of two of them, skiing and biking. In other words, when muscular mass, flexibility and fast response begin to erode, better skills can be used to prop-up and, sometimes, more than compensate for that decline in brute force. So there's still plenty of hope; when one component goes away, another can still be brought in to make up for more than just the difference!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Selecting someone? Try attitude.

It's been quite a long time since I interviewed someone for a job opening. I've done it many times, and always was far too focused on an applicant's technical skills, experience and education instead of paying very close attention to that person's attitude. Had I known that people with great attitude are generally flexible and open enough to learn and do anything, this might have had huge implications on my professional career and my personal success, but for too long, I ignored that all-important human dimension.

In fact, this is something very hard to spot and evaluate. Until recently, no one even acknowledged it, but with insight I've learned that a golden attitude is by far the most important criterion someone can bring to a position.
The reverse, hiring someone with a stinky personality can wreck havoc on any good organization and systems. And this observation isn't just true for the working work. It's also true in the choice of your sport partners and playmates, your friends and of course, your significant other.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hundred days of precipitations...

That's about what we get in Park City, Utah and it's generally split equally between snow and rain. Of course the best part is that there are some 265 days left without seeing anything falling from the sky, except of course a downpour of generous and heart warming sun rays. I was talking to an old friend of mine this past weekend, who splits his time between Colorado and his native Haute-Savoie in France; he was probably exaggerating a bit when he said that in the Rocky Mountains, the sun is present 300 days of the year instead of the 300 rainy and snowy days that shroud the French Alps.

So I'd rather settle for 100 days of precipitations and 265 days of fine weather; just like my buddy, I can also assert that, in my Alpine hometown, the reverse is true with only 100 days of sun and 265 days of combined lousy conditions. With that in mind I don't have any regrets living in Park City and it's a fact that we always try to read the skies for some impeding weather that we desperately want, whether it'd be snow or rain depending on the season. That right, I had almost forgotten everything about our almighty Rocky Mountain sun!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My god, your god, their gods

Public television is trying to entertain us with a three-night series called “God in America” and two-third into it, I've failed to be excited. Instead, I'm regularly falling asleep as I desperately try to watch it. After tonight, when it's over I'll share my two-cent with you on that massive – and so far lackluster - undertaking, but for the moment I wanted to reflect on the logical link there might be between the multiple number of religions and the huge variety of gods that must populate them.

That's right; when religions are different, their respective gods can't be the same. If they were, they'd be smart and tell the fighting factions to chill off and see them exactly the same way. So like in consumer goods, my conclusion is that we're dominated by hundreds of gods all vying for domination and in the meantime, crass market share. Each time a new god comes up on the radar screen he also comes up with a promise, or a key feature, that's intended to draw crowds.

As an example, when Christianity came on the market after splintering from Judaism, its “unique selling proposition” was eternal life, and each time a new god reveals himself, he's got to up the ante in order to make his mark and take market share away from the rest. Of course, since the advent of the telephone, television and twitter we haven't seen many new gods and religions come around. Perhaps the market is saturated or it may also be that it takes far too much creativity these days to compete against cable television, the internet and Facebook. In fact, it could also be that Facebook has now become the new religion, but no one knows about it, yet...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The barbaric side of religion

In a recent New York Times article called “Test Your Savvy on Religion” the columnist Nicholas Kristof was asking a series of questions aimed at testing his readers' knowledge about religion ranging from Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism. He was responding in fact to a recent poll showing that of all people, atheists were the one best informed about religion! I took the test, missed many right answers, and came to the conclusion that all of these religions were funded on barbarism and might have worked at the dawn of humanity, when our forebears were in fact still barbarian and that the written religious word, that came from oral tradition should never be considered as “set in stone” as many fanatical faithful consider their particular holy books to be.

This exercise in finding out who might have said what, in terms of scriptures, showed me once more that being taking ancient writings litterally shows a retrograde approach and easily paves the way to fanaticism. This entire process confirmed to me that theologies like constitutions should always remain “living documents...”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Are we doomed by Facebook?

It's hard to be on Facebook and not being struck by the fact that the so-called “social network” represents a huge opportunity to waste formidable chunks of time. If the medium was only to be used on weekends, this wouldn't be too bad, but it erodes our precious time 24/7 and ends up depriving the economy of precious productivity. Proponents of “conspiracy theories” might say that it was in fact put in place by al Qaeda, the Chinese or some other “evil empire.” I'm not here to deny this.

The fact remains that 7% of the world population has found the ultimate way to distract itself in Facebook and while indulging in that new habit, quit paying attention to producing goods and services. I'm sure there's a handful of capable economists that could put a price tag on what the Facebook addiction costs to the economies of the world that are victim of it. With a global GDP oscillating somewhere between 70 and 80 trillion dollars, that pesky network might easily cost us all around at least one trillion. Enough with that; I'm beginning today to hit the brake on my personal consumption of that “feel-good” medium!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dealing with the negative

I don't know how most folks cope with it, but I don't particularly enjoy the negative content and the downbeat tone of the news. It's only about unemployment, scandals, bad economic data and war stories. I can't live with this diet of bad information. I love progress that means building or improving my surroundings and I just don't enjoy destruction all the time.
My coping strategy with all of this is to instead, fix things, enhance situations and create something new. That's why I tend my positive, ideological garden and always do my very best to launch new projects. I start by planting some seeds; let them germinate, till the soil, remove the weeds watch them grow, harvest and repeat. That's right, the interesting side of my existence is all about building, repairing, fine tuning and creating. To hell with the bad news!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dad stories

Last night I lucked out and, once more, got Jesus on Skype. The video picture was bad, Jesus told me it must have been my computer, but as always, I didn't quite believe him. The conversation went something like that:

Jesus: What are you up to Go11?
Go11: Just returned from New Orleans and, as always, glad to be back home.
Jesus: The “Big Easy” is always cool, I like it there, particularly the food; I'm also a big jazz fan. So what's on your mind today?
Go11: I was just wondering; what's been your relationship with your dad?
Jesus: Which one? Joseph or the Big Kahuna?
Go11: I meant the Palestinian, you know the woodworker; I wasn't thinking about the big boss; I actually had not thought at all about him. That for sure complicates the question...
Jesus: Not really; till I was about 25 years old, the “big boss” as you call him left me pretty much alone. Joseph wanted me to take over the family business, but I never like sawdust and splinters. I thought I was too smart for pounding nails, I guess...
Go 11: !
Jesus: But Dad, as I called Joseph was a real neat guy. He let me drive the donkey cart by myself when I was barely 9 years old and was cool about anything I'd do. Mom consistently was a real pain, but not Dad.
Go11: Then, what about the “big boss” then?
Jesus: He was a tough customer. He always asked me to go and make speeches, be controversial, make miracles, get in trouble. You know what all that led to... With him it wasn't fun; he would really lean on me and always get his way. It's not that I disliked him, but he was just unpleasant and tough.
Go11: What's your relationship with him these days?
Jesus: He pretty ignores me now. We get together for our regular business meetings and those aren't as productive as they used to be. We've cut down a lot on miracles and revelations. We don't recruit new prophets anymore and between you and me, we've long canceled the “second coming,” we just couldn't agree on certain details and on a time line that would make sense for us and would create the most spectacular impact possible. In the same vain, I personally never liked the idea of “rapture.” I thought it was corny to start with and would be too much work to implement.
Go11: So what's your current plan for the end of times?
Jesus: We don't really have one; for the time being we'll play it by hear and we also have asked the Holy Spirit to come up with some novel idea, provided of course it can think out of the box, for a change...
Go11: I was under the impression that the Holy Spirit was pretty smart?
Jesus: Don't get me started on that character and its alleged smart mind; let's keep that for another chat on Skype...
Go11: Okay Jesus, thanks for your time and your insights; I always enjoy them!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Searching for inspiration

For months, I've been wracking my brain to find a lay-out or a design for a small rockscape I plan to build in front of our house. I only have a vague idea of what it might look like and it's been very difficult for me to see it clearly in my mind's eye. I've tried to put it on paper and my hand appears paralyzed and refuses to draw anything.
I went to get rocks of all sizes and shape and they're now sitting by the side of the house, waiting to be put in place and while I still was hesitating yesterday, I finally began to lay the rocks out on the lawn to create some pattern. Yeah, simply to do something and get that creativity train in motion. With what was defined by a few slates spread on the ground I got my start, the pattern began to take shape and I can now picture what I may get down the road. I only took a first physical step. Often in searching for inspiration, just sticking to the “intellectual” side of the equation is woefully insufficient for setting the wheels in motion...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Georges Salomon, 1925-2010

The man who succeeded his father at the helm of Salomon and had to be credited for the firm's meteoric rise just passed away this past Tuesday in Annecy, France; he was 85. Georges Salomon was a passionate visionary who constantly reinvented himself and his company. To me he was the Steve Jobs of the ski business and had no competition. Most essentially, he know before anyone how to step into his customers' boots; he was the quintessential product marketeer and what never fails to impress me is that, during his lifetime, he optimized his outcome to the max with the cards he'd been dealt with. All through my ski industry career he always was my number one competitor and I had a lot of respect for everything he did.

Over the years, I remember applying three times to get a job with the Annecy based company and got three rejections. I probably wasn't good enough for the brand and I've learned to respect that too. Of all the ski industry “giants” Mr. Salomon made the best out of his life-long efforts when he sold his company in 1997 to Adidas. Too bad, the new owners didn't keep up with his genius and when the sport shoe company sold Salomon to Amer Sports in 2004, what was once the number one company in the snow business went from bad to worst. Salomon had sold his company, but not his creative leadership.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Transatlantic car prices

I was yesterday on the phone with my friend François Feuz from Switzerland and as it always does when boys are talking, the conversation went into cars. François had told me he was getting a new automobile and I happened to be interested in the same brand and model, albeit a slightly different version. I told him how expensive that car was in the USA and my friend was shocked and told me how much more money it was in Europe. I wasn't nearly I surprised because I knew the dichotomy well enough to say that, German cars in particular, are heavily subsidized in North America, because it's their largest market in the world and they can't afford to let their competitor steal market share. While the automobile in question wasn't made in Germany and was a good old Volvo made in Sweden, the situation was exactly the same.
 Click on image to enlarge
Today, I checked on the internet, and found out that the same car (even a little bit better in its US version, with a larger motor and some extra features,) is priced a whopping 85% cheaper here than it is in Switzerland. We Americans thought that the Chinese were the only one lending us a hand and lending us money; well, they're not alone in supporting our spending spree, the Europeans are paying through the nose for for their autos so America still can afford driving Audis, BMWs, Mercedes and Porsches!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What should have Obama done?

We all know that insight is 20/20 and today, this ever-recurring lesson fully applies to President Obama. When he took office lat January 2009, Barack Obama did everything he could to be nice to the Republicans, by not going after the Bush-Cheney tandem for their ruinous and
uncalled for war in Iraq and the war crimes perpetrated in the process, agreed to place Tim Geithner and Larry Summer at the helm of the nation's financial and economic leadership, and kept digging a deeper hole into the hopeless Afghan war.

In response to these presidential “gifts,” the opposition party could only say “No,” “No” and “No.” Its obstructionist tactics worked perfectly because today, middle America doesn't understand why the President failed to pull a herd of rabbits out of his hat twenty month into his administration. The moral of that sad story is that when you believe in something, have a solid majority (which Obama had) you plow away and do what it takes to advance your agenda. There is hardly any room for compromise. There will be plenty of time to worry about the other side if you fail, and of course, successful leaders never consider that.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Can I live with American culture?

Yesterday, as I was chatting with Bernard Feeser, a former high-school mate, he asked me how I was coping with living in America along with its culture and if returning to France wasn't an option I had considered. A deep and very relevant question. I tried to answer it the best I could, but wasn't quite satisfied with what I might have told him, because I had never really thought through that whole idea. All started when, a long time ago, I had almost unconsciously made two commitments to myself; first, I was going to have a career that I would be passionate about and second, that I would live in a place I'd love.

From the get go, I knew I that the pieces of that puzzle wouldn't fall in place at once. There would be some patience required and I would have to jump through a series of hoops before I would have it tailor-made for me. My long-term goals were pretty simple; I wanted to take a shot at living in America and wanted to establish myself in “the best part of the Rockies” as I then phrased it.
While today is picture-perfect, there were challenges and pains along the way plus, I must add, quite a bit of good luck. I finally got what I wanted. Today, with all my family in America, my French culture still inside a corner of my head and easy access to the old continent thanks to the miracle of modern communications, what else more would I want?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Excellent teachers

As we were mountain biking yesterday morning, on two occasions we ran into a group of young high school guys trail running. My wife said to me: “We should have started that young...” I told her: “At that time I hated running and it gave me side aches!” I continued and said “...I wasn't that good either and my gym teachers all used to put me down.” That was it. That was true. Except for the time when I was in elementary school, I never had the good fortune to getting teachers that were nurturing, compassionate, encouraging and motivating.

Many of them could only recite a mumbo-jumbo of data without any regard for basic pedagogy; they were just talking, they were not having a conversation with their class. Some would even poke fun at their students' difficulties or ineptitude. This in large part is why I never understood math, physics or chemistry. I'm not making any excuses and don't harbor any rancor; I just look at this episode in my life quite coldly and objectively. To this day, I'm convinced that the ideal teacher is the one able to step into the student's shoes and makes a complex story understandable. That's what I call excellence in teaching.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The drudgery of flying

For someone who used to fly an awful lot, I'm now stunned how hard I find it to travel these days. It seems that the process is no longer half the fun it used to be and between long waits, obnoxious security checks, cramped seats and unhappy flight attendants, flying has stepped down below the train and the bus as a civilized mean of transportation. Sure, there's always the options of flying business or first class, but those are incredibly expensive compared to the basic fare and not really practical if some corporate entity won't pick up the tab or if there is no more fee miles left to pay for the upgrade. These observations are clearly leaving me with a much narrower horizon when it comes to my future travel plans, and frankly, I'll be able to live very well without jet-setting the world over. I live in a wonderful place and get all the things I love within minutes from my home. The airlines of the world, will now have to creatively work on some much better way to get me out of my palace more than once or twice a year!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The airport as a showcase

State tourism boards should always devote more attention and invest more money in what goes on at their airports that are mainly used by tourists. While folks generally don't spend much time at the any airport upon they arrival, they often end up killing quite a bit of time in these facilities when it's time to go home.

Several hours isn't uncommon and it's important to all tourist destinations saved by an airport to leave the best impression possible. That begin with the facilities and their infrastructure, their entire personnel as well as the various services that are offered on premises to all these visitors. That includes of course taxicabs, bus and limo drivers, airport police, airline gate agents, kiosk and food services employees, including the often infamous TSA staff.

How should these people be impacted? Training seminars for one thing along with perks available to them for “good behavior.” There are lots of hospitality training systems in existence that could be adapted for that need and somehow, this should involve a holistic effort between all stakeholders. I write this because my recent experience in New Orleans, where the second source of income is tourism leaves a lot to be desired, being nice isn't rocket science, it's the right thing to do, plus it doesn't have to cost a fortune!

Our cabbie from Jerusalem

When we left New Orleans, on our way to the airport, we got into a cab driven by a Palestinian who told us he came from Jerusalem and had worked in America for some 17 years. When we told him we were from Utah, he started asking about Mormonism and polygamy, a not-so-unusual question from folks who've never set foot in Utah and solely rely on media clichés. We proceeded to explain that only a minority of Mormons were indeed polygamists, and that the majority of male faithfuls seemed happy with just one wife. Our cabbie then started to rant about the fact that if polygamy laws weren't enforced for Mormons, they sure would be for Muslims like him, who would likely be discriminated by the American legal system. We asked him if he had several wives, but he said that since his family had been left behind in Jerusalem, he had to take several mistresses in America to provide him carnal comfort (what a great guy!)
He further kept on telling us that he didn't like Americans, found them far too venal and too permissive, and that he would never allow his three children (all teenagers and young adults) to live in such a depraved country. He particularly had a big issue with being able to physically discipline children as he saw fit, without being singled out as a child abuser. Quite obviously, our man was loaded with resentment about the United States and yet – by his own admission – could not tell us that he would return to Palestine for his retirement or to any other place in the world for that matter (we had asked him that specific question.) In the few short minutes we rode in his cab, this man managed to fully expose the complex case of contradiction he was. I have observed similar behaviors on a number of occasions with foreign-born U.S. Residents.

These individuals seem torn between their home culture and the comfort and convenience they extract out of their host country, yet they absolutely need to bite the hand that feeds them. Beyond finding this behavior as much appalling as hypocritical, I have a difficult time explaining why this is so and why some people need to vehemently attack and criticize the country that gives them the opportunity to truly thrive and yet give them total permission to freely voice their dissenting opinion. All this long anecdote to say that anger that's not vented almost always leads to irrational views and attitudes.