Monday, January 31, 2011

The wedge between Obama and Egypt

The US government appears unable to say and do what would seem reasonable to helping advance and resolve the Egyptian revolution. President Obama and State Secretary Clinton seem speechless when it comes to telling Mubarak to quietly go away and the reason is Israel. The sad reality is that Israel want other Arab nations them to be ruled by tyrants “bribed” by the West instead of having to face a natural order of events that would place the Zionist state in arms way.

This is another elephant in the room and this is – in my view – is the root cause of the current American paralysis when it come to resolving the Egyptian crisis effectively and peacefully. Don't expect the media to say much about it, but this is in effect what's tying America's hands...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The best (and the worst) of Sundance

In breaking with tradition, we only saw 4 movies during this year's Sundance Film Festival. The best was a documentary about the puppeteer behind Sesame Street's Elmo and the worst was a bad “B” movie about the adventures of five teenage girls; so bad in fact that we stayed less than 20 minutes inside the theater.

This movie however had received the audience award in its category, which made us wonder who got it right; us or the audience? The way we receive movies never change; it's a reflection of our tastes, values and style, but given that our time is increasingly the most valuable commodity we have on our hands, we can't afford to spoil it with watching something unworthy of it. That's this simple!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Not a politician's skill

As events keep on unraveling in Egypt, I was wondering why politicians only intervene on a “too little, too late basis.” What's clear, is unlike the visionaries, the true leaders they ought to be and the agents of change who transform the world, our political figureheads seem to be only good at reacting. When they do, the damage is already done and instead of being pro-active, they have to come up with decent strategies for mopping up the spillage.

Anticipation, preventive action and risk-taking are not among their panoply of skills. None of them is like Wayne Gretzky, the great hockey player, that so famously said: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

Friday, January 28, 2011

Open season for dictators?

After Tunisia, it's now Egypt's turn to boil and what's fascinating is that, as another despot the western world tolerate is being challenged, the political leaders in these same countries don't know what to say and don't dare doing what would be right.

In the case of Egypt the solution is amazingly simple: The US should dictate Hosni Mubarak what to do or close the purse strings, and what an open purse that is, with military aid to Egypt topping $1.3 billion annually, not counting over $28 billion in economic and development assistance made available to Egypt since 1975, according to our own State Department.

This kind of paralysis reminds me of the same docile behavior we always adopt with Israel. Our government is sitting on its hands hoping that some radical Muslim won't take over and yet dispensing taxpayer's monies to countries that only do as they wish. Fear is what guide us and over time it has proved to always be a very bad move indeed.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Body language that speaks volume

On Tuesday night, we managed to squeeze watching the state of the union address by President Obama and a Sundance Film Festival movie. Today, I'll only talk about a the speech and while I was listening attentively to the words of our leader, I was paying close attention to John Boehner, our new speaker of the house. Before I go any further, I should disclose my bias about the man. I don't like him; I'm convinced he's the GOP obstructionist-in-chief and while he sometimes cries, I'm convinced his tears are fake.

This said, during the entire speech, his body language confirmed my suspicion as it was displaying a mixture of contempt, boredom and hostility to underscore the most visible sentiments that transpired through his facial and body attitudes. This doesn't bode well for the future and for the spirit of cooperation every one of us would like to see...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Are the Swiss getting it?

I hardly ever watch the Swiss evening news, but happened to tune in last night, to find, among other concerns a union was demonstrating in an effort to pushing for a minimum wage better than the monthly $3000 the lower paid Swiss workers seems to be getting these days. For comparison, that number in America is just about $1,350 while it's $1,850 in France, about $330 in Brazil and still less than $250 in Russia. While there's no official “minimum wage” in China, the real low monthly wages seem hover around $75.

So it doesn't take a mathematician – which I'm not – to deduct that something will have to give, in a big way for the Chinese and the Indians, among others, to climb up the abyssal hole of salary inequity. My guess is that Western Europe and North America should set their sights to something closer to between $1,000 and $1,500 a month while the BRIC are creeping up towards $500 to $750 and the rest of the world to a level around $250, but that simply is a wild guess of mine. Forget a $3,500 monthly check wished by the Swiss! For big numbers, they should turn to Davos and its extravagant registration fees for a seat at the economic summit, as reported yesterday by the New York Times, but isn't this luxury tourism?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A big deal for Park City

Each year, the largest event that happens in Park City remains the 30 year old Sundance Film Festival. According to a University of Utah study, the festival's economic impact on the state of Utah is estimated to be around $63 million, not including an $18.5 million worth of Utah media coverage around the world from the 10-day affair. The 41,000 people that come to check movies out support 1,500 jobs, spend $25 million in lodging and almost $11 million to eat and drink.

These are the known numbers, but they don't include spending on airfare, private dinners, parties, and receptions held by the film industry, so it's quite likely that the amount of cash infusion gets closer to the $100 million mark, most of it spent in Park City. Off the large number of visitors, 60 percent (or about 25,000) are coming from out of state or abroad. Unsurprisingly, the largest share of nonresident attendees is from California, and most than three-quarters of them fly to Utah.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A little bit of everything

Perfection isn't what makes life fun; in fact it's the exact opposite. I believe that, deep inside, we all have ingredients of all kinds, from sugar, to sirup, salt and vinegar, that all contribute to make us chaotic and extraordinary at the same time. I like to think about a dashboard for each one of us that has a bunch of controls and dials.
For instance, one's for craziness (we're all more or less insane, right?) another is for creativity, another one for knowledge, yet another for kindness, meanness (why not?) special skills, memory (to try to match that of elephants) and many more traits that don't come to my mind right at this moment. Then the controls change and the dials go crazy, up, down, and sideways to give us an everyday life full of variety, stuffed with difference and peppered with unpredictability...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Solid vs. Liquid

I'll never be a sailor, I can't swim and can only tolerate the seaside for about five days. I like to see water, but don't play much in it; in fact, I almost drowned when I was a little boy. I can remember being sea-sick non-stop on some ocean liner between Tenerife and Durban. I love to drink it and that's about it. Now turn it into snow and ice and my attitude flips.

I know all the nuances of snow and can almost tell from looking at it how it will respond to my step or under my skis. I can walk and run on icy roads without batting an eye and love to drive my car in treacherous snowy roads. The more, the merrier, it seems. When it becomes liquid, huge bodies of water can scare me to no end, rain often depresses me, but water in its solid form is always my friend. I guess that's why I always will be a mountain lover...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ski conditions are what they are!

I have always liked to say that “there isn't a bad day skiing” and have for the most part meant it. True, there are days when the conditions could be better, but in those circumstances, I always try to look at the better side of the situation and ask myself “what could I learn out of it?” and then I make a genuine effort to enjoy the experience, push myself as much as I can, and the dividends I receive generally accrue in favor of my skiing technique.

Skiing rough terrain, bad snow and less than idyllic visibility all contribute to strengthening our on-snow performance. Another way to confirm Friedrich Nietzsche's saying: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger...”

Revisiting the Measure of Skiing (Part 2)

This is the second part of my January 13 blog in which we discussed sport watches that can measure vertical drop.

I knew that GPS was a great tool for tracking someone’s travel, including time, distance and elevation and had considered buying a portable device for sometime. I had seen a few wrist versions, but found them too bulky to wear. During this past summer, I was introduced to the latest in personal GPS technology: Garmin, well-known for its navigation and communication devices had the perfect replacement for my aging Sunnto, and this past Christmas I received the ultimate ski-geek present, a Garmin Forerunner watch, that could precisely measure my skiing and provide me with lasting memories of my on-hill adventures. I should say that besides being a skier, I’m also a road runner, a mountain biker and a hiker, so this watch would be used in all of my other outdoors endeavors.

Upon familiarizing myself with the new toy and installing the software, I tested it early January on my daily jogging course and discovered how easy it was to operate. Upon returning home, I just had to download the data on my computer before discovering in graphic details what I had done. Measuring my skiing would be the same and I couldn’t wait to testing it. This rather small watch only shows the time elapsed, the distance covered and the pace or speed per lap, while it’s worn; you must therefore download the complete data into a computer at the end of the day, and only then, do you get the full picture. To get started with recording a typical skiing day, you first need to get a satellite signal, then just pressing “start” gets you going and you don’t have to worry about anything until you take a break, have lunch or get to the end of the day. At that point, just pressing “stop” ends the recording session.

As my next test was skiing at Deer Valley Resort, I choose to sample most of its ski runs. As I was ready to board Carpenter Express, I located the satellite, pressed the “start” button and was on my way to a three-and-a-half hour adventure that would take me to Empire Canyon, Bald Mountain and Deer Crest.

When I returned home, I downloaded my ski day and could see right away that I had skied for 3 hour 28 minute, covered more than 36 miles (riding lifts and actual skiing,) reached a maximum speed of 47.2 mph near the base of the Deer Crest Gondola, skied a total vertical of 24,809 ft and reached an elevation of 9,553 ft at the top of Empire. Most telling however was the graph of my itinerary showing all the territory covered in just a few hours.

Another interesting graph was the one showing the vertical drop for each one of the runs taken that illustrated multiple laps, and steep as well as flat sections encountered along the way.
As an option, all this data can be put together in an animated format that shows the entire travel during the time my skiing was recorded. In that animated “Player” view, I can actually re-live my skiing in accelerated time, showing all the ups and downs and the choreography of time, distance, elevation and speed. So with these results in hand, it’s impossible not to love this new Garmin. I plan to use it most of the time I ski Deer Valley this winter and do the same this summer when I ride my mountain bike or just go hiking. This by far is the best outdoors and fitness monitoring tool I’ve ever owned, and priced like a good quality watch, I don’t see why you should deprive yourself either!

The best and most visually rewarding feature is that it’s possible to integrate your entire course into Google Earth and discover each one of your runs in a vibrant, three-dimensional format (too bad Google Earth only renders a green, summer view!)
Finally, if some of your friends are equipped with other Garmin products that are ready for the special software, you’ll be able – if you so choose – to be seen by them and they may also share their on-snow exploits as well, making you all a very happy, busy and accountable family of skiers!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Quality vs. Quantity

Would you prefer to live until you're 50 and have a fun, rewarding and fulfilled life or last to the mature age of 90 and endure a mediocre existence? On paper, I'd say that I prefer the former, but since I'm well beyond my 60 year mark I still have no desire to exit the scene, so this might be just a rethorical question, but when some days ago, an acquaintance from many years ago passed a way after a 36 year career as an helicopter skiing guide, I assumed that he had the chance of living a dream life and in spite of passing rather young, his existence might have been fulfilled.

What did I know to even think that? This probably is a way of jumping to conclusions and it's like saying that an attorney's life should be fulfilled by being a top lawyer when in fact she would want to be a congresswoman and later the nation's president. So who knows? Who is there to peg achievement levels on lives and aspirations we don't even know. One thing seems sure to me however; whatever time we've got left should be put to very good use. Yes, it should be put to the highest and best use possible.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Learning a new skill

For almost one year, I've been shooting videos and most importantly learning to edit them. With that, of course, there's a software to learn and since I'm a good grownup I don't read instructions and as a result the learning process is never dull and always filled with pain, frustration and disgust.

I keep on trying however because I love the medium and have so much to learn. If there is anyone among my readers who has mastered the rudiments of video-editing, something like video 101, I sure would love to hear from you...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Just about okay or perfect?

As Steve Jobs takes a leave from his job, yet another time, I am thinking about what goes into making exceptional people like him. Exceptional and not perfect of course, but individuals who can be agents of change, of advancement and who – more than anyone else – are obsessed with perfection. I have spent the last few days editing home videos (I know, my “passion du jour”) and have accomplished an okay job.

A perfect job, that is the very best work I could have done with the material and the tools I had, would have taken me perhaps twice longer. Few might have seen the minute differences, but there is no doubt in my mind that they would have appreciated a slightly, better product. So here we are; perfection always demands more time, more attention, more love in order to provide minute improvements. That's right, putting out twice the amount of resources for a two-percent difference. That's however why the same horses win races, over and over, by the same, hair-splitting advantage...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Orthotics or placebo?

For many years, I have worked in the sporting goods industry and most particularly in the ski-boot and climbing boot business. All along, I've heard from a bunch of self proclaimed gurus about the absolute need for some kind of insoles designed to “position,” “correct” or even “enhance” a sportsman's standing position while practicing a sport. I've tried them all, or most of them, from Superfeet to Comform'able without ever finding the holly grail in posture, comfort or performance. True, I never was in dire need for adjustment to begin with.
My narrow foot would fit most ski boots and I could go without pain, except if the boot was too tight, which is the way I thought for too long that ski boot should be fitted at the expense of my big toe-nails. I still have a pair of Superfeet insoles in my ski boots, but it's more placebo than anything else, and today, an article in the New York Times sheds a brand new light on the wisdom, the theory and the rationale – if there was one – for those miracle wedges. I think it's about time someone wrote that in the “corrective insole” department too, the Emperor appears to have no clothes!

Monday, January 17, 2011

More on bizarre weather...

As an ironic segue way to yesterday's blog, last night has seen some huge amounts of rain in Park City, which might negate my denial about global warming where I live. Yet, I won't dwell on this isolated weather incident which means so little in the grand scheme of things. I just wanted to talk about a TV debate I saw yesterday about natural catastrophes and their relation to climate change, as record breaking floods are currently taking place in Australia and Brazil. My reaction is that our planet is bursting at the seams with too many people. Just consider that in 1940 we were only 2.3 billion people on this planet, and today we're almost 6.9 billion; a three-fold increase!

To accommodate all these folks we've built in places that were not proper for human habitat, creating landslides, flooding, deforestation, and other ills, so when we compare the natural cataclysms of 60 years ago, they had far less impact with only one-third of the population exposed. We're now engaged in a vicious circle in which more people are spewing more bad stuff into the atmosphere, which might make the weather worse, and living in places were no one was not supposed to dwell in the first place. If after that, people don't see that our number-one planetary priority is population control,
they'll never get it...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Snow, skiing and global warming?

While the Alps are in right to wonder about the (melting) relationship between snow and climate change,
America has been blessed so far with a normal winter except perhaps for the usual eccentric behavior in large cities that never were in the snow-removal business, but to this day, nothing is too alarming in terms of a dwindling snow cover.

Am I in denial of man-produced climate change? Not in the least, but I feel that until now we've been lucky to dodging the bullet at our mountain resorts. The only thing that I have observed is that warmer spring conditions seem to have come earlier in recent years and that the snow melts at an impressive rate of speed during the months of May and June. This said, our Utah skiing remains great and I hope this condition continues at least for another two or three decades!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Learning to think for ourselves...

The Tucson tragedy has shown to those who sincerely wanted to see it, the corrosive effect of negative political chatter and invectives. Yet, it's a lot easier to listen to pre-digested opinions that to build our own views from scratch, based on what we like, what we feel and what genuinely make sense to us. We simply don't seem to have time to arrive at that level of understanding in the busy world we live in and are showered by a constant bombardment of all kinds of information, true, exaggerated and false.

Anytime we hear, see or read about something, we really need to put our critical thinking cap on and make the effort to find out how that news information stacks up with what we know and who we are, and only then, draw our own conclusions. Of course to accomplish that more easily, it helps a great deal to already know who we are ...

Friday, January 14, 2011

“Googling” Haiti

During 2010 I had made several recommendations about Haiti that of course no one in position of power did read and one year after the quake, the same mess is still here, for all of us to see, with less than 5 percent of the debris cleared. What's striking to me is that even the so much admired president Clinton who was the UN special envoy and jointly oversees the Interim Reconstruction Commission along with Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive has been woefully ineffective.

Of the more than $5.6 billion that was pledged at a March 31 donors conference, some $3.2 billion in public funding is still owed and one is in right to wonder how the difference was spent. Sure Clinton and Bellerive said progress has been made — that half a million people have moved out of the camps that remain home to about 1 million. The aid group Oxfam disputes that figure, saying it's based on imprecise headcounts. The bottom line is that everyone has been dragging their feet and that barring unconventional thought process and idea, the situation will still be the same one year from now. Here again, we might have been better off asking Google to handle the whole project...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Revisiting the measure of skiing

Around the same time last year, I was wondering in this blog how we should measure skiing. I offered a variety of tools from keeping track of actual mileage on skis (seemingly hard to do!), to counting the number of days, and my conclusions called for using what's called in ski-jargon, “vertical drop,” the measure of a ski hill height times the number of descent. So the more “vertical” is tallied, the more skiing has been accomplished. This wasn't a perfect solution; it didn't take into consideration the number of miles covered nor the time it took. Another important variable not accounted for was the quality of the grooming - or its absence - as well as the type and quality of snow. My “vertical” yardstick wasn't perfect but if we were to accept it, how can we keep track of it?

The subject has intrigued me for a long time and ever since, I've always relied upon remembering how much vertical rise was associated with each Deer Valley lift, then made a point to count how many daily rides I made on each lift I used. That way, my ski day over, I could easily enter these numbers, using a spreadsheet and finding out my “vertical skiing.” Perhaps a few other die-hard might go through this exercise, but the vast majority of Deer Valley skiers won't see that daily accounting as their favorite après-ski activity!

Being the old geek that I am, I had thought of easing this chore by purchasing a wrist computer. The first that came on the market in the eighties was the Avocet Vertech, that took the rugged look of a sport-watch. The system was based on the altimeter that showed a barometric pressure and an altitude reading. The reading would change whenever there was a variation in elevation, or in the weather, and needed to be constantly adjusted, generally by matching the altitude to a known elevation. In addition to recording daily descent and number of runs, the Avocet also displayed elevation, temperature and time. One main drawback of that model was that it had to be sent to the factory for periodic battery change.

A decade later, Suunto, a Finnish manufacturer of liquid-filled compass, jumped in the all-in-one watch design by offering the Vector, also combining altimeter, barometer, and compass. Compared to its predecessor, the product was found to be more reliable, had user-replaceable batteries and was somewhat more stylish, so I picked it as my wrist-computer. It would become my trademark wristwatch. It proved to be quite sturdy albeit a bit larger than a normal watch; it displayed altitude, temperature and time, but most importantly was supposed to record my total daily ski descent. The biggest downside of that watch was the complexity of its controls. Not only was the manual required reading, but you needed it anytime you wanted to use a specific function of the watch.

In spite of my determination at understanding the inner workings of that device and reading its instructions on countless occasions, I could never figure out how to make it work and remembering the procedure for any length of time. I had in fact bought myself an oversized, $200 sport-watch and this frustrated me so much that I had made it my 2010 new year's resolution to finally mastering that smart timepiece. I would try on several occasions and again, would end up throwing the towel. This was until I found a much better “mouse-trap,” but my story has ran long enough for today; I'll introduce you to this brand-new device in a next blog, so just stay tuned...

Beware of the web!

Don't believe anything you read on the web or you receive in your electronic mail box without checking whatever you can verify. This morning, a friend of mine did broadcast an email message stating:
“This January is quite special, it counts:
5 Friday
5 Saturday
5 Sunday
This only happens every 823 years, etc.”

Before taking that information to the bank, I just checked and found out that instead of 5 Friday it was 5 Monday. Does that make the month of January 2011 unique? I don't think so; if you do, please a comment and explain why. Otherwise, make sure to always check the assertions you find on the web...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thierry Cardon, 1947 – 2011

Thierry taught skiing at the Avoriaz ski school in France, during the winter of 69/70. A certified ski instructor and mountain guide, he went on to pursue a career as a helicopter ski guide with Canadian Mountain Holidays and had become a legend in that very exclusive industry. I learned last night that he just passed away this January 11, in his home in Invermere, British Columbia. Diagnosed with a severe form of cancer one month ago, he had recently refused any further treatment, waiting with his wife Sylvie for, as he put it, “leaving for the biggest journey in his entire life.”

Even though I have only worked by his sides for one season, I have found memories of him and some of his closer friends were shocked in learning the news: Says Anselme Baud: “I knew him for such a long time from Avoriaz, then during two month spent together in South America where he shared his musical passion for guitar and charango; we're going to miss him a lot...” Another Canadian friend of his and like Anselme, a former Avoriaz ski instructor, Patrick Wahle remembers: “I've always felt a deep frienship for Thierry. We've done some mountaineering together and had done Chamonix-Zermatt in exceptional deep snow conditions; so sad to see him gone.”

Good journey wherever your guiding skills will now take you Thierry; for the moment we'll all miss you.

Round Valley in winter...

A few days ago, I was talking to an avid mountain biker who told me that winter was actually a great way to go riding on hard-pack trails, with the smooth snow making it in fact easier than the rough-and-tumble summer surface. He said he did quite a bit of riding in Round Valley our favorite mountain bike stumping ground in Park City, just on the edge of the neighborhood where we live.

So yesterday afternoon, as the weather was arctic cold and I didn't feel like going skiing, we went for a walk on the snow-packed trail that soon turned out to become a groomed ribbon branching in multiple paths that snaked in all directions on Round Valley's pristine and well contained valley floor. The walk was athletic as each step in the snow and particularly in the steep isn't nearly as efficient than on hard pavement and while providing us a wonderful and body-warming exercise, it made us discover another winter treasure that we had heard existed, but did not fully believe it could be so charming and fun!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cleaning up politics

A couple of nights ago, we went out to see “Inside Job,” yet another documentary about the financial collapse of 2008. While we knew, through hearing the story over and over again, all the maddening details that led to this mess, we went home with the conviction that our current political system was the number one culprit. Let me clarify; right from the start of his presidency, Obama choose to surround himself with a bunch of “foxes” that he put in charge of the coop, like Summers, Geithner and of course the seemingly incompetent Bernanke that he re-appointed as the head of the Fed.
The reason for these appointments is the huge influence Wall Street has gained over politics by “buying” our politicians and our political system; today, they run the financial side of the economy as they please. This shines yet another light on how to improve our corrupt political system that is no longer serving the people but only at the orders of the major corporations and the entire financial system. Just like preserving our environment passes by curbing population growth, reaching public funding of our election process is our badly needed political priority. Unless this issue is ever resolved, we are we to lecturing Laurent Gbagbo to step down from his usurped position of power in Ivory Coast?

Monday, January 10, 2011

The fanatical society

This weekend, upon hearing that Gabrielle Giffords had been shot in Arizona, I immediately connected the dot between the fanatical rhetoric that has been tirelessly fan by the Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and Sarah Palin of the world and have become the mantra of those who support the extremist views of the Republican Party. This part of American society has to change its way, return to a more civilized dialog and to reality.

Perhaps, the fault is directly tied to those who are fueling the debate like Fox News among other partisan and extremist media and the corrective action that is needed is that Americans receive a national lesson in civility, are offered once and for all an unbiased debate on the advantage and disadvantages of making assault and other automatic weapon in as many hands as possible (with both sane and totally insane owners...) Perhaps, with all that we might one day rejoin the rank of civilized societies.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Watching good racers

Out of the half-dozen days I volunteer for the Park City racing department, my favorite one is being on duty the day the collegiate GS race takes place. This year I was a gate judge in the best portion of the race and was treated to the best event in alpine skiing all day long. The race course was set so it was very fast on both runs and with a hard man-made snow, chatter was part of the event and in the steep section it spoke volume about the athletes and their equipment.

Never in my life did I see so many pre-releases. The racers' bindings were either set far too loose or poorly adjusted, with most problems occurring with Look (yeah, the “27” version) and Marker. In steep sections like these, when chatter begins to form, it immediately works on destabilizing the racers and their disarray seems to amplify at each successive “rutty” turn. Same observation for the skis; Head and Fischer seemed to hold the best, but here again, the difference is a subtle combination between athlete's skills and ski tech expertise. A fun day!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Not in shape to ski... well!

Yesterday, while still nursing my cold, I decided to ski at Deer Valley Resort to prepare for a blog that I write for them about the GPS ski-measurement tool. My legs were weak and felt like low-density marshmallow. I skied as fast as I could, but with twice the care I normally place on my skiing, taking no absolutely no chance, and even with all that care I felt I skied terribly, like a clumsy, first-time out in the season, jet-lagged and oxygen-deprived tourist to Park City. This says a lot about skiing and the sport's zero-tolerance for not being feeling 100% in shape. I knew it, but I had simply had forgotten...

Friday, January 7, 2011

A different kind of cold

Around Christmas we spent quite a bit of time with Finn, our grand-son and we suspect that this little guy passed us his Croup (also known as laryngotracheobronchitis.) This respiratory infection that leads to swelling inside the throat, begins by severe throat aches at night that interfere with normal breathing and then evolves into a “barking” cough and hoarseness that also peak at night.
It's said to last well over one week. This condition generally affects children and is almost never seen in adults, but we got it pretty well which may say some very encouraging things about our real age!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Euro Internet growing pains

Many of my European friends often suffer from technical problems with their internet like we do in North America. For many reasons, it seems that it's always a major deal in Europe, where service providers and techies are hard to reach, take a long time to intervene and make the whole experience much more disruptive than it's right here for us. We generally get our service from either cable or telephone companies which are all pretty good with their customer service.

Besides, the high level of competition between these providers tends to level the playing field and provide all of us with a decent standard of assistance. On the techie side we began with the independent computer technicians that at first varied vastly in their expertise level, response time and fees, but this heterogeneous group is now forced into a more uniform behavior by large computer stores' in-house service, such as Best Buy's “Geek Squad” and others, that are bringing added consistency and expediency to the whole process. Give it some more time and that will reach European shores too!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Reasons to stay optimistic

Most of the time, all the standard economic indicators and the news media are bearer of bad news upon bad news and offer a very somber outlook for the future, but when you stop and think about what is being measured, we find the usual suspects: Wealth, convenience and comfort. To many, these ingredients are synonymous to happiness. To more discerning however, they're a flawed representation of what happiness should be; instead, that notion should be the product of love, trust, self-realization and social harmony among other noble values.

This said, if there is not much to be optimistic about in a Wall Street point-of-view or elements like greed, accumulation and lavish lifestyle, so be it! I won't have a problem with that. I still can remain optimistic that, out of the ashes of our recent financial crash, something much better will emerge...

X-Files Revealed

For as long as Deer Valley’s Empire Express chairlift opened up, I’ve been intrigued by a mysterious area called the “X-Files.” While it’s not an official run, it’s a place locals and skiers that are “in-the-know” rave about.

I had always wanted to write about it, but – as you might have guessed – the place is shrouded in mystery, secrets and other eerie elements. It’s only after much arm-twisting, cajoling and other diplomatic maneuvers that it was determined that the X-Files could be featured in this blog, but only under the express condition that readers should keep that privileged information to themselves.

To get everyone who is anyone at Deer Valley on board with the disclosure, you need to first click on this link before reading on. I know nothing seems to happen when you click on this particular link because we’re entering the realm of the paranormal. So now that you’ve clicked and agreed to keep a secret, let’s begin revealing what’s inside the X-Files. Obviously, we first need to access that special place. Getting there is the same as if you were skiing the Daly Chutes; after turning left at the top of Empire Express and following the upper portion of Orion, you disappear into the trees and begin your undercover journey.

As you slide by the Daly Bowl and Chutes, it becomes important to remain focused and not let these enthralling runs lure you and take you down with them, or even forgo the short hiking that’s required of you. Instead, keep your eyes on the prize and forge ahead. You’ll successively and successfully pass the Daly Bowl, Challenger, Cataract and Niagra Chutes before reaching the start of your destination. By then, you and your party – it’s always a good idea to take an “initiated” friend along – will reach the edge of the inscrutable domain of the Deer Valley X-Files.

You’re on the edge of a forest that feels like a maze and is a fertile ground for all kinds of conspiracy theories. That’s when you begin to ask yourself: “Will I survive it?” or “Will I even find my way out?” The options seem infinite and this is pretty close to reality. The trees are spaced enough to let you wiggle your way around them with deceptive ease, which in many ways might feel disquieting and give some skiers the sense that they’ve become coerced into skiing deeper into the maze. The evergreens are tall, sheltering and intimidating. The snow is always magical as it remains powdery even after several days following a blizzard. The place is really enchanted and gets you where you want to go, even if you don’t have any idea about you final destination.

Almost miraculously, whichever itinerary you might have picked, you eventually get out from under the green tree canopy and emerge at the bottom of the Orion run or at least we hope you do. In fact, I have taken the time to check that each and every skier that began at the top of the X-Files would reappear a while later by the Empire Express Lift. To date, I cannot report any “disappearance.” When interviewed, these same skiers don’t say much, but they all display an enigmatic grin that suggests they’ve gone through an out-of-this-world experience worth living over and over…

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Holiday message

After several years of creating a personalized card (photo collage) and going through all the work of production, printing and mailing to many individuals, and also before that, years of sending traditional holiday cards to a select few, we've finally given up on mailing a Holiday message. We've pretended “being green” and actively contributing to the protection of our forests, but this might be a stretch. Instead of just turning to cheesy internet production or skimpy email messages, we've decided to produce a two-minute video that we've placed on Youtube.
This was not really work, as I love to play with that medium and think it's fun, new, and so lively. What's interesting is that so far, we've received lots of accolades and some very good response to it, by about one-third of the people we sent it to and viewed it. All this goes to show that there's still a good ratio of folks who are appreciative and enthusiastic enough to have liked it. For me a thirty-three percent response is a resounding success. Perhaps, it also means that to the optimistic in me, one-third can be stretched to be the equivalent of a glass that is half-full...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Continuing education...

If you own and use a computer, chances are you get your share of elation and frustration. The later happened to me last night, when for no apparent reason, both my mouse and keyboard figuratively walked on me. Just like that; for no good apparent reason. My daughter suggested that I test the mouse that seemed to have passed away on my smaller, notebook computer. I tried that; my little rodent was still breathing and doing okay. It was therefore not the problem.
I then decided to call the Costco tech support and in less than 5 minute a capable technician helped me solve the problem. I had to unplug my desktop, hold the power button for a full minute, re-power everything and the machine instantly resurrected. This type of incident never happened to me in the 27 years I've owned a PC at home; there's always a first for everything and, as Winston Churchill once said, we should never, never give up!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Another Beatles concert

Since I was still serving in the French Air Force on the afternoon of Thursday, January 30, 1969 when the Beatles gave their last impromptu concert on top of their Savile Row Apple headquarters, I knew I had to make up for that. So last night, like for the Rolling Stones a few evenings before, we were treated to another Fab Four concert at the Park City's Egyptian Theater.
While the performance wasn't quite as good as that of the Stones, this concert was fun and with material like the Beatles', it's very hard to go wrong, unless none of the band members can't sing or remotely looks the part. The four band members live in California and Utah and Richard Fazzi who plays Paul McCartney was arguably the best of the bunch.

Too bad the audience was somewhat lethargic after surviving New Year's Eve, but at the end every spectator was on their feet to cheer and sing along “Twist and Shoot” and “Back in the USSR.” It was heartwarming in this cold night when the mercury dropped to -5 degrees Fahrenheit as we walk out into the street and a good way to begin the year with having the four lads of Liverpool, finally together and alive in our own little town!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year wishes

Yesterday, just for fun, I was looking for poems, videos and ready-made pronouncements about the new year and couldn't find anything that made sense for me and the folks these words might go to. So this morning, I'm attempting to write what I could wish all the people I know, I have come across, and anyone that could be interested in reading what I have to say about the new year. So here we go:
  • I wish you feel even happier a year from now than you're feeling today.
  • That you have more good friends, that you can discuss with them things that are important to you.
  • I wish that you laugh a lot and often, all through during the next 12 month.
  • I wish you meet new people whose presence you'll enjoy and will enrich you.
  • That you take good care of your body. That you exercise or keep on being active, that you do a lot of physical things you like.
  • I wish that your circle of people keep on loving you, liking you and enjoying your company.
  • I wish you have a lot of fun getting up every morning and rarely feel depressed, disappointed or negative about anything and anyone.
  • That you learn new things that will stay with you and that you will enjoy for a long time.
  • That you come to the conclusion that today's world and today's life are better than what they used to be.
  • I wish that you stay excited about life, about yourself and people who surround you.
  • That you reconnect with old acquaintances, that you forgive and forget stuff and thoughts that are not pleasant to keep inside yourself.
  • I also wish you tell me when I'm out of line and have the courage to let me know and tell me what you'd like to see changed in me.

That's it. Happy New Year!