Thursday, June 30, 2011

The loss of common-sense

As I was mountain biking yesterday, I passed a group of teenagers that were cycling in the same direction I was on the single trail. Two of them were stopped, blocking the trail, both standing at the same level and apparently didn't know what to do. They couldn't figure that one should have moved forward, stayed on one side so I could proceed unimpeded. I had to tell them what to do in order to break their apparent paralysis. It took for them a long time to process what I was asking and when they understood, they immediately executed what I had asked them to do and I was able to proceed.

This little story is just here to show that young people may be savvy, computer educated and enlightened, but they appear to lack in the most essential and vital skill: Common sense. This later skill should come intuitively but is disabled by a world of convenience that begins whenever kids are rolled a red carpet for whatever they choose to do, all the way to the “intuitive” commands on their smart-phone or computer.

Perhaps, this is also due to the progressive, yet total disconnection modern humans are experiencing from nature and the real, concrete world. Their lives is becoming more and more virtual and they're loosing their physical connection to the material. I should add the fact that kids are so much self-centered these day and that civility follows common-sense into the toilets but that would be a whole topic a discussion that we'll cover later...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Full bloom

One month late but worth the wait, that's how we feel about our garden that now is in full bloom and about to reach its peak for the year! Last week was the lilacs' turn (our very own bushes still need another 8 days) and by July our cacti might bloom too.

This colorful sight is due in great part to my wife's tireless weeding and nursing over the past 8 springs and summers, yet it's really worth it and... priceless to see!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Barbeque deep-clean

Today felt like the beginning of summer and I decided that it was time to deep-clean our good old barbeque in anticipation to the many cook-outs that the good season will bring upon us. No, we didn't fall prey to the 10 foot long, all-stainless barbecue and have decided to stick with our aging device! The ritual ceremony began with hooking up the high-pressure washer, then taking apart as much components that could easily be removed from the grill, getting the machine down the stairs (my spouse helped for that) and then beginning the cleaning.
I won't get into the gruesome details of the washing process and the ensuing separation of foreign elements from the grill, but suffice to say that it's never a pleasant task. Iplace it in the same category of serious dental work. Eventually, the nine-year-old barbecue appeared to have received a new lease on life (at least for another season,) my wife was pleased, I was proud and the neighbor helped me carry the little monster back up on the deck!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Summer skiing in Utah

This almost sounds like an oxymoron; spring skiing is something one can take for granted in Utah, but summer skiing, are you kidding? Well yesterday was the first time I did experience lift-served skiing in my State during the summer season. Once more, I was irresistibly attracted towards Snowbird early yesterday morning, and while the snow had significantly melted from one week earlier, it was still possible to ski the mountain top to bottom.

Okay, the snow looked dirty in some spots and felt sticky in places, but it was still decent skiing nonetheless. Definitely superior to European and American glacier skiing. Few people showed up and the snow held surprisingly well for that time of the year. I left shortly after 11 am just because I had promised my wife I'd be home for lunch, but the conditions were still good. Next step in the record-breaking and endless ski season will be to ski in July. That's right, it's just coming in a few days...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Park City's food extravaganza

Park City's year long main attraction is, without a doubt, its historical Main Street. Just after the summer solstice, on almost its mile-long length, picture a long table instead of cars where close to 1,500 diners will sit (in the sloping street) and enjoy diner served by some 30 participating restaurants hosting each between 20 to 80 guests, amidst live music from a variety of bands and musician interspersed alongside Park City main thoroughfare.

We couldn't attend last year, but made sure we did this June 25 and had a wonderful time, seeing friends and people we generally don't get to see that often. The company was fun to be with, the food delicious, the wine excellent and we came and left with our wonderful transit system so there was no worry about getting back home even after having had more than enough to drink...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pushing tough products to sell

More than once during my working career, I had to sell products that weren't in high demand and had their shares of flaws and problems. It would have been a lot easier for me to sell Rossignol and Salomon than Look, Koflach and Pre skis, but that wasn't to be.

Granted, I got lucky during the time I worked for Lange, but at the time, the product was still searching for its true soul as it tried to be all things to all people and was quite uncertain about the future of rear-entry boot design. So here I was, extolling the great things about my products and minimizing or placating their major weaknesses.

Doing that made me a much a more creative and astute marketer than if I had been selling items in high demand. I had to scratch my head, think out of the box and make full use of what I could find into the depths of my imagination! All of this taught me a lot and made me that much stronger. The morale of the story is that the road easiest and most traveled rarely is the more rewarding one...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Living (reasonably) well

We understand that our time is counted on this earth and should value our remaining time accordingly. In fact, the less time we have, the more it shoots up in value. We try to focus on what counts most and on what procures us the best return on our money measured in the pleasure and satisfaction we draw from it. That's how we try to lead our lives and this seems to be working well for us.

So last night when we stopped by some neighbor's home and listened to their plan to refurbish part of their home, I couldn't resist but suggest what we had done in a similar situation, stressing of course the many years of pleasure and enjoyment we've derived from our initial investment. The effort was twice the initial cost but the end-result more than tenfold based on our experience.

While the story seemed to appeal to the husband, it wasn't well received at all by his spouse who saw the devil in me and my money-sucking suggestion. Truth is, she preferred total denial to possible consideration of a proven idea, akin of sticking her head in the sand. For us the rewards have truly been more than ten times whatever little money we payed for the improvement years ago. To her, my casual suggestion was tantamount to arm robbery; something like “better die rich and unhappy than destitute and fulfilled.” Well, I just disagree with that!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

First season's concert

Last evening saw our first free summer concert at the Deer Valley amphitheater and I never saw so many people in attendance. The parking lots were full as you'd see it for a big name's concert. The fact is that after such a long winter and absolutely no springs, everyone was ready to get out and show up for the first season's concert.

The performers, the “Holly Water Buffalo” from nearby Heber City put up a great show, but it seemed to us – and to most of the public - that music is accessory. Everyone came to eat, drink, talk and people watch while the kids were dancing and showing off their hula-hoop skills!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The never-ending war

Tonight, President Obama is supposed to tell us how many troops may be withdrawn from Afghanistan and when. I have very little hope that it will be significant enough and that our leader has any clue as to how to extricate the country from this quagmire. As I have said over and over, we don't have the money anymore to fight far-away wars, and to do so, we must borrow it from the Chinese.

What kind of insanity is that? At the very least we should make the rich pay for it (roll back Bush tax-cuts) and perhaps this might trigger some positive reactions. We should let the Russians, the Indians and the Chinese worry about Karzai, the Taliban and the Pakistani nukes. I hope our president has been promised a huge contribution by the military-industrial complex towards his reelection; he'll need every penny of it. So, instead of watching his speech and get all upset, I'll attend the first outdoors Deer Valley concert of the season!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Aiming for perfection

This may sound lofty but the idea is no more than the bare necessity to make sure things are right. Still too often, I can catch mistakes that I make when I write or when I edit a video and if I only paid more attention and was more systematic about checking and proofing what comes out of my creative and administrative productions everything would be perfect.

Call it alright or just fine if you prefer, but perfection is one-hundred percent, not ninety-nine point nine. I'm not even talking about those who brag about doing 110% or 200% of a given task. Reaching perfection is simply getting the job done as it ought to be; I only hope there's no typo in this blog!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Good as the base line...

We're all aware of the life-cycles; good situations generally follow bad ones, etc. Often times, though, we tend to make decisions, or are more likely to make precipitous ones when we are at the bottom of down cycle instead of making them when we're riding the crest of the wave.

It would seem to me that we would always benefit when we make plans as we find ourselves at our very best, when are our minds are clear, our mood is upbeat and our outlook is decidedly positive. Once the course of action has been decided in that manner, we just have to stay with it, even during these times when the storm is raging and nothing good seems to be expected...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

On carrying skis...

When I have to hike for more than 20 minutes or when the terrain is steep and difficult (not to say dangerous) I always carry my skis on a backpack. Last Friday, as I was parking my car in Snowbird, I ran into a Park City neighbor of mine who suggested we climbed East Twin Peak to ski down “Pipeline.”

Even though I didn't bring my backpack with me, I foolishly agreed and while Pipeline was closed that day, we settled for descending the face just below East Peak and began to climb up the 700 foot vertical.

The snow was rotten in places and moving up was particularly hard, with our feet sinking into post-holes, especially near warm, rocky shoulders. We finally made it after a solid hour of crawling up the steep hill. The next morning, my right shoulder was sore and almost bleeding after carrying my ski for so long, on one side...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tale of two ski towns...

Whenever I pick up the phone and talk to friends and family around Morzine, France, in the Northern French Alps, the economy sounds as if it were hunky-dory in spite of a winter-long, razor-thin snow cover. The big difference between Morzine and Park City is real estate.

Here in the Rockies, the market is totally moribund, still waiting to reach its bottom, and this might be another two to three years down the road. In Haute-Savoie, it still seems to be going gangbusters, to the point that locals can no longer afford their home anymore. How high will it go? I personally think it's nearing is apex just now, and depending on how the PIIGS situation evolves in Europe, it might be on its very last leg.
 Even if Europe can successfully resolve its internal debt problem, the continent will have to start “deleveraging” in a big way, and with that process, real estate will freeze before it falls through the end of this decade. At least that's what my crystal ball predicts...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Multicolored bird

Who will be able to tell me what kind of bird this one is?
We found it in our yard and have seen him for quite a few days.

To me, it looks like a bird of paradise that can only be found in... Park City!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Twenty-six years ago today...

I had come to Salt Lake City to prepare for my new job facility and had taken advantage of the occasion for house-hunting in Park City. I found a home that I liked a lot in the Ridgeview subdivision and rented a video camera (it was a Sony Handycam) to film the inside and the outside of the place.
At one point I panned over Jupiter Peak where there still was a small snow patch. Yesterday, 26 years later, the complete Jupiter cirque was fully snow-covered. Something we've never, ever seen!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hillary at the UN?

Last week, I discussed the upcoming vacancy at the top UN spot. I wasn't too kind about Mr. Ban Ki-moon and suggested, tongue-and-cheek, that you and I might do a better job. That comment while not overtly intended to my male readers assumed that the UN needed another male leader, but as the week developed, it was rumored that Hillary Clinton was looking for the top job at the World Bank. She then went on to deny the rumor. That precisely when a light bulb went on inside my cranium when I thought that she'd be incredibly qualified – and excellent – at taking Ban Ki-moon succession at the helm of the United Nations.

Through her marriage to Bill, she's had the experience of what it is to run the most powerful country in the world, she's since successfully ran for office and, more recently, she's accumulate priceless experience as the US Secretary of State. What's more however is that she's a women, and better than any stodgy men that seem to be anchored as UN Secretary General, she understands the world, its issues and women enormous responsibilities, including raising families and reproductive rights, which are a the root cause of our current environmental crisis and most of the instability in our planet hot-spots. What a candidate she'd make and what a qualified UN Chief she'd be!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Odorless Utah

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you probably know that this year we've only entered spring since early June. This week, flower trees are in full bloom and in the next ten days, it might be the turn of lilac trees to enchant us and fill us up with their signature perfume. Since we had the first thundershower of the year last night, the air was still filled with humidity when I ran this morning and it truly was a festival of flowery fragrances.

It smelled spring all over and if this is something people who live in humid areas take for granted, we rarely enjoy it under the bone-dry climate of the state of Utah. Until this morning, I had all but forgotten how spring smelled like and it brought tons of memories from my younger years back in France...

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Belgian example

After a year of being in political limbo and without a political government, Belgium didn't follow Tunisia, Egypt and Libya to list only a few Nations that are undergoing severe turmoil. The bureaucratic institutions of the government kept on operating and the only missing element has been the lack of political work (what's that?) and leadership (makes me scratch my head too.) But without these idiots' interference (perhaps because of its absence) this small European country has not fallen into the deep end.
This, of course lead me to say that – unlike what the American Republican Party proclaims - we need more good Government and less corrupt, lazy and depraved Politicians. Given their extreme polarization – just like in Belgium – the US Congress has showed it was totally dysfunctional and a patent waste of money to us, the taxpayers. Again, what's needed is a reasonable level of good governance with a minimal influence from rotten, corrupt and generally incompetent politicians. If you don't disagree, please, forward my message to your members of congress!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The new learning tool

By now we all know that the internet is a great place for gathering information. Granted, it takes some sifting through the great, the average, the bad and the ugly, but with patience, good common sense, reason and organization, we generally get there.

Now, there's something else that makes all the difference in the world if you are eager to learn something new; it's all the great educational videos that are available to anyone who is more curious than the average Joe. From stitching, to composting and how to rehab a wounded knee, even French-kiss; you'll find it all. Thanks Youtube, Vimeo and all the great videographers that takes the time to teach us something we can all use!

German yodeling school:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

War fatigue

I am one of these naive folks that think that war should purely be defensive. I hate gratuitous destruction and building arsenal for the sake of “saving jobs” and keeping politicians reelected. The worst part of it is that we must borrow in order to pay for the cost of war.

Talk about an Emperor with no clothes! I am tired of President Obama lacking the backbone for not denouncing our bloated defense budget and excessive military engagement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Time to make cuts where it's obvious and where it will pay the highest dividends!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Help kids find their dream!

Most of us are convinced that – when there is an option – it's much preferable to do what we love and pursue our true personal calling. Some parents do everything they can to steer their young into a certain career or profession, while a growing number knows better and respects their kids' ability and freedom to choose.

Where many of us may still be missing an opportunity however, in that we don't do enough to train our offspring to find what their real dream is before we help them pursue it. This is not an easy challenge and while we shouldn't be the one accomplishing that search, we should be able to facilitate it and make sure that no stone stays unturned in the process of that quest...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Staying in touch from faraway...

This is one of the topics that never ceases to fascinate me. Perhaps it is so because I do have a strong sense of how finite time is and how important it is to make each and every moment of our existence count. Specifically, I want to talk about keeping relationships alive and well. If you'd live in a small village, you'd frequently see people you know in the street, take the time to visit with your favorite ones (friends and relative) and would almost weave that function seamlessly into you day-to-day occupations.

When you're living far away, it's a totally different story and if you're into keeping in touch with people you know and appreciate, this becomes a real challenge, because chances are, you may be the only one seeking this contact and since you're also an odd-ball – by choosing to living away – in the first place, you'll get absolutely no credit for not being in the mainstream of routine living. Except for visiting in person every so often, the means of contact are limited to calling traditionally or via Skype, or send a note; but frankly who still write these days?

So you need to pedal faster, pick up the phone, make a physical effort to think about these other folks and repeat at nauseum. If you fail to keep that fire burning, it will probably be held against you as many of your contacts will hurry saying “Too bad we never hear from her...” or something like this. The question remain, what do they do to keep in touch? Probably nothing at all!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Accept the past, shape the future...

If I were asked to define myself and my personal philosophy, I would say that I believe that the most important way to leads one's life is to fully accept the past and use today to keep on shaping-up the future. This is what works best for me. Accepting the past is pretty self-evident. Whether we like it or not, we can't change it; it's water under the bridge and is set in place permanently. Similarly, we can't change our origins, our circumstances and our vast and rich experience accumulated through good and bad times.

We simply have to assess it by focusing on its positive elements. Once we can embrace what's behind us we become much freer to start anew everyday, and it becomes up to each one of us to use the present as a springboard to imagine, dream, plan and prepare for the future that we still have ahead of ourselves, whatever we want that future to be. Another way to look at this is to be able to discover in our past, our own life treasures, and shape our future from the rich assets we already have, building around them all the most positive and powerful elements of our lives...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Big opening at the UN...

In case you didn't know, Mr. Ban Ki-moon's mandate as the UN chief is up for renewal; from what I hear he enjoys the job and its perks and would like to stay for a second term. Let's assume for a minute that you
were postulating for that highly visible gig, what would you do? Where would you start? Do you think you'd do a better job than our current UN secretary general? Without much brain storming, I would think so, even if you never were a foreign minister of some nation big or small.

If you had a decent knowledge of foreign affairs and a compelling interest in earthly issues, a good dose of common sense, you would probably do a great job at handling your planetary responsibilities, identify a few priorities and begin working on them. You'd work with the nations that are willing to work with you and if not, would do anything in your power to persuade them that it's in their best interest. If some nations are still reluctant to participate, ignore you outright or behave badly, you'd put them on the spot, shame them if you had too and we would see the world focus increasingly placed on what goes on at the United Nations.

You see, Mr. Ban Ki-moon is probably a charming man, but he isn't doing much besides collecting his tax-free pay check and exposing the UN as an ineffective bureaucracy. Our governments are responsible for that sad state of affair, but evidently, no one has the guts to bring some change into that exclusive country-club, unless of course, they'd put you in charge!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Potgut redux

After I published my "potgut" story yesterday, an almost-neighbor of mine sent me a picture of the rodent, out and about, that he took that same day somewhere on some Snowbird ski run. Brown fur on white snow, there's no way one can't miss that little guy, starting with some hungry bird of prey hovering above.

I also must say that most skiers and snowboarders will all see him and - unless they're totally out of control, or under the influence - will take proper evasive action that will give our ground squirrel a chance to munch shortly on a full meal of fresh grass!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Living dangerously

Ground squirrels, or “potgut” as we colloquially call them in Utah (Urocitellus armatus if you are into Latin terminology) are little critters that not only hibernates in the winter, but also estivated in their underground burrow that they share in colony. These guys that are about the size of a squirrel, have a tiny tail and resemble a prairie dog or a marmot, albeit significantly smaller. They stay fully active for about three-and-a-half months in the spring and summer.

Their habitat includes dry meadows and grassland and we see them all over Park City. This week I have begun to spot them on Snowbird ski slopes. No, they don't ski, but they can't understand either why there's nothing to eat, but snow, and they're all ticked off by the absence of grass after a long and seemingly endless hibernation. So they poke their nose out of their burrows and have to drill a hole into feet of snow until they finally can stick their head out and discover a depressingly white landscape as far as the eye can see.

To make matter worse, not only there's nothing to eat, but you've got these idiots of skiers and snowboarders coming in their back at crazy speeds, without warning. Most of the time the potguts press the “undo” button and get back inside, but a few already have had close encounters with P-tex and steel edges!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Unhealthy pricing schemes

My spouse has a knee problem. Nothing major, but a significant nuisance nonetheless that will necessitate an operation. As we sat with the orthopedic doctor that will operate on her, we asked him how the whole procedure was likely to cost us. In a typical manner that I have seen with many healthcare professionals, he wasn't crazy about a question that's still taboo to them and even less about providing us with a clear answer.

He began by saying that he couldn't speak for the hospital fee and the cost of anesthesia, and said that his fee for the 15 minute operation would be in the $4,000 range, but if we paid right away (read in advance of the operation) he'd give us a 50% discount. Later that day, while consulting with my insurance, I found out that the agree-upon fee the carrier would pay would be slightly under $1,000 which is four times less than the doctor's first pronouncement! This left me with the impression that, like with discounters, there was a “suggested retail,” a price after regular discount and then a rock-bottom price for those who knew how to negotiate (the insurance company).

Something reminiscent of used-car salesman tactics, but not acceptable or even reassuring when it comes to treating our bodies. While everyone in America has been “deleveraging,” it's about time our health professional began picking up the pace to joining us in that direction and treating us more like patient and less like consumers whose interests will be trampled upon, if no one is watching for them...

Friday, June 3, 2011

The problem: Real estate loans

As the US economy continues remains anemic, blame goes around everything and everyone but seems to miss an important target; our dear banks that are holding a growing number of bad real estate loans that are getting worse as nothing is done to resolve the situation. Remember the toxic assets?

Those must have been buried under ten feet of dirt, but they're still there and are feeding a exploding reserve of foreclose properties that the banks refuse to write off as we're talking about amounts in the trillion category. While this “game of chicken” is going on, the economy takes a break or comes to screeching halt. Yet no one seems to acknowledge that reality. Most probably because both Republicans and Democrats are so deep in bed with Wall Street...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Building a personal learning center...

How we can learn begins with deciding to setting up a learning system in place. There is not a day that we don't encounter a new experience, including great and no-so-great outcomes, and if there's anything to learn from it, it would be a pity to let it slide without remembering it or drawing some positive conclusions from it.

This is why it might be a good idea to jot down into a personal journal these experiences, good or bad, and begin building some guidance that can be reviewed before any future repetition of the same task or project. The procedure is quite simple and just demands a systematic debriefing and note-taking. Something I'm putting in place for my video projects!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Becoming spoiled...

After the record-breaking snow season enjoyed by Utah, getting back on snow this coming November will feel thin and skimpy. We very quickly get addicted to “more than normal” and lose track of the hard reality of normality. As summer finally begins here in the Wasatch Mountains and as spring woefully failed to show up for the transition, we can only savor the snow-capped mountains that still surround us, thinking for us who love to ski or ride, “is that the new normal?”
The answer is quite likely to be “nope.” So expect plenty of rocks, twigs, uncovered logs, hard man-made snow and lots of bumpy rides come next early winter. Perhaps that with these sobering factors in mind your expectations might be significantly exceeded!