Sunday, July 31, 2011

Should we fear drones?

Until now, we've mostly heard about drones when the US made version killed – among others - innocent civilians in Afghanistan or Pakistan. For the most part, drones have been used to today by the military or to survey dangerous or hard to access areas, but could be used tomorrow to herd cattle or spray crops among other uses.

Yet, we should begin to be concerned about the proliferation of these little buggers that are going to invades our skies, our privacy and our might also infringe on our personal or collective security. As with mobile personal computers, technology is evolving very fast and soon we might have drones the size of humming birds or killer bees prying into our personal lives, or terrorists could get the hold of them for carrying out their nefarious attacks.

In the NPR weekend edition show, the commentator was evoking swarms of drones attacking and rekindled in me all the horrors of Hitchcock's movie, “The Birds.” He was also suggesting that the Chinese – the new “usual suspects” were betting big on the commercial development of these tiny flying machines. I think I'm going to work on building my own guard-drone – right, my flying watch dog - and don't you try to get too close from my home!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Progress report

I've been discussing “learning by doing” before, and as I'm in the midst of cranking out videos, I keep on learning a lot. In the past year I'm getting close to having produced 200 clips. So creating a successful video is a lot about organizing a shoot, shooting a scene, using a tripod to the best of its abilities and shooting most of what counts by visualizing a story board as the work progresses. Picking up sound is another huge task that needs good planning, good organization and continuous checking of the quality of what's been recorded before moving on.

Of course, the big job remains editing; picking the right sequences and aligning them in some order that's artsy and flows according to plan, but it's only relatively easy if there's was a good story board, a quality shooting and a smart sound capture in the first place, because like it's said in computing: “Garbage in, garbage out!”

Friday, July 29, 2011

Which conspiracy?

Some who have followed the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair have thought there might have been some “conspiracy” behind it, in which the former IMF boss was entrapped and fell. The plot could have come from his political enemies back in France. This might have sounded logical to some. More recently, Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan District Attorney, startled everyone by making revelations questioning the credibility of Strauss-Kahn accuser.

This of course was as strange as it wasn't expected, which makes me see another conspiracy. This time coming from the politician's wealthy and well-connected wife, Anne Sinclair, which may have pulled the right lever in the New York Jewish community to get her husband off the hook. I believe that's what really happened, even if I'm the only one thinking that way...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Managing uncertainty

It's said that in life, two things are certain: Death and taxes. Uncertainty is therefore the spice of life and is what draws entrepreneurship, spirit of adventure and the greatest human achievements. You would think that in political life social-liberals are adverse to uncertainty by clinging to entitlement benefits and a secure “safety net,” while the right wing uses free-enterprise, risk-taking and fleeting economic circumstances as fertile ground for growth and success.

That's in fact not longer the case these days. Our conservative republicans are now the ones who loudly advocate “Certainty” as the essential condition for our economic survival, while they're also the ones that are painting the most depressing rhetorical background all around us, to make us feel that the end of the world is coming soon if we don't deconstruct an America's social contract that is already very thin and lagging behind developed nations.

Smart Americans should be able to see through this flawed view and deliver a powerful “pink-slip” to all those GOP members, including its extremist “Tea Party” wing, during the coming 2012 elections. If they don't, the new economic “certainty” will be that the whole of America has really become stupid and has chosen decline as its new direction.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Letter to my congressman

On Monday night, I watched both the President's address and the Republican's response.
While Mr. Obama's presentation made some sense with a reasonable, balanced and positive message, I couldn't say the same about Mr. Boehner's who,
once again, was overly negative, sounding more like a terrorist taking the nation's fiscal reputation hostage, in a reckless and irresponsible way, in order to abide by the GOP pledge of “no new taxes.” Mr. Boehner claims to be a former small-business owner, and frankly he should have stayed in that capacity instead of becoming Speaker of the House, which frankly is far beyond his competences.

  • What has happened to compromise and common-sense?
  • What has happened to a win-win approach to negotiation, our very own Mr. Covey never fails to advocate?
  • Why is the GOP bathing the country into an ocean of negativity that ends up bringing us all of down?

As an independent voter, I've had it with the despicable brand of government the House Republicans are bringing to the fore, and kindly ask you to do your share and put a stop to it and begin working in earnest with the Democrats.
Rigid ideology is just one step away from tyranny!
Thank you,

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The terrorist next door

What just happened in Norway shows that horror can take place anywhere, and no culture and no advance degree in civilization is immune from the acts of some deranged people. Of course, this sad statement comes with a few caveats. These conditions act like activators or facilitators to this form of home-grown terrorism.

Extremist religion is one of these; it generally is based on literal interpretation of some holy scripture or a constitution for instance, that might have been socially relevant when they were written years ago, but are today left in the dust of evolution. Extremist religion that is made of irrational thoughts and validate them even more in the eye of the profoundly deranged...

Then there is the readily available “nefarious knowledge” like how to manufacture a powerful bomb, what makes an explosive device even more lethal or what makes a bullet even more destructive. All these highly inflammable materials are the by-product of democratic freedom and must be the price we have to pay for knowing that the “terrorist next door” can rear his ugly head, anytime, anywhere.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pioneer Day, made in Utah.

Today is a state holiday in Utah to commemorate the arrival of Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Many businesses observe the event and there's a huge parade going in Salt Lake that we've never been to, plus fireworks and firecrackers that keep us up at night.

To us, it's another day and I like to call it “Cinco de Momo,” a play on words based on “Cinco de Mayo” (5th of May), that commemorates the victory of the Mexican Militia over the French Army at the battle of Puebla in 1862. “Momo” of course, stands for Mormons. Why did the expelled religious group picked Utah when they fled Missouri? Because they had no where else to go and they could have as well ended up in Las Vegas or in Boise, Idaho, but that was pretty much on the Oregon Trail and you might call it fate, but I won't dwell into that subject on this all-important state celebration!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Seasons you can count on...

I've said it before, there's no spring season in Park City, but winters are always reliable and summer as well as fall always delightful and comfortable. Few places in the mountains offer this kind of steadfast reliability, years upon years.

Our “two-speed climate” (wet and snowy season from November through May and warm and sunny season the rest of the year) makes it a wonderful place to stay and an impossible one to leave!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The cry-baby that always says no...

There are good and bad kids and some in-between, but when the one who cries all the time can only communicate with the word “no,” there's a big problem with him. He should be sent away. Where? Very far and for a very long time, like a one-way ticked to Mars where perhaps an obstructionist an cry-baby like John Boehner might flourish for a while saying “no new taxes” before fading away.

America has nothing to do with politicians like Boehner and the rest of the GOP who stick to the same dogma and principles, except maybe for the occasional tearful eye. Worse yet, this country should ship to Mars all folks that voted for the GOP as well as the “Tea Party” and still have not changed their mind about this game of chicken that is played on a daily basis by these supposedly grown individuals...

Friday, July 22, 2011

New job?

It all began as an innocent hobby, has grown on me and keeps on growing. My passion for video shots and editing has landed me a fun gig with Deer Valley Resort which I didn't take too seriously at first, but as I been immersing myself into it for a few months now, it has turned my schedule around, as aroused an intense interest I didn't suspect existed and mobilized my focus into honing new skills, refining the final product and what looked initially like “a walk in the park” feels more and more like a serious new job or an exciting burgeoning career.

I look forward to doing it every morning and find an unending source of energy in discovering new ways of accomplishing basic work and becoming much more efficient in the process. This little project is taking me by surprise and I must admit it; I'm smitten and I love that new gig!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The “big house” conspiracy theory

What's the difference between a 2500 and a 5000 sf home? Huge; it's in fact much more than its double size. Its volume or internal capacity can easily triple, which means that you can accumulate much more in the larger version than in the smaller one and adding stuff will cost you a lot, if not a fortune. It will swallow more furniture and generally bigger one too, more artwork, more nick-knack and more toys that are guaranteed to stay hung or stored somewhere – generally out of sight – and never get used. Of course, the credit cards were already crumbling under the weight of all that debt.

Yet, in the roaring 90s and during the first 8 years of the millennium, we've super-sized our homes and filled them with consumer goods. Just like the chins of most of the population, the garages were also tripled, and we've added an extra car, the kitchen huge and we've multiplied the number of dishwashers, brought in professional stoves that never get us and cavernous refrigerators.

Real estate brokers were part of the conspiracy too by declaring that a small home would never resell and mortgage lenders gave away the farm to make more jumbo loans. Today, these behemoths sit unsold and no one wants them as they've become the postal children of what was politically incorrect during these crazy years. So now you understand why I believe there was a real “conspiracy” between realtors, lenders and people trying to sell more to a country suffering already of consuming indigestion...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Possessed women in Morzine, France

Between 1857 and 1870, in Morzine, France, a couple of miles away from my Alpine hometown, dozens of women fell victims of seizures, hallucinations, and mass hysteria. All claimed they were possessed by the devil. In these days, Morzine was totally isolated community from modernity and abjectly poor. My parents have told me at length about that story and even in the 1960s, continued to be terrorized by these stories of witchcraft, which did not fail to affect my young imagination.

It's only this summer that I took the time to read a number of books on this subject that a young lady from my hometown valley was gracious enough to pass along to me. Having spent a quarter of a century next to Morzine in a culture deeply influenced by the Catholic religion and widespread beliefs in witchcraft, until the middle of last century, I can appreciate all the trauma caused by these extraordinary events and I'm even surprised that this crisis could be solved by imposing modern scientific reasoning over popular superstition at a time when the science of psychology was still in its infancy.

I am also pleased to see how France – that had recently become a secular country – was, over 150 years ago, much more advanced than some of our American states are today in sorting out irrational faith-based beliefs and scientific knowledge. I came to the conclusion that some significant Morzine public servants had shown exceptional courage, both in terms of their intellectual independence and physical resistance in standing up against continued attacks and irrational pressures.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Forty years ago today...

I just found an old photo of three friends of mine that was taken just forty years ago today. The friends were Gerard Bouvier, Jean-Pierre Chatellard and Marcel Grivel-Delillaz. We had just begun a winter season in Mount Buller, Australia, to teach skiing, the sun was shinning, the snow had just arrived to and was “flexing” the local gum trees. One could say it was the “good old days” but I would call it a good moment in time. Unbeknown to us, we're manufacturing great memories and wonderful moments everyday.

If we knew it, we'd probably pay more attention to the process and would always make sure that every step we take, every decision we make is working towards weaving a fabric of wonderful time that keep on regenerating itself. When I looked at the picture and emailed it to these three friends, I though how lucky we were to mostly have had a wonderful life and still be full participants in it. I simply wished these three guys forty more years of the same...

Monday, July 18, 2011


Being in our sixties can be a great place to be. Without getting into the tricky subject of emotional happiness or the fleeting nature of health conditions, let's just focus on a few “mechanical” traits like physical condition, mental capacity and experience. From age zero to the end of life, these three quantities vary enormously as we muddle along.

At first, we have zero experience and we end up getting that dimension to its maximum at the end of our lives. Physical condition doesn't quite work the same way. As babies we're feeble, as adult we become strong, but as we get into advanced age, this valuable ingredient progressively leaves us. To a certain extent, mental capacity works similarly, although less dramatically, depending on the individuals and the onset of dementia and other similar ailments.

All these considerations are to demonstrate that no matter how you cut it, being sixty-something offers the best of all worlds in terms of these three components, that is if we're still healthy and can find a good reason to be happy!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

How do we tap imagination?

This is part VII and last one of our series on imagination.
Now that we have looked at our imaginative functions in many ways and under multiple angles, it's becoming obvious that we should use it, if you don't want to waste it away or deprive ourselves from one of our most powerful personal resources.

We ought to begin with a little bit everyday and then gradually increase our personal exposure to this potent medium designed to accompany us through our lives and contribute to make them better people and, by the same token, enhance all the world around us. We are of course talking about positive imagination, the most difficult side to harness, as its negative sibling is always lurking around inspiring us devilish shortcuts and nefarious tricks, but we won't even get there. So let's all get to work on its bright side, and best wishes!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Imagination and exposure to the world

This is part VI of our series on imagination.
We can only imagine if we continually make the effort to see and observe what goes on around us. The more we see, the more we can fill our mental tank and will be able to regurgitate later, sometimes in a surprising and unexpected fashion, some of the elements that come across us during the times we're awake and participating into our daily life.

I don't believe isolation and detachments make good partners to imagination. Instead, we need to be actively living and participating into what surrounds us. Sure, quiet times are necessary, but we always need to seek the new and the unusual in order to add to and renew our potential reserves of new idea. A productive imagination require an active participation!

Friday, July 15, 2011

More time required for imagining

This is part V of our series on imagination.
One can't simply decide to work on his or her imagination at 8 in the morning and expect result by 10 am. This isn't how this precious function works.
Instead, it must be turned on all the time and ready to inspire, color our thoughts and enhance our decisions on a moment's notice (and most often when we least expect it.)

It follows us at each moment of our lives, is always plugged-in as it's alive in the background, ready to pounce when the opportunity arise. We therefore need to be attentive to its work and ready at all times to take advantage of it. It's also a reminder, as we grow older, to constantly pay attention to ourselves and to what goes on in our minds and our hearts. Any latent function demands our utmost attention and requires to be turned on at all times!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Imagination: A window into the future

This is part IV of our series on imagination.
Just picture a universe with no imagination at all. If you can visualize this horror, and take a peek at what life would be, you'd have to agree that it would be the end of everything. Like we need oxygen to breathe, we must have imagination to grow and survive as a community and as a civilized world. Yet, as we grow older, it seems that we begin putting imagination on hold and consult it less and less as if we had used up our entire lifetime quota or had become blasé of taping into it far too many times.

Once again, the flow of imaginary “juice” seems to be too often a function of age. So the prescription is to rekindle that creative function and get back thinking forward all the time. We can only do it though if we're fully aware of what we're missing. So what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

“Writer’s Block”

This is part III of our series on imagination.
Once in a while, many of us have experienced the writer's block and in this type of situations, it appears that our imagination has suddenly gone dry or worse, dead. This is most probably because we miss outside stimuli to awaken our treasure-chest of creativity and effervescent ideas. The solution, of course, is to be challenged in order for us to get started.

Being alone however is very difficult, unless we're able to “play” a game with ourselves of the “good cop, bad cop” kind. If we can't pull this out, we must get some external input and this often is the only way we can re-start the engine. Imagination needs outside stimulation and can't do well if it has to happen in a vacuum or if we don't have access to a set of skills that can be likened to that of multiple personalities...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Unclogging the Imagination path

This is part II of yesterday's blog. Our wonderful imagination is not quite as easily available as opening up a valve when we need some new and exciting inspiration. It may be open and nothing will flow out of it; instead, we need to go and grab what inside the tank after we've defined what we wanted and specified it in as many details as we can.

As I've said before, it often is hard work and the end product has to flow through a labyrinth of cynicism, biases and skepticism that we've been excellent at developing since we last were kids. The drag is in fact our own selves. We have stopped believing in our own power and we don't make it any easier for it to percolate back to us.

You might say that there's too much baggage clogging the hallways so that we can slowly walk them but never run through them! What would be ideal would be hiring the services of some “imagination sweep” that would let an unlimited supply of “good stuff” flow permanently into our tired minds, just like a chimney sweep make sure the flue is free of soot...

Reality however will probably suggest starting small by exercising our imaginary function daily, one step at a time and just mustering all the patience needed to become better at it. Re-learning to be a kid all over again is probably the best way towards unclogging that valve...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Creative imagination

Are we using our imagination as well as we could or should? I don't think so. This trait is something we use a lot when we're kids, but as we grow older, we rely more and more on learned knowledge and experience, to the point that – after a long while – we end up totally ignoring that vital resource. If you have worked with it recently, you must agree that it's hard work to get its gearss back in motion and extract some useful “juice” out of it.

To me, it's not much different than putting our arms and legs to work after a long, lazy hiatus. Yet, what a treasure do we all have “under the hood” and how much could we do with it if we only made the effort; even if that attempt wasn't daily and was just “from time to time,” it probably would change the whole world as we know it. Tomorrow, I'll try to develop the subject and open up new ways to tap into that reservoir of creativity.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Possessing “stuff” vs. experiencing

Our advertising-based society keeps on telling us to consume, to get new stuff, to get cool products, but most of the time, we end up acquiring nothing much, but inert objects that end up giving us very little satisfaction. Sometimes, these very material possessions only bring us worries and resentment, like owning boats, small airplanes or a bunch of things that eat our lives up or fill our houses and garages to the rim without showing much use at all.

The question we ought to always ask ourselves, no matter what we plan to do or intend to purchase is something like “where's the experience in this?” and “will it be well worth the price we're about to pay?” The projected nature and cost of that experience is therefore the central question we need to address before jumping into any dubious, complex or enormous acquisitions, while always remembering that in a large number of instances, the best things in life are often free!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Quality begins in small sizes!

It's amazing a short story, a concise joke, a small car (like a Mini), a short video or a piece of sushi can pack so much quality and positive experience within their limited footprint. It says in fact a lot about our culture – particularly the American one – that tend to glorify anything that's big and over-size.

Yet packing power and quality into a small packages remains an art we should all learn to master and emulate. Our planet is cracking at the seams, our domestic space, our time or even our resources are limited, so why not work on products, projects and ideas that cannot just fit, bu also maximize our daily limitations?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Learning by doing...

Books, how to videos, mimicking and advice can only do so much, but there's no alternative to learning by actually doing. One trick though is to make sure we remember what we learn, like the good (successes) the bad (mistakes) and the lackluster (stagnation).

So if we continually try, pay attention, take good notes and read them often enough, there is a great chance that we'll learn well, fast and effectively. Quality learning is available to all of us; we just need to apply ourselves!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

How to find reliable appliances?

Recently our almost brand new, high tech LG refrigerator began misbehaving, quitting making ice cubes and warming up too much in its freezer compartment. We called the company that services that particular brand and model, and the next day a technician showed up; after looking at the problem, he said that we needed to change the electronic board, which would cost us a small fortune, plus would take a week before LG could get them the replacement part.

He also said that this Korean brand was one of the worst in refrigeration and that as a rule of thumb, one should never buy a refrigerator with a “G” in its name like GE or LG, Maytag being the exception and Whirlpool the best buy in the category. He also said that LG dishwashers – like the one we own – are equally as bad and that we should go with Bosh with all dish and laundry washers.

This is not quite in keeping with what we'd read on Consumer Reports. Of course, this magazine polls his readers who probably can't remember the brands of their appliances. That same technician said that next time we're in the market for some new appliances (which may come sooner than what we'd like to think) we ought to call his company to get the full run down on what's decent and what's awful. Makes good sense to me!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Another Olympic decision...

Today, South Korea or rather Pyeongchang (if you can easily spell it) was selected as the host site for the 2018 Winter Olympics, beating out Munich and Annecy. What's an Olympic worth to a country, a region, a city? It depends on a lot of things. It would seem to me that in the case of Pyeongchang, it will put the place on the map of winter sports in Asia. This would certainly not apply to its two European competitors that are covered deep into snow culture and would not get much added benefits in terms of notoriety.

Did the 2002 Olympics help Salt Lake and Utah as a ski region. Perhaps, but its resorts so close to an airport, its quality of snow and uncrowded slopes did every bit as much. I like to joke that the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, that has been held here some 30 years shines a brighter media light than a once in a lifetime Olympic Games.

Of course, there are the politicians that tend to project their own fame and legacy on “getting” the Games, regardless of whether it will end up costing tons of taxpayers' money and will demand eternal feed and care of the of certain “white elephants” like the jumping and bobsleigh venues. I have long held the view that the Games have long lost their luster when the IOC began adding too many events and when TV rights have become the tail that wags the Olympic dog...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Gearing up for summer

Now that skis and boot are finally at rest, it's now time to move to summer mode. The last winter photos and videos edited, we must make sure the mountain bikes are fit to travel on these single track trails and there are all these recurrent household chores that must be done, like driveway maintenance, that extra coat of paint needed and the usual garden care. I shouldn't delay any of these items. Since June 22, days have been declining and we only four month of pleasant weather left in the calendar!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Grand finale to an endless ski season

Today was the end of the world as avid skiers and snowboarders know it. The last day at Snowbird I didn't want to miss that event for anything on earth. There were two essential elements to my insistence: First and foremost, watching the crowds in all kind of attire, or lack thereof. Then there was the bottom access when the ski would be over, as there was no way on earth that I would download with the tram.

I got plenty of good people footage who came in multitudes, leaving a real scarcity of parking spaces and the snow was not bad at all in spite of temperatures hovering between 50 and 60 at the top. But the best was in that last day of the season was the return to the base of the resort when I had decided that I had enough of standing on long lines at Mineral Basin, and felt that I now had better things to do like picking up my daughter in Salt Lake. The descent to my car was terrific, the snow the best of the day and the bush-whacking minimal. God, what a season!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Thinking on my... pedals

This morning, as I was mountain biking I passed a group of hikers who kindly stepped to the side of the trail as we exchanged greetings. One of them said “Can we get a ride with you?” I answered: “Yes, but only two passengers and it's gonna cost you...” It's really hard to let your mind wander, let alone think deliberately when you're riding a mountain bike. All is concentration, concentration, period. So it's hard to think on your feet and joke around when you are always fighting to keep up while dodging rocks, stumps and overhanging bushes.

Sometimes it happens as it did today, but that must be pure luck... As I've said before, that kind of riding isn't unlike skiing; you must pay serious attention or else! The good thing about riding your mountain bike is that your feet and your head aren't alone doing the work; your arms are the one doing the steering and after a long ski season it takes some time to trust them to get that important job done.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Meet me half-way?

The GOP is the biggest bully I know, and so far they don't want to give anything to the Democrats as the fiscal battle nears a significant deadline. Even though Obama set the stage for the current situation by opening negotiations on deficit reduction this spring with a proposal that included a 3-to-1 ratio between spending reductions and tax increases, that largesse still doesn't appear to satisfy the Republicans.

What has happened to the old “I'll meet you half-way” approach? While I think that expenses, including of course the military ones, should be cut drastically, taxes on the very rich must be raised and that 3-to-1 ratio seems to be a floor below which the Administration should never accept to go to. You see, my sense of measure is quite flexible...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Another postal story...

Last December, I was complaining about the quality of service and lack of response from our U.S. Postal Services. Yesterday, it just got worse. A friend of the family called us and, among other things, asked us if we had received a parcel she had sent us one month ago. We said no, but that we would try to check with our postman even though she had sent the parcel without tracking number and return receipt documentation. We went to the post office, asked the postman who knows us very well if he had a parcel for us and without thinking for a fraction of a second, responded “I might,” went into his backroom and emerged five minutes later with our parcel.

He said that he might have misplaced the yellow tag that is stuffed into mailboxes when a parcel won't fit its small space and must be picked up at the desk or inside a larger locker. My assumption is that the parcel had been sitting there for two weeks and no one was doing anything about it! Back in New York, our friend also contacted her post office, was quickly rebuked and scolded for not having purchased the 75 cents tracking service, which was peanuts they said, in relation to the thirteen dollars she had paid in postage. All this to underscore once more the inefficiency and nefarious spirit of our national mail...