Monday, October 31, 2011

The end of growth

I just finished reading a wonderful book that explains very clearly and comprehensively the bind humanity finds itself into today. I found the reading fascinating and could only agree with its main premise: Quantitative growth is now over, time to do something about it!

I have in fact held that view for quite a long time and was only disappointed in the lack of urgency Richard Heinberg, the author, seems to place on overpopulation and wasn't impressed on its “prescription” for addressing the unavoidable shift.

I found his solutions to be less than convincing and on the “light” side. We'll all need to work on them! This said, this is a book everyone should read to seize the shape of things to come into their future lives...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Is Saudi Arabia paying Muslim women to veil?

While I was in France I heard that European Muslim families are paid 200 euros a month by Saudi Arabia just to have their daughters wear the hijab. I've tried, to no avail, to find a credible confirmation of that widely circulated “rumor,” yet it seems to make a lot of sense to me after seeing the increasing number of veiled Muslim women all over France - a very secular country.
This said, and without falling for the far-right propaganda, I wouldn't be surprised if there was some truth to that abuse of influence by the Saudis that are trading oil for religious domination. Something to think about next time you're patiently filling up the large tank of your SUV...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ten step forward, one backward

This is what typically happens with technology: This morning, I open up my (Firefox) browser and it starts acting on me with a number of sites. To make a long story short, about half the sites show up in old HTML format and Facebook, my blog and calendar wouldn't open as I expected them to. I looked everywhere, searching for similar problems uncovered by other users, found nothing that could help, rebooted the machine and finally, switched the entire mission over to "Chrome," the Google browser.

One hour wasted, a few things learned in the process and life went on. Technology often comes packed with unforeseen frustrations, yet at the end of the day, it's well worth it as it helps us live a little bit closer to that elusive 100% level we all aspire to. So we need to accept that there's somehow, somewhere, a price to pay. I simply need to think more about this counterpart when trouble comes my way!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Middle East reality...

Based on the recent prisoner swaps between Israel and its neighbors, an Israeli soldier is worth 1,000 Palestinian and only 25 Egyptians. The ratio has varied over the past years, so one might wonder if it's now a fixed rate or if it might vary based on market conditions? I hope there is some kind of rule...

I wonder what the ratio should be for other nationalities, like American, Canadian, French, Russian or Nigerian. If you have any guess make sure to share them with us all!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Broken chain (continued...)

We learn most through adversity. My broken chain (yesterday's blog) will certainly teach me how to fix a broken chain or shorten one that's a bit too long. Right, I got the tool to do it, but I will learn the step-by-step process by going through a series of Youtube videos. Some average, some really bad and others that are just excellent. My point of course isn't about fixing a bicycle chain but about learning.

All kinds of stuff; from changing a flat tire to unlocking a cell phone, ironing a shirt or hanging a living room door. This wealth of knowledge didn't exist 15 years ago. Today, it's at our fingertips. Should that mean greater personal productivity? You bet! Do most people know this and take advantage of that free resource? Probably not as many yet as they should...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Broken chain...

A bike chain is like a car transmission. If it breaks, there's no more power available and that brings any motion to a screeching halt. That's precisely what happened to me two days ago when I was, with my wife, in the middle of nowhere and had to resort to some creative shortcuts in order to organize my rescue.

As the moving link broke, I didn't get mad but thought to myself “how in hell will I resolve that incident?” As my wife sped back home to get the car and pick me up by the nearest roadway, I alternatively cut through the sagebrush to rejoin a trail where I walked my bike as fast as I could.

I straddle my bike once or twice when the grade allowed it and eventually, was picked up, got to the bike shop, received a new chain and while I was there bought a chain repair kit that was sorely missing in my emergency supplies!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Scenic morning run

More than 220 days a year, we run on our same morning course, overlooking the Park Meadows neighborhood of Park City and get a full view of our surrounding mountains, hills, homes, ski runs, trees, meadows and McLeod Creek, whether these landmarks turn green, red, gold or white. We are so lucky. There's never a day that is the same.

Most of the time our skies are blue, at time they receive big, fluffy cumuli or all shapes of clouds, quite often we seen one, two, three or even more balloons gracing the horizon. Sometime it rains, hails, snow or it's a moment for the wind to blow. Most of the the time we see all kinds of birds, on occasions a rabbit, a moose, some deer or more rarely a stealthy fox or even a herd of elks.

There are also plenty of folks. The regulars, the strangers, those who socialize and those who ignore us. We also get the cars, the trucks, the school buses, the garbage truck and the snowplow. The sights are never the same, yet they always remain scenic in their own ways.

We don't always fully appreciate the beauty, but I suspect it somehow gets to us, without our being even aware of it. It's part of our daily lives, it's our daily dose of wonderful views and frankly, we don't think we could live well without them...

Monday, October 24, 2011

October mountain biking

When possible, mountain biking best season might happen in October. The weather gets much cooler, allowing getting out during the day without the fear of cooking and permiting impromptu picnic on a trail bench. The morning frost keeps the dust stuck to the ground and less leaves on trees means much better visibility around tight corners.

As a final bonus, there are the lingering fall colors. We've never ridden as many times as this year and we hope that me might still have a few good days in front of us as the next snow fall can bring that magic time to an end!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Winter predictors

Aside from the flights of Canadian geese headed towards Mexico, racking leaves and cleaning our garden, another related sign of winter's imminent arrival is when our living room bay window begins to let some mountain features in, as the leaves that hug the panes start to turn yellow and thin out. As winter gets closer, we're fortunate to see the local peaks back into our sights again.

This brings back to memory one seasonal family ritual we used to have and that perked up passions when our children were younger and still with us. We would have a contest that would reward the family member who could predict, or get the closest to the date when winter snow would finally arrive and stay on the ground. As far as I can remember, no one ever landed the exact day, but the winner always got sufficiently close to the date so that there was no need for argument or further contest.

This year, with only two participants, we decided to keep the friendly betting process alive. My wife said snow would come “early” November (vague enough for comfort, right? Her definition of “early” runs from the first to the tenth) while I set my prediction right on November 22nd. We'll see when it lands and who shovels first!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Aiming too high?

When I was younger, my environment had told me that being ambitious wasn't a really good idea, wasn't “good form” and that if I was born out of modest conditions, I ought to stay that way, all my life. Right, I had to remain graciously nested inside my assigned, lowly social slot, make as few waves as possible and all should would be alright.

One day, “Mickey” a buddy of mine who got his driver's license ahead of me and was gracious enough to driving me around town during weekends, told me “you're aiming too high!” as he was observing at times, some of my daring demeanor. At the time, I kind of accepted his remark, as the official validation of a paradigm that was not up for discussion. The sad truth is that I embraced that lie for too long a time in my life and it certainly has held me back on too many occasions.

At the same time, I realized that less qualified, less intelligent and lazier people could easily get ahead of me, or later that my bosses, CEO and politicians would land – and keep - unbelievable positions without the perquisite effort, talents or record of achievement. There was one difference though; these lackluster leaders were aiming high!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Air sickness

In June of 2008, as we flew from France to the United States, we suspected that we caught a bug inside the airplane that made us both very sick. I would in fact relapse during the following month of August and not get rid of my ailment until April of 2009. Last week, when we flew back from our wonderful European trip, Evelyne caught another bug – we suspect – inside the plane. Today she's nursing it and hopefully this one will go away faster than mine, three years ago.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that among the 250 passengers inside the plane, several can be sick as their breathing will recirculate inside the plane climate system for about 10 hours, enough to make a healthy person very sick. Then there is the issue of hygiene or lack thereof inside the cabin, from seats to head-rests to armrest, food trays and the rest, that in our views, are only superficially cleaned and must remain a wonderful habitat for all kinds of mean bacterias, micro-bugs and the rest.

My spouse reminds me that when I used to travel a lot, I was sick most of the time, but I seem to have conveniently “erased” that downside from my memories. I'm still in love with travel!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Riding Armstrong...

A few days ago, I was telling about the new Armstrong Trail in Park City. Yesterday, I finally rode it on my mountain bike, this time, equipped with my Garmin watch so I could measure what I was doing. At first, I thought I would die as the trail began with a hard, steep section. It's not that it gets better after that; it keeps on climbing with endless regularity, but I guess that I got used to it... About half a dozen men aged 25 to 40 passed me, seemingly effortlessly.

Two-third up the hill, I finally caught up with another one only to find out that the cyclist in question was wearing pink shorts and was a girl! I finally made it to the Mid-Mountain junction, kept on going up another two-third of the mile before I reach the apex of the climb at 8,404 feet. The downhill portion to and through Spiro was both fun and fast. Will I do this again this season? Perhaps, but I'm sure glad I did!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Park City skiing

Once more, and for an astounding 5th year in a row, our very own Deer Valley Resort was named North-American number one resort by the Ski Magazine readers. Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) slid a bit number 4 to 6, while Canyons moved up from 20 to 16. All this means is that , combined, our three local mountains are solidifying their position as the number one ski destination on the continent. It's obviously a highly positive reflection on positive people policies embraced by Deer Valley Resort, on the unparalleled accessibility of our ski resorts and of old town Park City attractiveness in terms of restaurants, nightlife and shopping options.

Both Canyons and PCMR are lucky to have Deer Valley to emulate and one would expect that eventually their ranking should rise up to some higher level, but there's of course no guarantee. Honest, self-examination is indeed a grueling exercise. It's all in the hands of their respective management that must be able to see the (obvious) opportunities for improvement. I have already suggested that the very best insurance for staying forever at the helm of North-American skiing would be for the three Park City mountains to interconnect, but unlike what is common place in the Alps is a complicated development here in America and I won't revisit this argument today!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Judging less...

It recently occurred to me that most of our lives is pretty much managed by our genes and our DNA, and while we can change the course of some events, we can't really change who we are. I've never given much credence that we're more the product of environment than that of our own parents.

We all were born with certain sets of traits and while we can work at smoothing the ones that are too sharp for a harmonious social life, it seems almost impossible to totally eliminate some of the kirks we may have that are offensive to others. When we turn that observation around and apply it to certain folks we encounter and don't necessarily appreciate, it forces us to be much more tolerant and much less of a judge. Self-transformation is indeed very hard to operate!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Discovering a new trail...

Today, we finally decided to go and hike up the brand new Armstrong Trail at the base of of Park City Mountain Resort that share a trail-head with Spiro. Named after a family that worked hard in favor of open space and not the cycling champion (as we always thought) this trail is uphill-only for biker and both directions for hikers and horses.

That trail is 4 miles long, with 1300 vertical feet elevation gain, and a top altitude is 8,150 feet right where it meets the Mid-Mountain Trail. We managed to miss that junction just by 0.4 mile because it was getting late, we didn't have a map and didn't know how close we were from that point. The climbing is sustained but not too steep and later this week I plan to test it for myself on the mountain bike!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

People don't change much...

During our recent European trip we were wondering about how people we know had changed over the years, and the only significant change we found was mostly in the way they looked (we hadn't been there for a good three years) with sometime some pretty significant differences – some had not changed a bit while others had undergone a more visible transformation.

This simply to say that people don't change much as such and if one expects changes in society, political life or business development, it's necessary to look beyond the evolution of a single person and reach for a new generation. That's right, in my view change has been coming and will continue to arrive from new, fresh generations. Just like the founders of Google or Facebook or, years ago, the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. So if you want your world to change for the better, don't elect or re-elect and old politician!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A committed skied

We're walking in our neighborhood and the man is cleaning up dry plants from his yard. He says hi, we ask what he's doing; he tells us and then goes “I skied 153 days last winter...” and we begin a long conversation. John lives in Park City but hardly ever skis around town. Instead, he's been skiing some 130 times in Alta, our Utah “Cult” resort that, in winter, is about one hour drive – each way – from his home. Talk about dedication!

This, with a spouse that works at our great Deer Valley Resort and seems to have a very hard time to get him to ski there with her! To top this all, our man is 10 year older than I, yes, well into his seventies. There's lots of hope in this world!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Another trip to Europe...

Early this week we returned from a great trip to Europe in which we saw many people that are dear to us. All went perfectly well and as we're now sorting our memories out, coping with jet-lag and catching up with household chores, we're still feeling a bit dizzy, not too sure where we really are and where we ought to be. One thing feels almost one hundred percent sure: We're delighted to be back home.

We still have found links with France, but those keep on fading, especially after having spent more than half of our lives in America. Our European counterparts keep on growing apart from us, ever so slightly, than after adding years and decades, the split begin to appear distinctly clear. Then we ask ourselves the question we've been pondering for years and years: If we had to do it again, would we move to America? After a few seconds, the response returns the same, unequivocal and loud, Yes!

Winter signs are here!

Late September, as the leaves were just beginning to turn all around Deer Valley and Park City, we decided to leave town for a few days to visit family and friends. As we always do, when we’re away, we keep an almost daily tab on what goes on in Utah and were stunned to hear about the early October snowfall!

Earlier this week, as we were driving home, we couldn’t miss a snow-capped Bald Mountain, while at the same time hearing on the radio that Deer Valley had just been named the No. 1 ski resort in North America for the fifth year in a row; wow! Combined, these visual and auditory sensations were sending a clear message: Snow season and great skiing were definitely on their way. As we arrived at home, we instantly felt the cool air and with it, began switching gears, forgetting almost everything about summer and fall weather, turning on the heat inside our home and embracing the upcoming change of season.

True, our summer and fall have been terrific and it’s now time to prepare for skiing and winter. Our seasonal survival checklist began with getting our Deer Valley ski passes in order. That’s right, we only have a few days left for taking advantage of the very best offers and absolutely can’t afford to let that date go by. We’ll also need to check our gear. Is it still in working order or up to par with the quality skiing we intend to accomplish? My ski boots need fixing and my poles are ready for a well-deserved retirement. My ski jacket still looks great, but I sure could use a new pair of ski pants. And these worn-out gloves will have to be replaced before December.

Then there’s the car and the tires that have to be changed, the ski rack that begs to be placed back on the roof. Even though April isn’t that far, I was so consumed with my summer activities that I had almost forgotten that winter would even return; that “Circle of Fun” must be part of the magic that comes with living in the mountains! Today, I feel my world shifting or should I say, beginning to slide underneath my feet and I must adapt fast. I know there’s still plenty of yellow in the aspen groves that are hugging the new snow, but it won’t last long and soon the Deer Valley chairlifts will be running. Count on me, I’m ready!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Home advantage

Someone who has always stayed at the very same place from birth to death can fully assume that he's from the place he lives in. That person is never asked to prove or establish anything, in order to claim any form of belonging to a particular place. That's what I would call a pretty easy life. On the other hand, any new comer to any new place will have to work hard in order to fit in, by learning the local culture, the language and the rules of life.

We belong to this group of people who didn't enjoy any home advantage through most of their adult life and it has made us very resilient and more adaptable. I like the experience and don't envy those who still can claim a “home advantage;” it has made me so much stronger!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Monstrous mileage?

Our last trip to France would have been a record breaker in terms of mileage. Between automobile and plane, we managed to cover 12,180 miles, without missing a bit, without any major problem or accident.

The flying has been super easy, thanks in part to the convenient direct Salt Lake – Paris flight and the driving uneventful and comfortable with a neat rental car and little traffic. Something must be said about traveling outside of peak periods. Now, we're back home, jet-lagged but happy to know that we won't have to travel for another six month!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Airport parking story

Parking right at the airport can be very costly, especially if you leave home for more than 10 days; at $7 per day, parking quickly becomes a major expense. To minimize it, we decided to experiment with a new program that enables us to park at one of two nearby hotels for half that price. So when we left on our trip, I made the reservation on line, printed my email receipt and to avoid unnecessary stress in trying to locate the hotel, I set up my GPS to the address indicated on the document and drove towards the aiport.

When I reached the hotel, I ran to the front desk, gave my receipt and was told to park my car anywhere I wanted. When we returned, I called the hotel from the airport, jumped on their courtesy van and immediately went to look for my car, but I couldn't find it. After circling the lot twice, I went to the front desk and noticed that it didn't look quite the same as I had remembered it 13 days before. I asked the man behind the desk if I could have – by chance - left my car at some other hotel. He suggested I tried the one across the street. I did and found my car waiting for me. I had parked it at the wrong hotel and the attendant had barely glanced at the document I had given her!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Paris stands for Pollution

As we were driving today from Britanny, we barely “touched” Paris periphery and while we were driving towards the airport, we could sense the acrid smell of pollution that constantly hangs on that big metropolis.

No one seems to talk about that, but it must be a horrible reality to have to live with when one is a “Parisian.” I discovered it decades ago and really feel fortunate that I never had to live in that place for any extended lengths of time....

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The end of our visit to Brittany

Our trip to Brittany concluded with a visit to an old friend of mine, Michel Vittoz. At the same time, we had the opportunity to meet his charming wife Danielle. They showed us around the Brest area and were wonderful hosts. Before that, we spent some time visiting the Parish closes nearby.

This is a translation of the French term “enclos paroissial” which refers to a number of locations spread in the historic diocese of Léon, and that feature an elaborately-decorated parish church surrounded by an entirely-walled churchyard, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. The surrounding walled churchyard wraps around buildings and structures designed for worship - the church, the calvary, and sometimes an ossuary or charnel house.

A very busy day indeed that concluded with a wonderful dinner at the Vittoz's!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Running alongside the towpath

We had a few good running experiences during this trip to Europe. One was in the Alps, the other in Lannion, Brittany, where we ran for a couple of days alongside the local towpath that extends to the open sea.

We didn't go all that far though; we stuck to a 5 mile trek that was plenty for us. The weather was drizzly, but the run was flat and easy...

Friday, October 7, 2011

A beautiful side of France...

The Northeastern cost of Brittany is simply beautiful. We actually began our grand tour in Normandy, stopping at the famous Mt. Saint-Michel which evokes dungeons, dragons and the whole Middle-Ages folklore and made a forceful impression on us.

Then from the little port of Cancale to Saint Malo, we were delighted by all the great sights that were offered to us and that we could absorb in just a few miles. We were discovering a totally new side of France that we had never seen before...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Jobs is gone

This morning we woke up hearing the sad news that Steve Jobs had passed away. Even though I only own an Apple iTunes, I thought of him of a product genius and a living example of someone who was able to get destroyed and bounced back. I know that he wasn't an easy man to work with, but he was who he was, someone in many ways exceptional. A modern Leonardo. He'll be terribly missed!
Oct 6

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The rest of France...

It's true that for the most part, our great birth country evokes picturesque places from the Alps, to the Riviera, the Basque Country, Corsica and in a few days, Brittany. Then, there is what's left in the middle of that huge national “sandwich” that France is, which is simply the rest of that country, perhaps 80% of it.

Tonight, we've stopped in Elbeuf to eat and sleep and it's really that... It has nothing in particular to offer, its village all look the same as the rest, with narrow streets and old houses, ugly suburbsgrotesque commercial concentrations and the only value that unite these ordinary places to the that great Nation of France is perhaps and not always, a good baguette!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A long awaited visit

An important piece of our European trip was to pay a visit to a great friend of ours who lives in Switzerland with his wife. François Feuz and his wife Marie-Jo were as excited as we were to finally get together and share most of the day around the wonderful lake of Neuchâtel.
It was great for both of us to see each other again, after at least a good decade, for my wife to meet him in person and for me and my wife to meet Marie-Jo. One of the high points our our trip!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Packing too much into a short time

Trips to Europe are hard; not only there are the long hours stuck inside the plane, the jet-lag and, frequently, a drastically different weather, but there's mostly the limited amount of time to do everything and see everyone.

The later goal is hard to meet well and achieve, to the satisfaction of everyone. You can only see so many people, sit with them and give the process enough time to end up with a quality encounter. This means that you can't see everyone and that many of the folks you don't or can't see may be mad at you.

Sad, but true; it illustrates once more that we can be everything to everyone and we can't be available to all when it's just convenient for them!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

At last, an official reunion!

I've been waiting for sometimes to that day when a bunch of my former classmates would get together and I'd be able to retrace some of my long-forgotten steps inside “L'école d'horlogerie de Cluses” my French Alma-mater.

That day has come and gone now and while I'm happy to have fulfilled that fantasy of mine, I'm not sure if I will return to the 50th reunion. For one thing, I'll be five year older and I may have other issues or desires on my mind. I certainly enjoyed seeing some good buddies like Gérard Bétend, but my tomorrow is likely to be made of new and undiscovered adventures!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Forty-five years later

Our all-boys, high school reunion which was held in Cluses, France, this first weekend of October reflects a common odyssey that started there fifty years and for which we were celebrating today the 45th anniversary of the graduation that followed. We all had the chance to live in the midst of a technological, cultural and social revolution and all our time was marked by an easy economic life filled with a vast array of opportunities.

Today, our group consists of about thirty former students who came from all parts of France and even Germany, Tunisia and the United States of course! We all took pleasure in visiting our alma-mater, while our wives had to patiently go through the the endless visit of a variety of workshops and other facilities. Today, the drawing boards have disappeared and given way to the computer with all its might. There is just machining operations that aren't quite virtual yet, although robots will soon be doing everything. 
The rest of the day was spent eating non-stop from the little town of Thiez through the medieval village of Yvoire, on Geneva Lake, and we all had plenty of opportunities to share our memories and bring a lot details back that many of us had long ago forgotten. A smaller contingent left the next day for a lake cruise to Lausanne. A tight travel schedule did not allow me to participate, but I'll make a video to capture this wonderful gathering!