Sunday, September 30, 2012

Someone felt my pain!

In the last two blogs, I've described the ordeal I went through while trying to fix a defective screen door. Well, since that time, my struggles (and dissatisfaction) have been noticed and heard by someone working at the company in question.
That's right; an employee whom I guess was cruising search engine results and stumbled upon my post. That individual suggested that I contact the company to get my problem fully resolved. Of course, I intend to take full advantage of this offer, but my point today is that the web is a place where voices can finally be heard, somewhere, somehow... Wow!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Just do it in reverse!

This is the sequel to yesterday's blog. I finally persevered in trying to replace that pane, and with the (grudgingly) help of a Pella customer service employee who knew what to do and could effectively communicate it over the phone, I was able to slide that heavy sash back into its track.

The maneuver was rather simple and as I executed it, I suddenly remembered that I precisely had done it in reverse when removing the defective pane. The gesture required to insert both corners of the lower pane in the proper set of tracks, in an angle, then tilt the pane almost horizontally towards me, and then raise it swiftly as the two corners slid up into their tracks.

The instructions supplied by Pella missed that critical step and without it, it was impossible to get the job done. My take away in all that? Whenever I'll dismount anything, I'll always do my very best to document (writing, photos or video) what I'm doing so I can “reverse-engineer” it when it's time to do the opposite!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Does Pella offer good customer service?

Pella was especially well known for its wood windows long before it expanded into other home-related products. Over the years, we've bought a lot from them. Our last purchase was an entry door and a matching storm window. The later had a cool design we liked, including a “Rolscreen” retractable, concealed screen.

The system is ingenious: you pull it down for ventilation and just lift it up, and it glides out of sight. The problem with that Rolscreen is that the rather heavy movable glass panel is only supported by a single plastic lock button. After a while and repeated opening and closing of the storm door - in our case just four years after it was installed – the lower sash frame holding the heavy piece of glass became disjointed and the glass began gaping at the top.
From a pure engineering standpoint, that design flaw seems unpreventable, and my sense is that there are a large number of such doors that are now defective. First, and without looking at my brochure, I called Pella for a replacement sash and was told that it would cost me $65. I decided to wait, and called a week later and was then told that a replacement set would be shipped at no cost to me.

Upon receiving it, I proceeded to read carefully the rather complicated instructions related to the removal of the defective parts and the installation of the new ones. I set out to work. The instructions, albeit profuse and complex, were not as clear and complete as they should have been, the photos were particularly tiny and certain details were hardly discernible.

I first replaced the whole assembly and then discovered that I placed the sash and the screen inside the wrong track. I dismounted the whole work and after countless attempts, was never able to replace the glass sash inside the most remote, least accessible set of tracks. I called Pella and a technician told me that if I had been able to take the piece of glass off, I should be able to replace it. I told him that it wasn't as simple of that (just like putting toothpaste back into its tube.)

He suggested that I should get a neighbor to help. By that time my wife had been helping me for 30 minute doing the very best she could and I couldn't see what a “neighbor” would have done that we weren't able to accomplish! At that point, I hung up and as I was looking at the back of the brochure, I read a statement indicating that the door carried a 20 year warranty!

 I then called Lowe, the home improvement retailer that had sold me the door and they were quite helpful in arranging for a contractor to come and help me resolve that rather unpleasant project. We'll see what happen, so please, stay tuned.

In the meantime, I would like to say that I am incredibly disappointed by Pella's attitude towards their clients in sending them loose parts that require a high level of training and expertise to replace correctly, and hoping that anyone can turn that installation into a fun and easy do-it-yourself project.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Want to turn Tamarack around?

If you are a savvy marketeer and have saved more than a few bucks, this might be your chance to show your mettle, resurrect the moribund Tamarack Resort and turn it into the next Deer Valley Resort.

Within the next two month a sheriff's sale might offer to the highest bidder a large portion of the resort, including the lifts, the on-mountain facilities, the golf course and more than 2,000 homesites. Indeed, Credit Suisse is now free to go forward and sell its interests in the resort.

The situation however isn't that simple as their are four additional creditors concurrently trying to sell their interests in other key properties that are integral to the resort, like the partially built retail spaces, and the unfinished condos and townhomes at the village base.

So, as always, buyer beware, and best of luck to the prospective owner on bringing destination skiers to that remote central Idaho location!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

When religions hide behind Islam...

In recent months, Islam has become the new enemy and the source of all dangers. Granted, it's been harnessed by some extremists and blessed by governments that have no problem mixing religion with politics. Yet, what's true for Islam is also true for any religion or other irrational beliefs.

Any faith, denomination or superstition is fair game for being highjacked by politicians that will use it to serve their darkest purposes. The lesson in all this is that spiritual beliefs have no place in government.

A strict and unyielding separation of the two is needed more than ever before if we're intent to march towards progress and world peace and whatever is irrational belongs to a class that should never be taken seriously.

The message is loud and clear, and yet, when Islam is portrayed as the delinquent, other faiths conspicuously shut up...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Zen and the art of troubleshooting

This week has seen the heights of my frustrations as a troubleshooter. First, our four-year old, high tech refrigerator died on us once more, and that time there was no motivation left to attempt yet another resurrection, so we wisely bought a new one that... failed to work hours after it was installed!

It kept on beeping continuously (just like Sputnik), which drove us crazy for almost four days. Yesterday, the service technician came and found out that the problem was created by a trivial, minute dimensional error on the door and fixed it.

Today, to capitalize on my problem-solving talents, I decided to clean and repair our gas fireplace that in recent months only worked sporadically. After taking it apart three times while receiving plenty of telephone assistance from the reseller, we came to the unlikely conclusion that a spider had caused a blockage inside the gas pipes, impeding with the regular flow. I cleaned it up and it now works.

All along, I stayed mostly calm and this help me a great deal seeing through the these little problems of our daily life...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mystified by leaves changing colors?

Like most people, I've always wondered how leaves could change colors in the fall, and while I got the biochemical information I needed about the process itself, I still wondered as to what really made color turn early or late and in a huge variety of colors.

Conventional wisdom puts everything on the back of weather and it might in fact be truer than the chemists would think. For instance, more vivid colors are said to be the result of weather conditions that occur before and during the time the amount of chlorophyll contained in the leaves is diminishing. As most people believe, temperature and moisture are also highly influential.

For instance, a series of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays. At these moments, large amounts of sugars are produced in the leaf but the cool nights and the gradual closing of veins inside the leaf prevent these sugars from moving out. These combined extreme proportions of sugar and light seem to promote the production of brilliant anthocyanin pigments, which create these reds and crimson colors.

Because carotenoids are always present in leaves, the yellow and gold colors that we get in aspen trees remain fairly constant from year to year. Moisture in the ground also affects autumn colors; that amount varies greatly from year to year.

The myriad of combinations of these two factors assure that no two fall seasons are exactly the same. A late spring, or a severe summer drought, can delay the start of fall color by a few weeks. A warm period during fall might also dim the intensity of the colors. Now remember this: A warm, wet spring, a good summer and a warm sunny fall with cool nights should produce the most spectacular autumn colors.

 Time for me to go out an shoot some more pictures!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Laughing is healthy...

It's been a long time since we haven't laughed so much and so spontaneously at the movies. We try sometime to watch comedies, but for the most part the subjects are trite, hardly natural and often are a rehash of some past film plot. Last night was different and while we had little expectations about the movie's “fun factor” we laughed like we had not done it for a very, very long time.

The film was “To Rome with love”, one of the latest Woody Allen productions, and while its content might have been a bit disjointed and unrelated to a pretty weak central story, the dialogs were funny and reflected a great observation of human nature. If you haven't already, go and see it; I'm still smiling as I write these words...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Reinventing the ski business?

Every now and then there's an economic challenge or a bad snow year that seem to put the entire existence of the ski business in question and with it, industry leaders begin (once more) to wonder how they we grow their activity, put more people into the sport and re-energize everyone involved in the chain, from participants to retailers, ski area population and everyone else involved in that field of leisure.

It's usually the time when we go back to all the true and tried formulas along with the cool promotions we used in the past, then see if there would be a chance to refresh them, beef them up and put them, once more, to the test. Generally, no one is genuinely convinced of the effectiveness of the exercise, yet the whole industry crosses its fingers and hopes for the best.

A better way to look at it, would be through a set of new eyes and in context with our busy, overloaded and multitasking world, emulating if we could what marketing leaders seem to succeed with, namely companies like Apple who get people to camp out on the eve of a major new product introduction. That's right there's something to learn from that company and the ski industry should study it more seriously...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Freedom of expression...

The “Innocence of Muslims” video and the recent cartoons published in Charlie Hebdo have triggered some extreme response from Muslim communities resulting in needless deaths, but what's the alternative to that? Self-censorship and silence?

Absolutely not! People must speak up their minds freely. Yet, at the same time, there's a educational need to send the irrational power of all religions where it should be, that is in the realm of fantasy, myth and non-essential human needs.

This wish seems almost impossible to fulfill as extremists abound in all religions and are well represented in most governments. This said, it could still happen through some creative efforts and novel approach in re-framing religion where it actually belong inside a modern and enlightened world.

The atheist minority has never been able to package its message attractively enough; yet, given the dangerous fundamentalist world in which we're now living, more compelling approaches in debunking these dark and absurd beliefs must now be researched, developed and made available for the entire world to hear.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Is Romney losing the election?

The spat involved with a video recently released by Mother Jones might very well be what killed the thin chance Romney had to win this year's presidential contest. His damage-control back-pedaling shows the candidate's confusion and the incident follows a dismal convention, punctuated by mediocre speeches and Clint Eastwood's disastrous intervention, as well as ill-thought comments made on the Mormon candidate's European trip, earlier this summer.

By now, Romney has showed that he can't safely speak without a tight script and that he's falling victim of a typical rich man's curse: Thinking that because he's rich, he's also smart. While his blunders might be energizing his political base, they're scaring the undecided and angering the opposition, and this will stimulate a higher turn-out from what used to be disappointed Obama supporters.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The princess has (almost) no clothes!

There are times when the Brits irritate me. The last episode involving the Duchess of Cambridge's topless photos is a total waste of the world's time.  From what I was able to see, her boobs are good looking, but certainly not worth all the fuss!

It seems that when one is famous and enjoy that status, one knows that eyes are prying on you at all time, so it's always smart to take no chance no matter where you are. Neglecting this capital rule isn't a sign of being too smart. In today's world, the privileges bestowed upon the Royal Family are totally absurd and the British taxpayers are idiotic for allowing that situation to go on.

My advice? Kate Middleton and her husband should both get a real job, contribute to society, and the world would be a much better place!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


This story is about Jack and Mike. Both are next-door neighbors and Jack owns a small trailer that he rarely uses and that is stored under a deck, in the backyard. The other day, Mike asked Jack if he could borrow the trailer. Jack enthusiastically acquiesced and, at Mike convenience, proceeded to pull it out from where it was parked.

First, the heavy rampgate that closes the back had to be put in back place; the rather awkward operation requires two people and quite a bit of good, coordinated efforts, made a little bit more trickier that time because Jack had recently hurt his hand and wasn't quite as nimble as was required; finally, pulling the trailer out and into the driveway was rather easy because it was almost downhill all the way. 

A day later, Mike returned the trailer, but instead of making sure it would be replaced into its storage location with its rampgate dismounted, he just left it in the driveway, without even bothering to let Jack know. Well, that's often how things work in real life.  When he saw this, Jack sighed deeply, ask his wife to help him and both repeated in reverse the operations required for storing the vehicle. It was just a lot harder, because Jack's wife isn't as strong as Mike and the trailer had to be pushed uphill...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tired of living?

This is not serious, it's just a joke, okay? We had never visited Twin Falls, Idaho, and we partially did last week. We didn't go to the famous falls, but we just were awestruck when we discovered the Perrine Bridge, which spans the Snake River Canyon north of the city, as you come south from the freeway.  The 1,499 feet long bridge that opened up in 1976 stands at 486 feet over the ground below. We didn't know it, but this is one of the very few artificial structures worldwide where BASE jumping is legal and were a few records were broken: In September 2005 Miles Daisher of Twin Falls set a BASE jumping world record by jumping off Perrine Bridge 57 times in a 24-hour period. In July 2006 Dan Schilling jumped off the bridge 201 times in 21 hours to raise money for charity.

Next time I'm tired of living, I can now rest assured that I have a reliable alternative to the San Francisco Golden Gate bridge, a mere 250 miles away from home!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

When ski racing leads to gastronomy...

In Ketchum, Idaho, there's that fine French restaurant that was founded by a former U.S. Ski Coach who came from France around 1972 and ended up training some of the best women skiers the United States ever had on its national team. That's right, once his ski career over, Michel Rudigoz re-invented himself and became a successful restauranteur and has stuck to his new trade to this very day. On the other side of the country, another Frenchman followed a similar career path, heading the Rossignol ski racing efforts and later, the company's sales and marketing, before becoming a gourmet baker and turning some of the finest bread in his Vermont farmhouse, offering workshops and extolling the right way to prepare a delectable bread. Isn't it remarkable that these parallel careers that begun on the ski slopes ended up in a gourmet kitchen for the delight of foodies like us!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Too much of a good thing?

Electronics in cars have invaded the driver's space and life. It's now possible to take phone calls on the fly and totally hand-free or listen to satellite radio in the most remote and god forsaken corners of the Nation. All the engine functions seem “under control” and appear to work flawlessly until... some odd things happen.

That's right, the other day as I was driving down Galena Summit on my way down to Ketchum, Idaho, my dashboard suddenly went berserk as if the end of the world was coming. A few phone calls and an inspection later at a local dealership, I learned that all that fuss came from a “leaking” gas cap that had sent the wrong signal to the engine computer.

From now on, and every time I fill up, I'll have to tighten up the gas cap as if I were an obsessed-compulsive driver. Good thing, I always can pay more attention!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sun Valley, 15 years (?) later

I can't exactly remember when we last visited Sun Valley. Perhaps some 12 to 15 years ago, but no less than that. We were kind of eager to see that place again and were a bit disappointed when we strolled through downtown Ketchum, the business hub of the Wood River Valley.

To us, the place looked frozen in time and, to paraphrase our ski town real estate agents, everything looked “somewhat dated...” with a large number of commercial space available for sale or for lease. True, Sun Valley is a long way away with a hard-to-reach airport when the weather isn't perfect and far less flights available (40% less airline seats in recent years).

In observing the venerable mountain town more closely there is this inescapable impression that this once, iconic resort, looks as if it already had one foot in the grave...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sun, rain or smoke?

Often times, we travel and only worry about getting a perfect weather, that is sunny instead of rainy or overcast, right? Well, that's not counting on forest fires and on horizons and vistas blurred by persistant thick smoke.

That's just what happened to us as we were planning to push north towards Coeur d'Alene and even perhaps as far North as Glacier National Park. Just as the song “Smoke gets in your eyes” says it so well, we concluded that we couldn't afford to cry to much about it and instead, we decided to cut our trip much shorter!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What happens when a ski resort fails...

We visited today a bankrupt mountain resort located in central Idaho and known under the name of Tamarack. The facility opened in 2004, but its ski lifts have not operated since March 2009, when lenders led by the Credit Suisse Group refused to throw more cash into the struggling resort founded by Frenchman Jean-Pierre Boespflug, as they tried to recover an unpaid $250 million construction loan.

More recently, Bank of America threatened to remove the chairlifts and while a few bit and pieces of the resort have been sold to a variety of investors, like some bizarre buildings (chapel, schoolhouse and barn) at the center of the resort. In other instances, some have been operating certain amenities like the zip line and the golf course, and if all goes well, the Tamarack Municipal Corporation might get the lifts running up again, from Thursday through Sunday, this upcoming winter.

We'll know more after a court hearing scheduled for September 20. In the meantime, this show that things are not always easy with a fledgling ski resort!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Location can be key in picking a hotel!

I had found a great hotel for us in Boise. Excellent price, but most important, highly flattering ratings. You'll agree with me that when all is said and done, what counts is what consumer think, not the usual travel critics or guides. Well, this now might be up for debate.

When we reached our final destination, we found that my “dream hotel” was sandwiched between the freeway and the airport. I made sure to ask for a “quiet room” but when it was time to retire, we realized that if we didn't get the noise from the highway, we got plenty from the... nearby tarmac!

We eventually fell asleep and woke up pretty rested. Next time though, I promise to be more critical about the glowing reviews a property receives and will look a tad better at a given hotel location...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Who's jealous?

If there is one thing that's totally taboo in America, it is jealousy, and yet, it's there all the time. Pervasive and present in our day-to-day environment, it poisons relationships in a covert, yet ever constant manner.

No one ever talks about it directly but physical and verbal cues are omnipresent, everyday, everywhere. A subject worth digging into and developing. Just stay tuned...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Where are my keys?

I seldom misplace my car keys. I always put them back at the same spot when I'm done driving and for more than 30 years I have hardly ever had to search for them. That was, until early this week. That morning, the weather was a cold 40 degree (4 cent.) and my wife reminded me to put out the garbage.

At that moment, I only was wearing my running shorts and a t-shirt, and felt that I would be a bit cold if I were to wheel my refuse into the street, so I slipped into my robe, which I seldom do inside the house, and that I never, ever wear to go in the street. This morning would be an exception to that weird rule and, clad in my warm, green robe, I opened the padlock that locks our gate to the garden and stood our two large cans by the curb, ready for the truck to come and pick them up.

I then went back to my routine, until later that afternoon, when I needed my car keys as we were headed to the farmers' market. I couldn't find them anywhere inside the house. I enlisted my spouse's help and we both looked absolutely everywhere, from the car to the garage, to my running shorts and jeans pockets, all the way deep inside our refrigerator! Nothing in sight!

After fifteen minute of frantic search, my wife, like the seasoned police detective asked me to hold it, take a deep breath and remember, step-by-step, frame by frame, what I had done since I got out of bed that very morning. I closed my eyes, thought long and deep, mentally retracing my most minute steps of the day. I finally came to the point that I had stuffed the pesky keys, deep inside one of my robe pockets, and that precisely where they still were...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Rediscovering old friends...

It was nice to host for a few days some old friends from New York that we had not seen for more than 25 years and to reminisce about good old days and other people we all knew.

It can have a soothing effect when these encounters are one-on-one, instead of being in the context of a school or some corporate reunion;
it for sure does remove the silly sting of competitiveness!

Catching up is always fun, especially when we are a bit more mature, less eager to impress and more attuned to listening and understanding...

Friday, September 7, 2012

My take on the Democratic Convention

I'm glad the whole show is over and with it, I believe that the DNC did a much better job than the Republicans to energize their base and clarify what they stood for. In my view, Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton and even Joe Biden did a superb job in framing the issues.

I would have liked more specificity on the part of the President, to explain how he'll move forward if re-elected, but I thought his performance, if not great, was good enough.
At least, there was no major gaffe like the one the RNC managed to produce with Clint Eastwood, and if Obama carries on the rest of his campaign well enough, he should be re-elected. I rate him now at 7 out 10, while Romney moves down to 4...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The real issue in this presidential election

From the Republicans' standpoint the most important issue is to make Barack Obama a one-term president. This was eloquently said by Senator Mitch McConnell when he spoke at the Heritage Foundation in 2010. For him, Boehner, Romney, Ryan and most of the Republicans, the priority wasn't the Nation's debt, the deficit, the economy or even job creation.  It was crystal clear: Getting rid at all cost of Obama.

Obstructing him was the choice strategy and it has hurt America ever since our current president was inaugurated. I'm pretty sure that the secret wish from a large portion of the GOP was to see the economy tank, the jobless rate grow shoot into double-digit to secure the elimination of a president they despise.

This of course, begs the question, why? Is it racism? Quite probably. It's also the fact that the anglo-white male is on his last leg in terms of dominating the American political agenda. Women, latinos, asians and non-white are gaining influence upon the country and the tables are rapidly turning. This might be the last election in which the GOP is still likely to get some traction. Given their wicked priorities, I hope they don't!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fall's in the air!

Cool morning temperatures and pleasant day-time weather; we've turned the corner and are now fully into Fall season. Good bye summer and welcome to what's indeed the best season of the year in the Rocky Mountains!

Shorter day perhaps, but still a lot of outdoor fun in store for all of us and the implacable reminder that winter is next. Let's make the very best out of that very special time of the year...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Miner's Day Celebration

In Park City, Labor day is called “Miner's Day” because our lovely little town used to be the home of one of the largest mining boom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By 1892, Park City was already famous for having one of the most famous silver mines in the world. This period of abundance came to an end in the 1950s when our community nearly became a ghost town before transforming itself as a fledgling ski town in 1963.

Over all those years, and through the hard work of its miners, Park City counts today as much as 1,200 miles of underground galleries, most of them running deep under many of our favorite ski runs from Deer Valley through Canyons! Yesterday was a wonderful opportunity after a parade through Main Street, a huge crowd gathering at City Park and that unique mucking and drilling contest, to remind us all where we, the Parkites, really come from.

In the 28 years we've lived in town, this was only the second time that we attended the mucking and drilling contest, but it was so fun that we may doing again next year!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Birthday present?

Yesterday was my brother's birthday. Yeah, another one of these that we'd rather dismiss in this dubious numbers-game! This said, my brother and his wife received an unexpected present on the wee hours of that day. First, as she was preparing an early morning tea, my sister-in-law heard a loud thumping noise around the house.

The disruption was so loud and so unexpected that she couldn't locate it right away; she thought it might come from the bedroom where my brother was still in bed, but that wasn't the case. She then looked up over the deck, by the kitchen, and saw a huge man apparently laying down on the floor.

After panicking a bit, she called the police and the fire brigade. Those came shortly and picked up a fellow that probably had drank too much, driven into the cul-de-sac street where my relative live and proceeded to rest on one of the chairs that was on the deck. That's when he later fell and made all that noise. Birthdays are often filled with big surprises!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Great French croissants near Park City...

If you ask my wife and try to understand what she misses most about France, she'll probably say: “Freshly baked croissants in the morning!” Since we live 5,000 miles (8,000 km) away from France, our seemingly only alternative is to catch the Delta flight between Salt Lake City and Paris in order to grab these precious delicacies and bring them home.

Yet, more than time and issues of freshness, there's of course the problem of affordability; a round trip ticket departing today would set me back $1,138 which would make for an expensive bundle of croissants, not counting jet lag and strain on the body.

Thanks God, there's a sensible alternative which consist in jumping in my car and driving less than 4 mile (6 km) to the Deer Valley Grocery~Café and get these precious croissants, as fresh and as delicious as their French-made counterparts. Life is good!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

If I were a presidential candidate...

Just like Mitt Romney, I'd talk at length about my parents and grand-parents and how it was hard for them to make a living, but how through hard work and determination, they improved their lives and send me to school. All of this good stuff, except that they still lacked the money to leave France and board a ship headed for the United States.

That's also why I can't be president of this wonderful country! Except for the period of the German occupation, and for all my entire life in France, we were pretty much free to do as we pleased, except that with a European continent already settled for centuries, there was far less room for growth and enrichment than in a brand-new United States.

This said, I would also recognized that I didn't mind paying taxes and even if we reverted to the pre-Bush era rates, I would still love to pay one million dollars in taxes in one year, which means that there would still be plenty of money left for myself and my family. I would also make sure that we fix, once and for all, our public school system instead of re-inventing the wheel with charter schools and other private education outlets.

I'd cut a big chunk of the defense budget because spending as much as the next 14 biggest military spending nations in the world is a bit out of whack, and I'd ask for civility in congress, because it has become the highest demoralizing factor in our Nation's life.

 I'd cut other unnecessary government expenses, fix our crumbling infrastructure and if there's any money left, I'd start repaying our debt. Finally, regardless if I were a presidential candidate or nor, I'd stop seeing Clint Eastwood movies and wouldn't never set foot in a Staples store ever again.