Friday, November 30, 2012

Can we all get along?

Our American politicians set the worst example for not getting along and their inability work together as never been so bad. Like millions of people I wish this would change and just a few nights ago, we saw “Animal Odd Couples,” a TV documentary, on “Nature.”

This great PBS show, was featuring a whole menagerie of animals that would normally never get along but were becoming best friends and caring buddies for one another. Their behavior wasn't just based on motherly or fraternal instincts but most importantly, on great old compassion!

Among other unlikely pairings, the show successively featured an cheetah with a Labrador retriever as well as a lion with a coyote, that had all grown up together from the time they were babies, then the most touching one, I felt, an old, blind horse and a goat that took up the role of being his everyday guide and protector.

What a great lesson for us humans that can't stand each other, let alone tolerate anything or feel compassionate towards other folks. That's right, enough to put all of our politicians to shame!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gini coefficient?

I was introduced to the Gini coefficient by a friend of mine and more recently, as we were discussing the social state of the United States of America, Gini came back into the debate as a way to illustrate some of our points.

For those who are unfamiliar with the index, it was developed a century ago by the Italian Corrado Gini to measures income distribution around the world. Today, this benchmark is commonly used to express the inequalities of income or wealth between countries.

For instance, a Gini coefficient of zero expresses perfect equality of income, while a coefficient of one (100%) expresses total inequality, a situation in which one single individual gets all the income. The measure is far from perfect as the results mixes pre-tax and after-tax income levels.

Demographics also play a significant role; for instance, countries with an aging population, or conversely with a baby boom, may show higher Gini rates, even if their real income distribution between working populations remains constant.
So how are we doing? Well, Western Europe, Canada and Australia, among others, are showing the greatest equality of revenue while places like South Africa, Latin America and Russia are going the opposite way. In recent years, the USA has been drifting towards these delinquents countries, but hopefully, our current fiscal belt-tightening efforts might slow that trend for the better!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How we stay in shape for skiing...

Since skiing is so central to my life, the last thing I need is be out of shape when the ski season arrives. . For a while and very early on, I was a ski instructor and this wonderful sport was everything for me, so I guess that because of my occupation and my youth, I didn't need to worry about staying in shape.

Then, I joined the corporate world and between long office hours and endless travel all around the world, I quickly began to feel out of shape, not just when I got a chance to ski, but most of the rest of the time. This is how, more than 35 years ago, I decided to take on running and I've been doing it ever since. At least 5 days a week, all year long, rain, snow or shine!

As of today, I've almost ran 30,000 miles and continue to be an avid runner; in fact, I must confess that now, road-running has grown to becoming my number-one sport because it is the pillar of my year-long, daily routine. Beside running and when there's no skiing, I also have taken mountain biking which has become my other major summer and fall activity.

 I seriously began riding 8 years ago and this past season, I logged almost 70 days on the Park City trails! I love this sport too, and because it has so much in common with skiing, it has become my favorite counter-seasonal activity!
We used to hike more into the mountains before our mountain bikes came on the scene, but now, this other outdoor activity has taken a back-seat to bike riding. That remains true today, but we may return to doing more hiking when mountain biking becomes less friendly to our aging bodies, so things may evolve in that field and pretty soon, we may return to hiking...

Then there's just plain walking; that's right, walking around the block in our Park Meadows neighborhood. Sometimes, we even walk to Old Town Park City and depending on our mood walk the whole round-trip back home or return with the bus. My wife and I love it too and in a year, we walk about half the distance we cover running.

Should I mention that when possible, we always avoid elevators and chose the stairs instead, and we are still performing all of our household chores ourselves including cleaning around the house, clearing the snow and tending our grounds. Finally, we eat good and healthy foods, drink with moderation, don't smoke and get a full-night sleep.

So, all in all, there is never a dull moment in our active life and this harmoniously balanced lifestyle is probably what keeps us in to shape when the new ski season begins!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Early ski season routine...

For every skier, each new ski season feels like a new beginning, filled with great anticipation, wonderful expectations, and in many ways, it seems like a “re-birth” of sorts, as it brings us back to our favorite playground. To make that experience even better, I have tried to compile a few tips that we all can use and that will make our return to the slopes that much more pleasant.

I would start with getting our gear ready, beginning with the right ski pass (not the one from last year, please!) the gloves, the balaclava, the helmet and the goggles. Please, don't just attempt to gather that equipment minutes before hitting the slopes; do it at least the day before and by all means, do take all your time to do it right! Can we find all of our gear? Aren't these gloves looking a bit frayed right by the thumb? Why are these goggles all scratched-up? I'd continue with the ski boots and check that nothing inappropriate fell inside them, that there's nothing in the liner that feels crumpled and that the rubber heel isn't so worn out that we won't get into the bindings. Oh sure, I'll get these boots out of the freezing garage now and put them inside the house!
Then there are the skis. Are these the brand-new ones? Are we sure we want to take them that early? If we take the ones we used in April, how do they look? I mean, not the dust on them, but are the edges okay, the bases clean and waxed? Are we sure the poles are matched-up or do we have a 44 inch long paired with a 46 inch? Now, how are we going to dress? In doubt, always layer-up more warmly than not, don't forget that most of today's ski clothes have plenty of zippable air-vents if overheating were to be a problem! Is the roof-rack or the ski-box back on top of the car yet, or are we going to fold part of the rear seat and slide all the equipment in? I'm looking forward to test-driving these new snow tires we just mounted last week...

Before we start the engine, mentally run the check-list: Ski pass or coupons, boots, helmet-glove-goggles, poles, skis, sunscreen, cell-phone and wallet. No, we won't take the GoPro cam this time... We finally get to the resort parking lot. Found a great spot! Get everything out, walk to the lift. One more time: Is there anything we need that we could have left in the car? We first click into our bindings and get ready to ride the chairlift, look around, feel the excitement building, no worries, we'll start slow!

We'll try to register the sensations inside our feet and legs as we slide down the ramp, make a first left turn... That wasn't bad was it? Everything still works! Then we take it easy, we begin slow and try to just concentrate on the sensations, we'll get reacquainted with a little bit of speed, appreciate the crispy sound our skis make on this season's snow... Now a right turn followed by another to the left; we're skiing! Little by little our confidence grows, our speed increases, we absorb the little bumps as if we had never quit doing it and the tentative smiles we had earlier on becomes a permanent grin!
We forgot nothing, it's all coming back now, we let those skis carve for us, it feels even better than it did last March! Naturally, we're careful, we use the terrain astutely, we follow the flow and the groups of skiers that evolve at a similar rate of speed. Sometimes we stay in the middle of the run and move with the everybody, at other times we stick to the sides that often allow for a different rate of speed, but all along, we constantly watch what's going on in front, around and behind us. We know that the rest of the skiers are still tentative and searching for their true selves early this season and we take it easy. 
Of course, lunch time is not just a simple break today, it's a genuine restoration. We take a bit longer, we use our time to savor the food and enjoy the warmth inside the lodge, and when it's time to go out again, we carefully re-adjust all the buckles on each boot, we take the time to clean the goggle lens twice instead of just once, and when everything appears to be ready and that we feel in control, skiing resumes. No, we won't do this extra run that we would normally never miss. We're just careful, we're totally willing to leave some great turns “on the table” today and end our skiing a tad earlier. No problem; we've got the entire ski season!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Groomed and off-piste

Yesterday was another day on snow. First day for my wife, second for me. The conditions were minimal but it got us out in the open air, so if we weren't elated, we had at least no regrets. We skied on the only two groomed runs that were available at Canyons.

On the way back home, my spouse who now loves to ski off-piste said to me: “Skiing is like biking; there are the groomed runs and road-biking and then there is off-piste and mountain biking; I like the later much better!”
This may offend a lot of my road-biking friends, but I find the comparison so true and so much on target that it may become part of the way I differentiate between these two forms of cycling. Of course, any comment on the topic is more than welcome!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Email deluge

Months before the November elections, my email in-box was already overflowing with political messages of all stripes and everyday, I would find a stream of request for monetary and in-person contributions. I'm not even mentioning the incessant phone calls that I wouldn't pick up if I couldn't tell who was calling...

I was looking forward to some respite once the election would be over, but boy, was I wrong! I had just forgotten that America's true religion is consumption and once Obama was re-elected, the floodgates of electronic mail re-opened with a vengeance, from merchants this time, touting Thanksgiving evening sales, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.
There also must be a “I'm broke Tuesday” but I haven't received emails yet about it. Please, I need a break, give me the rest of the week off!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Brief summary of a long journey...

When our daughter landed a new job in Washington, DC, I foolishly offered to drive her car from Park City to our Nation's Capital! Early November, my spouse and I covered some 2,750 miles in 7 days.

That's about 50 hour drive through Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and finally Virginia. The trip hardest part was the five-hour flight between Washington and Salt Lake, but what a memorable experience and a wonderful adventure...

First day of the ski season...

It's always a mixture of apprehension, uncertainty and excitement that marks my first day of the ski season. As I have written before, I'm never impatient to go skiing and would rather begin late when snow is at its best and end late into spring or even summer.

Then there's also the passing of time that tends to dull the early season's enthusiasm and on top of that, our snow conditions aren't exactly terrific at the moment. So, at first, I wasn't that motivated to dress up, get my gear ready and drive to the ski resort parking lot. I thought I'd do it later in the week. Then after writing the blog about the amazing Keizo Miura, I could no longer stay home if I were to be true to my word.

Now, I had no choice but go skiing! So, once again, I changed course, grabbed my ski pass, got dressed, made sure I wasn't forgetting anything, just like last year, I grabbed a pair of frigid ski boots that were still inside our cold mud room and drove to Canyons for their opening day. Skiing was very limited, crowds were okay, but I only took four runs, just enough to recapture my skiing spirit and somehow re-ignite my technique for another ski season.

True, if I truly want to follow into Mr. Miura's footsteps, I will have to repeat that late morning procedure at least 36 times. Wow! Doesn't look like the fun is going to be over any time soon!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Never too old...

Since in spite of my very best efforts, I keep on getting old, there's nothing more justifiable than wanting to learn more about what to expect down the ski run, and how far I can possibly go on my skis. Up until recently, my hero in that category was also my countryman, Émile Allais who skied until he was about 98, and recently passed away, ten month after celebrating his 100th birthday.

One thing Émile wanted, but never could achieve, was to break a record held by another senior skier, a Japanese ski legend in his own right, Keizo Miura, who at age 99 skied down “La Vallée Blanche,” the famous, 12 mile glacier run, in Chamonix.

Mr. Miura also celebrated his 100th birthday closer to my home on February 2004, when he skied in Snowbird with more than 170 friends and four generations of his own family. He would pass away two years later, 6 week short of his 102nd birthday. Keizo Miura was also the father of Yuichiro Miura who skied down Mount Everest on May 6, 1970 and still climbed that same mountain when he was 70 and then 75.

After Stein Eriksen, Jean-Claude Killy and Ted Ligety, this extraordinary skier is today my new hero, he has also become my new benchmark and the main reason why I can't wait to get back on my skis this season!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Reading and outdoor activities...

A few days ago, I reluctantly put away our two mountain bikes inside the garden shed for many months of rest. I keep close track of our riding and I'm quite proud that I went out 69 times and covered 668 miles this past season; a clear record in our eighth year of serious riding!

The same day, I finished a great book, “Plutocrats” by Chrystia Freeland and when I put it down I realized that it was the first and only book I had read from cover to cover, in 2012! In previous years I would normally go through 10 to 15 volumes, and I'm afraid that this year, my total reading will be very dismal indeed.

At this point, I can only come to the sad conclusion – as I had suspected all along - that my busy outdoor activities are seriously encroaching into my intellectual fitness!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Death of a salesman?

Are salesmen really needed anymore? It depends for what, I guess. When there is a new sale to be made, a good salesperson can tip the scale and drastically change the outcome by influencing the buyer, so I would say that in this case, the presence of a salesperson makes a significant difference.

True, it can either help or hinder the outcome depending where that middle-person stands in the way of the buyer's self-interest. So it can be good or bad and, in most cases, the outcome depends a lot on that salesperson's integrity and competency.

This said, here are two practical examples that I'll share with you. One of these cases has to do with our private health insurance; we got that coverage five years ago, after I did some research on my own and zeroed-in on a carrier that we thought was the best for what we needed. We signed up on our own, on-line, without anyone's help.

Then a few months later, I learned that we had been “assigned” a sales representative that we never met, let alone select. For all these years, this person has been collecting commissions off our monthly premiums while also proving to be totally useless.

Recently, as I wanted to put that saleslady to contribution, I asked her some information, then as she never got back to me within a reasonable time, I went out on my own and got that information on-line, directly from the insurer. The lady called me a few days latter and brought me some information that wasn't even correct!

Along the sames lines, I'm now eligible for Medicare and, here again, there seem to be the need for some “sales rep.” This time I sort of chose the individual, but when I asked her to check something for me, it took her forever to respond, and once more, I couldn't wait and had to find out on my own by calling the new carrier. Again, that lady called me later with some fragmented and inaccurate answers to my questions.

For one thing, these two example show that there's room to cut health care cost by getting rid of such, useless intermediaries that are burdening the insurance carriers, and it also illustrates the absurdity of residual or recurring commissions that bear no relation with the actual service rendered.

In this days of computers and on-line transactions, it would seem obvious that anyone who is not providing a necessary and lasting service in a transaction shouldn't be able to collect money off of it anymore. Hence my prophecy that the “death of the carpetbagger” is close, but I might be getting ahead of myself!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rules for retirement

Retirement should usher a new chapter into someone's life and in particular, at one time that - if at all possible - should be free of undue pressures and stress. It never has been as clear to me that rule number-one should be to do “as you please.”

Many of us, who are now “retired” have generally put up with a lifetime of following orders, compromising, and acquiescing. In more ways than one, pleasing others, in order to stay relevant, satisfy others or just stay employed.

Now that these pressure points are gone, why not break free of all them? That's right, being retired is just the right time for flying solo and finally be our own man or woman. It's never too late to turn on the switch, and we always need to remind ourselves that it's our perfect right to be or become the individual we've always dreamed of!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Noticed the "creative" writing?

Yesterday, as I was sorting out our Park City to Washington road trip photos and videos, I fell on that one of a Southwestern Motor Transport Line semi truck taken between Little Rock and Memphis. Proudly displayed behind and on the sides of the trailer and truck was that motto: “Service Unexcelled”.

When I first noticed it, as we were driving just behind the trailer, I told my spouse: “Something's weird with that word,” before beginning to even question its legitimacy within the context of the English language. My doubt prompted me to take the photograph. If you take a few seconds to reflect upon the word “unexcelled”, you'll come to the inevitable conclusion that this company DOES NOT excel at providing a good service.

In other words, and according to its slogan, Southwestern Motor Transport Line is a lousy proposition, something mediocre or worse. You might object that the owners are trying in fact to be honest in stating loud and clear that they really have some serious limitations in terms of quality, but again, we are so programmed to see advertising that boasts, that it would be hard to believe, which would defeat the purpose of advertising their mediocrity.

Interestingly enough, I'm not the only blogger to have written about that trucking company motto and one has even discovered that the creative slogan was also used by the Unemployment Compensation Cost Control website, another fine organization claiming that its service is also “unexcelled in the nation.” It must be true that misery loves company! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Morning or night person?

I don't know how you are, but I definitely fall in the first category; yes, I'm a morning person and this is the time of the day when I can best travel, think, undertake projects and be myself at a one-hundred-percent level.

What's the meaning of that? Pretty simple; at my age (well into my sixties,) there's never quite enough remaining energy available for what used to be a full-day of activity, so it's always in the early two-third of my waking time that I can get important stuff done, under optimum conditions.

Whenever possible, I should avoid late evening meetings, end of day decisions, hard labor or extreme mental concentration after 4 pm, late night dinners and evening travel, among other things... One vital reality to always keep in mind!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Aah... Technology!

When I got my new mobile phone a month or so ago, I got instantly crazy and overloaded it with all kinds of Apps and so many of them, that it almost lost its mind. At least, this is what it seemed to do today when it quit performing according to plan. The result was several hours trying to fix what I could have easily avoided in the first place, had I be more patient and more reasonable.

That's quite true; sometime, I tend to get greedy and overdo certain tasks that should come progressively and quite organically. I need to refrain myself from doing too much when it comes to technology, but this is an area where I think I'll never learn how to really pace myself!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Catching up is hard to do...

After leaving home for ten days, upon return, it's time to catch up in a really big way! Mail, paperwork, unforeseen events and a host of other assignments that were pushed just to the return date. It not just take some modicum of method and order, but also a good amount of patience. We'll get through it, but that's never a pleasant situation!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Can we avoid the Fiscal Cliff?

Instinctively, my answer is yes, but I've been wrong before! At present, the defeated Republicans are posturing, but I don't really think that Americans of any stripes still have much appetite left for this kind of unproductive behavior.

Yesterday, after reading some of the news, I sent that message to my two Senators and my Congressman:

“As my representatives, I'm asking you to WORK with the other side of the Aisle. From what I'm seeing and hearing at the moment, I don't believe you really do and this makes me really mad. Your lack of cooperation and continued obstructionism embodies what has become the 'Do-Nothing-Congress.' Your unwillingness to cooperate is disgusting. Get to work, my tax-dollars are paying you for that!” 

I should add that Utah is the reddest of all states and that my voice isn't heard, nor cared about. So much for representative democracy!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Good to be back home again

Our Eastern trip came full circle when we landed late last night in Salt Lake City. Our first task was to clear all the snow off the car before we drove up to Park City and our last one was to plow through the snow bank blocking our driveway!
Wonderful trip overall, but the best part was the driving, not the flying, which as always was crowed, late and incredibly uncomfortable. As the week ends, the story of that great road trip will be posted on the blog. Thanks for checking us out!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Appreciating the Nation's Capital

The last time we spent any time in Washington, DC, was when we traveled there as we were shopping for colleges for our daughter and stopped at Georgetown University. This was back in 1999! Not much seems to have change except, it appears, for even much more hustle.

Today, we had the privilege and a great time taking our daughter to work (yes, we did!), marvel at the monuments, and took half a day to stroll the first and third floors of the National Museum of American History. We then made a quick visit National Museum of Natural History and grabbed lunch in the close company some some impressive dinosaur reproductions!

Our Nation's capital is a wonderful sight, not just because it was laid out and designed by Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a French-born American architect and civil engineer, but because it feels spacious, clear and it breathes with lots of space. In addition, their subway system is certainly the best in the country and of the finest in the world!

Monday, November 12, 2012

How to really grasp America?

A possible answer is to drive through a good portion of it, like we did a few days ago, and realize how large, varied and almost infinite it appears to be (we drove close to 50 hours!) It's also a wonderful way to seize up its economic power and its non-stop activity.

In my nearly four decade of living in this country-continent, I had never seen so many trucks crisscrossing the highways in all directions, so many train lines, bridges and water ways of all kinds. Should I mention the airplane criss-crossing the skies? To me, these images conjure the strength and the power of the United States as the underscores an incredible infrastructure that is still working well in spite of its venerable age.

All that to attend to the needs of so many people and connect them together with a remarkable network of communications. But most importantly, what has the most impressed me was to see so many people united by the same language, the same standards of living and the same culture. This unity of sorts makes the place unique in the world, by its seamlessness and efficiency, and yet potentially able to do so much better!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The end of the road

The morning run alongside the Roanoke River was pretty cold but wonderful on the great bike path. We finally made it to Washington, DC or more precisely Arlington, VA! That's right just 2,743 miles and seven day later, we've arrived in one piece and without a notable incident...
We've been welcomed by our daughter in her beautiful little apartment, and after a most scenic drive through the state of Virginia, we gave her the keys to the car she had entrusted with.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Virginia, here we come!

We began our day quite early, well before our longest drive of the entire trip, and ran around the block where we stayed the night before to discover all the live Nashville entertainment we just missed that evening. An reason excellent to return to that town, I guess.

The drive that followed, between Tennessee and Virginia was nonetheless a pleasant experience.
Not quite a surprise though; I was expecting to see the rolling scenery that followed us from Nashville all the way to Roanoke. Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains, singing to our ears “take me home country roads” or something of the sort. We've almost reached our destination!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Action dream

Just as in the new James Bond movie, last night was my turn to have an action-filled dream, or should I say nightmare? Thank goodness, it ended rather well, just waking me up, totally unharmed! It happened as I was driving on some road reminiscent of a mix of the Colorado Rockies and Haute-Savoie, France.

I was following my brother's car when I saw a piece of lumber tumbling down the steep slope over us, on the road, followed by another one... I honked; fortunately, my brother heard my warning and stopped in the nick of time. As we resumed driving, I saw two free skiers coming down on that same slope (there was no snow, mind you) and they managed to barely clear the roof of my car.

All this commotion woke me up. It was 5:45 am!

Where's the music?

Our morning run was near the Bill Clinton Presidential Library along the banks of the Arkansas river. We pushed it as far as we could and managed to exceed 5 miles.
The rest of the day was driving, driving, driving, in a pretty decent landscape and with some stunning views of the City of Memphis as we crossed the Mississippi River. Our final stage city for the night was Nashville where we wanted to go the Bluebird Cafe, but hit such a bad rush-hour traffic that we never could make the show.

Nashville without the music, what's that? I guess we'll do better next time if there's indeed a next time for us in Tennessee!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Getting our kicks next to Route 66!

Interstate 40 more or less follows the fabled (?) Route 66. I don't quite get what makes that piece of highway so famous, except perhaps because it was the original U.S. Highway ever established and made famous during the Dust Bowl, but suffice to say that between New Mexico and Arkansas, there's not much going on that celebrated roadway.

Today's run took us to the south bank of the Canadian River and we had a wonderful jog with the few Okla City skyscrapers in sight. The rest of the day took us through the Ozark and we left the freeway to drive through Clarksville, Arkansas, which is one of these American rural towns set 40-50 years into the past.

The best moment of the day happened when we squeezed into the Bill Clinton's Presidential Library in Little Rock, our final stop for the day. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and I particularly liked the correspondence between the Clintons and some people famous, not-so-well-known, very rich and very poor.
I wish I were an American President to leave such a legacy! The rest of the evening was spend having a great little dinner by the Arkansas River...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Reflecting on the elections...

Last night, we watched the final throws of the 2012 election and remained glued to our TV screen through Romney's concession and Obama's acceptance speeches, and were gratified to see that the least worst candidate won.

Frankly, I was glad that Romney didn't accomplished what he was convinced he would. First, I thought he wasn't as good as Obama and second, I couldn't believe that Utah had put 75% of its vote behind the Mormon candidate, which makes me think that the Mormon Church must have mandated that all of its flock to vote for their now famous member, and also suggests that it must also have funneled millions of dollars through the new, anonymous, 501c election financing rule, to make sure that their obscure and absurd belief would go “national.” 
This said, today began with a run through the streets of that small town of 5,600, crossing the fable Route 66, and after another skimpy breakfast we were off on a quick and easy six hour drive between Tucumcari, New Mexico and Oklahoma City, with a quick coffee stop in Amarillo, Texas.

Nothing really scenic except for maybe a thousand or so windmill in that flat expense of terrain and ninety-percent of vehicles on I-40 being trucks. Not many animals in sight except for some cattle and a large, stinking and dusty feed lot just before Amarillo in Texas.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What's that smell?

Last night when we got to Pagosa Springs, in Southwestern Colorado, we were welcome by a pungent smell that we first couldn't identify.

Very soon, we remembered that this town is in fact centered around some mineral hot springs that have made it famous and when we ran in the morning we couldn't miss the many fumaroles that came up all along the San Juan river; that morning was so cold at some 22 degrees (6) that the plumes were spectacular in the cold morning air.
The day drive that followed was most picturesque and never boring until perhaps we got north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. We stopped in that so old and so beautiful city, went up to the Plaza and marveled at the wonderful architecture. Our daily drive came to a close, in bizarre Tucumcari, New Mexico, where we watched anxiously the 2012 election returns...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Looking for a unique dwelling?

If you like architecture or great design, you must make sure to visit, at least once in your life, Mesa Verde National Park.
This very special place tells the story of American architectural design from its very basic beginning to the city inside a cliff complete with the best urban design that takes care of storage galore and great social life.

In the 1970 and 1980, American urban planners re-invented the Anasazi wheel and often time their design didn't quite match their fore-bearers in functionality and timelessness!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Back in Moab, Utah

Utah is a great tourist town that is to Park City what Provence near the French Riviera might be to Chamonix, in the Alps. With few arguments, this desert town is the US capital of mountain biking and four-wheeling fun, not to mention the two incredible National Park it cradles in its neighboring mountains.

A great place, quite funky and while not perhaps as polished as Park City, so visually taking. Today, Moab is merely a first stop on a 2,500 miles road-trip, but  that will I want to return there, many, many times!

Reading through the polls

This election year, polls have been all over the places and frankly haven't help much in understanding what was going. They are more like reading through tea leaves... Are polls being manipulated? Quite possibly, when they come from partisan sources, but I think more importantly, they're just tools that are less than perfect, especially when the contest is so tight and when events such as the first debate or hurricane Sandy can have enormous impact on the mood of the Nation.

What's been helpful to me during this election thought has been "FiveThirtyEight," a polling aggregation website by Nate Silver. Established on March 7, 2008, the site compiles polling data through a methodology derived from Silver's experience in baseball sabermetrics balancing out the polls with comparative demographic data and weighting each poll based on the pollster's historical track record, sample size, and recentness of the poll.

During the 2008 election, Silver projected a popular vote victory by 6.1 percentage points for Obama and an electoral vote total of 353. Reality was respectively 7.2 and 365. This year, Nate Silver projects 309 electoral votes for Obama when just 270 are required.  Hopefully, this will work once more!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tired of “truth stretchers...”

I'm glad that this horrendous, endless and mind-numbing electoral campaign is coming to a close in less than 4 days. It's been sterile, depressing and hasn't given the American people an opportunity to hear the real issues discussed in any mature way.

Both my prediction and my wishes are that, as far a the presidential contest goes, the biggest liar, namely Mr. Romney will lose. Likewise, if as I hope Obama wins, he'll display some admirable skills and some great intelligence in talking to, and convincing the Congress that they must act boldly.

If he fails to achieve it, we'll have wasted another 4 years. Since my time on this planet is running out, I'm quickly losing patience with incompetent individuals.

Friday, November 2, 2012

When Facebook friends support the opposition...

What can you do when your Facebook friends support the other presidential candidate? Do you just ignore it or do you “unfriend” them? Have we become so polarized as a Nation that we become irritated when we see, what we assume are logical, intelligent people cross the line of reason and support those we despise or think nothing of them?

This certainly is a measure of how extreme our positions have become and how the political machine is slowly be surely destroying communities and building a wall of resentment between folks who normally co-exist in peace. The debate is getting so nasty that we end up being engulfed into the toxic rhetoric and see more what divides us instead of what unites us.

This election cycle has been far too long, too negative and too costly. It's estimated that overall, $5 billion will have been wasted to make us mad at each other with borrowed money! Until New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg brought up the subject to the fore, global warming had been largely ignored during the two-year bickering process...

Perhaps our country pressing financial clean-up first begins with a change of legislation paving the way to true financial campaign reform?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween by the numbers

Halloween is big business in the USA: American spend $3 billion in costume alone for adult, kids and pets, while more than 40 million kids go trick-or-treating and close to 90 million household give away candies.

Park City is no exception to that trend and for the first time ever, I went out of my routine to document on video what was going on in Park City's Main Street at about 4 pm. The street, closed to traffic, was literally mobbed with kids, their parents and dogs in wonderful costumes. An impressive sight that I must revisit next year!

When I returned home, the atmosphere was much more quiet and we even managed to eat dinner very quietly. After that it was a trickle-in of little groups of costumed kids and we welcomed what I would term was an average number of visitors seeking-out the traditional candies...