Friday, May 31, 2013

More about Sketchup...

I've already told you about my infatuation with the 3D Sketchup tool. Okay, now that you can draw the interior of your home and see for yourself what really fits in.

Of course, there are sometimes issues with items that aren't to scale, but most of the time it just works perfectly; it's pretty easy to see what fits inside it by using the “Trimble 3D Warehouse” where you'll find everything you'll need from queen size bed, to desk, dinning table or Mini Cooper for your garage.

So everything is simple, if it doesn't fit, you won't even try it for size in real life; you'll somewhere else or you'll redesign the room altogether!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Vail's coming to Park City...

I was surprised but not shocked when I heard yesterday that Vail Resorts would be operating Canyon Resort, here in Park City. Vail had tried to purchase that operation in 2009, only to be over-bid by Talisker its current owner. Talisker's timing couldn't have been worst, just in the middle of the financial crisis and dwindling visitations, plus couldn't really turn the Park West culture and perception of yesteryear into the Waldorf Astoria league...
This, I believe will be great news for Park City as it may pave the way to more integration between Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) and Canyons; most likely an interconnect if not a total merger of the two. Under the new agreement, Vail will become PCMR new landlord and may accelerate the pace towards full integration of the two operations. This is partly because Vail won't be content to paying a $25 million annual rent if skier-days at Canyons stubbornly remain under 500,000. These numbers will have to shoot up to over a million and they will, shortly making our three resorts the biggest operation in North America and bringing the extra visitors needed to fuel that growth.

Gone will be the days when we skied Canyons and had the mountain to ourselves, but this will be a bonanza for the entire community except also for 4 pm traffic and late afternoon grocery and liquor shopping!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How did you get so good at this?

You have and we have been all been asked that question at one point or another. So if it goes like: “How are you so good at skiing steep terrain?” the likely answer might be “...because one day, when I still was a kid, my dad took me skiing in that frightening gully and I had no choice, etc...” or “I became such a good putter because my uncle had a putting green in his yard...”

It always seem to be a question of circumstances, need, encounter, mentoring or some special technique. In my view there's a more fundamental and essential reason for getting excellent at anything and it's called Passion. In my view, the effect of passion isn't just affecting the way one plays sport, but also how artsy we become or how proficiently we master a trade or any professional activity.

Just think about it; if you really love something, you have no other option than getting very, very good at it!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Shopping Ikea...

Today, as it was rainy, we went shopping at Ikea, mostly for ideas and inspiration. A long time had passed since we had walked the compulsory labyrinth for quite sometime (perhaps 5 years) and first the first time, I was able to circumvent it and find the special doors that no one wants you to take.
This store's philosophy is highly heavy handed and I doubt that individualist North Americans are in love with its mass-guidance system. Now that our initial enthusiasm had waned, we were disappointed by both the quality of the offering and the lack of new ideas.

The kitchens seemed to have fallen off a cliff in terms of quality and the lighting department had receded to some dark ages. At the end of the maze, we came empty-handed, except for a $1 frozen yogurt that was decent in taste, but a great buy by today's prices!

Monday, May 27, 2013

A daunting choice?

Today is closing ski day at Snowbird and instead, I might just go mountain biking. It's not that I dislike skiing, but after checking the resort's website, I have decided that this year's snow conditions are a bit too skimpy for making it a glorious closing day.

Of course, mountain biking is so good and so fun at the moment, that it's getting most of my attention and besides, my grandson is visiting this afternoon and we're planning to check out the
beaver pond...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Good, evil and fun...

In the past, most of us were worried that at the end of the everything would just boil down to be hell or heaven and that the latter was always a much more desirable alternative. Most of today's enlightened folks don't worry about that spooky, hellish outcome anymore and prefer having fun.

 A vast majority begins to realize that the “good-and-evil” alternative no longer constitutes such a daunting choice, that the latter is pure, fictional fear, and that the former happens here and now. So enjoy your game of golf, mountain biking, boating or hiking and stop worrying too much about dropping straight into hell!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

If it scares you, embrace it!

Last night I was watching the talented Audra McDonalds in concert and she said something that got my attention. It was along the lines of “if you fear it, do it!” and I thought this was so appropriate as a way to learn something new, to overcome one's own limitation and, generally speaking, to push the envelope.

Of course, over the long haul, we need to do what we love if we're lucky enough to discover and to believe that it's it. But exploring our fears and seizing them is also essential as this process is both fuel for growth and strength. Start seeing fear as an invitation to experience a scary situation fully and become much more resilient as a result...

Friday, May 24, 2013

From chasing dreams to managing reality

That's how life evolves in too many instances; we first chase dreams when we're young, try to turn them some into so form of reality, go after more and after a while, when we've missed a few too many of them, we get disillusioned too quickly and suddenly, altogether give up the dream-chasing activity.

Instead, we fall into deep and boring pragmatism and do the very best we can to manage a dull, day to day reality. We carry on that way until we run out of steam and come to a complete stop. This approach doesn't quite fit my style or my mental diet. I'll never stop needing to feed on dreams and when I don't find one to chase, I'll leave no stone unturned to find or invent a new one!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

My kind of guy...

At 80, Yuichiro Miura showed that there's no retirement age for extreme fun. While he his Dad skied Vallée Blanche at 99 and managed to add a few more turns in Snowbird when he reached 100, the son is on his way to do even better.

Addiction to Everest? Probably as he got his taste for the tallest mountain when he skied down the South Col in 1970 with the help of his parachute. He took a long pause however, before he finally summited Everest when he was 70 and repeated the feat at age 75.

Today, he's done it again, all this in spite of a heart condition and a broken pelvis and thigh bone in a 2009 ski accident! His record as the oldest human to climb the roof of the world may fall when and if Min Bahadur Sherchan, the 81 old Nepalese beats him, but who really cares; this guys are some inspiration to all of us. So now, what's your excuse for not exercising more?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tornado-proof homes (continued...)

A little over one year ago in March, I was already lamenting against the woefully inadequate building design to protect residential, institutional and commercial occupants against tornadoes. The one that just hit Oklahoma City is another reminder that regulators governments and architects aren't doing enough to address this horrible risk.

So instead of complaining, I'm proposing something that could transform the way people build new home and rebuild damage one in “twister country.” Use a flying saucer design offering minimum resistance to wind and equip it with automatic shutters that would further streamline their surface.

Simple, cost effective and long lasting!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sprechen Sie noch Deutsch?

Forty years ago, I drove from the French Alps to South Germany to take an intensive, full-immersion, German course, in Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg. I had never learned the language in school and begun from scratch.

German is not that easy to learn for the French-born and I wanted to be able to teach skiing to visiting German tourist in Avoriaz. This first 6 week session wasn't what I would term a total success, but it got my feet wet and gave me the basis for another similar course that I would take 6 month later.

Instead of applying myself to learning German 24/7, I spent a lot of time testing the local beers and sausages at some local “Stammtisch...” Well, I probably was already believing that if not today, perhaps tomorrow!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Where are the happy people?

When I consider everything, I feel that I'm quite fortunate with my life and therefore I consider myself happy. Of course, there are still a million things that I would have like to accomplish, but I now realize that there are so many hours in the day, and that in the end, it's not the quantity, but rather the quality of our experiences that account for anything of value.
Like many of these events, perception often times takes over reality and the lenses through which we see the world around us can make all the difference. If you happen to share my feelings and my views, begin taking a mental account of the people you know, who could be feeling just like you and me and yet, continue to feel frustrated, unhappy and undeservedly punished by life. You'll quickly find out that their numbers are pretty staggering...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Why snow melts earlier

Because I love skiing and winter so much I have always been a keen observer of snow behavior; from the moment it falls off the sky to the time it finally melts. It's only since I've returned to a mountain environment, after a 10 year hiatus, that I began making precise observations and taking notes.

What I found is that over the almost 3 decades I've lived in Utah, snow melts much faster in the late spring, and early summer. Today, I think I know why this happens. It's not so much because of rising global temperature as most would think, but because humans are soiling their snowfields, all over the world.

All the particulates and other pollutants that are emitted from Paris Diesel cars to Beijing Coal-fired generator plants or forest fires in the West, are eventually dropping upon our snowfields and glaciers in such amounts that just a few days after a fresh late season snowfall, the dirty deposits take over, making the remaining snow all gray and exposing the dark bare ice on glaciers.

All of this contributes to a huge loss in reflectivity of these normally white surfaces that increases the penetration of the solar heat and hasten melting. As a matter of example, the Greenland ice sheet loses its surface reflectivity from 85 percent to 30 percent according to Jason Box, founder of the Dark Snow project. A very compelling video of his research follows...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Confluence of activities...

Yesterday was one of these crazy day where too many events where occurring at once. Not just because they had been planned that way, but simply due to the fact that certain delays and other unforeseeable developments made them coincide.

Situations like these make you wonder “how can I manage to keep all these balls up in air while I'm juggling them?” That's often when panic management comes in handy and can save the day.

The secret is to remember to expedite one component at a time, let a few suffer for a short while before turning to them when it's their turn, until everything finally falls into place. I wish I had known how to handle that thirty years ago!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Project rapture

For the past few days, I've been consumed by a project that is hugely important to me. So, as a result the rest of the world can fall apart, disappear, nothing seems to matter to me anymore. It's just amazing how a little project that's probably meaningless to others and counts so much for me can obliterate all the life around me. Call it rapture, blinding passion or insanity if you will, but I love that feeling!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

What can you expect from your architect?

For one thing, this very special type of professional should create a residence that will work for the client and also draw from their education, experience and common sense to design something that's functional and the best solution based on the specs and constraints provided.

If the individual is artistic and creative, so much the better but, at this point, this should be seen as the frosting on the cake and these two latter elements should never be the one that overwhelm the rest. This could spell big trouble. Like anything, an architect needs to be managed and guided by the client into creating what's needed.

Don't expect architects to go on automatic pilot and deliver the goods with little or no intervention from the client. Only expect them to hold their ego in check and you should be so lucky!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Do we ever have enough time?

The answer is categorically no. There's never enough of that elusive stuff called time. You might say that time suffering is probably in large enough supply that we could do with much less, but since - for most of us - life is not always exclusively made of suffering, there sure isn't enough time available for fun, pleasant endeavors, deep thinking, loud laughing and thrilling moments.

I wish we had much more of it and think that life would be much better if it were the case. That would also be true if someone had thought of teaching us how to use time much more effectively. So with that in mind, I'll do my very best to treat whatever time remaining time I have with the greatest respect it certainly deserves!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Where's my bill?

This would appear impossible in America but it's actually happening in France; listen to that story: In late 1999 my sister and her husband moved into a brand new home in the Morzine Valley of the French Alps.

So, if my math serves me right, they've already been living for more than 13 years in their home. Construction on that home began in 1996 and the electrician that did the entire electrical work on the residence began laying his pipes as concrete was poured what's now some 17 years ago.

During the time it take for a teenager to get a driver's license, the electrician has never presented his bill to my sister. She's asking for it every time she sees this electrician, and every time his response is of the kind: “I'll get to it later!” This man must have an incredible cash-flow to be able to put his account receivable on such a low burner.

That's absolutely right, this ain't America!

Monday, May 13, 2013

What produces exceptional champions...

Tiger Woods won another major golf tournament yesterday and the discussion shifted on what makes some champion so great; that's when I surmised that perhaps the emergence of these super talents (in skiing, Ligety or Hischer) is simply because these top athletes are no longer competing against a field of competitors, but at that level, simply against their own selves.
They're on a quest to hone their utmost skills and extract the very best they're capable of. No tensed pressure, no undo stress, just seeking the very best their potential can produce...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Look ahead, see up-close

In multiple ways, mountain biking is very close to alpine skiing; at least during the downhill phase. The single trail meanders and is packed with changes, tricks and obstacles. It becomes therefore essential for the rider to look up and scan for what's waiting far ahead.

At the same time though, it remains crucial to watch what's coming up immediately. And here lays the essential difficulty of mountain biking: Continuously scanning far away while alternating with watching like an hawk what's coming under the wheels.

Often, the trail is smooth and it becomes easier to scan ahead while at other times it becomes imperative to pay much closer attention to the looming difficulty that is going to wrestle with the bike. This alternating scanning gets better as a rider accumulates more miles and eventually becomes second nature...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

3 D to the rescue...

I have told you about my anxieties about discovering what was hiding behind the shape of that new house. They were in fact so acute that I had to learn Sketchup, a 3D design software by Google, to build a 3D interior view and see what the architect didn't bother to show me. At first, I tried to be cute about it. As an exercise,

I had first built the kitchen, all the way to the cabinets wood-grain the counters granite and was quite proud of my work. When I set to show what was hiding inside the house, room by room, I first tried to be exacting, but soon found myself entangled into a jungle of details, so I cut to the chase and worked with more modest, summary and unsophisticated visual elements.

This ended working beautifully, enough at least to tell me that many changes had to be made, least of these, the entire kitchen that had to be totally redesigned! I guess I could still use several full practice sessions...

Friday, May 10, 2013

The thrill of mountain biking

We've never been so early on our mountain bikes and as the weather is finally settling into some nice temperatures we've been riding two or three times already. Riding that early in the season is great, because the leaves are not out yet and the visibility is still outstanding.

There's plenty of time to see other users coming and and avoid some nasty, last-second head-on encounters. Spring weather is also still much cooler and at this time of the year the ground is carpeted with a thin coat of green grass and beautiful spring flowers.

This year, getting back on my bike was easy; no apprehension whatsoever, no re-learning , almost an effortless exercise and – with the exception of my butt on the very first day – totally painless!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Searching for the elusive 3D interior view...

Architects will draw floor plans, elevations and perhaps, if you're very lucky to have a young “techie” at your service, you might get a 3D rendition of the exterior of the home you want to build, but they generally won't get into showing you a series of 3D views on the inside of your future home as this entail a huge amount of work and would require a hefty additional fee.

If the place that is being designed is plain and simple - more like a shoe box - that's fine, but if it is a tad complicated, it may become a big potential “surprise” that will only hit the homeowners the day they discover that the inside wasn't quite what they had imagined or bargained for. In a few blogs, I'll share with you some of my findings in that thrilling field of discovering of what can hide under the skin of a home...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Spring skiing at Snowbird

I've already said much about skiing Snowbird in the late spring season and how cool that place is. Our visit on May 2nd was literally picture-perfect. Yet, what makes Snowbird different from the rest of our Utah ski resorts and particularly from Park City's three mountains?

The higher elevation is one thing; a base and a summit at more than 1,000 feet higher stay colder and get more snow. Then there's the famous “lake affect” that often doubles up the amount of precipitation from one storm. Snowbird is also different in the sense that it offers wide-open runs, whereas Park City is more “in the trees.”

Finally, as the typical “territorial” demeanor, folks who ski Snowbird and Alta tend to poo-poo skiing in Park City, but they're dead wrong. I know it, because I ski both domains, and to conclude I'd say: “Vive la différence!”

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Who is the imperialist?

This weekend we saw “Emperor”, a great movie about Japan surrender and about an American general who was a bit to biased toward Japan as he investigated Hirohito's role into Pearl Harbor's attack.

At one point, as he is attacked about Japan imperialist policies, one of the high-ranking Japanese retorts that England, Spain, France or the United States set the example as far as colonialism was concerned and Japan was merely following them.

A great point that shows one more time that it's a lot easy to be holier than thou...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Learning a new skill...

The “skill of the week” will be to learn, and hopefully master, SketchUp (no, there's nothing to do with ketchup), a wonderful Google sketching program, that's been around for a long time, but that I've always neglected to learn.

Today, I need it to draw a kitchen as well as other house components, and I can't wait to be able to use it. The “teacher” is a video and – in my view, at least – is the best way to teach or learn anything at a student's speed in 2013.

In a few days you should see more elaborate designs than the one I developed after mastering lesson one....

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Remembering my Dad

Today happens to be the 25th anniversary of my Dad's passing. That Thursday of May 1988, he had, what most French people would call “une belle mort” which means a pretty quick and painless death. In fact, it happened in just a few hours.

That day, he didn't have any appetite to eat his breakfast, felt like a shivering cold coming all over his body, laid down on his bed and this was it. He died of emphysema, most likely a by-product of smoking too much for half a century.

I wasn't that close to my Dad and I can't remember ever spending any time on his laps or having any fun moments with him. His life was work, work and more work and the mere idea of entertainment must have been sacrilegious to him.

I miss the fact that we couldn't have an open and enriching relationship and that we remained strangers to one another until his death. I guess this is not a novel concept as it often characterizes most family relationships, but I simply regret that these instances are not so rare and keep on reproducing themselves...

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Islam just as archaic as Christianity?

The religion founded by Prophet Muhammad goes back to the 6-7th centuries and today different factions of this religion has discovered that slaughtering each other is the way to go.

Not much different from the religious war that took place in France between Catholic and Protestant during the 16th Century. Christianity and Islam are barbaric and archaic enough to have engaged and still be engaged in all kind of bloody conflicts.

More modern religions such as Mormonism avoided bloodshed by reforming themselves through convenient “revelations” to keep up with an ever-changing society. They've done it when they disavowed polygamy so Utah could gain statehood, when they allowed black into the priesthood when civil rights emerged and today it will only be a matter of time before gays and transgender are found okay by their mainline faithfuls.

Given the silence and the blind conservatism that characterizes their respective leadership, just expect old and archaic religions to keep pushing back and shedding more blood for a long, long time...

Friday, May 3, 2013

Is France ready to walk away from socialism?

There is not a day when I receive another forwarded email from my home country lambasting the French president François Hollande for what seems to be a lot of indecision and a lack of ability to turn the country's economic situation around.
I'm not surprised: I've seen from day one that he was less capable than Sarkozy, his predecessor, who certainly was a populist, but wasn't much of a great leader either. While 75% of the population is unhappy with Hollande today, this doesn't mean that socialism is finished yet, because about half of the voting public is either a public servant or some recipient of the country's generous welfare programs.

The only likely beneficiary of the current discord will the ultra-conservative “Front National” which may have a few good points in its program, but is totally out of touch when it comes to understanding basic economics. This vocal fringe is likely to get some more supporters that will continue to erode a weakened Right that is torn apart and leaderless, and by so doing, may keep the socialist in power for a few more terms.

With a world economy moving extremely fast, it's more and more difficult for governments to keep-up with, control and understand what's going on. Because of that, France and Europe could have a few more difficult years ahead of them before things turn around through economic woes or public uprising. If, and when this happens, there might be some painful consequences in store for those who live on the old continent.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cool 3D PDF!

Did you know that PDF document (PDF stands for Portable Document Format) isn't just available to see all kinds of printable documents in a mere picture-like, flat rendering, but also under the form of three-dimensional documents (3D PDF) that can be manipulated and seen from an infinite number of angles?

I recently discovered its new capabilities and was amazed at the possibilities offered by that new communication medium and was stunned. Now, tell me, when is real-life PDF coming to a theater near me?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

When we think we remember...

My good friend Denys was born on April 27. Since he was having another birthday, I wanted to make he'd knew it from he, in case he had forgotten. I only put a few number in speed-dial on my land phone, but for some reason, he's not even though I call it quite frequently.

The reason I think – until recently at least – was that I thought I knew his number from heart. So on April 27 I dial up his number. As a form of basic respect for his privacy, I will only mention the last four digits of what I believed his phone number: 72 11. I called once, let it ring a few times, hung up thinking he was enjoying a good meal at some nearby restaurant and later in the evening I call again; ...72 11.

No answer, I let the voice-mail pick-up, assuming now that he's gone out of town and leave a humorous message only Denys could appreciate. Several days later, I wondered if 72 11 was indeed the right number; it wasn't. It was 74 11 instead. Never assume anything and rely on an aging memory too much. I've learned my lesson!