Sunday, June 30, 2013

See clearly, ride safely!

Just like with skiing, visibility plays a capital role in mountain-biking. As Utah is baking in the midst of an early summer heat wave, we choose to ride very early in the morning, while the air is still cool and comfortable.

This time of the day also coincides with sunrise which tends to create huge contrasts between dark, shady spots and bright, glaring areas. It makes visibility as challenging as skiing on flat light days. It makes impossible to see what's inside that pitch black groove framed by tall vegetation that's supposed to be a single track.

There could be stumps or rocks in it and you can't see them, there could also be other users coming from the opposite side that you'd never notice until the very last moment. So, it's time to slow down a bit, signal your presence more assertively around blind corners, and ride much more defensively.

What else? Just tread on trails that you know well and don't venture on new or unfamiliar itineraries. Mountain biking always demands full concentration, right? Just be able to deliver twice as much when the raising sun blinds you!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Lazing on a sunny afternoon...

That's is we've entered the really hot period of summer, 90 degrees yesterday in Park City, and 102 in Salt Lake not counting that tomorrow will be our 30th day without seeing a drop of water! Hot, hot, and super dry!

If we want to do something, we better do it early in morning like this week running at 6:15 am (almost as early as my routine 6 am morning run for almost 30 years) and today's mountain biking at 7:15 am. The weather is still cool with an early morning low of 54 degrees and a nice breeze to boot!

The rest of the day, we'll stay home, I have plenty of work to do on the computer like finalizing a kitchen design and a bunch of cabinets for the bathrooms and a few rooms. We'll alternate between the cool, air-conditioned inside environment of the house and our tropical, covered outdoors deck.

As I tell my wife over and over: "We don't have too many of these hot days in Park City, so let's enjoy them while they last..." This afternoon, when I'm done, I'll be lazing on our deck with a large, cool glass of pastis in my hand, listening to my favorite Kinks song...


Friday, June 28, 2013

Are all French fleeing their homeland?

After electing François Hollande a little over a year ago, the French are beginning to panic, as if they believed that the jovial socialist president could resolve the economic quandary facing the developed world in general and Europe in particular.

A recent article in “Le Point,” a French weekly magazine, was reproducing the letter of a 20 year old young girl threatening to leave France, her beloved homeland, to avoid facing an uncertain future. What this young person doesn't seem to know it that emigration is not for the faint of heart and certainly not for her, as she unveils her aspirations.

That's right, she seems to need the security and certainty that are France's inalienable rights. Sorry, lady, they don't make these ingredients anymore whether you live in New York, New Delhi or Newcastle. What she has no idea of, is the anguish that come packaged with emigrating, or “expatriating” herself as she puts it, without an already-found job in the land of her choice, a French accent that sticks to you forever and a total ignorance of the local culture.

I say this because I have experienced it myself for most than half a lifetime. In order to survive and thrive, you need to be a persistent S.O.B., to be somehow more talented than the average and super-lucky.

Sure, if you are rich and famous, like the French people who have “emigrated” to Geneva, Switzerland, or Depardieu to Russia, this sounds quite appealing, but if you pack up and leave to North America, Germany or China, better leave France with tons of good luck, super talent, willingness to work much harder, a tough, hard-shell and endless stamina!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

All out at summer concerts

Our summer concerts are back and with them the opportunity to have a dinner picnic in the early evening sun in the wonderful Deer Valley amphitheater while listening to some music and... watching people.

You see, Park City population hasn't just exploded over the past 25 years, it has enriched itself, providing the eye with a pallet of beautiful, young, old, hip, and weird looking folks, so watching the crowd is by far the main attraction at these outdoors events.

By now, you've understood that this concerts aren't about the music that floats in the air, but the people that display themselves as if they were marketed or were performing on some fashion show runway. So there you've have from the sublime to the rough and the grotesque.

Of course you find the “usual suspects” who attend concerts after concerts and are dying for being seen at any cost, the occasional appearance and then us who dressed in our very ordinary t-shirts and shorts and can't seem to get enough of this human display of vanity...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The best age of all?

Last night, our grand-son had a sleep-over with us. We all enjoyed a wonderful late afternoon and evening. What a delight and what a precious little boy he has become. Is it just that special age of around five he's in at the moment? I kind of think so.

Wonderment at the world, innocence and spontaneity all combine to make that very moment in a child's life, a confluence of perfection that blossoms in a magical manner. For once, let's slow down and enjoy this window of time the best we possibly can!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Age, positivity and negativity

In a previous blog I was wondering about the age-related evolution of conservatism and liberalism. Today it's about our tendencies to see our glass half-empty or half-full.

Is there an age-correlation between the two? I would tend to think that – as we become wiser – we let fear go off our system and evolve towards a more positive outlook. Is this just me or is it possible that this orientation is more genetic and more related to one's depressive tendencies than a trait that we have some control upon?

I'm not quite certain. Perhaps we should take the time to examine this question – as positively as we can!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Age, conservative, and progressive

As people age they tend to become more conservative; they have much more to lose and they tend to cling to things they know rather than taking a chance for the “devil” they're not quite familiar with.

The individuals that are more progressive at a young age, slowly shift to the center while young conservative soon become ossified dinosaurs. Where do you stand in that age-related evolution and how do you best resist that invasion of fear that contaminates your inner peace?

This is an interesting question that we all should examine from time to time. I'd rather not ossify too much and too fast!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

When extreme risk is too much risk

I love flying and I adore airplanes, but air stunts have always made me very nervous; this is perhaps I spend my military time at the French air base where the French aerobatic squad was training, but I always thought that performing tricky air maneuvers too close to the ground was the perfect recipe for disaster.

Yesterday, Jane Wicker, an attractive 46 old woman, a so-called “wing walker,” mother of three young kids, didn't get a second chance when she stood up on that biplane wing and the aircraft suddenly lost lift. I know that every thing we do is dangerous, whether it's skiing, mountain biking, walking on a roof and the like, but the margin of safety in each one of these activities varies vastly. At my age, I'd rather have more of it than less...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Staying focused...

Today, I'm not talking about mountain biking or even skiing. I'm talking about business and how to overcome burn-out, strain and fatigue, in an effort to keep one's eye on the ball and continue to take it where it needs to go.

This is hard to do, as we always need a break and often time, our concept of taking a breathere from something that wears us out ends up more like taking a long... vacation! That's where true movers and shaker always stand-out from the masses and create even more space between them and the ones next behind them.

It requires the extra effort to pursuing and demands that the passion fueling the whole process never quits burning. Perhaps, the way to refresh oneself is too take more frequent short breaks and always have in mind to quickly get back to work!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Entangled into a video project...

A complex video isn't necessary one that tells a long, winding story, but rather one that tries to convey a complicated one, or express a rather a ragged series of event with a limited amount of footage. Sometimes, when they're straight-forward, some video projects are quick to bring through editing.
Sometimes, they're a big struggle if the story is ragged, the available footage insufficient or there is a will of doing something out of not much, in terms of raw ingredients. In situations like these, the creative process takes time, inspiration, persistence and talent. This is what is called “learning the hard way...”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sitting on a hornet's nest!

One of my favorite garden amenities is a refurbished chairlift that we use as a swing and that originally was hanging on Alta's “Supreme Lift.” As today was the beginning of the every-six-year maintenance and repainting routine, I dismounted the wood slats that fashion the lower part of the seat.

From underneath the seat, I could access the screws and removed those by laying right on the flagstones surrounding our beloved chair. Looking from the bottom, I could see the 2 inch diameter, hollow post that swings from the top and attaches to the chair, and suddenly noticed what looked like a hornet nest.

Bravely, I poked a screwdriver inside the opening and stirred the whole inside, letting a few hornets lose. I prudently retreated and when most of the hornets returned inside the hole to inspect the damage, I duct-taped the opening and continued taking down the slats.

All this to say that we never really know what we're sitting on, and after discovering this little community, I'm glad no one ever got stung!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cultivating... hope!

Hope for betterment and for something new and different is what seems to keep most of us going all the time. It excites our curiosity, it keeps our senses sharp and get us to act and do something instead of curling up and remaining in a frozen wait.
Hope is especially important for those of us who are no longer in their 20s or 30s and is an essential, vital fuel. And there is never a shortage of elements to hope for, from health to wealth and fun, there's always a bit there for the taking.

So, let's hope that you'll be hopeful too!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Light, relaxed, nimble and super-focused!

What's that all about? About mountain-biking and skiing I'd say... Perhaps even more mountain-biking than skiing. Today, at the top of the big hill, I met two other guys I know, riding their mountain bikes, just like me, each between 2 and 5 year younger than me.

I asked to ride with them on the downhill portion and didn't want to look like a slouch either, so I set to impress them without taking undo risk and crash. All I had to do was stay relaxed, feel light on by bike, make sure to be a little bit nimble here and there and most, most importantly, I had to be fully concentrated and pay super attention at where I was going. It worked beautifully.

I waited for both of them at the bottom of the hill with three solid minutes to spare...

Monday, June 17, 2013

The mountain-bike quandary...

A few days ago, as I was riding my mountain bike, I literally ran into old acquaintances of mine who were hiking on the same trail. I stopped and we chatted for a while about life, business and mountain-biking. They said that these days they hardly ever used their bikes because they would find it too hard and after trying a few times, they just gave up on the sport altogether.

That's when I chimed in and surprised myself by saying that mountain biking isn't merely riding two or three times and “getting it”, but more like a three season learning curve. This is so true and while mountain bike professionals, from equipment rental shops to mountain bike school would like to tell people that two to three hour is all it takes for someone to absorb the rudiments of the sport, this is just a superficial primer.

The painful truth is that it takes indeed two to three seasons, depending on the number of outings one takes, to begin mastering the technique and enjoying the ride. Once more, it's all about time and patience!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

More on “bad” pricing...

Recently, I've been "breathing" building cost estimates. That's right, estimates from general contractors that build homes. Some have been forthcoming and – as far I can tell – pretty honest. One of them has not taken that path and chosen to “pad” his bid. Not just pad it a tiny bit, but really in a big way, to the point that, when compared to competitors, his pricing is simply out of proportions and totally unreasonable.

I wonder what goes on inside the mind of folks like this one? Do they think their clients are totally stupid, won't see the disproportion and automatically give them their business, or do they simply want to take a reckless chance? I do wonder, but I also realize that if one stops at just one bid when shopping around, this can be a recipe for disaster.
Take your time, leave no stone unturned and if no deal is good enough, keep searching. It's as simple as that...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sales, marketing and pricing 101...

There are people who are good at selling, others are great at marketing, fewer can excel at both, but no matter where your forte lies, if your pricing strategy is non-existent, you're wasting your time. Case in point, I'm currently shopping for a vacation rental apartment in the French Alps. I sent a bunch of inquiries to fifteen homeowners.

Very few responded fast and among the smart early birds, prices where all over the places. I looked at the offers and picked the best value that was some 135% cheaper than the most egregious one! What should have these folks done to be in the market? Studied their competition and adjusted their prices accordingly. Since I was renting during the low season, 500 Euros is better than nothing and an astronomical demand is unlikely to translate into a consumed transaction.

You would think that in an age of transparent internet marketing people would be smarter, but again these greedy specimen are not even close to compete as fiercely as we do in North America!

Friday, June 14, 2013

A good-looking bird

I'm no bird watcher, but I like to see them and always marvel – if not envy – their lifestyle. When I run in the morning, I pass by an area that has recently been transformed by a colony of beavers into a series of ponds and there, each spring and early summer, I've noticed a beautiful, mid-size black bird with red and an yellow spots on his wings.

I looked up for him and found that he was the male, red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), a passerine bird found in most of North and much of Central America. According to Wikipedia, it may winter as far north as Pennsylvania and British Columbia, but its northern populations are generally migratory, moving south to Mexico and the southern United States when snow flies.

This bird is also said to be the most abundant and best studied living bird in North America. While the male is handsome, his wife is far less elegant, wearing a nondescript dark brown dress. Both eat seeds and insects and are happy that way.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Smelling the... lilac

Recently, a good friend of mine who recently took on motorcycling was telling me that one of the benefits of riding his machine was that he could smell whatever was floating in the air as he was passing by. He sure couldn't do this when he was driving his car, even with windows rolled down. Right on, welcome to the club, I thought; this is exactly what we get when we mountain bike, run or just walk around our neighborhood.

The sad news, here in Utah, is that the air is far too dry to conduct scents into our nostrils as well as is the case in normally humid climates like in most other places around the world. These days, with lilac still in bloom, we get a morning whiff of their delicious scent as we run by a row of lilac tree near our house and that feels really special!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Seasonal tan-lines...

The other day, as I was showering, I noticed that I had already gotten my summer, mountain-bike tan-line which is significantly more spectacular than my winter tan-line that stops in the middle of my neck. This strict delineations are as far as I go when it comes to exposing myself to the sun. My wife tells me that too much sun is bad, that my skin won't like it and I do follow her advice.

At this point in my life, I just keep hoping that these tan lines will never recede and will return, season after season, for as long as I own my body...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

NSA's expensive paranoia

I personally don't care if NSA chooses to listen to my phone calls or read my emails, but I'd rather know it for sure and hate the ambiguous and hypocritical response from our government on that subject.

I'm also ambiguous about Ed Snowden, the young man who leaked the whole story to the press. His principles are non-existent, but his move is at least sparking a debate.

As for the NSA, I feel that this malevolent entity is wasting my tax money as it hoards a lot of information but it totally incapable of making sense of out it. If it did, it was perfectly positioned to catch the Boston bombers long before they would have fill their pressure-cookers with explosives.

Once more, our intelligence community and our government have failed to impress me in their “war” against terrorism...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Taking the trail less traveled...

We're creatures of habit and love to do things that feel comfortable to us. Mountain biking is no exception to this, especially in a sport where familiarity with a course, its idiosyncrasies and kirks makes all the difference in the way we perform and enjoy a given ride.

When I'm riding on my own, I try to make the effort (this doesn't mean I succeed all the time) to take a different trail, change directions or add to my usual itinerary so it will challenge myself, now and again.

It's never easy, but it's always filled with new experiences, surprises, deeper learning and in the end, more fun!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Aspens: Crapping tree or crappy trees?

Folks on the Eastern seaboard are lamenting about the cicadas returning after seventeen years and making a mess out of their lives, while here, in the Rockies, we need to survive the yearly routine of catkins coming out of our forty or so aspen trees that populate our backyard.

These tree produce thousands of catkins that eventually are turning to downy fluff looking like more snow flurries in June and by doing so are spreading their seeds – process that to me seems totally useless since this type of trees essentially reproduces itself through the root system, sending up new trunks as the older trunks die off and that can last for thousands of years with the same tree and therefore the same DNA.

This is all nice and good, but we eventually need to clean up after these dirty trees, around the house, over the roof and deep into the gutter. Oh, yes, I forgot there's also the business of oily secretion from the leaves of that tree that dirties everything under their canopy, but we aren't there quite yet, so I'll leave that one for some future blog...

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Patience, Persistence, Relentlessness...

These three elements are front and center with any complex and unfamiliar new project. While patience and relentlessness might seem poles apart, they manage to both play a role crucial in keeping the “balls up in the air...”

Patience is key, because it's always the antidote to the unforeseen and to the how the Plan was supposed to unfold. When something goes wrong - and it always does - patience always steps forward and gives a reason for what's not excusable or not reasonable.

Persistence keeps the engine running no matter what and is the kind of ear plug or blinder someone needs to wear in order to keep moving forward and not listen to the easy logic or the input from those who have already thrown the towel.

Finally relentlessness is what keeps the sense of urgency going and always set the priorities straight.

Just attempt any project without one of these three assistants and it won't go very far. Trust them to the task and it will get done. That's this simple...

Friday, June 7, 2013

Productivity and unemployment...

...Both work together but in opposite ways. As productivity improves, much more can be done by the same person, and therefore productivity gains should be matched by the same GDP growth rate in order to keep everything balanced.

This evidently is not the case, even in emerging powerhouses like China or Brazil. Obviously our so-called “economists” and our dear politicians don't seem to understand or even acknowledge that fact and the rest of us are now faced with this terrible conundrum.

Put it in simpler terms; we've just been cutting the branch we were comfortably sitting on...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Comparing geographical areas...

Thanks to Google maps, comparing geographical area has become feasible, fast and easy. I just tried it this morning by comparing two small ski towns that are dear to my heart: Morzine in France and Park City in Utah.

Both cover about the same area, with Park City being the largest at 18 square miles vs. 17 for Morzine. At 2,908, the French ski town has a far smaller permanent population than Park City that boast 7,558 people. Even though Park City's elevation ranges from 6,700 to 9998 feet, it's much flatter than Morzine which lowest point is around 2,900 feet while its highest peaks soars at almost 8,100 feet...

Aren't those interesting tidbits?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

We appreciate your input...

It never fails; more and more websites have a section in which the CEO or other Big Kahuna ask for their clients' feedback but when it's unpleasant they don't care to listen!
For instance, my medical center says it welcomes comments regarding its services, employees and physicians. They want to know how they are doing; fine, so I lodged a complaint about their antiquated and useless computer system about 3 days ago and have still to hear back from the CEO in question.

Perhaps I should adjust my expectations and as a good patient, be much, much more patient?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Why is Vail Resorts investing into Canyons?

Those who have followed the recent developments between Canyons (Talisker), Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) and Vail Resorts have good reasons to not fully understand what is really going on. Vail Resorts would never have plunked $25 million in annual rent for just buying Canyons that has little brand awareness and has a dysfunctional skiers access if it were not for the bigger prize that PCMR represents.

At the moment, the Cumming family – the current PCMR owner - is trapped, because of their mistake of not renewing their lease option with Talisker and will have to either accept the conditions dictated by Vail or desist. This must be incredibly difficult for Ian Cumming, the wealthy patriarch who personally purchased PCMR for his sons in the nineties.
In my view, Vail's strategy is to eventually grab PCMR and run it, along with Canyons, under the “Park City” moniker that is much more valuable from a consumer standpoint and that so merged, would become the largest ski resort in North America, easily passing Whistler Blackcomb in terms of total acreage. It would only be a matter of time before it would surpass its Canadian competitor in terms of skier-days...

Monday, June 3, 2013

GoPro on mountain bikes?

Wearable video cameras are generally as steady as the user and depending on the sport or the activities, there can be a lot of shaking going on. Sure, video services like Youtube offer some post-editing image stabilization solutions, but then, any credits or graphics present get distorted by the correction. Mountain bike video shooting is among the worst situation one can experience.

Placing the video cam on the helmet isn't the ideal location as the device is fairly heavy, has quite bit of inertia and there's always too much play between the helmet and its attachment as well as between the helmet and the head, so any jolt gets amplified and the the on-going shaking makes the viewer seasick.

What are the solutions? Placing the camera on the bike offer an even more rigid coupling that transfers everything to the image. Perhaps the chest-mounted harness is a better way. We'll try it next time, so please, stay tuned!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

What to do when all gets tighter?

I'm talking about the time that goes by and less of it remaining available, I'm also inferring about a dwindling physical strength and the drying up of the usual projects or responsibilities that keep us going. All these changing measures are associated with aging and if we're still blessed with good health, how do we manage these elusive resources and make the very best out of them?

I'm asking that question every day and fight as hard as I can to value my personal time and not let it go to waste, continue to exercise as hard as I can whenever possible and still pave my way with a great deal of new projects that keep me energized and never bored.

With that powerful cocktail, my only complaint is that there's never enough time to do everything and while this is quite regrettable, it is essentially vital, so I'll stick with the that diet!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Learning alone as an adult

I could call that “the instructions for use syndrome.” It is very hard to set time aside to learn a new skill, especially as an adult who's become lazy and think he knows better! I'm experiencing it at the moment as I'm trying to master the art of using Sketchup, this computer aided design program.

I just got the bare minimum that works 80% of the time, but I'm struggling on the other 20%, so much so, in fact that I lose whatever advantage I've gained with using that powerful software. This costs me time, frustration and building mistakes that will come to haunt me later on as I refine my designs.
So what's the solution? Reviewing the courses I have already taken and taking some new ones. Of course practicing as I build up my skills – which delights me, but not skirting the hard work of learning alone. This takes some mental strength that I've yet to acquire!