Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hard work always pays...

Projects all take time to mature and their final quality ends up being a total reflection of the amount of effort and time put into each one of them.

There is no arguing. If enough time, enough thoughts and efforts are invested into any kind of endeavor, the good results always show and only good luck is able to equal that, but even though I always get my share of that miraculous ingredient, I never count on it. It always come as a surprise or a prize created to reward me!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back running?

Miracle! I'm back running after a 28 day hiatus, and trying to substitute it with mountain-biking instead, but there's nothing like running and nothing can really replace that basic sport. I was quite apprehensive at first, but now feel okay after my second day.

I used these magical – or so I think – KT tapes and am surprised that they could hold me so well. Is that science, magic or just wishful thinking? I don't know, but its use, ordered by my good family doctor, coincided with my return running, so I take that!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Shades of gray...

We love it when issues are just black or white. We especially enjoy it when we're totally right and the other side is totally wrong. It's simple, it suits our sense of fairness, makes us feel on top of the world and it's fast and easy.

This is also one of the reasons why people can't seem to get along anymore and we assist at a debilitating polarization at the political level with a frozen, broken down system.
Yet, people who do well in life, whether it's the successful entrepreneur, the couple that manages to stay married for more than 40 years or the effective negotiator know that success and happiness are neither totally white or black.

Instead, they're in some subtle shades of gray that fluctuate all the time. It's also called give and take, compromise, but those wonderful instruments of nuances are what in the end, signifies progress and advancement...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Jealousy in America

If there is something that isn't front and center in the American culture it's jealousy. It's something that is never discussed openly and while some anthropologists have stated that jealousy varies across cultures, it seems to me that American culture has made it a sin and by being not exercised freely, it pops its ugly head now and again.

European seem to be more accepting of jealousy and appear to use it whenever it feels appropriate. All this makes me say that in America, jealousy is taboo, uncool and never to be expressed publicly, but like a wild volcano it's inevitably bound to erupt now and then under forms that can be most surprising.

If you know American culture or are part of it, what's your opinion on that?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

High point in Park City's biking season

The Tour de France may be over, but in Deer Valley, Utah, the bike season is reaching its peak with the Bike Dealer Camps, a trade show bringing together bike industry suppliers and retailers from all over the nation.
While the major brands are not all represented as they should, this a great forum for lesser know brands and a number of activities are peppering the three-day event, like a cyclocross race (that I only saw on European TV, eons ago) and a consumer day open to the general public where everyone has the opportunity to check out next year equipment and add some new toys to their list of Christmas presents.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Reading people (continued...)

Recently, I was lamenting on how hard it is to find great professional people to assist us in major projects, like home-building, can be difficult, thankless and frustrating.

What I forgot to describe and underscore was the most important positive quality to look for in any applicant in that category. This rare and precious trait is a good attitude.

 You can hire the best talent in the world, but if she has a lousy attitude, the project will look, feel and sound miserable from the beginning through the end. A great attitude is always job number one!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Leaders and sunglasses?

If there is something I don't like with Head of States or Political leaders are those who wear sunglasses when addressing crowd. This makes me uneasy and conjures up Orwellian fears in me.

I was looking at the new Egyptian strongman al-Sisi yesterday, hidding behind his shades and couldn't prevent myself from associating the man with Qaddafi, Jackie Kennedy or General Jaruzelski.

It must be something I hold against political figures, because I've always been a Roy Orbisson fan who in turn, was another sunglasses addict!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Just like Formula One

A few days ago, I was talking to my son about the inherent dangers of mountain-biking and particularly during the downhill portions and he said “...just like Formula One!” and while that comparison never dawned on me in that way, it's absolutely true.

Consider this: The steering is as direct with a lot of finger work between braking and shifting gears, the speed is high, the path is extremely narrow, constricting, and traction varies vastly. Only the cockpit is more open and there is no need to wear a flame-retardant suit, but the rest is just the same!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Reading people...

From the end of 2012 into the first half of 2013, we've been interviewing a lot of different of so-called “professional people” and have found the process extremely difficult and even less conclusive.

The bottom line is that one has to remain extremely critical and draw some practical conclusion before making the leap forward. Truth is, all these pros are trying to sell themselves and are generally a few notches under what they are trying to project, so it's always a good idea to make note, let time settle, add questions about the candidates and review them after a few days.

Of course, what's most important to have in mind what quality or what performance level is the most important in that search and make the best choice accordingly.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Is a tall mountain-bike rider also less stable?

After a good fall from a bike, there's always some opportunity to reflect on what went wrong and why it happened in the first place. While the main reason for my last fall clearly was “lack of attention,” I also came to the conclusion that unlike a smaller rider, like my wife, touching the ground with my feet, for added balance is much harder for me or anyone who is taller or just has longer legs. The center of gravity is pushed up too and makes for a more tenuous stability.

Perhaps the answer to that is a slightly different bike with 29' wheels instead of 26' that might minimize the risk of flying over the handlebar. This tiny bits of difference can all add-up when things don't pan out the way they should and make the difference between a safe recovery and a hard, bruising spill...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A lot of dirt...

We've finally broken ground last week and now our little building lot is filled with a small hole and some gigantic mounds of dirt all around it.

A neighbor asked one of the excavating crew “What will you do with all that dirt?” He answered: “My good lady, all of it will go againt the concrete walls and will all be used up!” I just hope this man is right!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Jack of all trades?

Yesterday evening was concert night, featuring Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, along with Edie Brickell. While I had never heard of the blue-grass band and of the female vocalist, I knew and appreciated Steve Martin as a comedian and as a writer. I had no idea he had played banjo for five decades and even less that he was touring with that group.

Was I impressed? Perhaps by his multiple talents but not necessarily by the performance he gave in front of 5,000 people. The jokes were trite, the singing fair and certainly not to the level I would have expected from that celebrity.

As I was thinking, it's hard for the same person to win the tour de France, climb K2 without oxygen and win the 100 meter dash! Just put another way, it's almost impossible to excel at everything. Sometimes, we all should remember that...

Friday, July 19, 2013

On living dangerously...

I like excitement in my life and often times, that fuel isn't without danger. It's probably because I'm still mentally, a little boy, and I get that constant urge to push myself and explore my outer limits or because I like difficulties in most things I undertake. A little like folks that can't stand blend food and must have their meals over-seasoned, all the time.

Of course, dangerous activities call for a greater exposure to mishaps and all their unpleasant cortege of injury and rehab. I do know that as I grow older, I should somehow slowdown, but I feel that downshifting incredibly hard to program and follow.

Yet, it's crystal-clear that whatever I still can do today, I won't be able to do as well, as fast or without any fear when I'm 95. So instead of voluntary scaling things down, I like to lag just a little bit more; it's only for me a matter of letting go, but I find this so hard!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The turn that doesn't get done

Ever since I began mountain-biking, I have found myself in countless situations where a mental freeze happens inside my head that makes me refuse to turn the handlebar a little bit more to complete a turn and I subsequently get in trouble.

A couple of days ago, that same paralysis got me off the trail and took me over some big boulders that in turn sent me head over the handlebar. I was riding quite slowly and there was no good reason for it to happen.

The result wasn't pretty and I'm still nursing the right limbs of my body. It seems to me that a part of me was saying “you won't be able to turn safely” while in insight, I should have and I would have been better off falling on the inside than missing the turn all together.

Is it just me, or can someone tell me that it's more common than we think (my own suspicion...)?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What would I give, just to...

Setbacks are part of life. When all goes well and we're perfectly healthy, most of us have a hard time realizing how lucky we are. Then comes an unforeseen problem and we suddenly feel it's grossly unfair. We wish it would go away and would give a lot to see that bad situation vaporize instantly.

So when one these bumps appear on my road, I always think of some real people I know who are far, far less fortunate than me, and then ask myself “what would they give to return to living a normal life?” and the response of course would be: “Everything they've got, including their very last material possession!”

Only then that I can measure the folly of my expectations and the depth of my comfort; I'm suddenly reminded never to complain and to soldier on. In most occasions, it's simply just a bit of time and a measure of patience that I have to give away. That's always very easy!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

No good, free education!

We always strive to find a freebee, a super-deal or a “steal,” but there is nothing like something that costs us something. Take the example of education or experience. The best ones we gain often - if not always – comes packaged with pain, tears and some expenditure that could range from hard cash to searing emotions.

We always venture into new domains thinking we're smart enough to easily overcome all the hurdles we might encounter, but when it's all said and done, there's always the unexpected stumble or the severe setback. As we process them, they sure get our attention and that's how we progressively build our strength, beef-up our wisdom and temper our character.

The free ride never impacts us much and leaves no lasting and useful trace. Paying some kind of price is always... Priceless!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Waiter in Bavaria...

Just about 40 years ago, I bravely jumped behind the wheel of my Renault 12 station wagon and traveled from my French hometown, the 353 miles (568 km) through the Arlberg, all the way to picturesque Grainau in Bavaria. You see, I wanted to learn German so bad, that I had decided to get a summer job and immerse myself into it following a first stint in nearby Tübingen that going me going on that project.
Upon reaching the foot of the Zugspitze, I got a job as a waiter, the lady in charge took me to the local store and had me purchase a pair of black slacks, a white shirt and a new career of mine was blooming. Alas, it ended up being a short flowering season as I soon realized that I wasn't quite cut to serve the blue trouts or “Forelle Blau” that were the house specialty. Within a week, I was back in France, but I still was determined to learn German, somehow, someday... 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Setting one's mind...

We often forget it, but if we really set our minds to accomplishing something, it always work. I don't believe in fairy tales, Santa Claus or the Bible's God, but I do believe that when I set my mind to doing something, it never fails, it always work! I just need to set it seriously enough and follow the steps I have to follow.
I have plenty of proofs to back this assertion up... So next time, when you or I are in a “pickle” and believe that a positive outcome is even remotely possible, we must always remember this universal truth and set our minds to making it happen!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Norm MacLeod, 1929-2013

Even though I haven't spent much time, one-on-one, with him, Norm has had a huge influence on me, both as an inspiration and an example. Norm passed away on July 10 in Bend, Oregon.

A former marketing executive with Beconta, a leading sporting goods distributor in the 60s and 70s, Norm MacLeod was before anything a passionate skier, which often is a rare trait among ski business leaders that are in the industry for their own image, the prestige it gave them and to a slightly lesser extent, the money they can reap.

Before anything he loved the sport of skiing and as a true-blooded skier, was also an opinionated maverick and a free spirit. The first time I met with him at the Look ski binding factory in France, I liked him. I remember that at that time, Look had a tough time transitioning its famous Look Nevada / Grand Prix binding into a mass market item (Salomon was starting to seriously erode its number 1 position).

One day of 1975, Norm was showing Look's founder and his R&D director a polycarbonate binding made by Allsop, an american company, telling them this was the future, and sure enough, three year later, it became the present, in other words, the state of the art... Norm provided me with the example I needed and also inspired my move to the Western United States.

Thank you Norm for the example you set for me, and I hope your soul finds some great, magical snow on her new pathway!

Friday, July 12, 2013

How should sellers shop for a realtor?

In America, the key to selling a property is to have it listed on the Multiple Listing System (MLS). It's not a big-name listing agent that will make things happen. In fact, the choice of realtor is almost irrelevant, except that the most successful – the one will the most listings – will have less time to push a given property among the many others listed in their portfolio.

The people that sell real estate are buyer's agents that show what falls in the target needs and price range of their client. So what's a homeowner to do when it's time to picking a listing agent?

Easy; push the selling commission down. Refuse to go with the “customary” 6% and push for 5% or even 4%. If that works, the intelligent thing to do is to allocate that cost saving into a lower selling price to further guarantee that the property will sell as soon as possible.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

When I dreamed to become a graphic artist!

The web is full of treasures. Current, past and totally forgotten.

Yesterday, as I was watching a video about a summer ski race on a left-over snowfield, near my hometown in the French Alps, I literally stumbled upon an old ski model, made by my good friend Michel Duret.
I suddenly remembered that I had come up with a name for these boards(inspired from the Ford Galaxy that could be seen on the Nascar circuit in the late 60s...) and the graphic that was splattered all over them.

That what when I still love to draw and would have like to become a car designer or some sort of graphic artist! Perhaps was I on to something, but who will ever know?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Almost free from Facebook

It's been now several months since I decided to drastically cut my consumption and my participation into Facebook and today I can honestly say that my life is better from it. More time, more focus and less of that wasted feeling of misspent energy and moments.
Even though my side job is with “social media”, I'm not missing much by not having my face glued on my many (about 300 by last count) “friends.” In retrospective, my intense stint with Facebook now feels like these many experiences – good and bad – that cross our lives at one time or another and make us say: “Been there, done that!”

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Are construction costs right?

Yesterday was the end of a long road. We just finalized our choice for a general contractor and were about to begin construction later in the week. Selecting an architect was comparatively easy, but in the end, I felt good about that long vetting process.

The bids varied enormously and it's only when I called my insurance agent to give us an insurance quote that all cleared up. Their estimate of the total cost of the house were almost right in line with the bid offered by the contractor we had just selected. The two other bids, however, stood between 30 and 36 percent higher.
Our long and arduous selection process had paid off and showed that some contractors were either padding their bids to make more money, were not as organized or simply had no clue. I would never have thought of using insurance as a benchmark, though!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sweet healing?

Running comes from its supply of pesky injuries. For a while, I suffered from repeated torn calf-muscles and that was a major impediment, requiring a long time without running. Since July 1, I've got a shin-splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), a common injury that affects runners.

It manifests itself as a pain in the lower part of the leg between the knee and the ankle. It is apparently caused by repeated trauma to the connective muscle tissue surrounding the tibia and can only be treated by rest until it gets better. What I have discover however is that I can ride my mountain bike instead of running, which makes my healing and my recovery super fun.

Will it work? We'll see!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Welcome to Windows 8!

I had heard how bad the new Microsoft Windows 8 was and I thought it might have been a bit exaggerated until I unpacked and installed my new computer. The naysayers were absolutely right and the big Microsoft must be carrying within itself the need to self-destruct as evidenced by the piss-poor product they've just released.
I'm glad I never bought a Windows 8 smart-phone! This product is pure torture and evidenced by the number of “how-to” YouTube videos released on the subject, the product is unusable by the average Joe. At the end of my first day suffering with the atrocity, I've already managed to figure most of it out, but I'm looking forward to downgrading soon to Windows 7!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Death of a computer...

There's nothing as traumatic as sudden death, and that exactly what happened to my computer today. As I was editing a great video about the 4th of July Parade in Park City, the machine died on me and kept all of that great footage entombed as I did not back it up at the last second. You see, I'm prescient, but to a point...

 I called the emergency support number and following the guidance of a very capable technician, we attempted tried to revive the beast, but it was alas too late and hopeless. I then jumped in my car, drove to Salt Lake City to get a new machine, dreading the installation process which is more like dating and marrying again for the digital widower I had become. I threatened my family: “It will take me a full week before I can get over that trauma!”

Time will tell, I guess...

Friday, July 5, 2013

Rain and mountain-biking don't mix well

Two rainy nights in a row, enabled me to see how my favorite trails feel and perform, early the next morning. Overnight precipitations in summer have nothing to do with their winter counterpart when a providential nightly snowfall gets sandwiched between two bluebird days.

In summer the order of day is mud around the tires, laborious traction, vegetation that get you wet and dirt that flies all over your body as you cruise down the hill. I'm not talking about the time it takes to clean the body and the bike upon returning. Now, I remember why dry weather is so great if you love to ride your mountain bike!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The bonus, unexpected rainstorm

To properly mark this Fourth of July celebration, the skies began to get out of kilter at 2 am and a serious rainstorm complete with lighting, thunder and all kinds of noisy fireworks lasted through the early morning; I was so excited that I couldn't get back to sleep. We had not seen a drop of rain in more than 33 days; wow!

Rain is in such short supply during summer, and for that matter all year, since 95% of our precipitations are under the form of snow. It's more than just a precious commodity; it's pure gold to us. The grass, the flowers, the trees and the veggie garden are all relieved.
The birds will go from tiny insects to big, fat worms on today's menu and like a crazy man I left my mountain bike outside last night. I'll have to wipe up the saddle!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Precise mileage and GPS approximation

If you think your smart phone GPS or your Garmin device measure your mileage to the yard, think again. It depends mostly how fast you move and turny or winding your mountain bike trails are. If you ride switchbacks a lot, chances are you'll be short on actual miles and well over your actual speed.

Of course, when the trail is in straight line, the GPS reading can be perfectly accurate, but when going through a curve, the GPS takes points, calculates the distance between these points and gives the length of the chord of each arc instead of the length of the arc itself. This tiny error gets magnified on a fast, curvy course with frequent direction changes.

On such type of trails, a GPS will register a shorter distance than reality. It all has to do with the time points from the GPS satellite, and in the case of a sharp, rounded corner, every second a fast rider will show a 5.55 yard travel at 12 mph, while she will have actually covered. 7.77yard, so I guess I will have the satisfaction of knowing that my mileage is quite conservative on my most winding trails!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Branches finally cut!

For years now, my wife has been pleading with me to prune a number of tree branches that were blocking our living room window views and I've been ignoring her demands on the grounds that I don't like to cut trees (even unnecessary pruning falls in that category), that I love the shade they provide and finally that I like the look of trees litterally hugging the house.

I finally acquiesced yesterday, set up the ladder and once installed, ended up cutting much more than I wanted to at the beginning. Now that the job is done and the branches are piled up in our driveway I feel much better; the views from the windows are restored to what they were supposed to be all along and live is good!
I still have to grow that wood pile by cutting a few more branches on the opposite side of the house, but since I'm now started, it won't be as painful. I'm even looking forward to it!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Is real estate service a good value?

These days, the value of any standard form of service has been dropping, thanks mostly to huge productivity improvements stemming from computers and the internet.

Yet, at the same time, the cartel represented by the National Association of Realtor acts as monopolistic giant in conjunction with its infamous Multiple Listing Service, and both seem to be above any anti-trust laws thanks to their powerful lobby that spends in the hundreds of millions a year for what's lucrative for them, costly for consumers and seems to be resisting quite well a few attacks from the Department of Justice.

 So my answer to the title question is a resounding “NO”, and since sellers have no serious or reliable alternative but pay 6% of the value of any real-estate sold, it just feel like hostage-taking at its worst, with the blessings of our government. If a piece of property sells for $100,000, I could see paying $6,000 worth of “commission”, but if it sells for $500,000 or $1 million, the corresponding $30,000 and $60,000 commission checks are totally out of line, especially considering the fact that the “work” involved is dismally the same.

Somehow, this has to change, because the scheme has no legs to stand on, but who will find the magic formula to finaly bring that dispute before the Supreme Court?