Saturday, August 31, 2013

Home-building pains

Most folk that build a home must be torn all the time about the good wisdom of their decision versus not having done anything. This always comes in view of the immense amount of work involved and the inherent complexity of the entire process.

Yet, as doubts come and go, it's essential to maintain a keen eye on the prize, which is a new home with all the improvements we want in it over an existing residence with significant more drawbacks.

Is it at time overwhelming? Absolutely. Is it also fun? You bet! Is it worth it? Of course, but we'll only admit to that well after everything is completed and all the dust has settled!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Moving inexorably away from the point of origin...

As time goes by, our memories fade progressively. I'm not talking about the stark difference in performance that can be observed between long and short term memory as we age, but most to the undeniable fact that what was a limpid remembrance of some event yesterday is guaranteed to get blurred some more tomorrow. 

There is nothing that can be done about it, except take notes, pictures and shoot movies if we are to preserve a clearer and unbiased account of past events.

When I think about it I can only understand the perils of writing accounts of “historic facts” decade later (like the Gospels or the Koran) and I'm so glad that still I take lots of pictures, shoot some videos and write at least a blog a day...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The conflict between Talisker-Vail and Park City Mountain Resort

The long, lingering feud between our two local resorts might be close to some conclusion. Today, our local newspaper announced that Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) had just received an eviction notice from Vail, its new landlord. So, now, what is likely to happen?

My prediction is that it could go several ways.

First the parties involved make up, PCMR agrees to pay an exorbitant rent amount to Vail, plus perhaps some extra concessions for future lift connections and life goes on. A wonderful, but unlikely scenario.

Alternatively, PCMR throws in the towel, sells or leases its interests at the base of the resort to Vail and the later can connect the two, creating the largest ski area in North America.

Finally, PCMR lets its landlord shut down its operation, there's no skiing for at least one full season - or more - in what used to be known as Park City Mountain Resort and the entire community pays a huge economic price to satisfy the ego of the Cummings family that owns PCMR.

Let's hope we won't see that third alternative...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The advantage of looking old early

We all see pictures of folks we haven't seen for ages and we are shocked at how much they've aged. If we're mature adults, we all know this is a fact of life and there's nothing we can do about it, except perhaps age early.

That's right, if we accomplish that dreadful task of growing older earlier in life, it then becomes far less noticeable as we move into some high numbers. What makes me say this is that my hair left me prematurely and that I aged 20 years in the process. I guess this was already 20 years ago!
Now, I'm really nervous in finding out what my next stage of decrepitude is likely to be...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Starting year # 29 in Park City!

Hard to believe, but we're getting close to our 3rd decade of Park City living as we embark today onto year Nr. 29... A year that is going to be special in many, many ways.

First, it will be Park City's 50th birthday as a ski resort, then it will usher Vail Resort's presence into our community as they take over the operations at Canyons. On a more personal note, it's also the time our grandson is starting Kindergarten, the moment we'll get a brand new home in town and that I will start collecting retirement.

What a program and how lucky are we to have picked Park City as our home!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Parade of Homes in Park City

Want to know what's cool and hip in terms for house design? Pick up a ticket and hop on a tour of some 17 homes located all around our mountain town. You'll discover some true beauty, even though most of us will never be able to afford them during this lifetime.

There's a little bit of everything, but mostly big homes in the 6 to 7,000 square feet category. As my wife was saying about some of these stunning pieces of architectural design: “Being a millionnaire doesn't cut it anymore, you need to be a bona-fide billionaire to afford one of these babies...” She's probably right.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A real Jewel?

Last night we got tickets to see the female singer, Jewel, in concert at Deer Valley. I wasn't too familiar with her and didn't know her repertoire that much, if at all.

The weather was cold, and she began by making excuses for her guitar being cold too and after starting 30 minute late, she managed to “fill-in” time by telling anecdotes, some good and some very trite.

I don't go to music concerts to hear story-telling, so I was not really impressed except perhaps for the encore performance of her trademark yodel that she executed as we were packing up and heading back towards the car...

Saturday, August 24, 2013

New ski boots?

I just received the September issue of Ski Magazine yesterday, devoted to the new season's gear.

I went through it quickly and was disappointed by the general lack of innovation and mostly, by everyone trying to do something they are not expert into, like K2 and Scott getting in the ski boot business, just out of the blue, without much legitimacy or any superior product features.

To perfectly illustrate the imposture is the new K2 ad that shows an ugly male model make taking the legendary “soft inside” pose, premiere by Lange more than forty-five ago. Shame on you, K2! I guess that's what marketers do when they have nothing to say about their product. Why don't you stick to your China-made skis...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Muhammad, the legacy of a prophet

These days, Islam is a big, worldwide issue; this is why it was with great anticipation that I watched this past Tuesday, the three-hour series telling the story of the Arab prophet.
I wouldn't say that this film was very good, as the story wasn't told as well as it could have, but suffice to say that it left me with a clear impression that, Islam, was a religion inspired by medieval times, tribal traditions and appeared significantly behind Christianity in terms of its social evolution.

Like most other religions, it requires to totally believe into a myth that was officially told decades after the prophet passed away, which of course, affects its credibility. Further, the story was totally unbalanced and told by a variety of people (black, Arab and white) who appear to be token cheerleaders for Islam.

Finally, I couldn't help, but draw a parallel between Islam and Mormonism. Their common harsh desert environment, improbable stories and of course their share practice of polygamy...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Trail Test: Twenty-nine inch wheels

Today, I finally got a chance to trail test the new 29er bike. I did it at Deer Valley Resort as I was shooting a mountain bike video while trying to keep up with a fast female rider, herself riding a stiff tail, 29' inch bike.
At first, the combination of exploring a new trail and riding a totally different bike made it very difficult and a bit awkward, but on a second run, my impressions began to clear up.

Overall the bike is much faster (going uphill and of course, going down!) and there's that feeling of total impunity while clearing obstacles along the way – not unlike skiing wide skis as opposed to narrow, more traditional ones.

The downside of course, is maneuverability into tight turns. I was much more tentative, but I still believe that with some practice, more angulation, I'll be able to make it work. Overall, a positive experience. I can't wait to practice on my new bike when I get it next month!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How we sometime fool ourselves

In France, the Mt. Blanc can be a serial killer; by some estimates, 100 people lose their lives each year climbing around that mountain. So, the day I read that two French climbers had died a few weeks ago, I wasn't at all surprised, even when I saw the name of one of them, François Deffert.

The name hailed from my French hometown, but I assumed it was someone else who came from some other place. Besides, the ones I would have known bearing that name weren't certified mountain guide like this one was purported to be. It's only yesterday that I learned that this 53 old man used to be living 250 yards from my home and was indeed my neighbor until he was almost a teenager.

Yet, I had no idea that he liked mountaineering and that he had become, later in life, a mountain-guide. This shows how often times, our own preconceived ideas can mislead us. RIP François!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Predicting what tomorrow will be...

It's a lot easier for me to reminisce the past rather than imagine the future. Yet, nothing is more interesting, challenging and even fascinating than applying ourselves to envisioning tomorrow on a wide variety of topics and then, later on, making some comparisons.

In future blogs, I intend to do just that. Not for all blogs of course, but in a growing number of articles. This will force me to dig a little bit deeper and use my resources more effectively in order to define the way our future is likely to shape up...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Changing mountain bike technology

There are two elements that have changed in all-mountain bikes over the past decade (the last time we purchased the “latest” model).

One is the size of the wheels that are going from 26 to 29' and the other is the adoption of hydraulic disc brakes. First, in terms of wheel size, the 29ers, as they are called, offer better momentum once rolling, meaning more progress for less effort and faster rolling.

They also allow for better traction and control when climbing or cornering and finally their higher “attack angle,” allows them to roll over trail obstacles with less impact, reducing perhaps the risk for flying over the handlebar. fatigue and smoothing out the trail. Their downside is probably less nimbleness in tight turns and some added weight.

Next, let's cover the new hydraulic disc brakes; for one thing, they're much easier on the fingers as they require less pressure, their modulation is better and are less affected by rain if you get caught in a sudden storm. They just require bleeding once a year, which is not so bad if you know how to do it.

Without wanting to predict the future, I can see the next generation of mountain-bikes offering ABS brakes and stability control, but of course, as naysayer often say, “time will tell...”

Sunday, August 18, 2013

New mountain bikes

Nine years ago, we both bought a new state-of-the-art (as we then thought) mountain bikes, we didn't think we'd use them much and assumed they might end up hanging for years on end inside our garage, like our two previous sets, that in all honesty, were primitive versions of what today is considered a decent bike.

We fell in love with them, and to this very day, I've logged close to 3,500 miles on mine and it's now starting to fall apart, as should be expected for a well-used machine.

So today, instead of throwing good money after bad, we both ordered a new pair of mountain bikes. Are we, as some would think, crazy? No, we're just optimistic because we just took another ten year lease on that great sport!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Pet psychic?

We know people who use pet psychics to “read” into what their dog or cat think, need or want. Since there's no way to prove if these self-proclaimed “experts” are fooling their clients or are truly able to use ESP through our furry friends, I remain for the moment totally unconvinced.

There are so many parameters involved with this process that it's impossible to say that a psychic is right, wrong, or making it all up. I'm waiting for Google or some other prominent high-tech enterprise to take up the issue and then, perhaps, I will be more open to believing in that form of hocus-pocus.

For the moment, I'm sitting comfortably, well inside the fence, under the bright spotlight of healthy  skepticism.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Think first, then believe...

I was watching an interview of Oracle's Larry Ellison, last night, and he evoked the right sequential order between Thought and Belief, in the sense that Thought should lead to Belief, but not that Belief should lead to Thought.
This is a fundamental idea that exposes the falacies of any dogma, like religion, superstition and other irrational belief. This came at a time when people in the Middle East are getting slaughtered left and right on the altar of misplaced beliefs.

So, never forget to think first, learn and draw conclusions to build your belief system. Never embrace questionable dogma willy-nilly that can distort our thoughts and lead us astray...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Galileo Galilei, 1963-1999

This morning, around 4 am, as I laid awake in my bed, I was reminiscing a 45 day “cruise” I took some 42 years ago, from Genoa, Italy, all the way to Melbourne Australia, in the “Galileo Galilei”, a 28,000 ton passenger ship of the Lloyd Triestino Line ferrying immigrants down under, in the 60s and 70s.

When I sailed it, Suez was closed and we had to circumnavigate the Cape of Good Hope. That route continued up until the 1973 first oil shock, that, combined with the advent of cheap airfares, contributed to the demise of liners like that one.

My friend JP Chatellard and I, working for the French ski school at Mt. Buller, were packed tightly with the other 1,600 economy class passengers, while our Austrian counterparts were enjoying the comfort of first class along with its 150 pampered guests. The service lasted until 1977 and at that point, the Galileo Galilei was turned into a cruise ship for a number of companies.

My favorite cruise ship didn't see the new millennium as she suffered an engine room fire that caused her to sink off the Malaysian cost on May 21, 1999.
Boy, am I glad I got off in Melbourne!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

"You can expect what you inspect"

This is a famous quotation from William Deming, the American statistician, professor, author, lecturer and consultant who became so instrumental behind Japan's economic raise after World War II.

In saying “you can inspect what you expect,” he meant that by inspecting the inputs and the process more, the outputs can be better predicted, and inspected less.

This is exactly what I must do on a daily basis to make sure that shortcuts and pesky, nasty surprises don't occur during the construction of our new home. Inspection is an expected daily occurrence!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

We need more people like Elon Musk!

That's right, we need more people who think big and dare to go where conventional wisdom doesn't feel at home. I've been a Musk admirer for quite some time and, for example, can't wait to buy one of his future electric car that fits my need better than his two current models.

For a long time, now, I have always thought that pushing passengers through air tubes had validity and this is pretty much what his new project, the Hyperloop, calls for .
I hope this variation on high-speed trains sees the light of day in a near future and casts a new paradigm in inter-city transportation. Go for it, Elon, I'm a fan of yours!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Another great French ski coach is gone...

A few days ago, I read that René Sulpice, former French ski coach had passed away in his hometown of Megève, France. Sulpice was the third surviving leg of the famous stool made of Honoré Bonnet and Jean Béranger that propelled French skiing into fame in the 1960s, something that never happened again to this day.

I can't forget this, because French skiing success is what opened the doors to a US job to many of my countrymen, including me, enabling me not just to earn a living but have a successful career in America!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Navigating the shopping process

Never have we had so many choices at so many prices. If you are looking for the usual and the mass-market item, chances are you'll get to the best value fairly quickly. A rapid check at the internet should give you a good idea of what's available, where and at which price.

In fact, in America, the “where” is rapidly becoming meaningless and often, if it's far away, there will be tax savings available, freight will generally be free and the product will show up at your door before you know it. The difficulty resides with the unusual, not-everyday item that varies in specifications, finish, size and demands a more thorough search.
Of course, there's always the internet, but where to look? If you shop for appliances, for instance, you typically go to some specialty stores as well as to some “big-box” retailers and then you get on line. But you may forget manufacturers outlet stores (mostly virtual) and a host of specialized on line vendors.

The choice is immense but finding the stuff you need is much, much more difficult, but if you spend your time researching, you can save yourself a lot of money!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Did you like the 3D PDF I just sent you?

For a while, I've been lauding the new 3D PDF documents as a new frontier in viewing three-dimensional images, and ever since I've been able to create them, I've been sending them to my friends all over the map. Problem is, only a select few have been successful in opening them and among the rest, only the more assertive have told me they saw nothing when they were opening them.

At first, I thought – quite correctly – that they weren't opening them with the right app. That's right, the best app is Acrobat Reader XI, not necessarily the PDF reader that's installed inside your machine or some older version of Adobe Acrobat. Yet, as I drilled deeper, I realized that smartphones and tablets are also unable to open these 3D PDF documents.

The exception might be if you have an iPhone or iPad, there's now an Adobe app that work for those, but nothing yet for Android. So if you think your smartphone or tablet are just as good and powerful as an old-fashioned computer, think again!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Snake crossing!

I generally hit the brakes when I see large animals in front of me. I have already had three collisions with deer while driving and I know better than just running over animals. Yesterday, however, we were just mountain biking, climbing up a slight incline when that large garter snake (Thamnophis) that was slowly crawling across the narrow, single track.

As I was still climbing I had no reason to slow down and my front and rear tires rolled over the poor fellow, while my wife just behind me rolled over its tail with her front wheel! I hope the poor serpent didn't get hurt to badly and is recovering nicely. My sense is that these guys are of the utmost flexible type. At least it's my hope!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

When was the last time I felt so exhausted?

I'm not just talking about last night; I was totally washed out, on my knees! The day had been long, intense and by 5pm there was no juice left in me. Of course, I had woken up at 4:30 am, so that was a long, intense day.

This said, twenty years ago, this was also more like my normal day. In these days, I woke up very early, worked hard all day, traveled the world over and managed to have some energy left for the rare weekends I had to myself and my family. But again, this was twenty years ago!

Today, I just require a little bit more time to get back into form. Some say, it's age; they probably are right!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pressure, age and experience

Never like today, have I been in the middle of so many complex and fast-moving issues that I must deal with, and yet, it feels as if nothing would be easier.

Not so long ago, when I was younger, I was always under stark pressure, desperately trying to make things happen, and even though I had much more energy at my disposal, my lack of experience and a borderline confidence made everything a real struggle.
Today, the tables are turned and a good depth of experience, that also comes, as a bonus, with tons of confidence, turns the handling of multiple, complex issues into child's play. I've never enjoyed problem-solving that much in my life!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How to pick a real estate (listing) agent

If you're living in North America and are trying to select a real estate agent for selling a property, the first thing you must find out is if the realtor know the inventory similar to the property you want to sell.

Next, you need to evaluate his relationship with the community of other agents who are likely to bring you a buyer. Then you need to have him establish the highest price at which you could sell the property by yourself as well as its optimum market value.

When you have that number you can discuss the commission rate, ask if it is negotiable and then also ask if the agent is willing to lower that same commission should the selling price drop under a certain threshold. That should do it and put you into a much stronger position.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Writing history each passing day...

Last night, an old friend of mine from yesteryear was my guest for dinner, and the man, a gifted story-teller transported me 37 years ago in time. I won't report all the wonderful stories he replayed, but would simply like to focus on the undeniable fact that, every day, and unbeknownst to us, we are writing history, our own history.

When we try to reminisce some good old days, we often forget that then, we we held the leading roles in these tales, but at the time, we had no idea this was the case and weren't paying much attention to that critical aspect and often let the conclusion of the story end in places that we'd gladly change today if we could.

The morale of this sobering reminder is that each day that passes, we hold into our hands the chance to affect that history of ours and of course, we should. I had never realized that until last night, but now I'll remember!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The danger of speed zero

I would almost say that, on a mountain-bike, the faster you travel, the safer you are. All my worst falls happened at almost zero speed. I either lost my balance, the handlebar wouldn't turn my wheel or the obstacle in front of my wheel – or my tire against the obstacle - was unmoved by the momentum and sent me flying.

Recently I wrote about the handlebar unwillingness to turn. At speed zero, it won't do much or if it does something, it won't be good. So, without dwelling on technicalities, zero speed on mountain-bike is a recipe for disaster.

Now, keep moving!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Mountain biking, wear and tear...

There is no question that mountain-biking is a rough and tumble sport, not just for the body when it happens to hits something or flies over the handlebar, but also for the machine.

The environment is rough, the trails are rough, the rock or stump that might be avoided often finds their way under the wheels, and just today, I must have hit something, a small tree, a branch or a big rock, but it cost me two spokes on my rear wheel and it didn't take long before the entire assembly began to wobble and that was the end of another expensive rim.
It's not so much the expense involved, but the inconvenience and that one can vary vastly. If you happen to be five mile deep into nature and have no quick way of getting back to some road or certain form of civilization, it could mean that the bike might have to be walked a long way indeed...

Lucky me, today I was almost home when I finally noticed that there was more to my bike than a pesky noise and realized it was a serious problem indeed. In spite of all of this, I will always love mountain biking, that is, as long as I can still ride...

Friday, August 2, 2013

Fast-track learning

It amazes me how much I've learned in the few months I've been busy with our new home project. From interviewing people to negotiating and learning the intricacies of City Hall and its arcane regulations, I've never learned so much is so little time.
Sometime, my wife and I are wondering: “Were all this work and headaches worth it?” The response is a resounding “Oh yes!”, and beside the fact that we'll soon enjoy a place that's a step closer to our dream home, we've learned so much in the process, that all this experience is well worth it.

That's it, we need to pepper our life with great projects in order to keep growing!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Compression sleeve vs. KT tapes

A few days ago, I was making a pretty strong statement about how good KT tapes were to wounded muscles and tendons.

Since that time, I've spoken to my son who, as a runner, is suffering – just like me - from chronic calf muscle tears. He recommended that I use compression sleeves instead of tapes and I followed his advice.

Very, very hard to put on, but just great, and none of the trickery involved with applying the tape in mysterious ways around the ailing flesh. The sleeve seems foolproof and a dummy like me can use it without getting it all wrong.
So far works as well as the magical tapes and it shows that despite my age, I too can stay flexible and change my mind!