Monday, September 30, 2013

Aah... Inspecting!

Trust is great, but inspecting what we expect is even better. This age-old truth is something I'm appreciating day after day by visiting the home-site where we're currently building.

Don't assume anything, instead inspect, inspect and inspect again and I guarantee that you'll find something startling, frustrating, unbelievable. Rarely a good, wholesome surprise, of course, but that would be asking for too much!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

So much to do, so little time!

We've got a trip to France planned in the near future and we could only get away so many days for a lot of good reasons. So that's the picture; only a few days and a crowd of people to see, visit with and talk to. We are intent on spending “quality time” so quantity will have to suffer and to that end, we'll need to set limits.
That way, we will be able to fully enjoy the few good encounters we plan to have. It's hard to live far away and make the very best of a short visit, so quality, focus and fun should be the drivers; we'll see if we can rise to the challenge!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

That “Extreme Gene” that possesses the French...

Last night, I watched that documentary “Birdmen” about these crazy young people that don wing-suits and jump off cliff in an attempt to follow the terrain nooks and cranies in an almost free-fall.

Of course, that kind of extreme activity finds largely its roots in France and made me once more realize that if America is the land of entertainment, sports, entrepreneurship and technology, France is the capital of extreme activities like wing-suit flying, extreme skiing, mountaineering, solo navigating, and rope walking to name just a few.

What possess the French to put their lives on the line for a quick surge of adrenaline? Is it some lingering French revolutionary spirit in which nothing gives? Perhaps, it's in the water, better yet in the fine wines of that country, or perhaps in the air fogged up by the smoke of “Gauloises” that our forebearers enjoyed so liberally...

Friday, September 27, 2013

Running into a roadblock

When building a home, there are elements that are easy to understand, either because they've been around before, are easy to understand or because they're just make natural sense. Others are much more elusive because no one has ever been able to wrap them into one integrated package and make them simple.

Case in point – for me, at least – audio issues and related technology. Perhaps because I'm not an audiophile, these elements tend to escape me. I find them scattered, hard to re-construct in something whole that fully make sense. In real language for me, it means a real challenge.

Have I suddenly become lazy and unwilling to learn the unfamiliar? An inventor, entrepreneur or developer would be smarter than me actually, and smell a business opportunity!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

How to get even with others

Last night, as I was hearing that the recent Nairobi shopping center hostage taking by Al Shabaab was – once again - “revenge”, I thought that this ancient tool should be put aside for good.

Since revenge is a very arbitrary, imprecise and dangerous way to exert justice, why not rely more on a different set of methods for applying sanctions when the regular means of official justice are unpractical, take too long or are too costly. What I propose is casting a spell on other people that have affected us by invoking a higher authority like God, Allah, the Great Spirit, Nature, etc. I would take the form of prayer going about like this:

“Great Spirit, I want to let you you that ABC has been mean (good) to me and should be sanctioned justly for it. Please apply the punishment (reward) that you see fit and just. Don't delay it, put it into action as soon as possible and don't forge to signal that the suffering (pleasure) felt by ABC is in direct relation to the bad (good) deed he just did to me. Please apply this sanction under the law of Karma. Thank you and amen.”

That's it. I'm sure it works. This is far easy than getting into trouble by trying to render justice on one's one. It's quick, clean and simple. Oh yes, I almost forgot; I you were recipient of some good deed, make sure to thank your donor. If on the contrary you were a victim, ignore the perpetrator, just let power of your curse and the law of Karma work its magic...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bill, Al and me...

I've never been a fan of Bill Clinton. In fact, I never voted for him when I could have, both in 92 and 96. Even before Monica Lewinsky appeared on the scence and regardless of her, I have always found Clinton to be phony, shallow and manipulative.

Is it pretentious of me to assert that I could see through his facade? You may argue that point, but at any rate these feelings were confirmed again last night when I saw him in a rare interview with Al Gore, his former VP and Charlie Rose, their host.

It seemed to me that both had aged a lot (perhaps I ought to look at myself in a mirror?), that Al had had some extensive cosmetic surgery on his face that had deteriorated, as it always does, and worse of all, I found Bill quite incoherent when it was his turn to speak.

That's right, I'm glad I never voted for the man!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mastering that fleeting time...

A few days ago, I was stuck for a few hours in a situation where I had nothing to do and no tools to pass that spare time, and boy, was that idle period feeling endless!

When I contrast that episode with the way my day normally go (way too fast) I realize that with experience, over the years, we become so efficient with our time, that it flows away in our hand without letting us realize it.

It goes way too fast, and between “killing time” and being “killed by the time-express-train” there has to be a happy medium and that “middle way” is called slowing down, taking a breather, taking a break or “smelling the roses...” A little something I need to actively seek and install into my life!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mapping relationships

A few nights ago, I got this idea about mapping relationships in a rather simple graphic mode. A circle rating the quality of relationships from to center to its periphery, where a center location would be the highest possible quality and the farthest distance would precisely be the opposite, indicating not just distance, but also down-right hostility.

The circle could be pie sliced to show “Family”, “Business”, “School”, “Friends” or whatever. Each relation would be materialized by a circle which diameter would measure its importance. While at first thought for mapping the quality of relations to individuals that exist in our lives, this mapping method could also be expended to a variety of things or topics.

 I haven't seen that form of mapping used in that manner before, so I'm assuming I might have invented something. Now, I need to play a bit with it and will return soon with some more thought on the subject!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Vladimir's Olympics

By last account, the Sochi Olympics, or rather Vadlimir Putin's games will cost around $51 billion, that is about 38 times more than Vancouver's. This seems excessive and it is.

To get there, Sochi has obviously become the biggest construction project in the world, but mostly the product of exploited workers, evicted residents, questionable environmental choices, not to mention corruption galore and an unprecedented takeover by some billionaire oligarchs.

What is most shocking is that the International Olympic Committee seems to turn a blind eye to this reality, leaving this mess and all these abuses take their course. Yes, it must have been Pierre de Coubertin's famous quote: "The important thing is to compete! "

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The endless ski run...

Christoph Schrahe, a very exacting German cartographer has undertaken to check ski runs lengths claimed by European ski resorts as a way to boast their total size. He's found out that some of the biggest ski resorts, there, exaggerate the length of their ski runs by up to 150 per cent.

This is pretty stupid thing to measure a resort size by the total length of its ski trails. It should be measured in acres or in km2, like we do it on this side of the Atlantic. The sneakiest resort of all is Switzerland's 4 Valleys with a coefficient of exaggeration at 120%, while France's 3 Vallée only had 493 of pistes, a significant 22% below what they claim officially.

When Schrahe could only find 172km out of the 265km claimed by Flaine's Grand Massif in France, the resort management was quick to explain that they added 57% to take into account the turns made by visitors. Now, have you ever heard someone say “last night, I ate 89 feet of spaghetti...” ? I personally have yet to hear that one...

Friday, September 20, 2013

The spirit of 1968

I have a few French friends and acquaintances that participated in the student riots of May 1968 and that French generally classify as "Soixante-huitards". At that time, I was serving the Nation's military and didn't appreciate one bit the fact that this long-hair hooligans were keeping us on alert on base and preventing us from enjoying a tiny bit of leisure time!

These radical people believed then, and still believe today, that they would inherit a perfect society, split the spoils obtained by confiscating from the rich, by practically throwing the baby and the bath water and breaking the fibers that held society together.
Today, that nothing turned even close to their wildest dream from 45 years ago, they sound bitter and still believe, deep in their heart, that some violent revolution is long overdue, is still programmed, and when it comes, it will set the record straight and establish the kind utopian fairness they feel is their God-given right.

As they approach the final stretch in their long, "laissez-faire" live, they are bound to be sorely disappointed, unless of course, someone plays "May '68" in the thereafter!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Jackson Hole #1? Are you kidding?

For years, Ski magazine has been able to stir up emotions among ski town resident by publishing their annual resort rankings. For decades, the top position has been circulated between Deer Valley, Vail and Whistler-Blackcomb until this season, when little Jackson Hole, Wyoming grabbed the highest sport to (most) everyone's surprise.

In fact, Ski had to refresh its rankings in order, if anything, to placate advertisers. It's not that Jackson offers easy access, far from it. It's almost in the middle of nowhere. Not either that this resort town offers the kind of terrain 95% of all destination visitors look for. For the most part it's steep, faces the East and can only boast an impressive vertical drop for North America. As far as the ambiance and extra activities go, don't expect too much in the cowboy town.

So why was it voted number one? Beats me! I just surmise the voting was rigged or Ski magazine readership is getting so thin, that if your grandmother were to vote it would affect the results tremendously. As for my predictions for next year number one? Crested Butte, Colorado!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The good Doc

Everyone complains about not being able to find a great, let alone decent family doctor, whether it's in America or in France. Well, after years of search, trial and errors, we finally found one a couple of years ago.

He's pleasant, takes his time with patients, doesn't push unnecessary care or drugs and is very good at diagnosing everything that seems to happen to us. He's a keeper!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

France still the number one skiing destination

For another ski season, France is still king of the hill when it comes to its tallied number of skier and snowboarder visitors with 57.9 million, compared to 56.6 million visits in the USA. A great snow year helped the French ski industry retain its leadership one more year. I couldn't find the exact number for Austria, number three, at about 50 million.

France's impressive lift network has been, and remains largely financed, by government agencies as opposed to the private funding that prevails in America. Even though 2012/2013 wasn't a record breaking season, snow sports remain popular and quite insulated from economic ups and downs that don't seem to affect its affluent clientele...

Monday, September 16, 2013

How to define ourselves

A good question to ponder is how do we define ourselves. Do we measure and seize ourselves by what we love or by what we dislike, or a little bit of both.

If we define ourselves by what we love (things and such) and by the people we feel comfortable associating with, is this an indication of a decidedly optimistic outlook? Is the reverse disposition (letting our fears and dislike define who we are) more prone to pessimism and an indication of withdrawal from society?
Finally is a balanced view (likes and dislike balanced together) a more desirable approach? I've never really pondered that question and don't have a clue where I belong. Possibly in the latter (balanced) group? And you, where do you think you stand?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Park City Mayoral election

For a change in a long while (eight years!), we get to chose a new mayor, this November. I don't know much about the two candidates that have stepped up to challenge one another and a quick visit to their respective websites hasn't convinced me either, one way or the other. Their program is pretty much blend, and as I said to one of them, an average Park City dog couldn't disagree with them.

It would seem to me that in order to offer an interesting platform, both candidates should step out of their comfort zone, have the courage to tell us what they really believe, stand for and are willing to fight for. I believe that the Park City Municipal Corporation is a cushy place where revenues flow generously, where employees reign sovereign and dictate to us, the lowly taxpayers. A place where literally, the tail is wagging the dog.
This needs to be changed and should be item #1 on anyone's agenda seeking the Mayoral Office. Of course, there are many other issues that must be addressed.  Transportation and resort interconnectivity is one, another could be to tap into the collective knowledge and wisdom of Park City citizenry. It has never been done meaningfully before, as special cliques refuse to open up participation to some folks willing to contribute and that might make them look less than stellar.

Creative future community design might be another way to take this little mountain town ahead of its peer rather than continually catching up to them. This could be an interesting opportunity if the protagonists know how to seize it and moderate a true debate about what Park City needs and how it should pursue its future. We'll see...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Common sense: A parental legacy

School are created to teach certain forms of knowledge like reading, writing and arithmetic, while parents should be expected to teach the most essential skill of all: Common sense. This knowledge is generally gained through observation and absorption of some live example.

Parents often believe that school should teach everything and confuse scholastic teaching with basic, everyday life instruction, putting all these forms of learning in one single bag and wrongly believing that schools will provide their offspring with a useful blend of both; in reality, this won't happen.

The end result is that kids may learn great intellectual skills but will get woefully shortchanged in learning this all-important life skill that is good basic common sense.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Why are Evian American sales plunging?

Since the late 1990, Evian’s U.S. market share has been on a continual decline after selling at a price much higher than gasoline ever since it had been a marketing success, akin of selling refrigerator to the Eskimos.

What killed Evian's early success were the cola giants' (Coke and Pepsi) introduction of their own water brands and Evian's marketing chiefs inability to understand that selling bottled water in the U.S. is completely different from selling bottled water in Europe.

In Europe, consumers have been trained to look for natural spring water, whereas in the U.S. the demand is simply for purified water such as Perrier or Evian. Further, the U.S. consumer is indifferent to the types of bottled water and make purchase decisions based solely on price.

With its product being shipped from France, Evian ‘s average cost per case is about 80% higher than that of Aquafina and Dasani. Snob appeal is totally unable to bridge that huge price gap and this is why Evian water is no longer what it used to be on this side of the Atlantic.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Time to trade Sochi for Syria!

I've said it before and repeat it again. The most important thing in Putin's live, besides his billions and his bloated self-image are the Sochi Olympic Games. Put this all-important event in the balance against Syria and Putin will start back-tracking, align himself with the international community and the slaughter may cease. A true win-win solution, because the old KGB man is guaranteed to relent and the Games will go on as if nothing had happened!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Are you still certified?

My friend Chip Camillo, today a sales representative for Dynastar-Lange-Look, managed to unearth this certificate he received back in 1980 when I was the marketing manager for Look bindings. I didn't even remember I once was signing such documents and this makes for outstanding memorabilia.

The diploma was handed out to ski binding mechanics that attended a clinic given by the local rep, in that case a certain John Tomasini, aka “Father Guido Sarducci.” Today, John has moved from the Midwest to Steamboat Springs Colorado, no longer gives ski clinics, I don't such certificates either but still mount my own ski bindings, so not so much has changed!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Who's in charge of coloring this Fall?

Last year's Fall colors were absolutely spectacular while, so far, this season's pallet doesn't seem headed that way. The canyon oaks (Acer saccharum)which usually are first to set the tone appear to be turning into a washed out brown instead of their usual bright, crimson color.
If no one will step forward to take responsibility for this visual disaster, what's at fault? We consecutively had two similar years: Little snow, nice and warm summer and yet this September, colors are disappointing. Too much stress on trees? Quite possible; two dry, consecutive seasons might do it.

What to do? Fire Mother Nature? No, this isn't the time of year to upset her... Just marvel at last year's Fall's photos and pray for snow!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mountain-bike handlebar theories

Like for the rest of us, modern mountain bike design has evolved and so has the handlebar. Today, the front wheel is farther forward with a fork far less vertical, leaning more towards the rider.

This requires to bring the rider upper body forward to compensate, and designers accomplish this by spreading the handlebar wider. Not only this might be less than perfectly anatomical and comfortable, but it dangerously exposes the end of the handlebar to obstacles like trees that border single-trails. Another lousy design compromise? Definitely.

One of the “comfort” theories proposed, is that after measuring one's shoulders width, adding 4 to 6 inches to that measurement should determine the proper handlebar with. Another is to do push up and measure the distance between the two supporting hands; it pretty much leads to a similar result.
Before I take my hacksaw and cut, I'll test this solution today, before I cut tomorrow. Not such a bad idea!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

More mountain-bike testing...

I finally just realized why my new mountain-bike has been mean to me and has already thrown me in the dirt. It's not that it is faster – it is, not that it's not as nimble as my 26” wheel bike – it isn't. It is simply because its handlebar is so wide that it's catching trees or branches that stick out on the narrow, single trails I go to.

It happened to me the other day when I bit the dust and it happened again to me twice yesterday as I was riding for the first time a narrow, heavily wooded trail that we usually reserve for the weekend. That's right, the extra wide handlebar caught some trees or some vegetation and almost threw me down.

Compared to my former bike, the handlebar on this new bike is a good 2 inches wider, to 27.5”. That makes a huge difference where tight clearance is a factor. I did some quick and exhaustive research and determined that for my body-built, I only require a 23” width, so tomorrow, I'll happily cut 1 inch on either side and I will be back to normal, or at least to my older bike's width, something I learned to live with for 9 seasons.

In a next blog, I'll try to explain the ins and outs of handlebar width. In the meantime, hang on tight to your own and pay attention to where you're riding!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Time to slow down... a bit

There are times when it makes sense to balance passion and reason. Mountain-biking is a sport with inherent danger, and too often, I have taken falls which end up hurting, at least pretty badly. Falls do happen, and even at slow speed, unlike with skiing, they're never a pleasant option.

My last fall wasn't spectacular as always, but somehow managed to show, so with no further ado, I am now committed to ride down even more slowly so I can enjoy my bike much, much longer and, in a few many years, get a new one!

Friday, September 6, 2013

People who command respect

I'm not talking about celebrities of the arts, sports, politics or science. I'm talking about those that I truly admire for their attitude and their accomplishments day-in, day-out. The individuals that “deliver” the goods no matter what, that don't use excuses as a crutch, that regularly exceed expectations and are always smart enough to think twice before making outlandish promises.

It's also about what some folks accomplish in relation to their potential or their innate abilities; that's right, getting a maximum output off limited resources. They generally don't boast about their performance, are nice and stay humble. These are the one that deserve our respect; period.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The knife, the ax and the woodworking machine

You can do a lot of things with a knife, but it can be slow, tedious and frustrating. Tools aren't created equal and the smaller and simpler they are, they generally can't be jack of all trades!
Yesterday, I was observing my general contractor struggling on his (oversized) smart phone, looking for some email lost in some invisible sea of data and was thinking: “it's just a knife, perhaps of the Swiss-Army kind, but it's still a knife!”

There are tasks that can be perfectly accomplished with a smart phone (the Swiss-Army knife) the digital pad (the ax), but nothing still come close to the the computer (the combined woodworking machine) when it comes to crunching numbers, sorting things out and creating content; yes, you can text this basic truth to your friends!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

When running problems become riding pleasures

This summer hasn't been kind to my running: Shin-splint, muscle tears and now tendinitis on my left Achilles! This unpleasant situation has forced me to literally “shift gears” and ride my mountain-bike instead of running.
This is no punishment at all as I fully appreciate my early morning ride, when the sun is rising and nature is at its best. I'm so lucky to love mountain-biking as much as I love running!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Wow, a new mountain-bike!

I got my current mountain bike in 2005 and it has lasted me nine seasons. For a while I seriously thought this would be my last one. Funny how these machines lifespan match those of passports, yeah, every ten years...
The new one I just got today should, in all probability, last me another decade. Will there be a replacement one down the single-trail, come year 2023? We'll see, but I remain quite optimistic...

Monday, September 2, 2013

The art of shutting up

Last night was an informal block party in one of our neighborhood street celebrating the end of summer. We were invited and asked our son, daughter-in-law and grand-son to join in. The skies had been threatening all day, so few people showed up, but in spite of the limited number of participants, we all had a good time.

As we were chatting with everyone, I realized how people love to tell their own stories. They somehow have to come out, even if they sound trite or are of little interest to others. At the same time, I also realized how badly we want to tell our own things too, and what gives is the fact that we're perhaps more gracious, have done that before and chose to yield to others.

That's is good, because not only it keeps us humble but it also prevent us from talking about boring generalities and sometimes uttering the not-so-smart things we hear from others...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Wanna ride a $10,000 mountain-bike?

It's my doctor who started me thinking during my last physical. He said that each pound can make a significant difference in the way I feel when I'm climbing on my mountain-bike. I didn't think too much about it since, until recently when I began shopping for a new bike.

Depending on the available frame and components technology, a full-suspension mountain bike will range between 26 and 32 pound, which span over a whole 6 pound! The cost of taking down the overall weight of such a machine can be quite costly
and range from $2,000 all the way to $8,000 and even more, which means that – on average – each pound gained will set you back some $1000 on average. Reality is quite different, as past a certain threshold, each ounce gained can literally cost its weight in gold.

Now, you contrast this with shedding weight. If you're an average male rider weighing say, 170 lbs, how hard is it to shed 6 pound or less than 4% of your total body mass? Not that big a deal, and yet it could be worth that $6,000 difference.

The morale of today's story: Buy yourself a cheap, 32 pound mountain bike and make a conscious effort to use it twice as much as you had originally planned. Very soon, it will feel to you like a $10,000, 25-pounder!