Saturday, May 31, 2014

When randomness creates art...

Yesterday, as I was observing the landscape workers laying big rocks into the dirty “war-zone” our backyard still looks like, I was wondering “will it look good? Should I intervene, micro-manage the process and tell them where and how I'd like these big boulders to be placed?”

I relented and decided to let these guys, who do this work for a living, decide in a mixture of randomness and inspiration.
The offshoot wasn't too bad. While it wasn't quite as perfect as we would have liked, it was pretty close and after doing some tweaking here and there, we may have something we like, simply because it wasn't over-staged, also because it was the product of someone's inspiration in a creative process that wasn't highjacked by someone's else.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Stand up... office work!

I finally got it set up and working for me. I'm now standing up at my computer instead of sitting down. This should be much better for my back plus it should keep me much more alert (I can use that...)

I'll let you know how this work, but after one day, I like it already. Time will tell and I'll share the results with you...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sports that pay handsomely...

According to Forbes Magazine, that regularly publishes the world's 100 highest-paid athletes, those that seem to make the most money these days are boxers. These athlete aren't afraid by traumatic brain injuries!

The rankings include earnings and endorsements and Floyd Mayweather tops the 2014 Forbes list and claims total earnings at $85 million. Golfer Tiger Woods is just shy of $60 million, followed by Lebron James (basket ball) and Roger Federer at about $59 million each. The female that earns the most is Maria Sharapova with $28 million.

Where does that leave winter athletes ? Mostly in the relative poor-house and certainly not anywhere on that top 100 list. While exact figures are hard to find, snowboarder Shawn White still made $8 million while Lindsey Vonn who peaked at $6 millions a few years ago is followed by Ted Ligety at about $3 and just-retired Germany's Maria Höfl-Riesch and Bode Miller still managed to make $1 million each.

So if you need quick money and are still vacillating between snow sports and boxing, don't hesitate anymore, pick the later!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Polyglot as a “major”...

Forty years ago, I graduated after a second stint in Tübingen, Germany, as a German language student. This was the last piece of the puzzle that I thought I needed to postulate for a “real job” in the ski industry.

I could speak English alright, wiggle my way with a bit of Italian, and German was to be the cherry on the cake. I needed year-round employment so badly and didn't want to be a retailer or a restauranteur. Further, I had hit some kind of an opaque, glass-ceiling at the Avoriaz ski-school.
In retrospect, that language gamble was the right thing to do at that particular moment in time, and it did pay off handsomely...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The luxury of financial independence...

In a recent interview in L'Équipe Magazine, Killy was asked if his promotional work in America in the late 60s – early 70s wasn't too stressful.

He responded: “I didn't think it would be as tough. But I new that my work would bring me great financial ease that would unlock my life. And get me my freedom back. I never liked money for money's sake. Just for the freedom it would buy me. All my life has been built upon that reality, the freedom to say yes or no.”

Of course, we all have bosses and those can take a wide variety of forms, but not being too dependent on money certainly gives us wings. Richness is a relative notion that – past a certain threshold – has little to do with specific amounts; it's more conditioned by personal lifestyle, but being free from “owing” frees us from a huge burden. Something worth working towards...

Monday, May 26, 2014

End of skiing, start of mountain-biking!

Today is Snowbird closing day, but the temperature was too warm, so I traded what could have been my last day of skiing for my first day out on a mountain-bike.

Every year, that day is very special and if I always sense an ever so slight tinge of apprehension when I first get on skis in November, I am really tentative and uncertain on my first day out on “fat tires.”

I must say that if 95% of ski fall are benign, the reverse holds true on a mountain-bike, but all went well, I got my riding back and I'm now looking forward to the next outing. As the late Pete Seeger sang so well in “Turn, turn, turn”, to everything there's a season. Now it's time for mountain-biking...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Judging other people...

We should always think a little bit more when we happen to be judging others. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and as long as they don't hurt others, that should not matter...

Yet, there are times when I feel that I'm a bit too hard on some folks and should begin instead to moderate my tone or perhaps be less personal in the way I formulate my feelings. In other words, offer my opinion, but remain civil and never label anyone. Ouch! That sounds easy but still seems so hard to do...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Vail vs. Cumming (the end, for now)

Come to think about it, that saga is like a bad divorce. There's lots of ego, passion, hatred and conflicting feelings involved. It is a situation with “mutual assured destruction” in sight.

One that make the contenders much poorer, bitter and the rest. A true lose-lose proposition. Perhaps a marriage counselor who knows that sad business should handle that case for everyone's best interest and assets preservation?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Vail vs. Cumming (continued...)

One of my friends is taking me to task about my opinion on John Cumming, owner of Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) and that of his dad. Well, I just would like to say that John is the sole responsible for starting the food fight. His organization screwed up by missing a key date and then, Cumming took the route bullies take by accusing the other party for PCMR's misfortune.
The best defense is offense, approach. He took his case to the community, but it quickly unraveled when it became public knowledge that PCMR measly yearly rent was only $155,000! That was the end. From there the public misinformation continued and the case made by Cumming became more and more far-fetched as time went on.

Based on that, one could have concluded that John Cumming was plain stupid. I thought he wasn't and instead believed that malevolence prevailed. I'm sure Rob Katz is no angel either, but all along he's been able to state Vail's case with a logic and clarity that the PCMR chief could never match.

Ian Cumming is more a mystery to me and his latest move to purchase Snowbird just seem out of order in an already confused collection of weird moves...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Vail vs. Cumming: 1-0

Yesterday a judge decided that Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) wasn't right in their battle against Vail. Without repeating what the press and other pundits has been saying about this endless soap opera, here's my take:

The judge was right and John Cumming, dead wrong. However, Mr. Cumming is not just into some irrational denial; he's very rich, he's a bully, he's an arrogant brat and he's ready to apply a scorched-earth policy and won't be removed that easily.
So he appeals the decision to gain some time and might be able to operate PCMR for another winter season, at least. The sole ray of hope and rationality in that insane story is that father, Ian, who has expressed his disapproval by purchasing Snowbird under his own name, not that of Pwdr Corp, will bring his feisty son to reason and may negotiate the best possible deal he can with Vail.

This said, expect many more months of white-knuckle driving by Mr. Katz, Vail CEO, and all along, an uncertain outcome because the bad guys are not just mean, they're both rich and irrational.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An conflicted relationship

Recently, a former boss and business partner of mine had a birthday and I was reminiscing our relationship and its ups and downs. This man offered me a opening to come to the United States and get a job here. He didn't give me a job but just facilitated the process with my employer, at the time, and made my easy entry into the United States possible.

Then, there was a catch, as this individual was expecting unflinching loyalty from the folks he ever helped, and this in spite of his manipulative and not always over-board business practices. To stay in the good grace of that person, you needed to flatter, even worship him.

I wasn't ready for that and hence came the split. Some might think I was a bit too smart for him and his deceiving tactics, and that's probably true. At any rate, our relationship grew sour as time went on and as I could clearly see and anticipate his maneuvers. Today it's over and I feel neutral about it, which in matters of past relationships is very, very good.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Down jacket and tennis balls

My wife loves her down jacket, so when it came time to cleaning it at the end of the winter season, she was filled with apprehension. She had heard of some trick to make the job possible - not lethal - for the garment, but didn't remember exactly what it was when, with tremendous anxiety, she dropped the garment into the washing machine.

At the end of the cycle, she pulled the jacket out: It looked just like a formless, downed, dead cat. Visibly, the jacket was ruined. I searched on the web and found that by tumble-drying the parka along with a few tennis balls or a pair of clean sneakers, it would resurrect.

This was precisely what my wife was told as she remembered the magic trick. That's what she did and the jacket returned to its prior, fluffy nature. Really hard to believe!

Monday, May 19, 2014

The real price of wisdom

I always remember and have always loved the expression: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” That's right, there's no free-lunch! In recent time, as education concerns continue to be drifting away from me, I realize that the acquisition of wisdom, what most of us think is an old age perk, follows pretty much the same rule.

It comes through continued trials and errors and the more one is willing to expose their person to the process, the more wisdom will be gained. So just in case you thought this perk was an automatic, old-age benefit, you must realize that it still has to be earned. Let's keep working for a whole lot of it!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

It's always all in the preparation!

Next time you have a project that's dear to your heart, plan it well. Spend all the time you can to study it, run it under a vast variety of conditions and configurations.

Let it sit for a while. Discuss it with other people involved. Listen to their feedback, implement their good idea and also make sure to check out their weirdest ones including your very own.

Always be wary but never let doubt invade your thoughts, maintain a very positive and proactive outlook. Test your project, if needed fine tune it further and when it feels good, give it go.

Just like any paint job; 95% is in the preparation, the remainder is good execution!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Crappy May snow

Skiing in May can be heaven or can be hell.

I went skiing yesterday and it was both. It's true that no ski days are always perfectly the same, but yesterday, up in nearby Snowbird, I made some great turns while, at times, the experience was dreadful as my skis wouldn't turn, I had to “help” them many times, and my knee and ankles were always ahead of my boards which ended up being quite tiresome.

The temperature was just too warm and the foot of snow that fell last Sunday didn't help, providing me, at times, with some of the very worst snow I ever skied in. I still managed to log 27,500 vertical feet in 3 hours. This was day 87 in a dismal season. Well, there's always next weekend that will be closing time at the “Bird!”

Friday, May 16, 2014

Pollution: The Hit Parade

As a follow up to yesterday's blog, here are some stats: You don't want to live in Pakistan or in Afghanistan; these are worst countries in terms of pollution. As you might have guessed, Egypt, India or China aren't as bad, but are still terrible.

You'd want to like in Europe, US and Canada or Australia and New Zealand, not to mention Iceland. If you look at Cities the worst is Peshwar in Pakistant with reading of 540 (PM10) and 111 (PM 2.5). Dehli is 286/153, Cairo135/75, Mexico City 93/25 and Tel Aviv 67/23.

Among the best places to live: Jackson Hole, Wyoming 11/6. As for Annecy, France 32/25, eat your heart out; you're a tiny bit better than Los Angeles 33/20.

There's just one caveat I must mention with that WHO study; the numbers apply to year round levels. Winter season, in most of these places is a totally different and uglier story!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Most polluted city in France?

I read today in my hometown newspaper in France that the city of Annecy (an hour away from where I was born) was the second, most polluted French city. This immediately made me think, how is that measured and what is the number one city and the last one on the list, showing clearly that some newspapers and their journalists are pathetic when it comes to convey information you can use.

The answer to my first question is that in that global study, from the Word Health Organization (WHO), is measuring particle Pollution in PM10 (solid droplets of less than 10 micrometers in diameter) and PM2.5 (yes, less than 2.5 micrometers!). These buggers are so small that they can get into your lungs and cause some serious health problems.

Oh, by the way, the most polluted French City is Marseilles in the South of France. Tomorrow, I'll dig a bit more into that survey...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Is Obama a liar too?

I thought Cheney and Bush were both bad news and, by comparison, Obama was a breath of fresh air. Wrong! At least that's what I learned after watching Frontline's “United States of Secrets” last night on PBS.

Another take-away is that Edward Snowden is more a hero than a villain and so are all federal employees who were harassed even though they did not expose any classified information. The next president should pardon all of the above individuals and Congress should introduce a bill to make them whole for everything they might have lost in the process.

A “Must Watch” piece!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Growing older in a Japanese ski town

Unless you live under a big rock, you know that Nagano was home to the 1998 Winter Olympics. What makes that ski town even more special is that women who live there can expect to live an average of 87.2 years, while men can rack up 80.9 years compared respectively with 82.2 and 78.8 years in Utah and 80.2 and 85.9 in Haute Savoie.

The lifestyle in Nagano, also produces the lowest per capita medical costs in Japan. At first glance, Nagano would seem an unlikely place for setting such a record. Tucked in the mountains at about 800 m (2600 ft) elevation, its winter season is both long and harsh. In addition it doesn't have the benefits of the seafood that makes up much of the national diet.

Instead, it seems that tsukemono. or pickled vegetables with high salt contents is responsible for the record age. So, now move to the mountains, alter your diet and you'll have all the elements needed to beat these numbers. Oh, by the way, don't forget to ski!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Creating the strategy

When you want to achieve something very challenging you start by investing some time thinking. You take the situation and stretch it in all possible directions. Good and bad, hard and easy, probable and far-fetched.

Then you look at it under all angles and you start seeing what might work best for the goal you've set. Depending on the goal, coming up with a good, surefire strategy won't be easy and what's even more difficult with require an adaptive flexibility.

That's right, many simultaneous moving parts create a need to stay alert, pay attention and adapt all the time.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Cold shower

Just yesterday, when we left Washington, DC, it felt like the beginning of summer, hot and muggy, as we've always known it when we used to live on the East Coast. Five hours later when we landed in Salt Lake City it felt more like late winter than mid-May.
This morning, as a reminder that we didn't dream the day before, the mountain was painted in white and we were back in winter. This should only last one day, as tomorrow the snow is supposed to turn to rain. We'll see... In the meantime, Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

On to 100,000 miles!

Today, my daughter took us to the airport in a car that I used to drive before I passed it on to her. Just half-way on the short trip, its odomerter passed the 100,000 mile mark.

I've never paid attention or been able to witness that kind of “changing of the guard” and watched a full row of “9s” turn into an even bigger row of “0s” in just one fleeting moment.

When that happened, I thought that I might have experienced that situation before, but after giving it some thought, this was the very first time.

For one thing, ever since I got my driver's license, I drove four cars in Europe with odometers that measured distances in kilometers, and those wouldn't qualify for that contest even though none of them ever exceeded the 62,000 miles (100,000 km) required.

So that left me with automobiles driven in America and I couldn't think of any of the fifteen different vehicles I had the chance to drive ever since I've lived on this side of the Atlantic, that I had pushed beyond the magic 100,000 mile mark while I was either behind the wheel or sitting as a passenger.

A true milestone, pun intended!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Johnny Hallyday's 2014 American Tour

If you don't know who Johnny is, he's the quintessential French rocker and we just saw him last night, live in concert, part of his first American tour, also a first chance for me to attend a concert by the singer I loved to hear when I was a teenager, and this ended up being quite a unique experience.

The man is close to 71 and uses deafening sounds levels to mask his failing voice, stage smoke and woefully inadequate lighting to hide his deteriorating face and was helped by a mostly French crowd that cheered him on its feet during what must have been a grueling performance.

I give Mr. Hallyday a “A” for trying hard, but I wasn't enthralled by the overall quality of his show and think he should retire sooner than later. Yet, quitting is extremely hard to do when you get money for performing and when a room packed with more than a thousand people screams its approval.

For me, seeing the man in concert is like facing the pyramids of Egypt. Once will suffice.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

How free is your country's press?

Following a recent visit at the Washington, DC Newseum, I was struck by a display showing freedom of press through the entire world.

As I looked more closely at the latest 2013 compilation by Reporters without Borders, I realized that, even within the so-called “developed nations”, there was some dismal performance and don't even expect to see countries like the USA or France, that trumpet their exemplary “freedom”, to be on the top of the heap.

In fact the best places for the free press are in Finland (1st), the Netherlands and Norway, while the worst spots are in Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea (last one or 179th).

Where does this leave the United States and France? Respectively in 32nd and 37th spots. Wow! That's what I'd call room for improvement...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Vietnam Memorial

War Memorials in Washington, DC are generally grandiose and seem to exalt the nobility of war at the expense of all the suffering that goes with it, except perhaps the Vietnam War Memorial and its almost subterranean aspect along with the strange feeling that seem to emanate from its natural cove.

Strange, because it shows a list of almost 60,000 names that stand for real individuals who paid the ultimate price for a war many of them didn't want in their lives. Of course, this place takes a special meaning for baby-boomers that are now embroiled with their idealistic views of yesteryear and, in most cases, their much more conservative, even stiffer posture today.

Then like a shadow hanging over that heavy list of names, there's another one that can't be seen and happens to dwarf all these names because it's about one million strong...

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why hindsight is both easy and unfair!

Today, as we were reminiscing my years with Look bindings, I tried to explain how the French ski binding manufacturer went down in flames, by what I generally thought were fault of some, but after digging deeper into that story, this might turn out to have been no one's real fault...

That's right, who could have predicted that Salomon would be so good at what it did, that a few dry winter seasons would make business terribly difficult and that the ailing company might have to deleverage earlier on in order to stay healthy in the long run.

Sure mistakes were made, wrong people were hired and corrective measures came too little, too late, but hindsight isn't always 20/20 vision, it's often an easy cope-out! Yes, we always should keep in mind two other key components called luck and timing. Good and bad or right and wrong, these two fellows can make a world of of difference and wreck havoc on the best plans. Something to always remember!

Monday, May 5, 2014

The non-urban boy...

I'm not sure I would have liked to live in a city, big or small. Yeah, I'm just a country boy and happy to belong to the sticks. I get my culture from things that grow off the ground and at least keep breathing some decent air.

Most importantly though, the things love most are right in my backyard, even though I might not use them that often it's extremely comforting that I could if I just wood. That's my rationale for being a rural character and to me the city life is like the beach.

Between a few days to a week per year are plenty; when you figure it out, it still represents around 2% of my time. Not so bad!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

How could I have done that?

Not so long ago, there were no computers, cell phones or GPS, and often, we're hearing ourselves saying: “How could I have done this before the advent of spreadsheets, mobile communications or satellite Geo-location?”
Just recently, as I was sitting on a four-hour plane ride, I was thinking to myself: “How could have done this for so many years?” Traveling the world over, crisscrossing America and somehow, enjoying it.

Now it's much different. I seem totally cured of my wanderlust addiction, have lost that joy of traveling and am enjoying staying home. I still do enjoy a long road trip, now and then, but jet-fuel scented adventures no longer attracts me as it still did a decade ago.

The reality is that we change and what made us tick years ago is now a drag, but there's always something new that will attract my curiosity. So as everything changes, there's still no room for boredom!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Complicated projects

Every now and then, we come face-to-face with situations that are complicated and solutions challenging to implement. We suddenly realize that their implementation will take more preparation, more work and more thinking than we first envisioned.

Instead of making the situation frustrating, it makes it highly interesting and an opportunity to learn and develop something new and much bigger than what we had first thought the task would be.

That's what turns a chore or an unpleasant work into a prized, fascinating project!

Friday, May 2, 2014

The quest for a positive life

Most of us dream to live a positive life, yet we're constantly assailed by a storm of terrible ideas, poor experiences, biting setbacks, not to mention unpleasant people. How do we resist all that nefarious tide and keep on marching forward?

It simply demands more juice, endless stamina and a strong determination. It takes to constantly remind ourselves of staying locked-in towards the goal we've chosen for ourselves. It requires just a tiny bit of extra perseverance to prevail and make us exceptional. Let's keep at it!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Montriond – Park City

As May comes around, it reminds me that as of this year, I've spent an equal amount of time in Montriond, my French alpine hometown and Park City, my new mountain abode.
The other eight years have been spent near New York City and that relatively short exile, off my beloved mountains, has made me even more appreciative of that unique and irreplaceable environment.

I can only look forward to living there for many more great years!