Monday, June 30, 2014

Ups and downs in Mountain-biking

We love mountain biking, but we're picky. We don't use chairlifts to get to the top of the mountain and just ride downhill. It simply isn't fun.

We earn our descents by first climbing, we don't go on trails that are too steep, too rugged or too rocky and we keep our outings to around an hour.

This said, we love the workout we get, we muster the patience to climb at snail pace, we get a blast when we descend and we are blessed to be able to practice our favorite summer sport just half a mile away from home!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Starting over; a new veggie garden...

As a rather cold month June is coming to a close, we finally got ready to organize and start our new veggie garden.
Since it's a new garden, in a new place, we had to begin from scratch and we're now a good month behind compared to previous years, but experience has told us that it's never too late and can only hope that July will be “toasty” so that our beloved salad crop will grow fast, tender and tasty!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Projects are never what they seem to be...

A few days ago, my daughter sent me this pair of little sketches and they hit me right away. I think no matter who you are; a CEO, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a do-it-yourself handy guy, or a chef, when you plan something new, it's always simple and looks quite easy and linear at first.
Reality soon makes it look much more complicated, deviant and difficult, with lots of ups and down, peppered will all kinds of obstacles and setbacks. So what's the take-away? Pretty clear to me... Begin with the gnarly and tortured path in mind, build your plan around it, no less, and chances are that the end result will exceed your wildest dreams.

As the British writer Lee Child said it so well: “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”

Friday, June 27, 2014

A perfect neighborhood...

Twenty nine years and four houses later, we still live in the Park Meadows neighborhood. Sunny, facing the mountains, conveniently located to town and ideally situated for walking and biking, this area of Park City is really hard to beat. So hard, that it appears as it has become our final destination!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Aah! Summer concerts are back!

Last Wednesday was supposed to be Deer Valley's first outdoors concert of season. It was canceled because of snow and snowed out event only happen in Park City during summer; in winter there's never such a thing, even for the local schools. Snow is the economic fuel of the community!

So, last night was finally a chance for thousands of spectators to welcome summer and the return of its glorious concerts. The weather was absolutely perfect, not too cold, not too warm, the “usual suspects” (I mean the loyal audience) had returned for another season.

All the ones we could recognize were a good one year older but the enthusiasm seemed stronger than ever. It's true that Alicia Stockman and her band, Bonanza Town, were absolutely stunning. Thanks to them, we're successfully re-set into summer concert mode!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

File cabinets, hard-drives, cloud...

Some time ago, I was lamenting the disappearance of mini-cassettes, VHS tapes and even CDs. Today, I'm reporting the imminent death of the venerable file cabinet. Remember the days when we had lots of physical files, manila folders and the like to keep all of the information that we deemed useful to us.

Yesterday, I tried to give away, to no avail, these information dinosaurs to charity; they headed to the scrap metal bin instead. Well, in the 90s, all of that material has turned into PDFs and begun to sit in our disk drives, our company servers and our back-up hard-drives.

For a while, we liked to have our information in two places: inside the computer and inside our file cabinets, just like we liked to print everything, as we harbored suspicion towards computers.

Today, everything seems to be moving up to the “cloud.” Farewell large size file cabinets; another few years and you'll go the way rotary dial phones went not so long ago...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Olympic diet plan

Last night, as I was watching “Ready to fly”, a documentary about a female Park City Nordic jumper that was at the center of the fight to get women jumping in the Olympics, I was reminded that what's choking the current Olympics is the growing number of events, and this reminded me of a policy we follow in our home.

Since we have began to live in smaller houses with limited living space, we've enacted a rule against bloating that goes pretty much like this: If we want a new object, an existing one as to get out! On that basis, here is what we ought to go with managing the number of Olympics events:

1. Cut down on the number of Winter Olympics events, from 98 in Sochi, to 50 (see my recent blog). This might have to be done gradually to prevent a paralyzing revolution

2. I there's pressure to add a new event, get rid of an existing one.

3. Apply the same treatment for the Summer Games

4. Enjoy a simpler program that is much easier to understand and follow!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer lilac

Last night, after spending the afternoon organizing my shop in our house, we went on a walk around our neighborhood and pushed all the way to the Park City cemetery which borders Bonanza drive and is lined with lilac trees on the entire 525 yard stretch.
What surprised us was that a third of the bushes were still in bloom on that second day of summer! We just loved this seasonal kirk; it's ever to late for these wonderful blossoms and their distinctive fragrance!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Bear hunting with my grandson...

Yesterday, was hunting day with Finn and we went for some really big game. We were specifically looking for huge grizzly bears and embarked upon the Armstrong Trail in Park City (you know the one that make your arms really strong).

By keeping a watchful eye on these formidable predators, we save the lives of at least 10 mountain bikers and learned an invaluable lesson: If you ever go with a friend in the back-country, and they are plenty of mean bears around, make sure you buddy doesn't run as fast as you do!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Vail vs. Cumming (the saga)

As the local drama intensifies, I'd like to say that neither Vail, nor Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) have the good of the community in mind. They only care about their revenue; we're a capitalistic country after all!

Now keeping that so-important love-of-money factor in mind, what will really determine the outcome of that tempest in a tea-pot is what is more lucrative to Cumming and PCMR. Will it be a scorched-earth resolution by the losing party or its negotiating a juicy deal with Vail Resort?

I guarantee the later will prevail. Cash has no smell and always yields to feelings or passion; it's the simple and holiest expression of authentic greed!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Close call...

Over my relatively long life, I have hit 3 deer with my car, always killing the animal and badly damaging the vehicle. All of these encounters happened either at dusk or at night. I have also had my share of “near-misses” but always in the dark.

This was until yesterday afternoon, as I was driving from Silver Lake village in Deer Valley, down the Mine Road, at about 2:30 pm, on a beautiful, sunny day, that I would have a full, day-light experience of meeting yet another wild animal on the road. A young deer flew down the embankment and brushed off my hood as it ran across the road.

I did not have time to swerve, hit the brakes or do anything; I just watched the scene unfold in slow-mo, as it always happens in an accident. I could only consider myself – and the deer – so lucky!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Miracle cure

Mid-March, as we were cleaning up our former home to make it ready for its new owners, I accidentally flipped one of our huge and heavy garbage containers over my left forearm.

The impact was such that it inflamed one of my nerves and pretty soon, I began to suffer from acute wrist pains when I was typing on my compute or pain in the forearm when I would attempt to lift something.

What was strange was that the pain moved from my shoulder to the wrist depending on the particular motions.

I went to see my doctor on two occasions and while he prescribed anti-inflammatory medicine, exercise and weights, I didn't do anything of that.

Perhaps because he had also told me that the pain would eventually go away as it appeared, and that probably the only thing I heard, and boy, was he right, three month later it gradually vanished. No drugs and no work; my favorite cure!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Japanese skiing: A harbinger of things to come?

Not so long ago, Japan was the number one ski market in the world, in terms of equipment sold with some 2.5 million pairs of skis sold in 1992.

Today, it's crawling at about one-fifth of that. While less so than Japan, the sales of ski equipment worldwide have also dipped these past 20 years, but skier-days, a measure of ski resort visitation, has remained pretty constant in North America and in the European Alps.

No so in Japan, where participation that was in the 100 million range in 1992 has kept on dipping by about one-third in recent years, from 19 to about 13 million (the USA is around 56 million). Ski industry analysts attribute this decline to several factors such as a the county's continued economic stagnation, its aging population, a lack of good amenities at resorts and the national addiction to video games via mobile phones and computers that is cannibalizing the disposable income that normally would go to pay for skiing.

According to a New York Times article “Teenagers and young adults often spend $200 a month for hand-held games, messaging, news services and ring tones...” The obvious question might be: could this also happen in North America or in the Alps?”

Quite likely if the industry doesn't pay sufficiently attention to the market forces that compete against snow sports and if resorts keep on becoming both too complacent and expensive!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

When economists try to explain low inflation...

In most developed countries, inflation remains quite low, and sometimes flips downright into deflation, this, in spite of an increasing money supply.

With that in mind, economists are hard-pressed to explain this strange phenomenon and I have yet to hear one of them making any convincing sense in attempting to explain this; most of them lay this bizarre situation on the account of “anemic growth.”

My view differs in that we have a glut of everything. From exacerbated global competition to excess manufacturing capacity all the way to a gross oversupply of labor that is only matched by productivity gains that keep on requiring less hands and minds.

Too much of everything is choking the world, creating what seems to be a permanent state of economic indigestion!

Monday, June 16, 2014

The original Pre marketing strategy...

A few days ago, I found this ad for Pre skis, published in the Fall of 1991. The approach was spot on. That was just when it was transferred from Chuck Ferries' capable hand to those of Kip Pitou.

From the get go, the ski was created to serve a niche market, that of skiers who loved to ski and didn't want to ski, like the masses, on Rossignols or Atomics.

The distribution was for them most part clean and limited, and with the marketing monies Pitou was given, the brand could have survived nicely, if not thrived, especially in view of today's micro-segmented market.

This wasn't to be however, and by adopting an old-style and dysfunctional approach to distribution that had already failed for Kästle skis, the brand was doomed fairly quickly.

Twenty years ago, in May of 1994, when they realized it, K2's Rodstein, Petrick and Pitou agreed to pull the plug on Pre, but conveniently forgot to tell me about it; the rest is another lesson in the dire consequences of bad Karma...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Guessing what to plant?

Tomorrow, I must give my landscape contractor a list of bushes that we'd like to see grow around our home. I hate to do this; it's a job that is always tedious, shrouded with uncertainty and questions.

We shouldn't get to many shrubs but not to few, have enough diversity,
colors, flowers and, hopefully, a high survival rate! So many questions, so many choices and, as always, not enough time...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Exporting democracy to Arab Countries...

This now should read like selling freezers to the Eskimos, especially after what's going on today in Iraq. After the misguided invasion of Sadam's Kingdom in 2003, we just destroyed the (tyrannical) cement that was holding that three-piece country together and, today, it's finally self-fragmenting as I predicted it would.

Just like Yugoslavia breaking into pieces, we'll see very soon at least a separate Kurdish entity and an Arab state, unless we see the entire region shatters into many more nations, tribes or sectarian factions.

So, should we intervene? Certainly not and if we ever sent “boots on the ground”, it should be the “dirty quintet”: Dick Cheney, George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice and Tony Blair!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Saving on running shoes?

We see something new every day. Today, as I was wrapping up my morning run, I ran into a young man, running barefoot. I had never seen this before.
He was on the asphalt road as I was, and while I had seen people running with finger-shoes, that are already close to wearing nothing, this athletic looking runner was in direct skin-to-road contact.

I know that barefoot running is part of a wide movement called "natural running" inspired by the Tarahuma folks in Mexico, and that it became fashionable in the last decades, but it's not quite for me. I still like to first have the “rubber meet the road”!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Learning by going out...

Learning has always been and always will be a continuous process. Every time we go out, for a walk, running some errands or just in front of the house staring at the mountains, the birds or the trees, we learn something.

From the smallest detail we see, to the cars that drive by, but most importantly, from the people we talk to, we keep on gathering tidbits of information or learning nuggets of news that will make our day.

We don't need to travel 6,000 miles away. Just poking our head outside of the comfort of our home daily will teach us an incredible amount of knowledge. We need to go out and engage people more often. This is part of our required, continuing education curriculum!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

When architects re-invent the wheel

The contemporary look is back in Park City's new homes and the alpine design on the way out. As always, architects,who seem to hit the creative block, have this inbred need to re-invent the wheel and throw the baby and the hot-water out of the window.

Gone are sloped roofs that drain well and overhang that protect from the summer sun. In are flat roofs that puddle up before they leak, and huge windows that work wonders to fry-up their occupants and rev up the air-conditioning system.

This doesn't prevent the same architects of torturing their new-found designs into being “environmentally sound”, even though I have my doubt about that quality, and to churn out designs that have nothing timeless about them and will age as quickly as their previous incarnations concocted in the 70s. The more (bad) things change, the more they stay the same!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Goodbye cassettes, diskettes, CDs..

. A large move is the perfect opportunity to cleanse a home inventory, bring it up to date or up to the ages and in synch with modernity.

Yesterday, I began to clean up my office and ran across an impressive number of old and never-used cassettes, video tapes and other VHS (rember these). Same thing with 3.5” diskettes and thank god, I found no floppy disks anymore (those went away 12 years ago following a penultimate move).

Multimedia, back-up and software CD had to go too! What's next? Music CDs of course, that are still hanging in my home by the skin of their teeth. At that rate, I wonder if I might not be... next!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Can happiness be dialed up and down?

Over the weekend, I watched a few films that have made me think about the quantitative dimension of happiness. This has left me with one fundamental question.

Is happiness a solid value without gradient? In other words, can we only be 25% happy or an almost full 93% unhappy? On the opposite end, is there only 100% happiness and 100% unhappiness and nothing in between?

I think the later is true. It's like an on or off switch with nothing in between. Either you're happy or you're not. Realizing this makes me happy!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Why (many) ski resort residents act crazy?

Note that I haven't quite said “are crazy.” This is an observation that I've begun to make as we settled less than three months ago, into our new neigborhood that is just 700 yards away from our old house.

We found a lot of weird folks living near us and I must say that, near our previous home, there were some too, albeit slightly less. Now, do you care to hear my theory behind this?

Pretty simple. Many people who live in desirable areas of ski reorts are well to do, have everything and often believe that the more they can show in terms of house, car, recreational toys and lifestyle, the smarter and the happier they are.

By adopting that way of thinking, they suddenly reach the deep end of the insanity pool and, by normal sandards, simply act crazy. Avoiding that destiny can easily be achieved by constantly remembering where we're coming from, who we really are, and where we're headed at the end of this earthly sojourn.

Let's keep it that way!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Can French ski racing return on top?

Recently a French friend of mine told me he was writing a story about the (short-lived) past glory of the French ski team and how it might eventually resurface based on the fact that France has consistently been among the top ski country in the world in terms of annual ski visits and should hold the largest and most impressive reservoir of ski talent, when compared to say, Austria.
My quick analysis is that the Austria ski machine is a highly disciplined one and is probably sticking to a ski racer production process that generates results and is consistently unmatched by its Alpine counterparts.

Austria is the Toyota of ski racing. France's success was more like a creative accident, a flash in the pan that happened because of Honoré Bonnet's unorthodox and maverick leadership style at a time when other ski federation programs were not that sophisticated.

Could that be recreated? It's quite unlikely, because the French Ski Federation has become more ossified, bureaucratic and far less innovative. It's reacting more like General Motors and internal politics remain the largest obstacle to change and evolution, with members that prioritize individualism over collaboration, unlike the Toyota model that works hand-in-hand with a highly disciplined work force.

That's my short and easy take.

Friday, June 6, 2014

My favorite envelope opener

Sometime in May of 1964, just over 50 years ago, my sister and brother spent some time in Brussels visiting family friends and attending to other business.

When they returned home, they brought me a memento of their trip in the form of a solid brass letter-opener, adorned with the Manneken Pis, a famous small bronze sculpture found in Brussels and featuring a naked little boy urinating into a fountain's basin.
This piece of memorabilia crossed an ocean, survived more than 12 moves and, half a century later, is still in my possession, which is why I cherish it so much. Whenever I use it, this small item reminds me of my two siblings, even though mail-opening is becoming a rare activity these days...

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Catching up?

For the first time since the spring of 2013, I'm finally getting the feeling that I'm catching up with my work and not running like a chicken with its head cut off.

This building project – although not quite completed – has truly taken its toll on me and if it hasn't produced undue stress, it has brought me much more work and activities that I could comfortably handle.

While I still believe that it's good to be stretched, being brought close to stress isn't something I want anymore in my life. Time for some smooth cruising!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Taking the time to do it right

Of all the DIY household projects I've ever undertaken, my pet-peeve is hanging curtains. Window coverings are generally heavy, are operated frequently and a solid anchoring of the rod supporting the whole system becomes crucial. Problem is that in most houses, these elements need to be directly attached into the drywall as there's no studs where they can be placed, and this often requires a sturdy anchoring...

Without getting into the most minute details, suffice to say that it took some thorough thinking, never-ending planning, getting all the right tools to do a good job and finally – but certainly not least – taking all of my time, proceeding very prudently and thoughtfully, in order to accomplish the job. Once more, 90% worth of preparation vs. 10% of execution!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

End of life goal?

This is an interesting one. If you'd ask me, mine would be to die... peacefully, end of discussion. That's it. I do not have such a thing as an end of life goal going in crescendo, because it never happens this way.

I've always seen my presence here and now, more as a journey than a destination. So each day that passes is a true adventure in which I focus all my might in doing the very best I can with the resources I have. I'm certainly aware of the fact that I may have to settle for less as time goes by, but regardless I'll always strive to do my utmost.

All along, I look forward to remain in the best mental and physical shape I possibly can muster, and at the end of the road, I'll be looking forward to a peaceful rest and to being recycled. This is clear, simple and quite healthy.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Weak links in the French ski instructor's training

In the early 70s, a French ski instructor had to know the nuts and bolts of skiing and be quite good at it. In particular, it was expected from a would-be instructor to be proficient in slalom and able to “show ease” in a steep, crappy snow, free descent. These were the job's gatekeepers.

What wasn't in the picture however, were basic and essential customer service considerations. The six and four week long courses that took place at the ENSA in Chamonix, after a young “moniteur de ski” cleared the first exam called “Capacité d'enseigner le ski” (Ability to teach skiing) were solely about teaching French ski technique.

Nowhere to be found in the curriculum were personal presentation, empathy, student's personal goals, fears or aspiration. There was nothing either in terms of putting oneself in the student's shoes (or ski boots) and nothing either about self-promotion (how to develop return-customers, how to up-sell or ask students to tell and refer their friends, etc.) 
In retrospective, the ENSA training, while extensive on the technical side, was woefully lacking in terms of basic human psychology and salesmanship. How did instructors do with that lack of knowledge (remember, two-third of them had not even completed high-school)? Simple, it was trial and error and ability or lack thereof to learn from experience.

I personally chose the hard-way. Working long hours and exhausting myself on the job, teaching boringly instead of just showing clients a good time. Well, ski and learn!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

2022 Winter Olympics in Zimbabwe?

Putin showed the world how to use the Sochi Olympic Games to whitewash Russia and make it look like a civilized and proud nation, just as China did before.

You just do what it takes, take land away from local people and flood the process with never-seen-before pageantry plus pour obscene amounts of money into the process, and... voila! Your country and politics are cleansed by the Oympic Detergent and following that, you have Carte Blanche to invade Ukraine by proxy.

Today's after the defection of democracies like Sweden and Poland and the vacilation of Norway as well as Ukraine, there's only contemporary tyrannies like China and Kazakhstan in the running. Okay, I've made clear that the motive behind an Olympic candidacy have got to be suspect.

So what's next? Perhaps Zimbabwe or North Korea might step in, unless Salt Lake City that has indicated some interest in picking up the pieces - if called upon - could once more use the IOC expensive washing machine to make its weird local culture look a bit more acceptable to the rest of the world...