Thursday, July 31, 2014

What it takes to be competitive

Whether you want to be competitive in sports, school, business, social circles or just against yourself, your advantage will seldom have to be measured in spectacularly, large increments. Most of the time, a hair or even a fraction thereof will suffice.

Even if it's an itsy-bitsy, tiny bit at a time, it also has to be consistent. You must stay alert, be permanently on the look-out for challenge and never forget to act on it. With these simple precepts in mind, competitiveness isn't an occasional activity, but a permanent state of mind...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What's really hard for me... to keep my desk and office table clean. Junk and papers seem to love to congregate on their surface and I let them. This continually drives my wife crazy, but what drives me even crazier is attempting to make it tidy.

I find that process to be both inhumane and exhausting. I can only take it to certain point until I hit a wall and must stop. Then, I console myself by muttering “live is much too short to work like hell in order to just have a clean desk...”
So what you see today is the best it ever will be.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My solution to the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock

It's about time I share my solution with the rest of the world. Immediately cancel the Zionist theocracy, re-open up the gates of Palestine to the 6 million displaced diaspora, let them all spread through what's known today as Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

Shake the mixture thoroughly, remove all nukes, slingshots and AK-47, and have them figure out how to function in peace together. Without the usual assholes called Netanyahu and Hamas, I bet you that Jews and Arabs will imagine quickly how to co-exist and prosper. The dysfunctional, ill-thought, two-state solution will never work.

Welcome to the the one-state, Semitic melting pot and this time, leave them alone for good!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Stranded in America?

As a mature person, I typically read obituaries because they begin to involve my peer group. I do it mostly on my French hometown newspaper, because in this era of cheap phone calls and free email, no one, that I know over there, would have the decency or the common sense of letting me know. I end up being well informed, but it's just because I make the super-natural effort of digging it out.

So, yesterday, I was stopped in my thoughts when I read that Marie-Jo, Jean-Claude Page's wife, a friend of mine, had passed at the age of 65 two days earlier. No one had bothered to let me know and the ones who might even have thought about it, probably shrugged it off, thinking or saying: “Why bother, this guy will know it before us, he's got internet...”

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Moments of grace, times of chaos

Just as in skiing, no mountain-bike ride is ever the same. Sometimes it can feel like floating on a cloud (preferably #9) but some other times, it can seem just like organized chaos or a disjointed chain of event that makes the outing pure hell.

It doesn't take much: A hidden obstacle sticking out just a tiny bit too much, a temporary lack of balance that exacerbate a tricky situation which in turn, etc. You get the picture. I've written it many times, mountain-biking is fraught with danger, you never know what might happen as you get out on a ride.

So, as a rule, “hope for the best, plan for the worst,” but I might be repeating myself...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The art of taking a break

If there is something I'm not good at, is to take a break and do nothing. It must be the way I was raised and the way I led my life for decades, but I really a lousy job in that department.
In the upcoming blogs, I will explore that “terra incognita” and find the key to find a method that really works for me and give me access to the time off I so badly need!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mountain-bike: Seeing, looking, focusing

Visual senses are key for safe mountain-biking. Of course, you must be able to see to get a sense of where you are and where you are going, but as soon as you look, it better be close to your intended path and often time, looking all over and too often can lead to problems.
Finally, the best thing to always do it watch where your bike is going. You may see a lot less, look at fewer things, but are more likely to stay stranding on your bike!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Death of a salesman...

Jonny Totten was the real estate agent sold us our first Park City home and latter on two building lots. She drove me around town in March and then June of 1985 in her Toyota Tercel. She hosted my wife early July of that same year;

I remember that we closed on the house via Fedex from New York. She was then in her late forties. Yesterday, my wife noticed her passing on July 21 at her home in town. I believe she stayed more or less active till the end; she was just 77. RIP Jonny!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The ABC of getting me mad...

Yes, I can get mad. Just promise me something, make sure I can count on it and withdraw it at the last minute and you'll get me mad. For better or for worst, my madness level is also linked to my values system.

If I see people who don't do what I reasonably expect from them, when I feel they ought to do it, it puzzles me, confuses me and before I know it, it makes me mad. The only good news about this is that I don't stay mad for too long.

And you; how do you blow up a gasket?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cholesterol and Stock Market

I don't know about you, but just like the stock market, my cholesterol goes up and down. This last reading was up. I've been much worst before (read higher) but it's not the end of the world.
Yet, I intend to eat less cheese, which I know is the main reason for that pesky little spike!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Bad guys

Putin and Netanyahu have suddenly emerged as the bad boys of summer or the evil-doers of the moment. Both are possessed with the same kind of evil that inhabit the Dick Cheney and other Hitlers and Napoleons of the world.

At different degrees perhaps, but still with the potential of surprising us all on the wrong side of normalcy. Should the international community clamp hard down on them? Sure, much more than it does at the moment, but as always, the loudest outrage will have to come from us, the people, don't expect it from our governments!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Peter Principle

Remember when Microsoft was on top of the world and Nokia was reigning over the cell phone universe? Funny also that these two companies have now chosen to melt-down together! Most business cycles that start with birth, blooming and decay.

Very few companies are totally immune to that. They are so focused on being what they are, and doing precisely what got them there, that they forget that the world around keeps on turning and keeps on changing. To paraphrase some of the tenets of the Peter Principle, “Anything that works will be used in progressively more challenging applications until it fails.”

In other words, there is a huge appeal to use what has worked before, even when it may exceed its effective scope. Add to this value analysis, poorly chosen employees, “yes people”, big egos, and you soon have a shooting star melting into the blue yonder. Thanks for this principle and the new breath of life it keeps on giving us!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Jealousy: Widespread, hidden poison

Are Americans as jealous as French are? I used to think not, but it seems to me that this negative trait, while alive and doing devastatingly well, is even more suppressed here than it is in my own country. It is there and everywhere, yet everyone denies it.

So what's a mentally healthy person to do? Both acknowledge its presence and ignore its sting, because it only affects us if we let it. Respond to it with a naive, ignorant smile and move on...

Friday, July 18, 2014

Welcome to honey medicinal power!

On July 8, I took a very bad spill as my bike threw me out over the asphalt and my knees, hands and elbows got badly bruised. Always over-optimistic and hoping that my injuries would heal as they normally do, I choose not to go to the doctor and instead, did my dressings myself.
Well, things didn't go as planned and, in the end ,my right knee wouldn't heal at all and hurt terribly. Then on July 16, I ran on that video posted on Facebook in which a French TV news report was touting the virtues of honey, used as a conventional therapy in fighting infection. That of course, was up until the early 20th century, at which time its use eventually vanished with the advent of penicillin.

It was showing that in certain French hospital, the use of honey in wound care was rediscovered and showing impressive result. Out of a leap of faith, I tried it and while the healing process hurt like hell, the next day my wound was making stupendous progress towards healing.

Yesterday, as I saw my doctor for my annual physical exam, he examined the scab and told me that it was healing well and that I shouldn't worry about it... Wow! I'm sold on honey!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Controlling but letting go...

I'm talking about the delicate balance that exists in mountain-biking, on a downhill ride, between over-controlling and letting go. This season, I was quite tense on my first outings as I held tightly on the handlebar, the brakes and my mind while riding down to the point that I had cramps in my hands.
Sometime too much control can be counterproductive, like it is when driving on slippery roads or piloting a plane in stormy conditions.

Letting go just enough is good and can be a savior if we still keep enough control of the whole process from by being just there, but by refraining from tight, obsessive handling.

Of course, this is easier said than done and mastering these conflicting extremes only comes after hour of practice, but it shows that once more, whether it's mountain-biking or just living, less is always more and overdoing things is the least efficient way of managing...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mistakes, distraction? No, learning!

In the past days, I've done my share of mistakes, and in so doing, learned a lot. Each time though, I've made a searing mental-note of the cause-and-effect these errors had upon my lifetime experience, and my accumulated learning and resulting wisdom.

Bottom line: By marking my mistakes, I've been learning more. I'm suddenly turning the liabilities of mistakes into the assets of continuing education!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The heat is on!

Yesterday was a good sensory example of how hot it gets in Park City. We hit 89 degrees (32 C) outside our home, in the shade, while Salt Lake reached 102 (39 C)!

This seems to be the heat record for our mountain-town, even though I've seen 90 (32.5) in years past. We might get close to this level again next week, but we should fully embrace our short warm weather surge and bask in the warm heat while it lasts; past August 10, cooler temps will return with a vengeance!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The art of losing...

Yesterday, I was rooting for Argentina, because I liked their flag colors, we share the same hemisphere and I'm a fan of Pope Francis. Well, they lost to the Germans, so I was a bit disappointed, but yet I didn't cry.

I remained stoic and felt that in a duel like this one, there has to be one loser and one winner, so when the die is cast and you lose, you might as well be very, very gracious about it. In fact, you can never be too gracious. To me, that's a devious but very astute way to steal a big chunk of the victory away from the winner.

The opposite is also true, being a sore loser never fails to give extra wings to the winner. This way, if you have to lose, you can limit your losses and even gain admiration by spreading unbounded kindness and fair-play!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Is Israel focused on ethnic cleansing?

Since 1948, Israel efforts have been focused on getting rid of the Palestinian Arabs that were living on what they felt was their land. At that time, about 720,000 Palestinian Arabs out of the 900,000 who lived there, either fled or were expelled from their home.

Today, this territorial take-over continues with the push for establishing more colonies and what's currently going on demonstrates that the driving policy of the Zionist State is to make life so miserable for Arabs that they won't have no other option choice but flee, vaporize or die.

It seems unlikely that Israel believes in the “two-state-solution,” but rather in a homogeneous, united Palestine under the Israeli flag. Will it work? Most likely as long as the international community continues to do nothing and both Sunni and Shiites are tearing themselves apart...

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The never-ending PCMR-Vail battle

While a judge recently said that Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) was wrong, the latter hasn't faced reality yet and just filed a notice of appeal that the resort wishes to take the case to the Utah Supreme Court.

Regardless of what the highest court in the State of Utah does, John Cumming should follow the recommendation that one of the crisis followers suggested: “Buy Vail Resort!”

If Mr. Cumming ignores this wise option, Park City residents – as good frontier citizens – shouldn't forget that there still is tar and feathers left in their arsenal...

Friday, July 11, 2014

About negotiating

If you have been involved in business transactions, in any work in progress or are employed by someone, you've been negotiating. Some say, you have to be tough or ask for much more in order to leave room for settlement, others tell you to go “win-win”.

After all is said and done, I stick to some principles that work pretty well for me: 
  • I set a goal based on the outcome I want to get. I stay focused on that goal. 
  • I remain fair at all times; I won't take advantage of my opponent. 
  • I don't get distracted by strange or hostile words, communication or behaviors. 
  • I remain super-organized, take key notes in the event I'll need them down the road. 
  • I think and act both strategically and tactically.
  • I'm always ready to walk away.
  • I take my time for the process to run its course, but I don't delay it either, and will make my move when the time is right.
What about you?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Getting the excavator back?

The old town of Park City is cradled into a canyon, and not only is its Main Street quite steep, but many of its side streets have nothing to envy San Francisco's extreme grades.

Case in point is Ontario Avenue (we almost bought a house there). It overlooks the city, the slopes and faces south, but its street looks like the finish schuss in a ski downhill race and, over the years, it has spelled all kinds of trouble to a great many number of automobiles, even the ones outfitted with the best all-wheel-drive technology money could buy.

Today, a local excavating company is digging the foundations for a house that will hang on a downhill lot with no egress in its lower portion. Yesterday, as I was visiting a convalescing friend, I saw a big Hitachi excavator on top of the street and another fairly big one, apparently stuck 70 vertical feet below.

The normal question that came to my mind was “will they ever be able to bring that heavy machinery back up?” The excavator was on site and I voiced my concern to him. He answered “Don't know either... We'll have to pull it up somehow!” This show that no matter how stuck down ponderous earth-moving equipment can be, levity is a flowing currency in Park City

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

When confidence, optimism and curiosity breed accident

Yesterday, I took my first big spill of the season on mountain bike. No, it didn't happen on a wild single-track trail, but on some civilized asphalt. That's right, the only paved section that leads to my house is being milled before it receives a brand new black-top layer.
As I was cruising back home, I chose to roll on the rough, milled side of the road, and then, when I foolishly thought I could bring my bike back on the smooth surface, my front fat-tire didn't like the 2 inch step and threww me down to the ground where I fell and rolled on both knees, elbow and hands. Everything was scrapped and bloody.

What made me behave so insanely? Curiosity for one thing; I figured that feeling the rough texture would be kind of fun. Then my over-sized confidence told me this was no big deal and that I could do it easily. Finally, the killer was my stubborn optimism telegraphing my brain that going over the 2 inch step would be no problem either. Well, my three trusted advisers were wrong.

Today, I hurt and I will remember for tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Getting over mistakes...

I'm not talking about lethal, unrepairable mistakes or tragic accidents, I am talking about mistakes, mostly material in nature, that can be repaired, replaced or somehow made up for. Like stupid car accidents or dropping a smart-phone in the swimming pool.

Incidents that drive us crazy and upset us for the rest of the day, the week or even the month depending on how stupid or costly they are. Most of the time, when this happens to me, I spend far too long commiserating with my bad luck and trying to push the toothpaste back into the tube, while thinking and crying “How can I be so stupid!” or trying to find some lame excuse or a convenient scapegoat. None of this is productive and gets us back to living as we should.

So, the first thing to do is face the consequences, thinks about options for repairing, replacing or indemnifying, then mentally face the reality and accept the “price tag”. It is equally important to honestly retrace what we did wrong and get it etched into our long-term memory so we won't repeat it ever again.

When all of this is done, immediately forgive oneself. That's right, forgiveness is the sanction, the end of the grieving process and the green light for going back to whatever we were doing. Further, forgiveness works like love, if we can't forgive ourselves, how can we ever forgive others?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Life-changing job interview

In July of 1974, just about 40 years ago, I drove some 250 miles in my Renault 12, from my Alpine home town to Nevers, smack in the center of France, for a job interview at Look ski bindings.
The job was super cool, since it was that of “racing services director” and consisted of overseeing the world wide ski racing sponsorship and equipment program of that family-owned ski-industry company.

At that time the world's best ski racers like Gustav Thöni and Annemarie Moser-Pröll were on the product. The job was paying well, about $10,000 a year, including a company car and four-week vacation, which compared well for the $4,500 I was making in 5 months, “selling ski turns” without one day off.

The qualifications I brought to the job were my familiarity with the ski industry, my passion for the sport of skiing and my foreign language skills, as I boasted fluency in English, German, Italian and French. My business skills were rather thin except for the fact that I had some working experience with our ski school financial operations.

To look credible and make my mark, I wore my only green corduroy suit with an assorted tie and got a fresh haircut. Mrs. Beyl, the company owner's wife, conducted the interview and after going through my resume, asked me the break-or-make question, my birth-date. I gave it to her, she smiled and gave me the job on the spot.

This job would literally transform my whole life. Unbeknownst to me, I had made a strong impression on her and most importantly, I was born under the perfect astrological sign!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Bike descents: Risk, Adrenaline, Fun!

There's no denying it; at least for me, the best part of mountain-bike outing is the downhill part, when I let it all go. Sure, I'm fully aware of the danger, I know that falling off isn't a good option and that's perhaps what makes me pay attention and is behind the adrenaline rush that makes me focus crisply and do all the good things I need to do to stand rolling on my bike.
It resembles skiing, yet it's a unique sensation. No single descent on a same trail is ever the same, every inch of deviation engender a different series of wheel deflections, trajectories, experiences and eventful situations – good and bad. Of course, all that chemistry and bio-mechanics, when combined for the best, adds up to so much fun and exhilaration!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Côte-Rôtie on my mountain bike

Most Frenchmen should be able to tell you that “la Côte-Rôtie” is a prestigious red from the Rhône wine region of France.

The vineyards are unique because of the sun-baked steep slopes facing the river and their stone walls. In cycling parlance, that name would translate into the “Roasting Climb” and this is precisely how our regular bike outing gets going, alongside an arid, sun drenched and steep climb that continues for 2.5 miles all the way to the top of the hill, for a 305 feet elevation gain.

I hate this portion of the trail and the only way to motivate myself is to picture in my mind's eye a cool bottle of Côte-Rôtie waiting for me upon my return. Thank God, this is only fantasizing, otherwise my liver would have long derailed!

Friday, July 4, 2014

How patriotic are you?

July 4 is our National Holiday. Today, we celebrate our country's birthday and in another 10 days, my wife and I can celebrate Bastille Day. So, where does my patriotism stands amidst these Holidays?

Hard to say; sure, all my “eggs” are now on this side of the ocean and I'm biased to the United States of America, but deep inside, I'm still and will always be French. Yet, I've traveled so much and seen so many places in the world, that I feel neither French or American.

I truly feel more like an earthling and can't visualize our world without being overwhelmed by this beautiful blue sphere, without any visible borders and any apparent strife over its surface. This is the way things ought to be. Long live our blue planet!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Can you drink all that music?

Summer concerts have returned since about one week and while we continue to enjoy them, we're amazed how sounds can make people thirsty at 7,000 feet. Not so much thirsty for water, mind you, but for wine, beer and spirits.

Each time we go, we're amazed at the guzzling abilities of spectators to whom a bottle of wine per person seems to be the new normal. Music must have the propensity to making audiences supernatural and impervious to the effects of alcohol.

If this is not true, our police must be very lenient, if not, we'd run out of jail space before curtain call!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Investigating a deadly fall

When we moved to our new home, we rented a truss, high up under the top eaves, to a working couple of robin. After building their nest in pretty short order, they laid some eggs and soon thereafter had a couple of chicks.

For the last weeks, we'd go in the south patio after lunch to sip our coffee, get some warmth from the sun and would observe the feeding routine of these two youngsters by their parents.

The latter would generally take turn to feed their young and would seldom leave the nest unattended. Yesterday we observed that at time, the nest was left woefully on its own for long periods of time.

This kind of worried my wife. I didn't particularly paid attention to the situation, until, an hour or so later, I saw a dead baby bird that had crashed to its death on the cement patio, 28 feet below the nest.

Did the youngster ventured out of the nest, lost its footing and dropped, was it pushed by its sibling or was it a case of infanticide? I'm investigating and plan to interview the parents, the other robins, magpies and falcons that roam the area...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Stand-up desk, one month later...

It's been one month since I've been using my stand-up desk on a daily basis and I really like the way it works for me.

So much, in fact, that I have yet to lower it to a sitting position! I can type without any problem, the standing position keeps me alert at all times and, as a bonus, I remains fully aware of what happens in our very quiet street, through the window...

So, is there any downside to my bliss? Yes, perhaps, in the sense that I get a lot more tired at the end of the day and I sleep an entire night as soon as I hit the bed. Not really a downside when you're in your golden years and still sleep like a baby!

The bottom line: I love a stand-up working position and I'll keep doing it until I feel so tired, that I may lower my workspace for just a few moments...