Friday, October 31, 2014

My Halloween Costume

Yesterday, a neighbor dropped an invitation to attend a Halloween block party, this evening.

I immediately thought that I would dress into an Ebola aid worker and make an irresistible impression.

But come to think of it, someone is needed at home to distribute candies to trick and treaters, so I'll have no choice but voluntarily quarantine myself.

I have not yet decided if I'll wear my haz-mat suit; it might spook the kids...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Marcel Hirscher and his Marker plate binding...

The Austrian star won Sölden by a large margin and had Ligety not hit a rock, he still wouldn't have been able to beat him. So after the dust settled, the ski press and a few industry insiders began suggesting that Hirscher had indeed switched from his Atomic bindings to Marker and that the different plate might have worked some magic on his two GS runs.
Skiing is 80% mental and the switch might have worked as a placebo or it perhaps kept Marcel's skis steady on an otherwise bumpy course. We'll never know quite for sure unless some serious tests are conducted and if Ligety also switches from his Tyrolia to the “magic” Marker plate.

Without some hard evidence, every comment will remain pure speculation!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mountain bike, gender and right of way...

Those of us who ride a mountain bike know that the uphill biker has right of way. Of course, one has to know the difference between up and down, but suffice to say that when I'm on a trail where it's hard to tell whether it's going uphill or downhill, I just yield, to be on the safe and courteous sides.

I have found that women riders have a hard time grasping that notion. On three occasions, including one just yesterday, I've almost collided with women who were riding down on me at various rates of speed and still expecting me to yield to them.

Is it a problem of spatial orientation that women are known for having, or a deeply rooted expectation that men should be chivalrous and yield to them, no matter what, just because of their gender. I have yet to figure that one out...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Are you what you manage?

Jobs are not created equal. There are management jobs that are almost impossible to pull off, while others are a cakewalk. For example, I remember that during most of the 70s and 80s, Nordica ski boots were the easiest product to sell, to the point that many would say that even if a monkey were in charge of its US distribution, the American sales and marketing company would still do extremely well.

Of course it was the case of “it's the product stupid!” While most competitors were focused on performance and gimmicks, Nordica made boots that felt good on the foot and were always very comfortable. It all changed when Benetton purchased the company in the late 80's. They added skis, bindings, clothing a dubious marketing campaign and all this extra burden managed to screw up the entire brand.

This example goes a long way in demonstrating that if a company has a sound product, with at least one clear advantage, plus a decent organization it can ride the wave of success for a very long time. Of course, those at the head of these exemplary organization will tend to believe they're the very reason for this when in fact the business they think they run, operate in fact on automatic pilot.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, some companies are dysfunctional from the get go, either because the founder has no well-grounded common sense, there's no corporate vision, the efforts to grow the organization are sporadic and erratic, or the company is simply in reactive (catch-up) mode.

Acquisitions are always a big danger because they bring foreign, disruptive elements and generally are a huge distraction on a management that is used to run simple, predictable business models, but totally unable to deal with bad surprises, weird challenges and a constant need for repairs...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Why I wake up early...

It's not all the time that I wake up early. I used too though, and a lot when I was a hyper-active executive. Interestingly, I never let business problems or tricky situations prevent me for going to sleep, but they sure did wake me up in a hurry when there were lingering doubts, new ideas bubbling or some unfinished business that needed my immediate attention.

Getting up at 4 am was more routine than exception. These days haven't been different. I'm in a midst of a very interesting and highly mobilizing project that is filled with questions, challenges and twists that keep on surprising me and giving me an early start in the morning. I'd call this “positive stress” and in fact, I still enjoy that form of stimulus very, very much!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A new generation of ski racers

I watched part of the ski races this week-end and my take away is that a new, younger generation is coming of age and that it's good.

Women mature earlier than men and their careers tend to be shorter, but yesterday, both winners (Fenninger and Shiffrin) were 25 and 19, while the the third, Brem was 26. Once unbeatable Maze, now 31 only ranked 22nd...
Today, Hirscher, age 25, showed his clear superiority and even the once-dominant Ligety couldn't have beat him, even if he had not make the mistake (?) of hitting a big rock. Dopfer at 27 is a bit older, but Pinturault at 23 keeps on progressing.

Sure, both Raich (36) and Simoncelli (35) managed to squeeze themselves in the top ten, but they're getting long in the teeth and it might be time for them to think about retirement. Sure good contracts are keeping these athletes going, but it's just a matter of time...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Simple solutions to complex problems

I must like projects and after a big one, like building a home, my current one is creating a cove lighting setup for my daughter's apartment in Washington, D.C.

For a couple of months now, I've been racking my brains to find a solution that is elegant, durable and easy to execute. Thank to the internet, Youtube and a few forums, I have almost narrowed down my options and found a solution that I feel comfortable with. 
Best of all, I've learned so much in the process! Since that job is taking place 2,000 miles from my home and all my tools, I need to get my act together and I plan to write an assembly/manufacturing process to make certain my bases are well covered, something I haven't done for the past 50 years, back in the days I attended the engineering school in Cluses, France.

This should be interesting!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Skibola virus

Following decades of research on the subject, scientists at the University of Utah have finally isolated the skibola virus. This is an extremely dangerous and highly contagious form of virus that can lead to a disease characterized by a high level of addiction, even though the ailment only seems to be seasonal in nature.

Unlike most harmful pandemics, this one can be passed not just by exchanging body fluid, breathing airborne particulates or just touching. It also can be caught by visual and auditory senses, such as watching a ski movie or listening into a skier's conversation.

Boasting about one's achievement on a pair of skis has also been found to exacerbate the gravity of the ailment. As of now, no effective treatment has been found.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Middle East Mess

If there was no Middle East, life might be better on earth. Much better in fact. Religion, the usual suspect, fuels this never-ending conflict and maintains chaos on the planet. At this point, it's the tug of war between two branches of Islam and the Jewish religion that keep the flames burning and the civilized world on edge.

Are their respective Gods so different to warrant this? Should the West – which is highly responsible for facilitating the chaos – take up arms and attempt to achieve the impossible, namely reason with irrational people, or stay on the sidelines? I think the later.
Again, religions, that fuel the conflict, are the poison and presently, the (mostly) agnostic or secular West is held hostage by this collection of irrational populations in the Middle-East. These people are dogmatic, set in their ways, armed and dangerous.

There is no proven way to handle these folks, because insane behavior defies any logic. That is why, in my view, one course of action would be to let them hit upon each other, remain at a safe distance and watch until they totally self-destruct or eventually realize that peace isn't such a bad idea after all.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Roland Cattin, 1948-2014

Road biking is dangerous, not just for the falls caused by car traffic or other reasons, but because many a mature rider has lost their life due to the shear efforts the sport demands.

This happened this past Sunday, October 19, when Roland Cattin, CEO and founder of Time Sport International, passed away near his home in Paris, following a bicycle ride. The cause of death was a heart attack.

Roland was my boss for two years when I still was working with Look ski bindings and I remember him as an intensely passionate business person. He landed into the ski business through his first marriage to the daughter of Look founders and did the very best he could to save the company before it was acquired by Bernard Tapie.

He was a good and very fair boss to me. I'll never forget his stark intensity and commitment to his mission. He'll be missed an awful lot.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

From Dongguan, China to Park City, Utah

Yesterday, we received some custom window coverings ordered through

For a week, we've been able to follow their whereabouts from the factory that manufactured them to size, in Dongguan, about 50 miles north of Hong Kong, to Shenzen the border town to that city.

They were flewn to Osaka, Japan before being put on a plane bound to Indianapolis, Indiana. From there, they got to Memphis, Tennessee, the large Federal Express hub, before their last flight to Salt Lake City.

The two parcels left the Dongguan assembly line on October 13 and were in our hands on October 20. That's right, just one week!

The cost was incredibly competitive and shipping was free; a deal very, very hard to beat. The process is called globalization.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Aie ! Svindal sur la touche ...

Un autre top skieur se fait mal, et cette fois, Aksel Lund Svindal ne pourra pas briller sur son théâtre préféré à Beaver Creek en Février prochain. Les accidents arrivent toujours, mais celui-ci n'avait rien à voir avec le ski.

Bien sûr, il n'est pas rare de se casser le tendon d'Achille en jouant au ballon, mais on peut se demander si ce n'est pas aggrave par le fait que les athlètes d'aujourd'hui sont tellement musclé qu'os est tendons ne peuvent plus faire le poids face à toute cette puissance développé par le réseau musculaire qui les entourent ?

Cela pourrait bien être possible et pourrait marquer une limite supérieure dangereuse à ne pas dépasser ...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Blinded by too much technology

Yesterday I had another flat while riding my bike down the mountain. I heard a loud “Ffffff!” coming from my front wheel and I stopped; I just had another flat.

Now that I'm getting used to that sort of incident, I thought I could change my inner tube in a snap. Wrong! I couldn't even get my wheel out of the fork. You see, my new bike is equipped with a RockShox “Thru Axle,” and I couldn't figure out how to remove the wheel.

I hand-carried my bike down the mountain and my wife had to meet me on the road below, with the car. I searched online, looked up on Youtube, but still didn't understand how to proceed. Finally, a couple of hours later, tired, desperate and frustrated, I drove my crippled bike to the sport shop and they showed me. I observed, I understood and I won't ever forget.

Embracing modern solutions is also welcoming continued education and becoming a learning sponge!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ebola and me...

I heard about Ebola during its first and short-live outbreak in Zaire, in 1995. I thought it was a scary thing and that we were lucky when it vanished like it had come. When it returned this summer, I was concerned, but felt that I was the only one.
Governments for one, didn't take that seriously at all. Now, that the whole humanity is well aware of it and that the pandemic runs out of control in West Africa, it will take billions to fully address the crisis. Which entity was asleep at the wheel? The World Health Organization, our Governments? It goes to show that the public sector is just good at reacting. Not at planning judiciously.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Innovating isn't for sissies!

In life, there's always the true and tested method to consider before jumping into the new and unknown. The later requires much more research, significant risk-taking and always comes with an uncertain outcome.

Further, even if the end result works, it may not be stunning at all and not worth the extra effort and resources spent. Yet, there are folks who are never content with replicating yesterday's experience and want to turn any opportunity into a stage for some innovation.

It's harder, more expensive and has the potential of yielding something great. These folks are game-changers and need our support, even when their efforts go sour!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Behind stock market volatility

By now, you've heard it all. Emerging markets and Europe down on their luck, overproduction of oil, Ukraine, Ebola and even Hong Kong. All these events seem to be the reason behind jittering markets, in spite of mostly good economic indicators in North America.

No one seems to recognize the malevolent influence of automatic trading that sets threshold for automatic sale orders, also known as “stop-loss”. When the stock market is going down, it will encounter these guard-posts and trigger massive sales spinning a vicious circle or rather a damning fall to hell.

Pretty simple, not recognized and yet hard to dispute. Suffice to say that the more automated stock markets become, the more volatile they'll be. Fasten your seat belts, sit back and relax!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How are my parts holding up?

A few days ago, I wished Sven Coomer, one of my FB friends, a happy birthday. Sven is seven years my elder, but do just a few years even count at my ripe age? I just told him that just like Mastercard was “priceless”, his looks were “timeless.” It's true, he hasn't changed a bit. This was his response:

“Thank you. I wonder if priceless means "expensive" ...

However as time goes on as with an off-road T-model there are fewer and fewer redeemable or reusable parts, paying dearly now for always being outside and training relentlessly at every imaginable sporting activity from dawn till dusk and working merchant ships to get around the world ... before air travel was affordable.

I never heard about or spoiled by such luxuries as physical therapists, massage or other 'practors to help recovery from those times I didn't land on my feet. It was always get back on the horse and keep going. How are your parts holding up?”

And my answer: 

“Most of my parts – except my hair – are holding up quite remarkably. Sure, I'm quite newer than you are but I've never have been a strong man. I was always struggling in all of my athletic endeavors. Case in point, I was always following my skis instead of getting ahead of them, same thing in mountaineering or bike riding.

I became a 'smooth skier' because, unlike you, I didn't have the built, the athletic ability or a total absence of fear to even afford an 'aggressive' style. It's only when I returned to some serious skiing and mountain biking at the turn of century, while I still was in my early fifties, that I had a series of serious accidents.

I was pushing the envelope and that dubious effort lasted until I was around 63, my personal best. At that point, I realized it was time to slow down, because I simply couldn't go just as fast and also because I had to save my carcass, if I wanted to die – as a friend of mine puts it so aptly – in reasonably good health!”

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Planting bulb contest

A few weeks ago, I purchased two full back of bulbs for crocuses and daffodils, 130 of them, and little did I know that I would have to plant them all. That daunting number had not escaped my wife's attention who immediately realized that it would translate into a full day of work.

It didn't quite, but took us the best part of the afternoon. She was my assistant telling me where to locate each bulb, I was the planter and plant I certainly did. These bulbs grown somewhere in Holland are all now much happier in their Utah soil.

Of course, these transplanted bulbs promised me that they'll rise to the occasion!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Daylight and latitude

I always was concerned about knowing the way latitude affects variations in daylight, especially in some ski resorts I happen to know. The research was excruciating but, at long last, I fond a precise way to calculate it, using longitude and latitude data.

This means that you'll end up spending more time basking in the sun in Taos (watch for melanoma), too many hours inside the pub in Whistler and Morzine (don't drink and ski) and just the right dosage of daylight time outside in Park City (we already knew it). Here it is for you all to see!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Is living “high” harming life expectancy?

I've always wondered about it and I just found a publication in the “Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health” published in March of 2011 that seems to show that living at higher altitude may have a protective effect on heart disease and strokes, but a harmful impact on pulmonary disease.

Based at least on these two opposing effects, living at higher altitude appears to have no net effect on life expectancy. The study took place on high-elevation counties of the U.S. Rockies, above 5,000 feet (1500 m) and found longer life expectancies in their populations than those living around sea level by 1.2–3.6 years for men and 0.5–2.5 years for women.

After adjustments, like annual solar radiations and cumulative exposure to smoking, altitude had a beneficial association with cardiovascular mortality and a harmful association with lung disease. Now I feel relieved that living permanently “high” isn't going to kill me!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Autumn is mountain-bike season

For some reasons, we always seem to forget that Fall is the best season for riding. The air is always crisp and much cooler, the colors and lights are spectacular and the leaves are thinning, providing for much enhanced visibility.
We're now on a serious count-down until snow comes and bars us from riding for good, but yesterday was a major milestone for me; for the first time in nine seasons of serious mountain-biking, I broke the 70 sorties mark!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Has anyone seen Kim Jong-un?

When I ride my mountain-bike and when the terrain is gentle enough to allow it, I scan around the hills to spot deer, elks or moose.

Recently, I've been looking for Kim Jong-un. I'm beginning to get concerned about him. I'm thinking that he perhaps deciding to go base-jumping in Yosemite, swinging under a natural arch in Moab or even trying to go for a mountain-bike ride with me.

I know he's quite a strong fellow who would ride superbly; that's why I'm hoping to seeing coming out of a blind curve on my favorite Park City trail.

Besides, he sure could use the exercise!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

An impromptu visit: My Dad

In this series, I'll try to imagine some unplanned, surprising visits made to me by people I know from my past or my current life, but that I can't see for a wide variety of reasons. Read on...

The doorbell rings; a man stands by my door. Wow! It's my dad, just looking like he did in 1988 when he passed away...

Me: Hello Dad, what a surprise!
Dad: Hi! God, you look old!
Me: Right; I'm close to 70 now, but you haven't changed a bit. Come on in!
Dad: That a big home... Too big! You live in that huge thing?
Me: It's not that big, it's just comfortable. We actually like it a lot.
Dad: What do you do? Are you still working in the ski business?
Me: I actually keep very busy, but I no longer working for someone, since nearly 10 years.
Dad: How are the kids; you only have two of them right?
Me: Yes we do. They're both doing great. Your grandson lives in Salt Lake, is married and has a little 6 year-old boy, named Finn. Your great grand kid. My wife says he looks just much like you. She thinks his head is shaped the same! Your grand-daughter lives and work in Washington, DC, you know, the nation's capital.
Dad: How is Evelyne?
Me: She's doing just fine. She takes great care of me, much like Mom used to take care of you.
Dad: Enjoy it while it lasts!
Me: So, tell me Dad, what have you been doing since you left us?
Dad: Absolutely nothing. I live in nothing, surrounded by nothing and doing nothing. It's the total absence of existence, so you're still in a much better place. Enjoy it to its fullest while it lasts!
Me: I sure will, Dad.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Window washing: From chore to project...

I don't know about you, but I hate to wash windows. That was until yesterday, when I decided to turn that dreadful task into a fun game, in which I would do my very best to achieve very the best result possible, perform the task efficiently and hone my skills to match those of a pro.

To my great surprise, the exercise worked and I'm now looking forward to the next drill scheduled for early May!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Willful acts and destiny

When I look back at my own life, I am amazed how I got where I am today, between the decisions I made, the initiative I took on my own and the various events that came – often out of the blue – to cement my destiny.

Today, I can say that I had control on many elements of my life while some mysterious under-currents made every piece of my life-puzzle perfectly fit into a pretty harmonious picture.

This, I feel, is quite remarkable, because it shows me that we get inspired to do certain things, that intuitive source of initiative is quite mysterious and then a host of elements that we don't control tend to come out of nowhere, plug the whole and complete the story.

While many wonder “why am I here on this earth?”, my existential question is simply “How did I get from there to here?”

Monday, October 6, 2014

Time to visit the Senior Center?

Yesterday, after she returned from a mountain-bike ride, my spouse went to visit an 80 some years old lady that lives near us, and this charming woman asked my wife if we liked the Park City Senior Center, because, from her own experience, the Salt Lake Senior Center was far superior...

Of course, we've never set foot into that Center yet. We don't play cards and still intend to ski and ride, plus do a host of other active endeavors before we sign on to that honorable place.

What was she thinking?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Can Haiti be re-invented?

The passing of Jean-Claude Duvalier brought (very briefly) some worldly focus on the impoverished nation.

With it, once more, the question is asked; who or what can set that country on a right path, with a government that works, an education that can make a difference and an economic formula that could finally get life going and self-sustain its population?

I have no good response to that question, but perhaps, someone has it. Share it, please.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

More on the art of bike repairs and maintenance...

Yesterday, I suffered a flat while mountain-biking with my wife. She's the one who noticed that my rear tire was flat and told me to pull over and fix it.

I did my very best to handle the situation calmly, but the problem is that I don't have to do this every week and not even every year, so I need to remember carefully what I need to do, not panic and try to make all the good moves and follow the right steps.This is an example when superficial and sporadic practice proves woefully insufficient.

As if the drill wasn't stressful enough, I managed to bend the stem of the Presta valve when I removed the pump, which prompted me to view a few more Youtube video when I got back home and start beefing-up my thin knowledge about fat tire feed and care...

Friday, October 3, 2014

Summit County: On top of the United States?

In a New York Times article titled “Where are the hardest places to live in the U.S.?” Park City's home county stands out as the 5th county (out of 3,135) where life is the... easiest.

Pretty remarkable as our little rural place is ahead of places like Silicon Valley or other famous resort counties where Vail or Aspen are located. Median household income, education, employment and life-expectancy, among others, where taken into consideration to compute the ranking.

Seems that we made the perfect choice when we set to move to Park City almost 3 decades ago...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Chris Sprecher, 1964-2014

Towards the end of September, my wife noticed an obituary on the local paper that involved a Deer Valley ski instructor who had passed from a fatal car accident on Sept. 10, 2014, in Kohala, Hawaii.

I immediately remembered him from some videos I had done about him and also from the fact that he bore the same surname as my good friend Andreas “Söre” Sprecher, from Klosters, Switzerland. Most importantly, though, he was a very friendly and accommodating fellow who clearly loved skiing and mountain life.

Last night, the upstairs room at the Snow Park Lodge was packed with family, friends and colleagues who kept on reminiscing “Sprecher”, as he was called, in an emotionally charged atmosphere. I had edited a short video clip gathered from files I had saved, that was included at his life celebration.

Much too young to leave, of course, but from what I saw and heard, his was a great life filled to the rim!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Downpour in dry climate

It could be that leaks and associated water problems occur less frequently in a super-dry climate like Park City, where it just snows, but seldom rain, than it is in the Alps or in Southeast Asia, but after the downpours we experienced lately, leakages are likely to... sprout!

This just happened on our brand new roof and kitchen hood vent that managed to act as a water collector, just because its cap design was a bit too much opened to the skies and their pouring showers. At the very least, some extra water managed to bounce inside the pipe and collect below.

After doing some research, I found a much better cap design that should keep me dry for as long as live - at least I hope!