Thursday, December 31, 2015

The curse of a large ski area?

Yesterday was my first chance to experience the merged Park City and The Canyons ski areas to their full extent, appreciate in the process the work achieved during the summer and the sense of enormous size this connection was adding to what used to be a regular ski outing.

One of my findings was that it takes a lot of time to get from point A to point B, and as a result a skier like me will ski far less in a full ski day than if he stuck to one mountain, like the old Park City, Canyons or Deer Valley on his own.

It's not out of reason to say that an interconnected ski experience will cut one-third into someone's skiing, but it may double up the sense of adventure and scenery that a skier might experience otherwise. Interconnected ski mountains are more for contemplation than for sheer skiing, but the former is more likely to hit home with most visitors and that's what counts.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Stein Eriksen, 1927 - 2015

Much has been said about the iconic skier, Stein Eriksen, that passed away at age 88, in Park City, on December 27. I never knew much about him until I came to America in 1977. At that time, Norm MacLeod, from Beconta reminded me about his stunning ski achievements along with his great class, his godly looks, impeccable dress and wonderful kindness.

In the early eighties, my friend Michel Duret, from France, even produced a batch of Pure Gold luxury skis endorsed by the Champion who also remained the ideal model for Bogner ski clothing all of his life. I met Stein more closely during ski functions and also when I move to Park City in 1985.

He developed into an incredible public personality, even more so than Toni Sailer and Jean-Claude Killy ever became; in fact, he seemed to have directed all of his focus into turning his public persona into the quintessential ambassador to skiing in North America.

Rest in peace, Stein

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Slow your roll!

A year or so ago, the city of Park City began to post signs intimating cyclists to slow down in specific areas of multi-user trails, and for some unknown reason I liked the expression a lot.

Then I researched it and found, in the Urban dictionary, that it had a lot more surprising meanings than met the eyes, less litteral, like a term “used to inform a homie that he's getting outta control and he might want to shut the hell up before he gets beat the hell up”.

I also found that one that went something like "Baby, you're moving so fast, you're going to overheat. You're coming at me in fifth gear; maybe bring it down to second. You know, slow your roll."

I'll stop there, you probably got the gist of the message now!

Monday, December 28, 2015

A quick overview of my opinions...

Yesterday, I started a conversation on Facebook that I didn't follow as well as I should have. I went skiing instead and had a hell of a good time.

This said, one of the person who got hooked on my challenge deserve to know what I think and I'll try to give him a general overview of my world's view (whatever this means) in just 20 points:

  1. I think man has profoundly screwed up the world we live in. 
  2. We are just too many on this planet that could hold – at best – 2 billion people, not 7.3 as is the case today. We should depopulate before we are screwed! 
  3. Pollution, climate change are all caused by overpopulation. 
  4. Overpopulation is the root cause of our planetary degradation. 
  5. This planet is for every human. 
  6. There should be no borders, no countries (John Lennon). 
  7. There should be one single world administration kept in check by its population, not 200 inefficient governments. 
  8. This said, migration should be regulated and conducted in ways that are based on assimilation (i.e. if Islam is important to a person, that person should seek living in Muslim countries, if a person is socialist... if a person is capitalist... etc. 
  9. This would be a nice way to start. Migration should also be regulated in terms of needs. Computer programmers, road pavers, oil drillers, etc. 
  10. War, arms, nuclear or chemical arsenal of all kinds should be abolished. 
  11. Extractive industries (fossil fuels, minerals) as well as agribusiness should be strictly regulated and taxed whenever needed. 
  12. We should take a new look at the administration and dispensation of heath care. Do we want to prolong life at any cost regardless of the economic burden it represents? 
  13. The capitalist system based on (population) growth should evolved into a qualitative form of growth (less stuff, but better). 
  14. Religion (any) is a dangerous, irrational practice that should be strictly kept private (no house of worship, no external distinctions, etc.) 
  15. Brainwashing children with religious (irrational) concept is tantamount to child abuse. 
  16. For thousands of years, religion has been poison. 
  17. Education for all is paramount, should be free and call on the brightest possible minds to lead the charge. Money should be totally out of politics. 
  18. Meritocracy is a good thing. Those who work and contribute the most should be rewarded reasonably, but not 1,000 fold. 
  19. Innovation and creativity should be encouraged, made easy and placed on a pedestal. 
  20. Glorify teachers, indispensable lowly people, not athletes and show business stars.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A tire blows-out; what do you do?

This recently happened to a good friend of mine while he was driving on nearby Interstate 80. He's a very good driver, a super skier and yet, when his rear tire blew out for some unknown reason, he hit the brake hard, his car jumped straight into the concrete guardrail and got totaled.

By luck, he and his dog standing on the front seat didn't get a scratch! What should have he done instead?

At a minimum, he should have stayed away from the brake pedal and allowed the drag of the failed tire to slow the vehicle to say, 30 mph or slower, before they even considering turning the steering wheel in order to pull over.

Better yet, he should have done something even more counter-intuitive: Press the gas pedal for an instant, just long enough to stabilize the vehicle. Of course, this is much easier said than done, especially in the real world when it's so easy to panic, but this remains a useful tip to remember!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The ever escalating cost of skiing

Today, I saw an old ski lift ticket from Park City Ski Area going back to the 1982/83 season. The price was already a steep $24.00!

Today, the same ticket would cost $123. So, if we consider the consumer price index between these two points in time, it has gone up 242 percent while the price of the lowly Park City day ticket has shot up 513 percent!

That's more than twice what should be the “norm.” Sure, you'll say that massive snow-making has entered into the picture, manicured grooming and fast lifts as well, but please, just give me a break, this feels a bit overboard to me...

Friday, December 25, 2015

What does the US need?

You could ask yourself what legacy are the two presumptive presidential candidates for 2016 (Trump and Clinton) likely to leave our Nation, when their presidency is over after two terms in 2024?

 This might, in of itself, be the object of one of my next blogs, but as of now, the real question could be: “what does America need that hasn't been addressed so far?”

Generally speaking, we should emulate the best OCDE practices as we aim for the following: 
  • Balance the federal budget with governments cuts and tax increases 
  • Begin repaying the debt 
  • Reform our electoral laws and remove special interest money from them 
  • Reform our education system by applying proven world best practices 
  • Make our health care system competitive with the rest of the developed world 
  • Continue to move aggressively on world's pollution and climate change 
  • Re-frame our military purpose into a Defense-only mode 
There might be more that could be done, but I would be entirely pleased with seeing the above points addressed once and for all.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Being content...

Too many people reached an advanced age and are still unhappy and dissatisfied with themselves.

Often, it's just because they can't accept their own reality which is generally the by-product of luck, personal efforts and natural talents. Yet, accepting ourselves is paramount in reaching happiness, at least that's the way I see it.
Do I have some regrets? Yes, of course! Do I let this consideration tarnish my life? Not in the least. I appreciate what I have and am quite pleased with me. If you need to, try this approach; it works. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

When we quit believing...

...It's when it begins to happen! This is exactly what has befell on us in the last week or so, when “El Niño” returned with a vengeance and began to dump snow on us.

Today, some neighboring resorts are claiming historic snow accumulation and skiing is now terrific. Same old story, expect nothing and you'll get lots of anything you secretly wish for!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Parallel Giant Slalom

I watched the dual GS format yesterday and failed to be convinced that it was a “real” ski race.

It may flatter the eye and show some minute differences between two skiers jousting down a micro-hill, but I find it gimmicky and meaningless.
World Cup points shouldn't be awarded for this sort of half-baked contest. Sorry, FIS, but you need to work a lot more on that stilted event before it should become a keeper!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Ski group and technical homogeneity

I get that question all the time; “we're a group of friends, we love to ski, but one of us isn't too aggressive, is a bit fearful, and is afraid that he won't keep up with us all; what should we do?” Well the answer is rather simple.

Place that person in a class lesson, that's right, with the ski school, at a level that is comfortable enough so the experience can be fun during each day of the stay. There still will be plenty of time to socialize the rest of the day with the remainder of the gang.
If there's any fear in sight, never force a person into doing things that are too hard or too scary on a pair of skis. Always err by staying on the safer side, by doing more easy stuff, fun descents, at a level that is a comfortable notch below that individual's ability.

Then, and only then, will mileage and sheer pleasure work wonders in awaking and advancing the ski abilities of that friend!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Communication: Bernie and Donald

Some politicians are better than others at communicating. Most speak to say nothing interesting. They place words after each other and while it may sound like speech, the meaning isn't there.

Far fewer can say things that get people attention, because they say it clearly and without any ambiguity. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump sit at the opposite end of the political spectrum and yet, their words always hit the audience.
This is simply why they get attention and if Bernie wasn't calling himself a “socialist” and was 10 year younger, he'd be really hot.

As for Trump, I see nothing preventing him from getting the Republican nomination. All this because of a high-impact style of communication!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Is Political Correctness killing Common Sense?

There are numerous mentions of “Political Correctness” or lack-thereof, as the primary presidential campaign is unfolding, with establishment candidates embroiled in the former, while a disruptor like Trump, is seeing his appeal launched by the later.
This got me thinking that the most we become polite, sensitive and empathetic to others, the more we lose our grip and reliance on common sense. These social, desirable attitudes are blunting our most vital resource in the process.

This isn't a black and white proposition, but rather a reminder that we should always strike a good balance between being “nice” and remaining “grounded” at all times...

Friday, December 18, 2015

Finally connected!

Yesterday, we finally sampled the gondola connection that is linking what used to be the old Park City Mountain Resort to Canyons, an impressive performance as well as a big milestone in the life of our community.
The new gondola was finally open to skiers and gave them a chance experience the magnitude of one full summer worth of work.

The resort, that now bears the name of our town, is impressively large and might call for for more expansion in spreading its wings over the neighboring canyons. But once again, I might be getting ahead of myself.

For the moment, let's pray for much more snow so we can fully appreciate the still hidden fruits of that momentous achievement!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Now, time for some serious skiing!

Early ski season is always a game of cat and mouse between skiers eager to hit the slopes and snow waiting in the wing.

Our resorts make snow and, more often than not, they over-produce it as if they didn't want to play chicken with their guests' expectations, so early December skiing is always good, but in most cases, it happens largely on man-made snow.

So when Deer Valley opened up a pile of new terrain yesterday, smiles were on all the faces and I made sure I'd be part of that feeding frenzy. The snow accumulated since November was a dense powder, still skiable, but that required one's full attention.
To my surprise, my legs that were one year older, held steady, and I ended up spending my time skiing laps on Rattler, a steep run just under the Wasatch chair.

In the evening, boy, was I pooped! I almost fell asleep reading a fascinating book about Mr. Putin and soon was in my bed curled up like a baby. Nothing like some great skiing and cold winter air!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Last GOP debate of the year

We watched the entire joust and truly enjoyed a few moments of it. These Republican debates are so entertaining!

Without getting influenced by the media's next morning assessment, I would say that Trump did a good job containing the situation and maintaining his lead. He made no mistakes and was consistent. What saves him is his ability to speak as if he had a huge amount of common sense.
This may be false, but that's how he comes across to the public. Cruz worked really hard to make himself heard and to hoist himself above the rest. He probably succeeded, but without getting much closer to Trump.

Christie held his head above water, Rubio got demolished and so did Bush. Carson was totally lost. Fiorina knows how to be angry and staid that way the entire debate while Kasich, as usual, was unnerving. The bright spot would have been Paul who – as usual – made a few good points.

He is smart and would make a good running mate to Trump! Did I forgot someone?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Where are today's Prophets?

In this season of prophecies and religious celebrations, it's always interesting to revisit humanity's famous Prophets. In the past we had Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, and more recently, Mormon characters like Joseph Smith.

Yet, the advent of modern technology, close-circuit TV, wearable video cams, photography and sound recording, has put a serious stop to the business of pronouncing godly revelations and other prophecies.
Daring statements and miracles were a lot easier to make when superstition, widespread fear of darkness and lack of education were everyday reality.

Today, any such prophetic revelation would no longer stand the test of modernity as it could not be positively verified and it largely explains why we don't have any one who can get away with such preposterous stories and fool millions if not billions of people.

Fortunately for these early and now well-established witnesses, humanity has never had the tools to questioned too much the sources and the deception can linger on.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Do you ski like a grandpa?

If you tell someone “you drive like a grandpa” or “you talk like a grandma”, chances are that you won't be too popular with these folks.

Yet, this weekend, as I went skiing with my 7 year old grandson, I had to ski slower than usual and cramp my style a little to make the necessary adjustments required by the circumstances. I was no way near skiing the same as if I had been with a friend, my wife or my children.
So, in the end I really was skiing like a grandpa, in company of my grandson and had not one single problem with that!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

World United

Last night, I suddenly woke up around midnight and I caught myself thinking that it would be cool to finally have a united planet.

That got me thinking about the John Lennon's “Imagine” song. That's right, he too, was advocating for a world without nations, without borders and I almost forgot – without religions. That would also mean without politicians and wars! So I got thinking and called this new society World United.

I began to take an inventory of what we'd keep, eliminate, add, subtract, encourage and discourage in terms of customs, habits, education methods, procedures and the rest. I got quite all excited for a while and before I relapsed into my slumber, I felt the urge to pursue the exercise sooner than later.

So, please, just consider this short introduction as place-holder for a more robust discussion to come up very soon!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Trump: A monster created by Republicans

During the entire Obama presidency, Republicans have demonized the president, Washington and anything that wasn't going their way, with the help of talk radio hosts, Fox news and the internet.

They have radicalized the right of the US to the point that today, it can't no longer be tamed, hates political correctness and only responds to outrageous ideas, like the ones generated by Donald Trump.

The genie is out of the bottle, the Republican sorcerers are helpless to control the situation and stand a chance to win the 2016 Presidential Election. Be careful what you wish for!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Snow removal express

Some people are lazy, some are careless and some are selfish. I have a neighbor that is “all of the above”. I'm a mountain guy and I use mountain common sense, okay.

My neighbor is clueless. He clears his driveway by simply pushing the snow into the street, leaving a big heap of snow right in the middle of the road and goes back satisfied inside his home.

He doesn't care that the city has already cleared the road, that cars will have to plow through the mound of snow and pedestrians might sleep and fall on snow that will stay there for a while and sue him for that.

I guess, when you're dumb, you're dumb; sad but true.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Let's ski together!

Often, my wife asks me why I always ski alone. I should call a friend, right? I can never give her any good reason, because I am too forgetful. It's not that I am totally antisocial, but when I ski, I ski; I don't fool around.

It always goes like this: I invite a friend to go skiing, it's always hard to make a date, then when the time and day come, I always have to wait. Then it goes on, my buddy must do this, do that, go to his locker to change, I must wait some more.

Deciding on which run to take, stopping half way down, meeting half of the world's population, breaking for a drink, a snack or some coffee kills the pace and eats up what I was planning to do in the first place. When all is said and done, I end up skiing half of what I would have if I were alone..

Sure, we had a few good runs, a few good conversations riding up the lift, exchanged a few pieces of gossip and learned few useful tidbits too, but this is a retrograde way to ski and I'm not old enough for that.

Now I remember, once again, why I ski alone most of the time!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wearing religion on one's sleeves

If you've done any research about what the Koran says about Muslim women wearing veil and men growing ragged beards, the answer is nothing at all. These obsolete customs are all based on recommendations by prophet Muhammad.
With this in mind, I wonder why Muslim clerics are not encouraging their flock to forget about these medieval practices and get on with the flow. The same recommendations should also percolate from politicians like Trump, for instance, instead of hearing him blocking all Muslims from coming to America, including Syrian refugees.

Such a positive step would facilitate Muslims' integration into Western societies and calm spirits down. I personally don't care for any religion and would rather not see any faith on people sleeves!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Watching ski races on TV

I seldom watch any sport on TV, except sometime a few Olympic events, while they're on, a golf tournaments or the Tour de France. This weekend, I was so consumed watching the alpine ski races in Beaver Creek and Lake Louise, that it made me realize what a huge waste of my time that “couch-potato activity” was!
Thank god, the Ski World Cup tour is now migrating to Europe for the rest of the season and since most races conclude in the wee hours of the morning, I won't have to squander my most precious moments glued to a screen for hours on end. Just a few days early in the season are plenty for the whole year.

If I lived in Europe and watched ski racing, I might never get to the slopes!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Is using VPN illegal?

Most people who use VPN (virtual private networks) are trying to circumvent IP address (internet protocol address) blocking by certain publishing entities eager to protect their copyrights in certain countries. Based on this, we could wonder whether a system aimed at circumventing copyrights is legal, at least in the United States.
I certainly am no lawyer, but I have done some legal research following a conversation I had yesterday on the subject. Based on my findings, it would seem that the answer to that question will vary a lot depending on the local jurisdiction.

In other words, there are many jurisdictions where the "common law" principle applies, meaning (roughly) that the law is actually made by judges, so any case without precedent is in some sort of legal limbo. In the case where a service publisher puts in place an IP-based blocking system to restrict service from a specific country like, say the USA, and a user goes through a VPN to bypass that blocking system, it's fair to say that the user probably violates the service's usage terms and conditions.

Whether this is actually illegal is another story, because usage terms and conditions have no force of law until someone sues somebody and a legal decision is rendered. Furthermore, it seems that a lot of clauses in "usage terms and conditions" documents, as they exist today, are not actually sustainable in court.

As a result and a conclusion for today, it would seem to me that until content providers decide to clamp down on VPN through specific legislation or by launching massive legal action as was the case for illegal downloads of copyrighted material a few years ago, we can quietly continue using our VPN for quite sometime. In the meantime, enjoy the show!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Richer, happier? Who knows?

Yesterday I received that Facebook message from a FB friend from my hometown in France, saying:

 “You're certainly richer than us! ..... But you're not as happier, Greetings from the mountain top !!!!”

To which I replied:

“What is 'certainly richer than us' supposed to mean? Where have you seen it or who has told you that kind of BS? You don't know how rich we are, neither do I and don't care. Just like you, we also live in the mountains. We ski, we bike, we hike all over and enjoy our wonderful environment.
All these simple pleasures don't cost us a fortune and are more than enough. What's even more important is that we appreciate being able to do all these things at our age and hope we'll carry on with them as long as we can. Greetings from Park City and enjoy your day!”

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Park City's new mountain lodge

Park City resort just built a brand new mid-mountain lodge. It's called “Miners Camp” and it will replace the former Snow Hut.

Yesterday, as Silverlode opened up for the season, I skied down to Miners Camp, that is located next to the base of the Silverlode Lift and the brand new Quicksilver Gondola terminal that will connect Park City to what used to be Canyons resort. 
I had seen renditions of the building before, so I wasn't shocked when I saw its finished, exterior architecture. I wasn't impressed as I never liked the overall design. It just looked like a place where I'd come for an oil change, have my tires rotated or perhaps wash my car. 
This said, I took the time to step inside; boy, was I impressed when I saw the the expansive place, soaked in natural lights and opened up to the mountain views. The place is huge with 500 indoor seats, a nice bar area and – I'm told - a state of the art kitchen.

No wonder why one little serving of French fries is a whooping $7.00!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Enough is enough!

This is letter I sent my representative and senators: « It appears now clearly that it is time to repeal the 2nd Amendment.

To many of us, Americans, have become too crazy, too violent and too zealot to handle it properly. Times change, circumstances change and laws must follow. Wayne Lapierre, many of our 535 members of Congress, most politicians as well as all NRA members have blood dripping off their hands.

In fact, this country's position on fire arms has become so absurd that the rest of the civilized world no longer understand why we still don't get it. If you believe our gun laws are etched in stone,

I encourage you to take fifteen minutes and watch this video, by Jim Jefferies, an Australian stand-up comedian. He tells better than any one the absurdity of our gun laws; make the effort, it will make you think. »

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Is livestock a threat to the environment?

A few nights ago, we watch “Cowspiracy” a documentary spelling doom about the animal farming business and directing its viewers towards becoming vegans.

Some of the claims made in that film were over the edge and hard to believe, so the next days, I began to check some of the facts contained in the documentary and came up with the following tidbits that still are scary enough to give us pause about that segment of the agribusiness.

According to a 2006 report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, it appears that the livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions— more than the entire transportation sector!

When you get into what these emissions are made of, they account for 65 percent of nitrous oxide emissions (a greenhouse gas 300 times more destructive than CO2), so when you add it all up, livestock and its byproducts account for a whopping 51 percent of global greenhouse emissions!

Then, there's deforestation, land over-use and huge water demands that come along with the growth of this industry. It's probably reasonable to say that when the earth population was half of what it is today, reliance on livestock for food was okay, but with a world population exploding along with a growing middle class, people will want to consume more meat and dairy products every year.

Global meat production is projected to double from 230 million tonnes in 2000 to 500 million tonnes in 2050, while milk output is set to double from 580 to more than 1,000 million tonnes. Not a good sign for the environment and not a topic that stands front and center at the Paris Conference!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Stopping Daesh where it hurts

The most logical solution in stopping ISIS or Daesh, would be to cut their source of income which is the oil they capture from operating wells, before they sell it on the black market at deep discounts.
A quick survey of the internet shows that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Quatar appear to be its prime customers at cost in the $25 range per barrel. On occasions too, lured by the incredible deals offered, some European states are said to have bought that oil on the second market!

Putin also accuses the Turks to have a heavy hand in that (which I believe) and the German government even claims that Bashar al-Assad of getting his oil from Daesh! Knowing all of this, it would make sense to first target and destroy any vehicles and infrastructure used in moving that source of cash around, but some states claim that they don't want to risk an ecologic catastrophe or simply destroy the local economies involved.

What is clear is that the Saudis and Quataris, and to a lesser degree perhaps, the Turks, all of them Sunni, have played a huge role in helping ISIS take roots and sustain itself. The Western Coalition seems to be fumbling and probably realizes its humongous mistake by allying with such rogue states as Saudi Arabia and Quatar.

Our governments would like to save face but don't know how to retake control of and redress the situation. With so much misinformation going around, all orchestrated by Al Jazeera (Quatar), to further muddy the water, everyone is utterly confused and unable to fathom a solution through that mess, which gives even more urgency to cutting the flow of oil by all means possible...

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

COP 21: Another band-aid?

I don't know if it's clear in your head, but the 40,000 people coming from more than 190 nations to attend the Climate Change Conference in Paris will be big business for its hotels and restaurants.

That's an average of 200 bureaucrats and scientist per country; I sincerely hope they all have a good plan, but have absolutely no illusions about the outcome!

Sure, I believe global warming is for real and is placing our planet at risk, but I'm not necessarily confident that this army of attendees knows how to tackle the issue.

The 2010 international agreement had formalized 2°C (3.6 F) as the target maximum global temperature rise by 2100, a level most scientists thought might mitigate the catastrophic effects of global warming. As a comparison, today's temperatures have already risen about 1°C above pre-industrial levels, and if nothing is done, they'll top 5°C (9 F), instead of the 2°C goal of that 2010 agreement.

The reality though, is that commitments submitted so far by most countries, including the U.S. and China fall significantly short of that threshold, so don't expect miracles out of the Paris junket. If you read all the reports on the subject, you'll find one set of measure conspicuously absent, which in fact is the cause of the whole mess we're in: overpopulation.

Evidently, the conference draft agreement does not address population control. Once more, we're applying a band-aid over the wound. Rightfully so, serious ecologists and Malthusians are complaining that insufficient means are being injected into over-fertile countries to help them get rid of their population problem.

Finally, even if the Catholic Church support that something should be done about climate change, the pope still openly rejects population control in his encyclical declaration. So guys and girls, no matter which way we look at it, human life on this planet is now headed for some very rough times before it goes extinct.

I simply hope that the 40,000 delegate will have a fun week in Paris at their taxpayers' expense...

Monday, November 30, 2015

Shiffrin's secret

Yesterday's second slalom victory by Mikaela Shiffrin made me think, “what in the world makes her so good on skis?” and I came up with a few answers of my own:
  • She likes what she does and wants to excel in it. 
  • She masters exceptionally well all the technical elements she needs to succeed 
  • She trains and stays in shape to fuel her perfect technique 
  • All of her mind is into winning and leaves no room for distractions 
  • The sum of all the above is not just what she needs, it's largely in excess, so she has plenty of margin left
Now, that you know everything, go on the slopes and replicate it!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The American (ski) Exceptionalism

Like most ski spectators, I was in awe when I saw Mikaela Shiffrin crush the field and win with a never seen before 3:07 second advance on her next competitor.

At the same time, I was thinking that the US Ski Team is remarkable in the way it keeps on winning with lone, isolated athletes, without the broad support of a large team filled with great talents at is the case for most winning ski teams.

Right, American top skiers are lone wolves, like Billy Kid, the Cochran siblings, the Mahre twins, Tamara McKinney, Bill Johnson, Daron Rahlves, Bode Miller, Lindsey Vonn, Ted Ligety and today's prodigy, Mikaela Shiffrin, to cite the most recent and stunning examples.

That this country can produce extraordinary skiers without a strong core team, is both stunning and perplexing to me. Can someone explain it?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

There is no bad experience!

Yesterday, on the chairlift, a 50 year old man was telling me how bad his experience had been when he ventured on one of Jupiter's black diamond runs.

I told him that he must have learned something very important in doing so.
That there was never a bad experience as long as whatever made us stronger didn't kill us.

That success and plain happiness don't ever teach us a thing, and that in the great scheme of things, were probably activities to avoid in life.

The man listened, thought for a while and finally agreed with me.

The importance of good floor plan

The first two houses I had built had problems tied to dysfunctional floor plans. Architect are woefully incompetent when it comes to designing functional, free-flowing floor plans.

Instead, they get carried away by the external shell of the house and, then, do their best to jam a floor plan inside.

In our third home that we just built, I spend 80% of my time and efforts on the floor plan, and then – only then – I worked the outside appearance. From this positive experience, I can offer the following rules for designing the best floor plan possible:
  • It must incorporate the input from all stake-holders 
  • It must match the user's lifestyle (eating, resting, entertainment habits) 
  • It must offer a natural traffic flow that works for all users 
  • It must maximize location, views and sun It absolutely must be created in 3-D so every stake-holder can see how it looks like and works including its ceilings (a crucial detail!) 
  • It must contain all furnishings and furniture so there's no last minute surprise 
Only then, can one worry about the outer shell...

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The real Thanksgiving story.

Popular culture associates the holiday with happy Pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a big feast, but the reality is different. It all began in 1614 when some explorers sailed home to England with a ship full of Patuxet Indians bound for slavery. They left behind smallpox which virtually wiped out those who had escaped their raid.

 When the iconic Pilgrims got to Massachusetts Bay in 1620 they found Squanto, an Indian, that had escaped slavery and spoke some English. He taught them to grow corn, fish, and negotiated a peace treaty with the Wampanoag tribe. When word spread in England about this new world, some religious extremists (same as today), called Puritans, began arriving in large numbers.

Since there were no fences around the land, they seized it, captured strong young natives as slaves and killed the rest. But the Pequot Nation that had no peace treaty with the Puritans fought back in one of the bloodiest Indian wars on record.

In 1637, near present day Groton, Connecticut, over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival, just like our modern day Thanksgiving celebration. In the predawn hours, the sleeping Indians were surrounded by English and Dutch mercenaries who summoned them out, massacred all of them and burned alive their women and children inside the longhouse where they were hiding.

The next day the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared "A Day Of Thanksgiving" to mark the occasion.

As for us, Thanksgiving is totally non-violent. It's just a family celebration that is marked by a delicious fondue and a heartfelt “thanks” for being together and in good heath.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Where are Congress priorities?

If you listen to Republicans in Congress, you'll hear a litany of “repeal Obamacare” or “put boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq”, but never a vote to put an end to the types of corporate inversions that happen by way of merger with companies in lower-tax foreign countries.
This is just like what was announced on Monday between Allergan and Pfizer, for some $160 billion. This is the direct result of our representatives being bribed by “big pharma” or the rest of corporate America.

Our politicians only do what's good for their political career at the expense of giving up collecting taxes in the process. Time for our do-nothing-congress to put their money where American people's mouth is, not their re-election coffers !

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The affordable American croissant

I love croissants and my infatuation for this French treat has made us eat them religiously every weekend, for some time now.

While a typical croissant can be purchased for around 2 to 4 dollars in an American “bakery”, the delicacy is available throughout France for significantly less, namely for around 1 euro.

Generally, their taste, size and quality vary vastly and buying croissants at an unknown retail place is always a crap-shoot. Most of the time they taste poorly or okay and only in very few instances they'll be delicious, and this applies to both Europe and the United States.

Occasionally, on some weekends, we used to purchase our croissants at a local bakery; they were expensive and their taste varied greatly. About three or four years ago, our beloved warehouse store Costco, began to offer croissants.

We tried them, they were made on premises, they tasted very good and most importantly they were... incredibly cheap at 53 cents a piece. So the bottom line is that America still can manufacture good products at competitive prices, from Costco lowly croissant to SpaceX space rockets!

Monday, November 23, 2015

On the road to persuasion...

Recently, I opened up a fortune cookie that read: “People are not persuaded by what we say, but rather by what they understand.”
This message caught my attention and made me think about all the times I've tried to convince others to absolutely no avail. My story might have sounded good to me, yet it didn't make much sense to those who were listening to it.

Now, I'll keep in mind to always verify people's take-away from my admonitions before I'm convinced they know what I have worked so hard to tell them. If they fail to regurgitate what I want them to remember, I'll tweak my tale again and again, until it hits where and how it should.

I'm grateful I've learned this rule that doesn't just apply to persuasion, but to any form of communication as well!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Back on the boards!

Yesterday was my first day back on the ski following a six month lull. It so happened that it was also the beginning of my 63rd winter season on a pair of skis (now, I'll leave to your imagination how it all began...)

As usual, I still remembered how to ski, proving once more that my slight anguish prior to sliding down was totally unjustified. All directional sides worked (left, right, and straight down), my legs didn't wobble too much and in spite of very marginal conditions and far too many people on the hill, I still want to return for more.

I showed up at 2:15 pm and skied until closing time. That enabled me to find a convenient parking spot and avoid the chaotic congestion that prevailed earlier in the day. The skies were crystal clear and in spite of the biting cold, I had a great couple of hours.

As any skier knows, there's never a single dull day when you can be on skis. I did and dedicated all the turns (and schusses) that I had promised to a good number of friends, but haven't decided yet if I'll return today!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Liberating the fun factor

When you are raised in scarcity, told to care for your next of kin and have the Damocles sword of fear and prudence hanging over your head all of your life, it's very hard to let go and seize the moment in a carefree and selfish manner.

What I'm saying is that it's often too easy to deny ourselves what would really please us. I'm not talking about recklessness or hurting anyone in anyway, but just doing what seems to be fun, pleasurable and appropriate for the moment.

I've never quite looked at things quite this way. I've always taken a sliver of fun at a time while often feeling a bit guilty about it (some might take exception to my assessment, but remember, it's just mine!)
Seems like it might be time to start taking a much larger bite at it!

Friday, November 20, 2015

If I were a migrant...

I'd love to have a local tell me the “roads of the road...”
For example: 
  • Do my very best to blend-in and integrate myself the most seamlessly possible to my host society. 
  • Learn the local language and make it a priority over my own. 
  • Adopt the local customs and celebrate the local holidays. 
  • Make sure to name my kids by using local, customary first-names. 
  • Raise my kids as if they belonged fully to their new community; encourage them to make friends with local kids.
  • Dress and behave like the majority of people living in my host country 
  • When possible, and if needed change, alter my first and last names so they fall in synch with the majority 
  • Make a concerted effort to meet and socialize with locals and not just my former countrymen if they happen to be in large number in my new community. 
  • Do nothing negative (i.e. smoking, heavy drinking or other behaviors) that might single me out. 
  • When possible, become a citizen, vote and actively participate in the life and future of the community. 
If any of the above seem too hard (it sure is!) or impossible for me to do, I should return the place I'm coming from.
I can say say this, because I know what I'm talking about; I once was a migrant too. I searched, found and applied the above principles. They made me and my family both successful and happy in our new country.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A whack on the head?

Early this month, I began feeling a strange pain in my skull. I felt it inside its cavity, not externally. First, just in bed and soon, sporadically, during the day.

One morning, when we had breakfast, my wife told me about a story she had read about a young man who was suffering from excruciating headaches and was subsequently found to have a worm wrapped around his brain after it had migrated up his body.

I told my wife: “I might have the same problem with the strange headache I've been suffering from this past day!” I felt the pain when I was sleeping over my left temporal bone and later on, sporadically, I also felt it during the day. It felt more like a soreness than your typical headache.

Worst, when I was shacking my head laterally, it hurt really bad as if my brain was hitting something very sensitive inside the left skull cavity. I immediately went to see my doctor who performed a series of tests aimed at my sense of balance, coordination and vision, and all ended up being totally negative and made me feel as if I were a wuss and had made the all story up.

Then, the two-days old symptoms gradually disappeared over the following 48 hours, but not before a strange mark appeared on my left temple before eventually going away. Had I played football in school, I could have suspected that activity, but this wasn't the case, and to that day, this mystery remains unsolved!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

At the Gallery...

Last Friday, we visited the Renwick Gallery, on Pennsylvania Avenue, near the White House, for its grand re-opening. Incidentally, this is the first space that was built as a public art museum in Washington, DC.

After being shuttered for two years, the Renwick, that is dedicated to craft and design and is part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, re-opened its doors to showcase the effects of a $30 million renovation.
Among the impressive pieces showcased, I fell in love with “Shindig”, by Patrick Dougherty, displaying an intricate weaving of willows...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Terrorism: The limits of intelligence

If the September 11 attacks required a high level of sophistication, the recent Paris attacks paled in comparison. They could have been perpetrated by anyone, without state-of-the-art means of communications.

A simple meeting of the attackers and agreeing on a strike time would have sufficed, which means that future similar attacks can be carried out totally undetected, just like most mass shooting currently are in the USA.

Intelligence can only follow suspects closely, but this is time and manpower intensive and very hard to implement.

This means that a Paris-type attack might be the new norm, until governments start addressing the root causes of problems instead of just reacting to their symptoms...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Now, meet NPR!

This past Thursday, we visited the NPR studio. I had only been to our small, Park City Radio station before, and seeing the mother ship of American radio news broadcast was an awsome experience.
NPR's programs are heard by about 21 million Americans through 900 affiliated radio stations, which makes it the most popular single source of information in the country.

Our guide was absolutely excellent and it was fun to see where the news that come to us every morning during our favorite “Morning Edition” and “Weekend Edition” shows were created. We caught a glance of Bob Simon and Melissa Block as well as Bob Boilen of “All Songs Considered”.

In an age of dying media depth, this visit was a breath of fresh air and helped me link a rich image to my daily dose of audio news...

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bernie and Hillary

Last night was the turn for Bernie and Hillary to go at each other during the 2nd Democratic Presidential Debate.

While Hillary is your typical, sleek politician who flips like a well oiled weather vane and lies as she sees fit, Bernie's idealism is unrealistic and places far too much on his plate as he wants to change everything, now.
That's not how our real world works. The kind of transformation and “revolutionary” change Bernie Sanders calls for is only possible under duress and desperation, not under a messy, slow and hard-fought politic dialog, as we might expect to see at the present time.

This makes Hillary Clinton a more likely nominee – even though I despise the choice – and very probably our next president.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The new savages

Once more, the Paris massacre shows clearly that when savages or crazies are among us, we aren't safe anymore. So rules have to be changed.

“Liberties” as we know them must be redefined, like the “right” to bear arms indiscriminately.

Likewise, since religion appears to be at the core of most of these savage behaviors, it will have to be reined in and controlled.

Less fun for the few savages and lunatics, but much safer for the many of us.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Contact lens or placebo?

I've worn contact lenses for more than 30 years, and for the first time this week, I had one that corrected nothing. Yeah, pure placebo. As I was watching TV in my daughter apartment, I was wondering if the show was HD or just digital.

There was a slight blur and I must say that the only lens I wear only offers a slight correction. So I struggled for a couple of days until I tried my eyeglasses on to discover that – yes! - my lens wasn't correcting anything. Just a clear, useless piece of plastic over my pupil...

By luck, I had taken with me an extra lens and, a few seconds later, I was seeing with full clarity! This shows to go that quality control issues happen everywhere and no one product is ever perfect!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Republican debate #4

I don't like Hillary Clinton, but she stands head and shoulder above the sad crew of Republican candidates that were tearing themselves apart on Tuesday night.

That fourth debate showed big fractures in their ideology and how weak and naive their respective tax plans were, their understanding of what motivates corporations to manufacture abroad (low wages, not taxes), their only unity was in demolishing Obamacare and in going to war with everyone under the sun (except for Rand Paul).
Another test would be to imagine how any of these clowns would fare if they had to face Putin! One has to be hopelessly stupid to keep on supporting these incompetent candidates and this would be another good reason why, if she doesn't do anything utterly stupid, Hillary is guaranteed to be our next President.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

From the top of the Washington Monument

All those past years, we never got a chance to climb to the top of the Washington Monument and today was our chance. The stars seemed aligned except for the weather that was rainy and drizzly all day.

When we got near the obelisk-shaped building, the wind blew so hard that it turned our umbrella inside out, but that didn't stop us, we bravely rode up the elevator to its observation deck, some 550 feet up.
There, all the windows were covered with rain with no windshield wipers available, so we stayed glued to the glass and used our imagination the best we could.

We saw the White House, waived at President Obama, but we couldn't see precisely as he must have responded to our friendly greeting. Probably too much rain on the window for us to see!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Our first day in the Washington, DC area went fast as we spent part of it visiting nearby Annapolis, Maryland's capital, which sits on the Chesapeake Bay, and then the afternoon, the U.S. National Arboratum in the Nation's capital.

Since visiting an arboretum in November isn't necessarily the best time of the year, we spent most of it exploring its incredible bonsai and penjing museum that are displaying some incredible living work of art, many of them that saw their beginnings long before my own birth.
The exhibit is rich, varied and includes the both the Japanese and Chinese interpretations of “training trees”. Something I could start learning when I can no longer ski, which, I'm afraid might be never!

Monday, November 9, 2015

The ever-evolving winglet

I remember "winglets" showing on commercial airplanes when the 747-400 appeared in the late 80s and the wingtip fence with the advent of the first Airbus 319. They've multiplied ever since and the biggest retro-fit happened with the good old 737 that got huge ones in relation to its overall size.

Yesterday, as we were flying in a brand new Boeing 737 MAX, I noticed a new type of wingtip
device that was a hybrid between a blended winglet, a wingtip fence, and a raked wingtip. Then, I thought about the condor (the bird that is) and its rather sophisticated wing tips that it uses to fine tune its soaring pattern.
When will all that winglet design stabilize and its evolution slow-down? Seems to me that engineers have not been paying good attention to that aerodynamic detail in their wing design, ever since the devices have surfaced in the mid 70s.

This also reminds us that – when compared to birds – aircraft design still has a long way to go...

Sunday, November 8, 2015

This weekend Ski Swap

Park City's annual Ski Swap is a big deal and if you have a skiing family and don't want to mortgage your home in order to get them all outfitted for the slopes, you better make sure you show up during the three-days event that takes place early November.

This is exactly what I did, first on Friday night (they opened the place from 8 pm to 1 am), but when I showed up at 7:50 pm, there was already an endless line of people waiting in the cold, that stretched over several blocks.

When I saw that, I got spooked and returned home. I made a second and successful attempt the next morning, brought my spouse along and we took a long look at all the merchandise on display. I'm always looking for one or more pair of "rock skis" which I consume as if they were chocolate chip cookies.

I could only find one, already mounted with bindings, used at the most a couple of time, with a freshly reground base and we brought that baby back home. There was a pretty good selection of stuff, from ski and snowboard equipment, to clothing and accessories.
Anyone who still buy skis at regular retail price is a fool for not checking out that market place first, where most prices offered are at least 40% below the regular "street price"; if you missed it this time, mark your calendars for next year!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Skis: An arranged marriage?

Just like most birds and many humans, skis stay together for life. It's just like a marriage, but an arranged one. But unlike a marriage, there's no sex going on, and yet, it's meant to deliver tons of fun, that is if they can stay somehow together.

Sometime, they'll converge during “wedge time”. A meeting of the minds of sort, because it always happens at the tips, or the highest possible level. Most of the time and their life, skis co-exist living parallel lives and when they happen to diverge, it's generally bad news.

Unlike humans couples, they always dress exactly the same. It's also fair to say that divorce never happens. I've seen temporary separations though; at lunch time, out by the lodge they sometimes get split, separated and placed on different racks by their suspicious owner, sometime for hours on end.

Disappearance can also break a couple. I remember that one day of May 1995, one of my ski got got by a tree top while powder skiing Little Cloud at Snowbird and the other ski remained a widower forever (I think I had lost the “she” but, who knows, skis might have no gender after all, they just have sides!)

The marriage between a right and a left ski may be arranged, but it can last for years. Of course, over time, their tops will get scratched, just like our faces get wrinkles, but the only thing to make sure of, is that they never lose their edge and that their bottoms remain clean and smooth, but I guess you knew that already!