Monday, August 31, 2015

Mountain biking & obstacle course

Today, as I was riding, I was looking at my mountain-bike ride as an obstacle course and each time I was clearing one known section of the trail, I was overcoming one specific difficulty, just like I would jump over a series of hurdles.
All this mental exercise in order to achieve the ultimate goal of not hurting myself. I'm becoming picky with my riding. I don't want to take another fall in a universe where it's not “if”, but “when”, something unpleasant will happen.

Will this new outlook on achieving “no-fault” rides likely to protect me more or will it jinx me? I don't know and since I'm a little superstitious, I don't want to know. For the moment, I'm just clearing obstacles!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Burning Man Anyone?

The Burning Man celebration is a week-long annual event that began in San Francisco in 1986 and has been, for many years now, relocated in the desert of northern Nevada. It begins the last Monday in August, and ends the first Monday in September, which happens to be American Labor Day holiday.

The culmination of the week-long festivities is the ritual burning of a large wooden structure that is supposed to represent a man. It happens the last Saturday of that eventful week. More than 50,000 people attend the event and bring their own floats, costumes and crazy performances.

Our next door neighbors, who are in their late 30s, attend the event every year and I wonder if we shouldn't not joint them next year, before we are mentally and physically much too old to participate. As I always say: We'll see...

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Leading Ladies?

If there is a lady, head of state, that has all my admiration, it's Angela Merkel. Okay, we've had Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and Benazir Bhutto at the helm of governments before, but no of them ever came close to the German Chancellor.

As the world is now looking with interest on Hillary Clinton's future, the French are beginning to talk about, and virtually “draft”, IMF's chef, Christine Lagarde, as they future candidate for president in 2017.

Well, if she were interested and got elected, she'd probably do better than Mr. Hollande and even Sarkozy, who both didn't achieve much, but her challenge would still be to drastically reform the country and go far beyond her honorific role at the IMF where talk is easy and loans are cheap.

It would require huge amounts of humility and common sense on her part to wow the French, that would have to tighten their belt and the entire legislature that would be asked to do some real work.

The same could easily be said about Hillary's Clinton assignment here in America. Mrs. Merkel has the right profile for the job and also has these skills dialed-up, but I'm not sure these two other ladies are even close to their German model...

Friday, August 28, 2015

A new flag for New Zealand?

For years, most people have mistaken the Kiwi flag for its Australian counterpart and it's urgent to put an end to that terrible confusion! This would seem like a pretty simple problem to address, but a majority of New Zealanders are not quite sold on the idea, especially in view of the fact that it will cost them some $17 million.

The Russians and other former Soviet republics didn't make such a fuss; they exchanged their red hammer and sickle flags for new flags and that was it. Since these old flags must have been horded somewhere in anticipation of a likely resurrection of the USSR by Mr. Putin, there should be a strong used-flag market in all of these countries, and nothing would prevent to recycle all of them by slapping the “silver fern” in the middle as suggested on the illustration.

I would leave the meaningless communist emblem on, because it's not that big and it might add a tinge of nostalgia to the general look and feel of the piece. Since the first referendum on the subject is planned next November, my plan and design idea should be added to the four flag alternatives voters will have to decide upon. Another two-cent suggestion of mine to solve a multi-million dollar problem!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why do we procrastinate?

I must admit it; I'm not a good procrastinator. I mean, most of the time, I get things done right away and move on.

This doesn't mean though that I NEVER procrastinate. Every so often and every so little I do, but generally it's because I don't feel that I'm quite ready yet or that I haven't amassed enough information to seat my decision and to advance.
Today, while eating a fortune cookie, I found the maxim: “Procrastination is the fear of success.” I don't quite buy the idea. Perhaps in some extreme situations, but most definitely not with me.

For me, fear of failure is what makes me put off until tomorrow what I could, or should do, today!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Thirty years and beyond...

That's it; we now have lived in Park City for more than 30 years. This by far is the place where we have spend the longest period of time in our entire lives and today, if we can help it, we have no intention to change it.
Like most anywhere in the world, things have changed a lot around us, but Park City remains a wonderful little mountain town and we're glad we picked it and choose to come to it when we did. Now, let's sit back, relax a bit more and cruise into our future!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Afternoon at the Utah Olympic Park

If you are tired of mountain-biking, trail running or golfing, the best next thing for you is to spend an afternoon at the Utah Olympic Park, next to Kimball Junction and only a few miles away from Park City.
Sitting on the sidelines, in the shade or in full sun, spectators can get their fill of world-class athletes practicing their freestyle skills, jumping, flipping, twisting in search of their perfect form before landing in the pool below.

There are even ranked beginners taking their first baby steps over a “mini” jump and their struggle with the kind of fear and commitment it takes to jump is is every bit as compelling or fun as the Olympic Class! It's a very simple form and entertainment, it's easy to access, sporty in spirit and free during week-days.

Weekends are featuring a more orderly exhibition of talent, and there's a nominal charge for it, but if you don't know what to do, have a couple of hours to burn or show something different to visiting friends, this is the perfect venue. Try it and just like us, you'll be sold on it!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Park City's transformation

On August 9, Mike Wright‎ posted a photo on Facebook taken in 1959 and showing how Park City looked like from the its ski slopes that did not exist yet.

Yesterday, I tried to frame the same picture with all the current construction and infrastructure, and put both on top of each other for all of us to compare. Too bad the air was so smoky with the raging western fires that the picture isn't as sharp as it should, but it still sheds a brutal light on the breakneck speed of change that has affected our little community.

Most of it has been to everyone's benefit, but how much farther can we safely go?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A trip of a lifetime!

Thirty years ago these days, we packed the family car, pushed the entire family inside the cramped interior of our Mazda 626 touring sedan and drove 2,000 miles from New York to Park City in just five days, stopping only in Ohio, Illinois, Nebraska and Colorado, in a hotel with a swimming pool for our kids to unwind.
We made it to our new home without a hitch and with eyes filled with changing vistas, endless cornfields and a wide sense of how big America was. When we reflect on it, are we glad we did it? Yes. Would we do this crazy move again today? Probably not.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Retire while you still can!

For the past ten years, I have been lucky to live without a regular paycheck. I was also lucky to ski a lot mountain bike as much and be the sole master of my time.

My future as a skier and rider is likely to be quite different in the years ahead, simply because my mind and my body won't be able to take as much punishment as they have until now.

This is simply why I recommend that if you have not done it yet, and are of age, you should retire while you can. If you delay it too long, it may be too late. You will retire to nothing interesting left to do...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Adventures in irrigation

Utah is so dry that we must rely on some sort of irrigation, especially if you grow a vegetable garden or want to get grass, flowers or bushes established. When we built our home in 2014, we choose to have an automatic irrigation system to jump-start our landscaping, even though we lived one third of our time in Park City without relying on one of these water guzzlers!

The programming controller we used is the X-Core made by Hunter Industries. It is highly sophisticated, allows for a multitude of programming options, but is woefully difficult to understand and adjust, to the point that the company has a full-time crew of technicians at their call-center ready to guide users into their convoluted product. It's clearly a case of a product designed by engineers with absolutely no regards towards the end-user.

As you might guess, I've resorted to that call-center on multiple occasion ever since our system has been up and running, which means that I know it pretty darn well. This said, it still happened to start inadvertently around midnight when I'm sound asleep; the noise wakes me up and forces me to get up and shut the controller down.

I've called the support team many times about their product erratic behavior. They told me to do a “soft reset”, I also did hard ones, but the problem kept propping up. Finally I called again yesterday, went through my controller with the factory technician and when all was said and done, he asked me to look for the assembly date, printed on some obscure corner of the control panel. I told him what it was and he said “The units made during that time have all been recalled and you must change yours.”

Since we are talking about a $100-150 piece of equipment, I must now drive one hour away to get a replacement, waste half a day of my precious time and that's about my sole expeditious option if I want this problem out of my life sooner than later. Another adventure in consumerism and a very, very bad grade for Hunter Industries!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Salomon hiking shoes anyone?

The other day I picked up a pair of cool new trail running shoes, made by Salomon in Vietnam, the XA PRO or something like this. First time I ever bought a pair of Salomon shoe, but it looked sturdy, I fell for the quick lacing system and it didn't hurt when I tried them on inside the store.

In anticipation of some serious trekking soon, I decided to “break” that new pair and immediately discovered that the right heel hurt me like hell and I got a huge blister that was due to the hard cushioning and the irregular stitching inside the area; smart designers don't put a seam right in the middle of a heel cup!

In addition, the quick lacing system did work at all for me, as it applied excessive pressure on both my insteps, more because of its flawed design (the base of the lacing and the tying clips being the only two points of contact).

Since I was not going to take this kind of “Spanish inquisition” I drove down to Salt Lake City, returned the shoes at REI store and promised myself to stay away from “French hi-tech designs” from now on...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Where are the teachers?

This week is back to school almost everywhere in the United States. I was listening to a radio report complaining that most American school districts are having a tough time recruiting teachers this year. If the reasons for that shortage didn't seem to clear to the reporter who had worked the piece, they are pretty obvious to me.

For one thing, the job is hard. Blatant permissiveness in the way children are educated is bringing more kids that have no respect for their teachers, parents don't feel like they should coach their kids in their homework, parents also are too quick to blame schools and teachers when there offspring don't perform.

To make things worst, the profession is constantly vilified by politicians, the public school institution is the target of systematic attacks and teacher's salaries are pretty dismal, when compared to most other good jobs, not to mention top athletes, artists and CEOs.

When these issues get fixed, we'll have people willing to teach.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Atheism? Harmless!

Another day, another terrorist attack perpetrated by some religious fanatics... I have said many times that religion kills. Then what doesn't kill? The only group that comes to my mind are the Atheists! Some truth worth pondering...

Monday, August 17, 2015

El Niño illusion?

Okay, we're supposed to have “El Niño” around this winter and already, folks are salivating, thinking that snow will be fathomless and this will be another winter of endless “Pow...”

I'll admit that the stakes are increasingly high; with resorts investing millions in infrastructure, ski-towns gearing up for maximum occupancy and everyone already counting their profits, we MUST all have tons of snow, right?

Of course not, our wildest desires, our strongest prayers and our best hopes will have little effect on the actual volume of snow mother nature will actually spray upon us, come this November. So, if you don't want to be disappointed, adopt my simple maxim: Expect the worst and prepare for the best.

Trust me, even better than the promises-packed El Niño, this is the only formula that always work!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Where was I when it happened?

Last night, I briefly watched a few minutes of Elvis Presley 1973 concert in Hawaii, and it suddenly came to me where I was when I heard about his death on August 16, 1977. I was driving back to my office in Elmsford, NY, alongside Kensico Cemetery. Then all these major life milestones began scrolling in front of my eyes... 
  • President Kennedy's assassination: TV room at Cluses, High-School, France 
  • Fourth man moon landing, July 30, 1971: Mt. Buller, Australia 
  • John Lennon's assassination: Early morning, at the Look office in Elmsford, NY 
  • Challenge Shuttle disaster: During a rep sales meeting at Lange's office in Oakland, NJ 
  • September 11: While having breakfast in Vail, CO 
  • Columbia Shuttle disaster: While running in the morning in Vail, CO 
And you, where were you when these events happened?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Hillary and Bernie

Six month ago, Hillary Clinton was a shoe-in as the democrat presidential choice for 2016. Since that time, Bernie Sanders has been galvanizing support from thousand of people on the left of the party, in a way reviving “Occupy Wall-Street”, becoming a threat to Mrs. Clinton, and showing that politicians are clearly out of touch with what the public truly want. 
We're told that the richest 0.1 percent control more wealth than the bottom 90 percent of the American public, and this while the real income of that same 90 percent has virtually remained stagnant since 1980. So what is American electorate waiting for to react and ask for what's due them?

Well, one could argue that the 10 percent better off would for sure vote republican, but that's not even the case; at any rate, most of the 90 percent should vote for what is likely to help them most, namely the Democratic Party, but that's not the case. Half of the nation has blinders on, either through Fox News indoctrination or religious ideologies like the Christian Right, and won't help themselves by voting left. I would for sure vote that way if I were in their shoes!

This makes me return to Hillary and Bernie and my last word for the day is that the old Vermonter is onto something huge and doesn't fully appreciate it yet!

Friday, August 14, 2015

The art of staying in touch...

I don't know what possesses me, but I like to stay in touch with people I know and value. The problem is, these same people don't seem as eager as I am to reciprocate.

Why? They may be too busy, they may have no time, be too cheap, or think about it and then forget it as soon as the thought exit their mind. I'm often told that I'm foolish to keep on trying, but this doesn't stop me from going on.

It could be that I am too stubborn or that the thirty years old AT&T commercials keep on ringing into my ears.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Google Translate and seer stone

Recently, the Mormon Church published the photo of the seer stone, with which, in 1823, Joseph Smith allegedly translated the golden plates that an angel told him about. Mr. Smith claimed that he used one of the two stones that the angel gave him on the occasion, to translate the book of Mormon from some gibberish language into English.

While this tale is hard to believe, it's interesting to compare the mineral artifact with today's Google Translate app. Hopefully, the interactive software would instantly tell us to take a hike if we asked it to translate a fishy story from some “reformed Egyptian” tongue!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A spooky fall!

Last Saturday, during the 6th stage of the Tour of Utah, Matt Brammeier, an Irish cyclist was lucky to be alive and just hospitalized after hitting a service car while chasing back to the peloton on the descent from Guardsman Pass in Big Cottonwood Canyon, on the other side of Park City. 

He was taken by ambulance to University Hospital, where he was listed in stable condition but sustained severe injuries to his pelvis, ribs and one lung. One individual who conducted a speed analysis of the rider, concluded that he was at about 46 mph, with about only 20 meters to brake, something absolutely impossible. Watch the video; the man is really lucky!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Why so many choose to live in Park City?

Most peoples live in certain places because that's where they were born, went to school, got a job, found a mate or for a host of other reasons, but very few just pick a place because they've decided that's where they want to live.

or these people, ocation trumps all other considerations, least of which is the high cost of housing and often a job that must be found through sheer imagination, creativity or lower pay and status.

This choice of location over anything else is what unite the 20,000 plus new “parkites” that have picked Park City and its surroundings as their home, for the incredible quality of life it offers and are all willing to pay whatever cost come with their very unique lifestyle!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Another Tour of Utah

Even though I'm not a road cyclist, I love to see a good road bike race.

Just like the Tour de France, we have a similar event in Park City, with the annual Tour of Utah, I also make certain that I won't miss this bike love fest at Park City, precisely on the day when this increasingly popular cycling event chooses our community to start and end its ultimate stage.

Of course, just like the Tour de France ends up parading the Parisian Champs-Élysées before coming to a close, our very own Tour of Utah does the same in the mountain capital of fun that is Park City, by concluding on our own Historical Main Street!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The art of window washing...

Recently, I've looked at cleaning my home windows as an interesting challenge instead of a dreadful chore:

First, turning drudgery into desirable accomplishment is a wonderful way to bring more fun into one's life and second, I see washing windows more as an art than a simple task and realize that I still have a long way to go before reaching “crystal-clear perfection” in this area.

So, this past Thursday and Friday, washing our windows is just what we did and we achieved some pretty good results. In the process, I've also researched and learned how to enhance my technique by watching countless video lessons on Youtube.

Now, I'm chomping at the bit to hone them, next time window cleaning is on my agenda!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Spanish update...

About 10 days ago, I undertook to learn Spanish. With few exceptions, I've been doing it daily, generally for at least one full hour.

How am I doing? Not so great, at least in my own, humble view. It seems that accumulating knowledge isn't what it used to be for me. Sure, I know a few words, can even make a few sentences, but most of what I do is still peppered with errors and interrupted with memory lapses.

My goal is to be not so bad in one month from now. Let's wait until then for another update!

Friday, August 7, 2015

First GOP Debate

I was looking forward to an entertaining evening with Mr. Trump taking center-stage in a ten men line-up, but was a bit disappointed in the real estate tycoon's ability to disrupt the orderly debate as I thought he would do.

This said, I've been amazed about the low level of intellect displayed by the GOP electorate who sees something in Trump, and idiot seeking publicity at all cost, and because of their judgment, manages to eclipse the rest of the field. It says a lot about the quality of our republican politicians and the shallowness of their program or lack thereof.
This said, I think that among this terrible crop of candidates, Jeb Bush managed to pull the best performance of the evening by delivering what he had been well-trained to regurgitate and establishing himself as more centrist voice. He was in my view followed by John Kasich who also offered a non-extremist version of his world view.

Trump, the out-of-control New-Yorker, acted as the idiot I thought he would be, and Scott Walker was a disappointment. It's hard to be an extremist and appeal to a voting nation made largely of reasonable folks. The rest of the team was simply blend and of little interest. I had hope Rand Paul might pull something compelling, but he didn't. Christie was pathetic, Rubio weak, Cruz remained the fanatic we know and that's about it.

My early prediction: The nomination will either go to Bush or Kasich.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Reaching (banking) closure

Almost three month after I demanded it, my bank account with Crédit Agricole is finally closed.
I got a check and a confirmation. It was long, arduous and painful process that is quite illustrative of how certain service business still work in my home country...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

When pop music works like cuisine...

Last night we went to see Grace Potter in concert at Deer Valley. Ms. Potter began her carrer in 2002, with the Nocturnals, a rock band from Waitsfield, Vermont.

Some say that her style and energy are reminiscent of Janis Joplin's and I would agree with this statement. While she's a dynamo on scene, we didn't know any of her songs and were – as is always the case with an unknown entity – laboring to catching up.
Yes she was good, tireless, but she was also very, very loud. Seems to me that noise works for pop music like seasoning works for bland foods. If the ingredients are questionable, you add pepper, salt and grease, hoping that folks will eat it up.

That's right, too much noise killed her performance for us, and that's too bad, but we might have been in the minority. We aren't much into dancing anymore, can't hear the lyrics to make sense of the songs and are a bit too sober. Next time, we'll try something tamer!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I stop complaining!

Today I stumbled on one of these Facebook messages, exhorting whoever was receptive to stop complaining for just 24 hours and see what would start happening to their lives.

I think I agree with this idea, because if we begin to chase complains from our conscious mind, we're just left with positive alternatives, including plans, solutions and other ideas that will make recriminating totally useless and a royal waste of time.

Even though I'm not that big of a complainer, I need to embrace the idea and build it firmly into my daily lifestyle!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Looking ahead? Easier said than done!

Yesterday, I went back on my mountain bike for the second time after a recent operation. Since I didn't feel one-hundred-percent yet, I decided to focus on that strongly held concept that it's better to look well ahead, in the direction where one's rolling instead of just being staring at the front wheel, just like we try to do it when we ski!

Well, this one principle is much harder to apply on two fat tires than it is on a pair of skis, just because it requires a much stronger act of faith and given all the mess than unfolds under these same wheels. It's also much harder to stay serene and relaxed while watching in the distance, instead of observing all objects, gross and minute, that continuously flow at the bottom of a single track.
The bottom line is that it's another educational process requiring lots of practice, infinite patience and strong dedication. I need to work on it!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sundance, the un-Park City...

Today, we paid a visit to Sundance resort; a mere 45 minute away from Park City, to unwind in that rustic, authentic mountain retreat that enchanted Robert Redford in the late 50s and pushed him to first buy two acres of land for $500 in 1961 for building a cabin on it, before buying the resort's remaining 5,000 acres from the Stewarts, a sheep-herding family who ran the tiny Timphaven ski area.
Nothing much has changed since that time. Going to the resort takes you four decades back, away from today's glib and snobish Park City, into a world that no longer exists, except of course at this seminal place. We occasionally make this trip into nostalgia and find it soothing to our soul and our modern lives. We only pray that it won't ever change!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Another art festival

Every summer, as July turns into August, people living in Park City are treated to a massive art festival that turns Main Street into an art emporium for two and a half day. We've attended it on and off, for the past thirty years.

We went again last night – dubbed the local night – to preview this year's art offering but were not too impressed. We didn't find the diversity of art we were looking for, as most of the pieces displayed were paintings, illustrations and photographs that failed to grab our inquisitive glance. There were a few sculptures, but nothing overly creative as we thought we had seen in the past.

Over the years, we bought a few pieces that caught up our attention and that ended up fitting extremely well inside our home. Perhaps are we becoming a little blasé and need even more stimuli to get excited, but we still thought the offering was much richer in the past.

This said, we had a marvelous time riding the bus to, and from the festival. The atmosphere was festive, the passengers all pleasant, and on the way back, they all had a bit to drink which made the journey that much more fun. Well, these observations may be just signs of the times and of course, there's always next year!