Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Windows 10 played hard to get!

At long last, my desktop and laptop finally run Windows 10. Even though the new Microsoft operating system has been available since July 29, it's only a good two month later that my two computers were updated.
The laptop (purchased more recently) was an easier one to update while my desktop remained an impossible challenge. Even though, I'm an early adopter and tried relentlessly since launch day, I just couldn't get it. It's only by accident that all gelled yesterday.

I must say I wasn't surprised and thought it was consistent with Microsoft's head in the sand when it comes to user's friendliness. I even called the Costco support system in late August, but they couldn't figure out what was wrong either, which says a whole lot.

Now, enough complaints. Let's see how #10 works!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Our Green Pope

Pope Francis made a very strong impression on American people during his last visit, and while each sides of the public opinion spectrum tried to spin what he said to their advantage, he was pretty clear that he expressed pretty clearly that man had trashed the planet and that it was time to do something about it.
What the Pope didn't suggest, though, was that climate change was just the symptom and not the reason for Earth's endangerment. The reason, as still too few people yet understand is that humans are far too many on the planet and that something needs to be done about it.

Of course, we need to give Francis some slack; he is running a very conservative organization and he will need a few more years before publicly acknowledging that we have a major problem with overpopulation!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Turning negative vibes into positive energy

Like the alchemist turns lead into gold, I'd love to be able to transmute negative pain into positive energy. To be truthful, I'm looking for a method or a way, because I sense that there must be one, and the only one I've heard about is one that is related to yoga practice.

It consists of acknowledging pain instead of denying it or pushing it back. Instead, it requires that we fully breath-in that pain, thinking that it's part of the all the pain and suffering that is plaguing the world.

Once this is done, literally exhale that same pain and focus on its leaving your own body and the entire world. I kind of like this approach and next time I'm bothered with negative vibes, I will try it!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Inca creed is what I need!

During our recent trip to South America, we learned about the Inca creed:
  • Don't lie. 
  • Don't steal. 
  • Don't be lazy. 
I liked it a lot. It hit a spot in me, and then I compared it to the Judeo-Christian's Ten Commandments. I was not impressed by the later as I ran my analysis. The first three are God-centered and have little to do with humanity or being a good human:
  • You shall have no other gods before Me. 
  • You shall not make idols. 
  • You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain. 
The next one reminds us to take a break once a week, but as long as we're not lazy, we know how to rest when we need to, so I don't see it as a pillar of order in society:
  • Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 
The following one goes without saying and shouldn't be “commanded”:
  • Honor your father and your mother. 
Even though the Spanish conquistadors knew this one, it didn't stop them from massacring all the Incas they encountered and that resisted their destructive efforts:
  • You shall not murder. 
Then these four next sound just like stealing and lying combined, right?:
  • You shall not commit adultery. 
  • You shall not steal. 
  • You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 
  • You shall not covet. 
Finally, there's no recommendation about working hard or not being lazy in the version I was brought up with. After serious consideration, the Inca creed is simple, easy to remember and works perfectly for me!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Papal product placement

Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles pulled a great marketing coup when he got Pope Francis to downgrade his pope-mobile from Mercedes to Jeep and adopt a Fiat 500L as his official limo.

Of course, this perfect product placement was at the confluence of the Pope being a resident of the State of Vatican, landlocked in the middle of Italy and that of Francis walking the talk in terms of his vow of poverty as a Jesuit.

Will that impressive PR move sell more Jeeps and Fiats? Time will tell, but it's quite likely to remain the product placement of the century!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Should people die for their religion?

The terrible accident that marred the Hajj in Mecca brings up a lot of questions and provide few answers. My heart goes to the hundreds of innocents who died.

This is not an isolated incident; in the past quarter-century, several thousand people have been trampled to death during this famous pilgrimage.

The responsibility appears to fall squarely on the Saudis, their shoddy organization and a callous disregard for human life. How can a country so rich allow for stampedes that kill hundreds of people on a regular basis?

This practice is medieval and something has to change and both the Saudi and Muslim leaders have to step up to bring their religion in synch with the more civilized 21st century. If this happened, our world would be transformed!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

“Clean Diesel”

The Volkswagen fraud and subsequent fiasco is exposing the lie we've all been served to the consuming public by automakers that are claiming to offer “Clean Diesel” in their products.

To me, “Clean Diesel” has always been an oxymoron. Diesel is a source of particulates that are polluting our environment day in, day out and, should probably be outlawed. Yes, there's a clean alternative to this low-grade combustible and that's natural gas, which, for the moment, is both plentiful and cheap.

I'm glad the American Environmental Protection Agency pulled the lid on Volkswagen cheating practices and that the German firm will pay the right price for its deception!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

When I look at the planet...

I see a pretty ball, mostly blue, with about 30% of land and no visible borders. From out of space it would seem like people should be allowed to roam free around this precious terrestrial space and pick the place they'd like to live in.

At least this is the way it originally was, before man began to delimit nations and control what was going on in any of them. I'm not even talking about “possessing” real-estate, a full subject in it of itself. I'm just considering roaming or traveling rights.

It seems to me that barriers put in place by governments are progressively weakening and becoming untenable, to the point that we might soon see the age of free circulation and the fall of governments as we know them.

There just will need to be certain rules to make this smooth and possible. At the rate at which things change, we might very well see it very soon!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Peru trip - Return trip

American “legacy airlines” are consistently setting a very bad example when it comes to service. My last bad experience happended on...Around midnight, last night, my wife and I were booked to fly on United Airlines from Lima, Peru to Houston, Texas, in Economy Class Plus, for which we had paid extra.

First, as we were checking-in, we learned that our flight was first delayed and shortly thereafter that it had been canceled. We were then re-routed on Copa Airlines, through Panama departing later that morning and causing us to get home some eight hours later at home.

Of course, I was was then given the assurance by the United Airlines agent that we would get a set in Economy Class Plus, which didn't not happen as we found ourselves sitting at the very back of the aircraft. As we boarded the plane, I asked a flight attendant if we could be placed in a more forward section of the aircraft, but this was time wasted.
When I arrived in Houston, I went directly to customer service to complain that I didn't receive the extra service I had paid off. The customer service rep said he couldn't do anything in terms of refund, because United had no control over what Copa Airlines had done.

This clearly was not my problem, but United's with its faulty equipment that failed to provide me the service it sold me. I'll get this settled by contacting American Express tomorrow and by never, ever flying United again, unless, of course United makes me an offer I can't refuse!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Trip to Peru - Last day

Our last day in Peru was another bonus day in Cusco. In the morning we went shopping and completed the list of items we wanted to take home, find time to visit a few museums in the center of Cusco and were suddenly caught by a violent rainstorm that gave us little choice, but seek shelter under a succession of shallow entry doors along the narrow streets that were leading back to our hotel.
We were starting to get wet and the steep street were we had found refuge, turned soon into a thundering torrent. When cars passed by they would splash us to a point that we were now totally drenched. With minutes left before our pick-up back to the airport to arrive at the hotel, we ran as fast as we could back to the Quinta San Blas, got towels to dry ourselves, changed clothes and in a matter of minutes were driven to the Cusco airport.

Our plane to Lima was a bit delayed, but we didn't worry much about it, as our layover time before departing to the US was huge! When we got to Lima, we had dinner in a high visibility spot, inside the airport departure lounge, and did as much people-watching as was humanly possible since we had so much time to kill.

By 9:30 pm, we inquired about our flight to Houston, lined up like the rest of the passengers, only to be told one hour later that this flight would be canceled as the aircraft needed to take us back to Texas had to make an emergency landing in Costa Rica.

We were reassigned seats on Copa Airlines between Lima and Panama and a new itinerary was concocted that continued to Houston and Salt Lake, as this happens far too often. We were told that we would be home at 8:30 pm instead of the 1:30 pm we were counting on...

This awful change concluded a long day of varied events that reminded us that air travel is always peppered with all kinds of unpleasant surprises!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Peru trip - Cusco

That day was meant to be a day at leisure in Cusco, so we made sure that we didn't rush anything. The weather was a bit threatening, but we still took a chance by taking a city ride sitting on top of an open, double decker bus.

Of course, we had left both our plastic ponchos purchased at Machu Picchu, as well as our shells at the hotels, so we were hugely exposed as we got going through the narrow streets of the Incas' capital. As always, these kinds of spectacular excursions are never as good as what they're built to be, but we knew it and accepted the outcome.

This said, we didn't receive one single drop on us! The rest of the day was spent walking the streets and plazas, observing the non-stop fiestas of all kinds and shopping for souvenirs. At night, we returned to our favorite tapas place, sit right at the bar and had a wonderful evening with superb food, good wine and fun neighbors on either sides of us, from the United States and... Belgium! A perfect Cusco day!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Peru trip - Machu Picchu

Finally the day of Machu Picchu had arrived! We left our hotel early to drive to the Ollantaytambo train station and catch the so-called Vistadome train departing to Aguas Calientes, the base location to the renowned site.

Even though we were sitting facing back in the train, we caught quite a few good sights... There, after disembarking we boarded a bus that drove us up to the actual Machu Picchu archaeological site through a zigzagging, unpaved mountain road dangerously narrow, with plunging views over the valley, an ultra-steep 4,200 feet below.

When we got there, along with an overbearing multitude of tourists (they were 400,000 visitors in 2004!), we took the tour of the ruins, listen to our guide story, took as many photographs as we could, had lunch in a tourist-food restaurant processor and then used up our precious remaining time to hike up to the “Inca Bridge” a spooky passage carved into the rock to protect the access of the ancient city.

The place is listed as one of the new seven wonders of the world and is also on Unesco's World Cultural Heritage sites list. The return trip starting with “undoing” what we had done in the morning, namely riding the bus on the never-ending hairpin turns road.

A modern gondola or better yet – a buried funicular - would be an excellent idea to replace this dangerous and polluting mean of transportation; this is something that has been considered and still is viewed – for no good reason – as a controversial issue!

When we go to the bottom, we spent sometime visiting the rather ugly looking agglomeration of Aguas Calientes below; a worst version of Chamonix, at the base of a major tourist attraction. Then, it was back on the train for a long trek back to Cusco where we arrived around 9 pm, totally exhausted.

Fortunately we had no longer any trace of altitude sickness and were fortunate to stay, once more, at our favorite Cusco hotel, the Quinta San Blas!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Peru trip - The Sacred Valley

We left reasonably early in the morning to explore what is called “the Sacred Valley” that lay just below Cusco and that wind its way down through what is called “the Inca's Balcony”, in Chinchero, a picturesque spot with some impressive views, where a dozen families still clings to the their traditional customs.

We were shown the ancestral way in which they process the wool, and get those vivid colors in their textiles. This stop was incredibly well staged, interesting and so informative that it may stay as one of the key highlights of our entire trip. We fell under the spell and bought some of their pieces.
Afterward, we continued down to Ollantaytambo, one of the most monumental architectural complexes of the ancient Inca Empire, which also happened to be one of the few places where the Spanish conquistadors lost a major battle.

Very well known for its “andenes” (agricultural terraces dug into the mountain slopes), Ollantaytambo served both as a strong fortress and a temple. Another great opportunity to come close and personal to the incredible stone masonry technique mastered by the Incas.

Then, we walked around the town of Ollantaytambo, “a unique living Inca town” standing example as the best surviving example of Inca city planning, with its narrow cobblestone streets that have been continuously inhabited since the 13th century. Our guide also share with us the Incas creed, or Chakana, that said it all in three key principles; “Don't lie, don't steal, don't be lazy.” That one made a big impression on me!

Our hotel for the night was the San Agustin Monasterio de la Recoleta. a charming hotel, planted in the middle of nowhere in Urubamba, with poorly trained personnel. We walked through the poor town of Urubamba in the afternoon, took refuge inside its covered market to escape a rain-shower and walked back to our hotel.

Our health and appetite were still in recovery mode...

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Peru trip - Cusco

From the get go, Cusco has it all. It is a picturesque place cradled into the surrounding mountains with many historical buildings dating back from the colonial era, the Inca artifacts having been demolished by the Spaniards and their jigsaw puzzle wall “recycled” into cathedrals.

The city, which is on the Unesco World Cultural Heritage list, is half a million strong, quite large for a tourist resort town, and spreads its neighborhoods all around its surrounding hilltops. We first explored the city on our own and fell under its charm. In the afternoon, we did the official tour with our Belgian friends.
The tour took us to the Koricancha Temple, an old Incan palace and main center for the worship of the sun god, Inti. Once the Spanish conquered Peru, the Dominican order built Santo Domingo, a spectacular church over this temple’s foundations.

We followed with the the Main Square, and then the adventure continued at the Sacsayhuaman Fortress (pronounced “sexy woman”) built of enormous stone blocks expertly carved to fit like a perfect jigsaw puzzle, Inca stule, these ruins were strategically located at the top of a hill overlooking the city of Cusco and offering a superb view of the city.

Unfortunately, half-way into the tour, we got drenched by a sudden rain shower! In spite of this, the tour continued with visits to three archaeological sites: Qenko, Puca-Pucara, and Tambomachay, that all were important religious and administrative centers for the Incas. Finally we visited an art workshop named Inkas Expresion, presenting silversmith and wood painting artists.

At night, we returned to our hotel in Cusco, the Quinta San Blas, steps from the center of town and run to perfection by Sandra, its manager. In the evening we discovered the “Cicciolina”, a terrific tapas bar that far exceeded our expectations. That night, we were almost through with our altitude-sickness problems and slept much, much better!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Peru trip - Puno to Cusco

This was a day we were all dreading as it entailed a 10 hour bus journey from Lake Titicaca to Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incas. The good news was that the bus was more spacious as well as much more comfortable than the previous vehicle we had between Colca Canyon and Puno.

They were also many stops on the way to break the possible boredom. We began by visiting Andahuaylillas, a town famous for its very unique 17th century church boasting a gaudy baroque interior. We also stopped to visit the Racchi ruins, known as "The Temple of God Wiracocha".

Just to get another serving of high altitude, we climbed to 14,300 feet to La Raya, the highest point on the road between Cusco and Puno, a place surrounded by glacier-covered high peaks and very thin air that none of the passengers were really looking for. This was another typical place for many photo opportunities among high-mountains and merchants trying to sell their alpaca woolen designs.
We finally got to Cusco without having suffered too much from what could seem like a horrible journey at the outset. The hotel, Quinta San Blas, we went to was very charming but had no windows which made us feel a bit claustrophobic.

That night marked another improvement for us as we were beginning to get acclimated to the high altitude, slept much better and took control of our headaches and nausea more thanks to swallowing ibuprofen pills, more so than chewing coca leaves. We should have done it right from the start!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Peru trip – Lake Titicaca

Like zombies, we boarded the bus to Lake Titicaca (which name allegedly stands for “rock puma”) for a day that would proved to be an opportunity for discovery and wonderment. We began with boarding one of these 25 or so, passenger boats, that take tourists over the lake and then sail over to the famous Uros Islands, that are a set of man-made floating islands, made out of totoro reed, on the edges of the Lake Titicaca National Reserve.

The lake is located at almost 13,000 feet (3950 meters), not an elevation the doctor would order for me at this particular time. When we got to these Uros islands, we where meet the islanders (they're now Aymara Indians) who ambushed us into their huts and literally trapped us inside to make us buy their handicraft.

These guys knew how to round up tourist and rightly so since they were hunters and gatherers before, and descendants of the first altiplano inhabitants. What was remarkable was the way they build the totora reed platforms, live on them and replace them every 40 years or so. To a certain degree, the highly staged, mercantile side of the visit felt fake and just like the typical tourist trap.

Apparently, everywhere we went during the entire trip, guides get a piece of the action if the tourists they bring along buy something. When we were done with the islanders, we were taken to nearby Taquile Island, where the culture allegedly dates back to pre-Incan times. These islanders, on “terra ferma” this time, still live according to the traditions and beliefs of their ancestors and are world renowned for their remarkable outfits and incredible fabrics.

We were told that Unesco has declared Taquile Island's textile as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, for whatever that's worth. We were showed some demonstration of fabrication of soaps from local plants that can be used for washing everything from laundry to hair and are said to prevent white hair and baldness (I should have tried it earlier on!)

We were also treated to a dance by the locals while we were all having lunch on the island. What was the most remarkable to me, was the fact that this was the only tourist place without one element of mechanized transportation in sight. Back at the same hotel, even though our appetite was still down to zero, I was feeling a little better and managed to sleep a few hours that night, sans oxygen. Hope was definitely returning to me!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Peru trip - Colca Canyon

The day would prove to be a long exhausting bus trip, after we visited Colca Canyon and try to catch a glimpse of the famous condor sucking up thermals on the edge of a abyss at times more than 13,000 feet (4000 meters) deep.

We waited and waited, missed a few and then, César took us on a side trip farther away from the crowds and then we saw a few of the legendary Andean birds. All big, impressive and effortless in performing their cleaning work! After that main sight, the trip was long, uncomfortable and endless in a cramped bus and we arrived in Puno late and completely exhausted.
Our guide César had consistently remained a piece of work for the duration of his guiding assignment with us. All day, we hovered between 13 and 15,000 feet and this continued dose of extreme high elevations wasn't not helping our general discomfort. Before we reached Puno, we crossed the town of Jayllihuaya and were treated to its crowded thoroughfare with similar stores and businesses all grouped together in ways we had never seen before...

That night, we were put up into a pretentious hotel, the Jose Antonio, on the outskirts of town and we were so sick that we even took some oxygen in an attempt to revive us with little positive effect. Clearly, I was at a point where I was hitting the deep end.

Again, I couldn't sleep at all (Puno is still at 13,000 feet!) and was helped in this by some dogs barking all night just under our windows overlooking the beautiful Lake Titicaca. I felt so bad during that night that I was seriously thinking about going home the next day...

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Peru trip - Chivay

Early that morning, it was the turn of our new guide César, to pick us up at the hotel to take us to Chivay, our final destination for the day. First, he gave us a complete lecture about the merits of chewing coca leaves in order to fight altitude sickness.

His entire speech on the subject took at least one full hour. I tried with little enthusiasm, and perhaps (as a doubter) this was the placebo effect, but it wouldn't work miracles on me as I was soon to find out. That day involved a lot of climbing in the minibus, to a top elevation of 16,109 feet.

We saw vicunas roaming free at these high altitudes, froze our butts and were almost ready to touch the nearby glaciers coming out of the surrounding 20,000 feet (6000 meters) peaks. We went through Yura Village, the Aguada Blanca National Reserve and the Pampa Cañahuas before making it to the little town of Chivay located around 12,000 feet.

That day, we traveled along with a group of gregarious Belgian tourists and we had a wonderful time in terms of our battling symptoms of nausea, headaches and shortness of breath. The hotel we had that night was the Anrawa Colca and both my wife and I were both stricken by a bad case of altitude sickness. In retrospect, we shouldn't have drank alcohol the nights before and stayed away from coffee.

While my wife was able to sleep some, I just couldn't do it as my body seemed to have lost the natural ability to fall asleep; as soon as I would start losing consciousness, I would gasp for air and wake up... Great, wonderful hotel, but terrible stay because of “soroche” the Quechua's name for the ailment. ,

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Peru trip - Arequipa

Our day started early at 4 am by our various alarms set the night before and a phone call from the hotel reception, letting us know that our missing luggage had been returned to us.

We were quite relieved, went down to the lobby, had a cup of coffee and chatted with César Melendez, the front desk employee, who told us he had learned English over 4 seasons working at Deer Valley Resort; small world indeed!

The Condor Travel crew picked us up on time and drove us to the airport at 5 am, the city was filled with traffic as the disco and bars were just closing after a busy night... Our flight to Arequipa, south of Lima, was on LAN, an airline we had never taken before.

The town of Arequipa, founded in 1540 is about 1 million strong, stands smack in the middle of the Atacama Desert the largest in the continent and driest non-polar desert in the world and is just below three volcanoes that are about 18,000 feet tall.

There, we visited the Ciudad Blanca (the city center) The historic downtown is almost totally built out of sillar, a white volcanic stone, that gives the city its name. We took a tour of the Main Square and its colonial buildings, the Church of the Society of Jesus with its mix of baroque art and Spanish churrigueresque baroque from the XVII century, along with some colorful fresco paintings at the San Ignacio Dome, known as America’s Sistine Chapel.

We also toured the Santa Catalina Convent, that is more a XVI century citadel than a cloistered convent. We had a wonderful dinner at Zig-Zag, a local restaurant, ran by a Swiss fellow from Neuchâtel. The place and the food were divine.

We stayed in a picturesque but very noisy hotel, the San Agustin Posada del Monasterio, near the local night clubs on a busy Saturday night. I could sleep, but my wife couldn't. I wish we were still 20 and could get all worked out at the nearby disco!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Peru trip - Lima

We spent the morning doing the necessary chores, like changing money, getting cell phone service and orienting ourselves around our hotel. One of the beauty of that trip, except for the late night arrival, was the total absence of jet-lag. Only one hour difference from home!

The Miraflores district is apparently the best area of the 10 million people city that Lima is today and the Pacific coast bordering it is pretty nice. In the afternoon, it was time for our first guided tour. We were just the two of us with our guide, and visited the colonial section of Lima, went around the Main Square, where the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral, the Archbishop’s Palace and the Metropolitan City Hall are located.

These are historic buildings that somehow never get totally destroyed by the some of the worst earthquakes the city endured over the years. Since Catholicism played such an important role in imposing the Spanish colonial culture, we got treated by the visit of the Santo Domingo church and monastery, a XVII century jewel, listed as part of Unesco's cultural heritage.

We saw a few singular sights on the way, like folks being expelled from their apartments, with all of their belonging thrown in the street, or like certain popular districts, dealing in specialized trade like construction materials, for example. We concluded our tour day by visiting the Larco Museum, a private collection that hold an impressive array of treasures from Old Peru, and makes visitors discover, understand and enjoy more than five thousand years of ancient history through more than 45,000 pieces on display.

At night, tired and famished, we returned to the ocean and joined the local weekend crowds for an earthy dinner in a popular spot overlooking the Pacific Ocean...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

First trip to South America...

Even though I always wanted to, I had never traveled to that continent before. Some normal anxiety but also a lot of anticipation for a trip planned back in July.

We flew from Salt Lake City to Lima via Houston and, true to its reputation (at least in my mind), United Airlines managed to lose one bag during the transfer. That meant some justification for my apprehension.

Driving from the airport to our hotel, in the Miraflores area of town was a bit spooky and reminded us justly that we were in a developing nation, not a spoiled place like Park City.

The difference is of course, striking; Peru is the same size as Tchad, Niger or South Africa (twice that of France), has a per capita GDP of about $12,000, like Jordan or Tunisia and totals 30 million inhabitants, 10 million of which live in Lima, its capital city.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wasting precious water?

Water is rare in the west and yet, our Utah (and Park City) population is expected to double up over the next two decades. In spite of this, water is being waster like there's no tomorrow. Maintaining green lawns and irrigating golf courses represent the largest use of water.
This is the case with the Park Meadows golf course adjacent to our home, where there are more maintenance workers busy on it than actual players. This waste is due in part to crazy water laws that apportion water arbitrarily and regardless of whether it's available or not.

Maybe a changing environmental reality will force a review of these laws?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Meanwhile, at the veggie garden...

This is the second year of harvest at our vegetable garden and if last year was a nice surprise, that one has been a total success and a harbinger for even better future output.

Yesterday, I picked these yummy strawberries from their high-altitude patch (6,745 ft) and they were downright delicious. This afternoon, a young magpie was caught red-handed trying for a serving of his own, but I suspect that he will try again...

I hate the thought of it, but I might have to get a BB gun!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Last summer concert...

Summer is finally over when Deer Valley holds its last outdoors concert and this happened last night as we fought the cold to stay warm on this frigid September night. Aloe Blacc was performing; he was absolutely great. Alive, engaging, and compelling.

Definitely the best concert out of the nine excellent performances we were fortunate to attend this season. The folding chairs are now hanging inside the garage waiting for 2016!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Home: The new “consumable”...

For a third year in a row, we've truly enjoyed the Park City Showcase of Homes. Are we planning to return next year?
We don't know yet; we may just take a break. What we've learned though, after seeing 17 of the homes on display are a few things. First, fashion in home building and decorating are king. This year theme was more into contemporary design and shades of gray.

Carpets are returning after having been eclipsed for years by hardwood floors, window coverings are vanishing from views, wireless home automation is coming and cost-cutting in construction material is also making a needed entry to keep rising prices under control.

What does that mean to the homeowner and the home buyer? That new is better, that technology is fast changing and that all the competition in new ideas, designs and materials is going to place an increasing pressure on consumers to change, upgrade and spend more. Home has now become the new consuming battleground!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Want more skiing in your life?

Between the end of August and early September, Park City is opening the doors of some of its most innovative and stylish homes to the general public. For about $15 per person, you can peek into 18 select, brand new homes ranging from original in their design, large in their overall area, or stunning with the views they display.

It's not that we're voyeurs; instead, we're always on the look out for original design ideas and sometimes, we find some, even though we see more mistakes and poor architectural choices than should be allowed, or possible, in this day and age. Bad architects and developers are not extinct yet!

One thing I found yesterday in such a questionable house was a girl (?) bedroom decorated wall-to-wall with ski paraphernalia.

The head-board on the picture is particularly stunning; as if is there wasn't enough skiing in the daily life of that young person, should there be an extra need to plant a collection of skis into her dreams?

I'd personally fear to fall impaled upon these menacing ski tips, but it's only one opinion. Racers could fill their head-board with 1 pair of slalom, 1 pair of GS and 1 pair of downhill boards from the previous season. If the bed is wide enough, they could also add 1 pair of Super G, or simply double up the numbers.

Even coming from a fanatic skier like me, I think this is a clear case of skiing overload!

Friday, September 4, 2015

A special encounter

Yesterday, as we were climbing Mt. Timpanogos, we ran into a very special gentleman, knows under the moniker of “That guy”.

We didn't know who he was as he met us on his way down while we were climbing up. We said hello and exchanged a few words and very soon I understood he was “That guy.”

I asked him how many times he had climbed the mountain this year, he answered “Fifty!” and I realized that he was Ben Woolsey, a 73 year old retired postal worker from Utah County who has climbed the mountain close to 730 times and did it 72 times on the year he was 72!

He gave us a high-five, got all my admiration, my envy (in a positive way) and inspired both my daughter and I for the rest of the climb!


Another way to climb Mt. Timpanogos

Each summer, I do my best to get to the top of Mt Timpanogos, either in company of my wife or my daughter. Today was no exception and I reached the top of that big mountain for the eighth time while my daughter scored her third climb.

This time we chose the Timpanooke trail instead of Aspen Grove, since we wanted to avoid a grueling walk over the boulders of moraine after the snow had melted. A lack of snow this winter and a nice summer almost melted the entire « glacier » or at least the only permanent snowfield we have in Utah. Global warming is indeed killing our way of life !

The vertical was a little bit less at 4,347 ft, but the trail is much flatter and easier, yet a bit longer. This year, I was in top form, but still fell bit up when we got down to the car. Must repeat next year !

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Soul and Emotions

Do I have a soul? I don't know. I wouldn't know how to differentiate it from my conscious mind, so I conveniently lump the two together and consider them one and the same.

Do I feel emotions? Very much so. They can either elate me or bring me down in the dump and they're always very powerful. Are my emotions the mirror of my soul or a reflection of the contradictions that inhabit my mind? I don't know.

I take them for being just what I believe they are: Emotions. An independent sensory experience that can enrich my life or make it abominable, depending on how emotions decide to appear to me. Now, tell me, can you control these unruly, ethereal manifestations? I don't really think so.

You can either embrace them or suppress them altogether. That's about it. Now if you tell me again that I've got a soul and its manifestation are my emotions, I'll you that my soul is the most unruly and out of control of my possessions and I'm not even going to try to control it; ever!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Just 40 years today!

I can't believe that we have already been married for forty years... Time does fly when we are having fun.

Today, to celebrate this precious milestone, we went to Alta, crossed Albion Basin and pushed up to Cecret Lake. Like a “secret” it's well hidden and no one knows why the name was spelled with a C instead of an S. Some say that it was named by a silver miner working around Alta.

When we got there, a moose was taking a nap on the shore and we decided that the outing would also serve as altitude acclimatization training for an upcoming trip.

Based on that, we concluded that we did extremely well, perched at 9,875 feet to celebrate four decades together...

Tonight, we'll add some champagne to round off these staggering numbers!