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!

Friday, November 6, 2015

A pretty good raise...

This morning I got a nice surprise. An email inviting me to check my next payment from the french retirement fund. I must admit that I was shocked to even get a raise! Here in the USA, with the CPI being flat, I got nothing to fatten my monthly retirement check, but the French, which are as broke we are, stepped up to the plate and gave me a whooping 0.1% increase, effective this month (yeah, you read correctly, one-tenth of one percent).
I won't get into discussing the actual numbers, but suffice it to say that I won't buy much with the bump. I was hoping it could get me a modest Porsche Macan Turbo, just to help a tiny bit the embattled Volkswagen group, but after figuring it out over and over, I couldn't even see when I would get enough money for that cute little toy.

Well, I guess, I'll settle for a cool IPA!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Do skis have a soul?

If you ask the French, you'll hear a resounding “yes!” For years, what we, in America, called “core” in a ski, was often called “soul” or “âme” by my countrymen.

Of course, some prosaic folks would call what made a ski cross-section “noyau” which is the closest translation of core, but the real artist, the sensitive and passionate ski builders would always place some “soul” in each ski they crafted. So that ski would have an ash “soul”, this other a laminated one, even sometime (around lunch?) it might turn into sandwich and the less noble ones might be the ubiquitous polyurethane core of the 70s.

Dynastar, which always had a knack of finagling a compelling reason for everything they marketed, had the Omega, that sometimes turned into an acrylic soul to give their skis more levity. Do I forget the ethereal “hollow” soul or channel-core, invented by the Haldemann brothers? Of course not!

This mentioned, it would seem to me that skis with a “soul” never can die. They end up becoming fences, Adirondack style chairs or other pieces of furniture. In spite of that “core” spirituality, I must confess that, to this date, I have yet to see a zombie ski roaming around Park City...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Chamonix's pristine mountain air?

When I was a kid growing up in the Alps, I was constantly reminded about how I was lucky to “breathe pure air...”

Apparently, the situation has changed and today, the iconic mountain town of Chamonix is crying wolf as its valley is now bathing into a cloud of purple, yellow and gray gunk. This of course is due in part to the yearly passage of half a million diesel trucks through the Mt. Blanc Tunnel, but also that open fire remain the sole source of heating for a large number of homes in the valley.

Add to that the fact that Chamonix is the antithesis of a ski-in/ski-out resort town as going from the Houches to Argentière, or to Brévent and la Flégère, always require a car or a shuttle bus! Then, there's even the pollution from industry that seeps back up the Arve river valley and adds up to create a perfect storm for this weather phenomenon: Chamonix's steep mountain slopes and temperature inversions help trap pollutants into still air on the valley floor, particularly on sunny, winter days.

So is what the famous mountain town to do? First, like with any form of addiction, admit it has a problem. This is rather the hardest step in the healing process. From there, nothing's impossible!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The British invasion of Haute-Savoie...

The subject is still taboo and local Haut-Savoyards don't address it openly yet. The reality is that the Brits are in the process of invading their places and spoiling their culture to a point of no return.

I'm talking about my native valley of Morzine, that sits about one hour away from Geneva airport and a cheap Easyjet flight to London. Every one knows it will boil sometime, but no one can tell when and how badly the ensuing explosion might be.

The Brits discovered the place in the 1990s and have bought everything they could lay their hands ever since (full disclosure: I sold my house to them in 1989...). Faced with this onslaught of “invaders”, the local population has felt totally powerless and quite awkward as they've been receiving some economic rewards on the one hand, but all along, had that sinking feeling that they were “selling-out” ...

This conflict, in a large part, is what explains why the crisis has been simmering for quite sometime and has remained largely underground with no external signs. Because of their superior purchasing power, Brits have gobbled up all the real estate that was in their sight and have driven the prices sky high, preventing long time young locals from being able to contemplate buying property if it couldn't be passed on to them by their own families.

Sometimes, locals had no choice but sell because this new frontier economy has also been driving both the estate taxes and the French net-worth tax ("impôt sur la fortune") so high that selling was too many times the locals' sole way out. That what could be called in the US Rockies the “Aspen syndrome” which is precisely what happens today in my hometown of Park City, where long-time locals and even "small" millionaires are displaced by billionaires!

If that was not bad enough, Brits don't seem willing to integrate into French society. They stay among their own English-speaking clusters, don't learn French and are just willing to send their kids to French schools and get their health care on the back of their French tax-paying neighbors. Only bi-cultural couples (with one local or French spouse) will integrate and that will be it. This said, it still gets much worse; take the huge number of “catered chalets” that are the Brits favorite substitute for hotels and inns; those are run from the UK, with the help of British employees, often using UK provisions ferried across the Chunnel.

The chalets' staff isn't subject to French Labor Law and it's perfectly clear that these businesses are operated at a totally unfair advantage. When I question friends and family about this tilted playing field, they throw their hands up in the air and respond that nothing can be done about it and that the Brits are taking advantage of some loopholes built into the European Union's legislation. In addition to these “chalets”, there are in-grown British businesses like airport shuttles that are providing seamless transit convenience to their countrymen, bypassing existing French services such as cabs and scheduled public transportation.

Additional and specialized services (condo ski rentals delivery, copied from their U.S. business models) can also be found and, again, are unfairly competing against long-established and tax-paying businesses entities. How long will that conundrum last? It depends first on whether the “invaders” will be able to put up with the spartan life in rural towns like Morzine during the long off-season. Chamonix, has a much larger town, more things to do and a shorter shoulder-season.

So the question is, how long can the London well-educated, super-spoiled gentry will be willing to put up with the deadly mountain off season? Then will there be a point when the “honeymoon” between the Savoyard and the English be suddenly over when the benefits available to locals are dwindling. Then, unless both communities harmoniously fuse together, there could be harsh confrontations between long-established locals and foreign newcomers.

Time will tell, of course how things may play out, so please, just stay tuned!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Another Formula 1 race...

I haven't watched a Formula One race since one Sunday afternoon when I was stuck inside my Zurich hotel room, more than 20 years ago. I happened to repeat that performance today, as we saw the Mexico Grand Prix, live, in the comfort of our home.

Wow, things have changed! The car designs, of course, and the steering wheel that got all squared away and filled up with more gizmos that a fast driver would ever have the time to use. Today, only the shifting paddles have made it into our cars, which comes in handy, but the rest seems a bit over-the-top...

Besides, you need to take that odd-shaped wheel off in order to get in and out of the car. Looks pretty cool but too complicated for me, but again, what will I ever know?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Halloween: Another dismal score...

For the second year at our new location, the optimistic side of us was expecting a growing number of Halloween visitors. At the very least, we were hoping for as many trick-and-treaters as last year, which already was very low.

So, with the best intentions in the world, we lighted up the house, prepared the candies and waited for the visitors, but these failed to show even in the modest numbers we had hope for. When we folded our tent, closed the store, and left with a ten-year supply of treats, we were 40% below last year's level.
Not flattering for someone who's worked all of his life in sales and marketing ! Thank god, our livelihood doesn't depend solely upon this Halloween performance. We just need a few ideas in order to get out of that rut, and I'm quite confident we'll get there...

Clearly, our new location is far too quiet. Should we sell the house and move to a busy corner? Perhaps, but before we do that, we might go trick-and-treating ourselves dressed up as retired French folks, in order to literally put ourselves into the shoes of our audience. Might be interesting in seeing the situation from the user's viewpoint...