Saturday, April 30, 2016

Economics 101 – Per Capita GDP

Per capita GDP is a measure of the total output of a country that takes the gross domestic product (GDP) and divides it by its population.

More so than the GDP that mixes nations of all sizes, this measure is a better measure of a country's true wealth.

While it's not to be confused with any measure of personal or household income, it can still serve as good marker as to where life is easier than in other places and therefore a pretty good ...

This measure could serve as an indicator as to where country in which to live, even though, considerations like cost of living (Switzerland), taxation (Norway), quality of life (Isle of Man) or climate and culture (Qatar) would seriously need to be taken into consideration.

Of course, the most frugal among us can always choose to move to Somalia!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Economics 101 - GDP

I don't know about you, but when I try to get some economic information that is clear, understandable and conclusive, I never can.

Everything is either contradictory or so convoluted that I feel that trying to decipher what I find is a total waste of my time. Since we're currently in the midst of a chaotic primary presidential campaign and get bombarded with all kinds of outlandish claims, it's hard to find one's bearing and relate to what is thrown at us.

With this in mind, I decided to conduct some research and so, each of the upcoming days, I'll take one aspect of the world economy and related issues, and attempt to discuss them in this blog.

We'll begin today with GDP. China and the European Community are now leading the dance with GDPs of $19 trillion each, while the USA, once the dominant economic power, follows at $18T.

When we add to these three behemoths, Inda and Japan, we get to about $66 trillion, more than half of the total world GDP, $113.7 trillion for 2015.

This measure of GDP based on purchasing power parity, is the gross domestic product converted to international dollars using purchasing power parity rates. This means that international dollar has the same purchasing power over GDP as the U.S. dollar has in the United States...

Thursday, April 28, 2016


I never cease to be amazed by this expression that means that a “God-Fearing” person is deeply religious, which would suggest that if you don't fear God you can't really be viewed as a true believer, and further down this line that God must be a pretty awful character to worship if fear is the main motivation to do so.

Sure, this is just an expression that finds its origin in 1835, I'm told, but it remains nonetheless very misleading while I'm certain it's more logically grounded than most would suspect.

I can't deny that the God I was told about when I was young was more an enforcer than a lover and this is why I choose to get as far as I could from him as possible.

So for me, “God-Fearing” still rings true and literal while fear isn't a measure I want around me!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Facebook scam

I generally pride myself on being quite wise and very unlikely to fall for scams and particularly gross ones. So yesterday, in browsing Facebook I saw this Starbucks offer promising a $50 gift certificate at their coffee shops.

Greed blinded me and I clicked, followed the instruction, giving my personal info and compromising around of my “Facebook friends”.

Did I learn my lesson quickly? You bet! Will I do it again? I certainly hope not! As my wife then said to me: “If it's too good to be true, it probably is...”

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Media power

We live in world in which we've abdicated our opinions to that of the media. We don't dare to think for ourselves.

After an event, a speech or a major change, we wait to hear what the so called opinion leaders have to say before we begin forming an opinion.

We don't even give ourselves the time to listen to our own instinctive thoughts first, but we give in to the pundits and that's bad.

Often time these high-paid talking heads hardly know as much as we do, have less experience and generally lack the common sense we were born with and have managed to keep alive all these years.

Do you need examples? Bernie Sanders made a lot of sense, but the media chocked his message so Hillary could retain her lead long enough to win the nomination.

A loud mouth like Trump would in an opposite, but similar way, chart the course of an improbable nomination all thanks to the power of a mesmerized media.

Perhaps might it be time to begin thinking for ourselves and ignore all these know-it-all who in fact know very little?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Prince, Push and Pull marketing...

The passing of Prince has been hugely recognized by the media, even though the artist was not necessarily well-known and appreciated by a huge segment of the population. I, for one, wasn't a fan of the singer and I believe that it was more a lack of personal attraction to its material than my age, that could have pushed me into an isolated audience category.

This got me thinking that in today's crowded music market, artists have to work twice as hard on their image, if their product doesn't have what could be termed, a universal appeal. And this made me think of the dual marketing strategies that generally tell volume about a product, a style or a service: Push and Pull strategies.
Without getting into too many details, a push strategy involves taking the product directly to the customer via whatever means, ensuring the customer is aware of your brand at the point of purchase. This means working very hard on its image, its distribution and its presentation, in ways that will get maximum attention to it, regardless of its intrinsic qualities.

An example of push strategy is displayed when major studio launch a new movie through massive ad campaign and media interview.

A pull strategy on the other hand involves a more natural and organic appeal from customers to seek out the brand in an active process. This is what happens when a product has it all and creates a universal and irresistible demand.

In that category, the examples could range from the iPhone to the Beatles.

Got it?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Crowdfunding and me...

If you need easy money these days, remember that there's always crowdfunding!

I'm not talking about folks that are down on their luck and legitimately asking for help through the means of crowd funding, like those stricken by sickness, death a of close relative or victim of some “act of god...”

Of course, there's the entrepreneur who can always trade equity or future earnings in a risky start-up for a helping nudge, but I'm talking here about those people who try to get a free ride to attain a goal that could normally be reached through their own efforts and talents.

I'm thinking in particular about athletes, students or other types who think that the public at large ought to pitch in and assist them in funding their own professional endeavor out of the kindness of their hearts. This is where I'd probably draw the line and would not encourage what amounts to begging, by giving my own money for a dubious cause...

Saturday, April 23, 2016

If I were Bernie Sanders...

At this point in time, it would be time for the old Senator to begin some serious negotiating with Hillary Clinton's team and set up the following premise: Adopt at least one or some of Bernie's campaign commitments and Hillary gets its full and unconditional support.

Nothing beats a pro-active and bold move in a world of “too little, too late”. This could for example be single payer health care plan or anything else that's both major in Sanders plan and actionable by the Hillary campaign.

Well, of course, I'm not Bernie!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Advertising 101?

This morning, the Clinton campaign bought a prominent banner ad on the New York Times, web edition.
While this makes good sense as the media company has endorsed the candidate from the get-go, the ad – in my view - violates a major rule.

Her face should face to the right direction, just like the arrow in her logo does. Not the other way around; it makes her look backwards as she sure doesn't want to be characterized this way. This is a big no-no it smart advertising.

Besides, her profile shot doesn't look too flattering, but that's a whole different story.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

While old men won't leave...

I was relieved to see Fidel Castro in public, recently, sporting a brand new Adidas suit. Seems that he let his contract with Fila lapse, or that the German brand gave him some extra pesos... 
I frankly thought he was long dead and kept in some cold storage until the Cuban Communist Party could find a story easy to believe for everyone to hear, but no, he seems still animated with some form of energy.

My point in observing Fidel make a short media appearance is that he deserves some credit for leaving the rudder to his brother.

I wish more old people (both younger and older than him) had the guts to leave their never-ending job and pass the torch to someone younger, brighter and more energetic for the good of everyone under their leadership...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Spring delicacy

A couple of days ago, I harvested our first dandelion salad of the season. This is a lot of work that adds up to a wonderful delicacy.

You can accompany it with hard-boiled eggs, bacon, sardines, smoked salmon, avocado or whatever you want to experiment with. It reminds me of my youth, growing up in the French Alps. My mom love to gather dandelions and prepare them in delicious salads.

Sometime in March the first dandelions would appear and as we followed higher elevation snow-melt, you could enjoy them through May. Same thing in Park City, albeit a bit later.

Just be careful of not catching some tapeworm infection ; clean you dandelions thoroughly!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

From Kamas to... Kamasutra!

This past Sunday, we took a drive into the countryside that surround Park City and went to Heber and Kamas, two rural towns that are growing and transforming themselves as they absorb Park City's population overflow.

Of the two, Kamas is the smallest and the closest to Park City as it's only a mere 20 minutes or 15 miles to the East from where we live. It's also the gateway to the Uintas, a high mountain range that has the particularity of running from East to West.

What's more, however, is that it has a hamlet a few mile further to the East, called "Samak", which is just “Kamas” spelled backward, so in that dubious twisted game of names, it came to my equally twisted frame of mind that Kamas lead to Kamasutra, and that's how I had to add "birthplace of kamasutra" to the town's iconic sign...

Monday, April 18, 2016

Claude Mérandon 1946-2016

Yesterday, as I checked my emails, I learned that my Cluses schoolmate from the early 60s had passed following a short hospitalization, just shy of his 70th birthday.

We only spent a couple of years in the same class, and while we were never particularly close, I learned to appreciate him a lot as we got together again during class reunions in recent years. Throughout, Claude made very good choices and had a successful life.

From the get go, Claude was a mature, quiet and driven individual who seemed to have the gift of knowing where he was going while most of his classmates were still adrift, figuring what next move ought to be. His career was deeply involved into mechanical construction in the Cluses Valley and took him into management and owning his own company.

Once retired in 2006, he remained very active with cycling, skiing and hiking and became a very talented woodworker. A family man, Claude was married to Mireille for almost half a century and together had a boy, a girl and two grandsons.

At the time of his death, Claude was busy organizing our 50th school reunion slated for early June. We will all miss him a lot!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Nothing like “home advantage!”

I went skiing at Snowbird yesterday in the company of my son and grandson. When the youngest of the group had enough skiing for the day and left with his dad, I stayed for two more hours.

I first I felt a bit awkward because I wasn't feeling like “at home” where I know the terrain like my back pocket. It took me the rest of the afternoon to feel “normal” again, as I re-familiarize myself with a completely different terrain.

Next time when you go skiing to a strange place and ski with a local, you're guaranteed to be utterly impressed with your guide ski level, but don't forget either about his huge... home advantage!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Bernie vs. Hillary

On April 14, we were served with the last debate between Clinton and Sanders. I thought its tone was pretty negative and damaging to both candidates. After seeing most of the Democratic primary debates, I've come up with the following conclusions:

Bernie Sanders is honest, angry, too old for my taste and quite stubborn. Hillary Clinton is not to be trusted but also quite smart, mean, devious and yes, a bit old for the job too!

Out of 10, I'd give Bernie a 6.5, Clinton a 5.5 and the best Republican candidate would only get 4. Let's now wait for the summer conventions!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Jobs and politics

There's a widely spread-out political promise that government can create jobs, so candidates of all stripes find a compelling story through which they claim having a “plan” to create a myriad of jobs. I don't believe it and so should you not.

What none of this carpetbaggers has the courage to state however, is that employment will become increasingly challenged by constantly enhanced productivity by all kind of high-tech means and robotics, while at the same time, our overall population keeps on growing by leaps and bonds, and with it job-seekers.

Of course, stating this fundamental truth would scare voters away, but it unfortunately is the truth...

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Unintended learning consequences...

Projects always take more time and never fail to be great teachers...

I recently embarked in one of them involving a series of 3-D drawings that required a lot of research, tons of re-learning, a good amount of error and a number of total re-do.

I also learned much more about the project I was trying to illustrate and for one thing, I now know it by heart.

On the whole, I can say that the benefits received were well-worth the pain endured.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Who pays what in taxes?

There is not a week when I'm not asked how US taxes compare to those of my native France. What I know is that we don't pay nearly enough in taxes to cover our government profligate spending! If that were not the case, we'd have a balance budget and no debt.

Well, I found that chart, and even though it's from 2012, it tells the story well.

The table compares income and profits taxes, social taxes to pay for retirement disability and health programs, property taxes and goods and services taxes (mostly know under the form of sales tax or VAT).

Out of the 35 nations listed, the USA stand... 33rd! I didn't realize that we were a tax heaven (for the wealthier of us, of course!)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Wish you had a mentor?

On a large number of occasions, I've thought that my life might have been much easier, more comfortable and eminently more successful if I ever had access to a good mentor.

Well, no matter how I turn that question around or wonder about it, it practically didn't happen so this kind of questioning isn't helping at all.
What's more important and hopeful, however, is that now, I have a good mentor: Myself. Too bad I don't ask that guy often enough!

Monday, April 11, 2016

End of ski season in Park City

Yesterday was the last day of another ski season; our 31st in Park City. Both areas (Deer Valley and Park City) closed up in unison, with just enough snow and a rather balmy temperature that allowed some good skiing until about noon.

I had a wonderful ski season, broke my old records, enjoyed a lot of good now and a great deal of tree skiing. I'm glad the season is over and I'm now ready for something else!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Enjoying the moment

Today, my cousin Clément is turning 80. This isn't helping me and it's not helping any of you either. Time flies far to fast and it's now time to hit the brakes, enjoy the here and now, even when it's not as pleasant as we'd like if we only considered the alternative.

I've always done my very best to to make good use of my time, but still have some way to go in terms of enjoying every waking moment of my life. This is a dimension that I'm sorely lacking and something to look forward to!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The day my wife left me...

Yesterday as we were skiing with an old friend from Vail and his buddies, we all rode a small chairlift used mostly to provide access to large, ski-in, ski-out, private homes around the Colony, in the Canyons section of Park City.

That little two-seater chair is a bit idiosyncratic in that it features three unloading options. So, before we loaded it, I warned the entire group that they should all unload at the very last stop, near the new, Quicksilver Gondola loading station.

To make sure no one would stray, my wife and I took the lead and as we were almost reaching destination, just at the penultimate stop, my wife slipped away from me and got stuck one stop short of the completed itinerary. She probably wasn't paying attention, unless she wanted to leave me for good, which might always be a possibility.

So here she was, one hill and one paved road away from the rest of our group. Of course and as usual, she didn't take her cell phone with her! I instructed my friends to go ahead, ride up the gondola and wait for us at the Miners' Camp, one of Park City mid-mountain restaurant, while I was searching for my better-half.

After half an hour of skiing down to the next lift I finally got with the Park City dispatcher who tracked her down with her pass. A good hour later we eventually got reunited. While we certainly can blame the complexity of trail network for the incident, I was impressed by the friendly, supportive and efficient work of the entire Park City staff!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Skiing on “groomers”

If, as Marx said, "religion is the opiate of the masses", we could say almost as much about skiing exclusively on perfectly groomed slopes; this pristine corduroy cover often gives skiers an exaggerated measure of their true skiing level.
This is one small aspect of the much larger range of options offered by alpine skiing. I've seen many “grown men” that truly believe that they're superior skiers when they barrel down a perfectly groomed slopes, come to a brutal halt on crud, bumps and other challenging terrain.

Any difficult snow and forbidding slope still remains the frontier that separates the men from the boys...

Thursday, April 7, 2016

St. John-Paul II: So-so saint?

Earlier this week we saw a PBS documentary about the late Pope John Paul II and his intimate, 32-year relationship with Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, a Polish philosopher who is believed to have once declared her love to him while he was still a cardinal.

The correspondence from the Pope to her was sold by the recipient and sheds light on the depth of the relationship.

Even though, I've always liked that Pope as a skier, my point is this; how could such a conservative Pope on issues like birth-control, abortion and celibacy be so liberal with his own behavior.

Well, it's another question of “do what I say, not what I do”; a typical tenet in the Catholic Church doctrine...

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

“Le Creuset” made in China?

We're lucky; for the past months or so, we now have a “Le Creuset” factory-outlet in Park City. Okay, it might not be here forever; we're told it's a so-called pop-up store, but still, they sell the “real thing” at very good prices.

We just bought a series of coffee mugs that not only look great and should last... forever! This morning as I was preparing our early, daily brew, I was curious to see if this fine product was still made in France.

I looked under one of the extra mugs we had in the cupboard, and on just one of them ($20 suggested retail price), saw a small clear sticker that the store employee forgot to remove, that said: “Made in China.” Okay, do I need to say more?

Le Creuset will say that a mug is just an “accessory” and I respond that the company, like so many others before is plain greedy and doesn't think twice for the sake of making more bucks. Shame on you “Le Creuset!”

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What's in a name?

Each ski resort has its own way of naming trail names and Deer Valley Resort is no exception with its trail network named after mining claims from the mid-1800 to the mid-1900.

I know them now very well with the exception of a few special areas that were named after local individuals or special incidents. For instance, there's that spot by the reservoir, off Homeward Bound, called “Knuckles Knob”, called after a ski patroller. "DT Trees", by Square Deal were named after DT, another ski patrolman.

When Mayflower was built, the trees between "Free Thinker" and "Narrow Gauge", always fun to ski on great snow years, were first called “Sherwood Forest”, and morphed into “Sherwin Forest” in honor of a late Mountain Host called Chris Sherwin.

Then there's also a series of portmanteau names like “Margus”, a treed area around Lady Morgan located between "Magnet" and "Argus", there's also “Kabob” for the trees situated between "Nabob" and "Keno", and “Evercoon” to designate the aspen grove found between "Evergreen" and "Tycoon".
Finally, my favorite: A forested spot on top of Lady Morgan where two guys were caught skiing before there was even a lift there: “Two idiots”, the best-named run by my book!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Problem with daylight saving time...

America has reverted to daylight saving time for weeks now. Yesterday morning, I had no idea that it was Europe's turn.

So, as I woke up, my sleepy eyes deciphered 5:50 am on the barely lit alarm clock and I didn't hear the furnace; it should have kicked in at precisely 5:45!

I walked to the living room thermostat and saw no action, logged into my computer to the thermostat page, saw that it was programmed to 5:45 am, but nothing was happening either.
I became totally puzzled, cursed the system until another 5 to 10 minutes later when I finally realized that the “real time” was about 4:59 and not 5:59 am!

My old alarm clock tricked me one more year, with its turn of the century programming that was all changed by this idiot of George Bush after September 11, 2001!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

One hundred days...

My 100th day of ski this season was when I skied with my grand son today. We didn't ski much but we were out for a couple of hours.

Typical spring skiing day, but charged with variety, blue skies, and great fun. The perfect conditions for a special day!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A legendary ski trail

If there's one famous trail at the French-Swiss border, north of Chamonix, it's the formidable steep run called “Le Pas de Chavanette”, that's also known as the "Mur Suisse" or "Swiss Wall”.

It's located on the Swiss slope of the border. It's a particularly steep and challenging trail, part of the Portes du Soleil interconnect, that can be reached from either Avoriaz or Les Crosets and Champéry.

The slope falls into the French-Swiss rating of Orange, which means that it's in a class by itself (over double diamond). It's only 0.6 mile long for a 1,086 feet vertical drop meters and a 40 degrees grade at its very top!

This said, just yesterday (yeah, April 1st!), the famed trail was said to have been acquired by the Qataris that are buying everything in sight around Europe. I read it on Facebook; those who posted it asked the readers to suggest a new name for the trail, and even though I smelled the April's fool joke, I responded with a Savoy's dialect name along the lines of “Don't trip yourself”.

This is not just a name, but a sound advice as many have fallen and tumbled to their death on this almost vertical slope, peppered with rock outcrops. I also added that if a Qatari skier wore a burka, it might get her poles entangled in her dress or she wouldn't be able see if are skis were about to cross, causing her to fall and tumble down.

I concluded my less than politically correct response by saying that whether the slope ownership were Qatari or Swiss, the pitch wouldn't forgive anyone under any circumstances...

Friday, April 1, 2016

“Uncomplicating” life

In trying to create something memorable, unique and a tad better than the rest, we complicate things and often, make them harder to reach and understand.

Why do we do this? Because, deep inside, we are possessed to believe that larger, flashier, more modern and complicated are automatically better.

Why not begin by the beginning by asking: “What do we need, what do we like and what do we want to accomplish?”

The answer to these few points would save us a lot of disappointments and in the end bring us much more joy. Think about it...