Monday, July 24, 2017

When I was nine-years old...

That sounds like a very long time ago, yet when I compare what I knew, my experiences and my insights about the world and those of my nine-year old grandson, the difference is huge.

I knew so little and he already knows so much; it's not even close and the comparison gives me so much hope about the future and my grandson's life!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Learning the hard way!

For the past few days, I've been doing a lot of architectural simulations by using Sketchup, a wonderful 3D drawing program, all about a business project that has been several years in the making.

The space is relatively small and each inch literally counts a lot and I have been doing iteration upon iterations.

Often, my countless “redo's” have been frustrating, because they were traceable to my own mistakes and I've learn so much much in the process that, once more, I was reminded every-time that repeated failure is our best life teacher...

Saturday, July 22, 2017

How good is Trump?

Let's not beat around the bush. If you were a good investor/businessman, would you hire the man? His résumé may speak volumes, but his behavior, management style and inability to get things done are disqualifying the individual after just six month in office.

The man should have never been elected president, the people who voted for him are idiots and the Republican Party that keeps on supporting him is an accomplice engaged in destroying the United States.

Trump, you're fired!

Friday, July 21, 2017

So hard to be consistent...

Sometimes we think we are a certain way and we keep on repeating ourselves that our way is the right one, the best.

That is, until we realize that we're contradicting ourselves. Our actions are straying from the path that we claim to be ours. When we think or when we talk, it's hard to have an eye at all time on what should be our “true north”.

Of course, we first need to define what our true north is before we even conceive of deviating from it.

Truth is, we seldom take the time or afford the honesty to understand the very values we call our own...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Missing the good old days?

On Sunday a former colleague and friend of mine found a special memento while cleaning his liquor cabinet. It was an unopened 1988 beer bottle dubbed "Park City Silver Reserve" commemorating Park City Ski Area's 25th Anniversary.

It happened as this person was moving out of Park City and returning to his native Idaho to begin a new life adventure. Over the years, many Parkites have done the same, growing sick of what their town has become and moved out, saying they missed “the good old days”, when they skied faster, had tons of fun and were younger looking, I guess.

To them I say, life is filled with change and Park City is no different. From its miner days on to Western Airlines becoming Delta, the Olympics, years of Sundance Film Fest, shorter winter vacations stays making a close-by airport a must, everything has contributed to Park City's dizzying rate of change.

Not much different by the way to what's been happening to Chamonix, St. Anton or Whistler. Whether we like it or not, and through some overzealous marketing efforts, we've all engineered the changes we see today in ski towns, all over the world. Can we still live with them? Some of us won't and will try to settle in some other places, in an effort to start over, some will and keep on enjoying what they have.

I, for my part, still love it, still believe that this place is the very best of all locales I've ever lived in, and almost can't wait to see how, in ten years from now, change will continue to transform Park City for the better...

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Lindsey Vonn and the boys

The American ski champion would like to race the men on the easy, Lake Louise downhill course in order to add one more feather to her Red Bull cap.

To me, this is pretty silly. I've also felt that the “battle of the sexes” is totally meaningless from a basic bio-mechanical standpoint. If she had the backbone to say “Kitzbühel” or “Bormio”, she'd get more of my attention, but Lake Louise? Give me a break!

She should instead focus her attention on both Lara Gut and Sofia Goggia, with the latter beating her up fair and square on the PyeongChang course last season.

If she doesn't, she might be side-slipping into the ski sunset like Bode Miller just did, by only boasting and not delivering...

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How to lose a 40-year customer?

Insurance companies, like a lot of establishments that rely on repeat business, should think twice before become overly greedy.

I had been a client of State Farm Insurance for forty years when my agent decided to make more money off of me, trying to sell me a service that was borderline ethical, that would have made him lots of money, and lied to me in the process.

This is often the situation companies get themselves into when they're intent on “milking” their current customers. Simple, horrible greed.

What also tipped my decision is that State Farm is a member and on the Board of Director of ALEC, an right-wing organization that spearheaded union-busting laws in Wisconsin and Ohio, voter-suppression laws in Maine and New Hampshire, and Florida's "Shoot First" laws.

Finally, I even saved a non-negligible amount of money in switching. Morale of the story: If you want to keep your long-time clients, don't oversell them and stay away from joining controversial organizations!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Tour de France's impressions

We don't watch as much of the Tour de France as we used to in previous year. Blame the drugs for this, I guess.

What we enjoyed most though, when we were watching more intensely, were the incredibly picturesque overhead helicopter shots of towns and village all along the course.

What were most stunning were – from a distance – the order and the cleanliness of the communities the helicopter flew over.

If there were a similar Tour of the U.S.A. TV wouldn't show us Camden, NJ or the South Bronx, of course, but we'd see plenty of poor and run-down rural areas with car wrecks spread all around the houses.

By this measure, France stands as a better measure of societal success...

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Getting elected vs. governing

Certain politicians have a knack of getting elected against all odds. Look at Trump or Macron (in France)!

Obama was no different and the list could go on and on. The problem, as I see it, is that getting elected is one thing, governing a country, quite another. Generally, folks who have mastered the secret and the skills of winning elections are super salespeople, but don't necessarily have the skills commensurate with governing.

Even though Obama was systematically obstructed by the Republicans, he lacked some basic decisive skills that will keep on dogging his legacy. My point is that someone good at governing must be a master at making decisions and more often than not, making them very, very fast; in fact, literally on the fly!

Good CEOs excel at this. Trump should be able to do that, but he's totally blinded and driven by his hypertrophied ego and the results of his efforts are so self-centered that they can't work for the leadership position he was elected to.

Macron is yet an unknown entity, but there are plenty of signs indicating that he's all fluff and little substance. Making good decisions is the result of making many, many decision.

That's right, showing some “high-mileage” in the decision-making department. This also means that when decisions are a way of daily life, some decisions will be good and some (let's hope few of them) will be terrible; yet, the strong leader will be able to live with the bad ones, learn from them and start a virtuous cycle of sound decision-making.

So, why are most politicians bad at governing? Simply because they don't trust themselves to make good decisions or are too preoccupied by their own reelection. Then, why don't we have politicians like Elon Musk or Steve Jobs? Simply because they see the job too demeaning, don't respect the political profession, its constant lying and its immoral mode of operations.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A trumpised Macron or a macronised Trump?

Probably both! I watched the press conference on the eve of Bastille Day between the American and the French Heads of State and I thought to myself what an odd couple these two characters made and whatever inspired Macron to invite Trump over?

This duet have so little in common except for their propensity at massacring their own language. Donald by getting away with using a the very same minimum number of basic words and Emmanuel by launching into pedantic, complicated sentences almost impossible to follow and comprehend by an average Frenchman like me.

At one point, Macron jumped on the chance to flatter Trump by finishing his sentences from him and showing off his command of English for whole world to see. Most of the time, Donald look out of place and bored, until he began rambling about his “good boy, nice person” when talking about Donald Jr.
This might help French tourism and I bet that after the two couples dined at Tour Eiffel, they're now at least Facebook friend. This joint performance was held together by some cheap duct-tape and looked almost pathetic; well I should say, “sad, sad, sad...”

Friday, July 14, 2017

Treasure Mountain, Park City

A couple of days ago, I mentioned this big project and included a video showing how it would deface Park City.

Here is some more interesting background: In 1986, the City Council approved the Sweeney Properties Master Plan (aka Treasure Hill), a concept creating a dense and compact extension of Old Town Park City on over 100 acres.

It appears that back in these days, that approval was for 415,000 square feet of new construction. Over the years, the project has been kicked around and each time, the applicant asked for more constructed area, reaching just over one million square feet, ignoring evidently the original deal.

A few years ago, the family that owned the land sold its interests for about $25 million to an investor but has kept on representing the project. A couple of years ago, the City of Park City offered $45 million for the land, but the investor refused to sell.

Today, the tug of war between the stubborn development company and our City is likely to end into a costly and protracted law suit that may drag on for years...

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Fighting the heatwave, mountain style...

Today, I will bore to death you with some interesting weather-related information. Our house in Park City sit at an altitude of 6,745' that stands 2,519' higher than Salt Lake City International Airport.

During a typical summer heatwave, like the one we've experienced for most of July, our daily top temperatures in Park City average around 84 degree Fahrenheit while Salt Lake's equivalent temperatures are more like 97. The difference between the two places is about 13 degree.

Night is a totally different story. We live in a high desert and extremely dry climate, so nights in higher elevation and minimal pollution (ozone, etc.) get much colder if the skies stay clear.

This in fact is the main reason why mountain living is so wonderful up in the mountains, during that same heatwave as savvy homeowners can aerate interior at nights to feel a very cool temperature in the morning and keep their house comfortable most of the day.

Early morning, when the temperature is the lowest, it's only 55 degree in Park City while it's still a balmy 75 in Salt Lake; that's a huge 20 degree difference!
Compare this with the normal decrease in temperature as one gains elevation on the table and you'll see why smart folks will move higher and higher up in the mountains as global warming takes hold on the planet!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A face-lift for Park City?

There's a huge real-estate project that's been hounding Old Town Park City since the mid 80s, called “Treasure Hill”, consisting of three-quarter of a million square feet of residential and commercial development just above town, as an idyllic, dreamlike, ski-in and out location.

For years there have been heated disagreements on its size (the developer would like to push it to 1 million square feet), road access (highly problematic) and looks as that massive build up may deface Park City's character.

Tonight, there will be another discussion of that controversial project at City Hall and among other topics, the owner will explain how he plans to use explosive to create the big hole needed, on the flank of the mountain, to cradle his baby.

The public hearing is going to be standing room only and something to be remembered. In the meantime a video of the how the project will fit into our little town has just been released and I absolutely didn't like what I saw.

Instead of the ugly high-rises showed on the clip, the buildings should hug the hill and blend with the existing colored mosaic of small miners homes, or at the very least, render the optical illusion of that continuum. I guess I probably will have to attend and voice my disapproval...

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Park City stereotypes

Back in the early 1990s, Salt Lake City had just become a Delta hub following the company's merger with Western Airlines. Around that time, about 500 pilot/flight attendant households suddenly moved to Park City to make it their home.

This massive “invasion” would have long lasting effects and significantly changed the complexion of our small mountain-town.

Today, there might not be as many pilots and their families left since many have since found that shoveling snow from November to April wasn't that fun and much preferred the balmy ocean shores of the southeastern United States, but still many of our neighbors are either still flying or have joined the ranks of pilot retirees. 
Without wrapping them all into one single stereotype, these pilots often come across as having big egos as one would develop when in charge of a large and powerful plane.

Many folks also find them cheap, which could be traced to their lower-paid military career or the per diem they receive while on the road, forcing them into some complex accounting.

Another often cited trait is that they're quite competitive and that's were sports, like skiing, or tennis are wonderful outlets for this.

Finally some also say that they tend to be insensitive, because they are so pragmatic and so high-wired that their emotional quotient takes a huge back-seat on all the rest.

What do I think about all this? I don't know; I'll need to do some research...

Monday, July 10, 2017

Loyal to Casio

Over my entire life, I've been a pretty loyal Casio customer when it came to watches.

Only twice, did I wear a time-piece other than Casio's. When I was about 12, and from my Communion, I got a cheap “Lov” french watch from my Godfather and Godmother and 10 years later, I bought myself a nice Seiko Chronometer watch.

After that, I've always been a steadfast Casio follower, owning a series of their trademark calculator-watches and more recently a G-Shock Solar model bought in 2011 for about $34.

Today that watch looks bad (the silver that used to adorn the case is gone, showing the cheap plastic material) but it works just perfectly.

Should I replace it? What a quandary...

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A German fly on the wall...

I am a German fly and I was on the wall when Putin met with Trump.
At first, Trump asked Tillerson and Lavrov to walk over to the large bay window and watch the demonstration while they had a more intimate conversation...

Trump: “As I said it's an honor to meet with you Vlad. I just wanted to thank you again for getting me elected...”

Putin: “Don't mention it; simple professional courtesy between tyrants.”

Trump: “Sure, but your FSB guys did a terrific hacking job”

Putin: “Right, I trained them well when I was at the KGB, but let's talk TV for now. Do you still want me to transform your CNN into RT?”

Trump: “Yeah, that'd be so good if we could turn this already fake media into a 'real' fake one...”

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Casual mountain living vs. vanities

When we first arrived in Park City, more than a generation ago, it was a casual mountain lifestyle for all.

We couldn't tell who was rich or poor as we all got around in Jeep Cherokee or small Subarus, and lived in similar houses. No one was pretending too much. We were just enjoying the simplicity and the casualness of mountain living and appearances took a back-seat to our true selves.

Since these happy days, times have changed and while the Aspen's saying “Billionaires have displaced millionaires” is now starting to ring true in Park City, human vanities are all around us for anyone to see, from fancy cars to luxury watches, “Mac Mansions” or exotic trips.

We do our best to remain unfazed and carry on with our 32 years old way of life...

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Gift of thinking critically

This past Wednesday, there was no garbage pick-up because the previous day was the 4th of July, an American Holiday.

Yet, all my neighbors, as perfect “sheep”, put their garbage cans out. I know there wouldn't be any pickup out of sheer logic, but still consulted the Refuse Company's calendar to confirm my suspicion.

This example is just to illustrate that most people follow others and seldom take the time, or better yet, make a habit, of thinking critically. In our household, we abide by this rule as much as possible, and over decades, it has paid huge dividends.

Before following anyone blindly, we just ask ourselves one very simple question: Does it make sense?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

What happened to diminishing returns?

Donald Trump believes he can grow the economy by 3 percent a year during his presidency. This is almost twice the rate of growth seen during the closing years of the Obama Administration.

Is this possible? Most economists say no and I agree with them, but maybe not for the same reasons.

At the beginning of this country's history when next to nothing existed, and later on as the industrial revolution followed by the age of the automobile set in and more recent advances like computing and the internet made their marks, massive growth numbers were common, albeit progressively dwindling, following a well-known economical law called “diminishing returns”.

Today as the whole world competes equally, as almost every human being owns a fridge or, better yet, a smart-phone, we've entered a massive slow-down where we repair and replace more single units than we buy them in huge quantities, hence the slower rate of growth.

From now on, growth will have to come from something qualitative and not quantitative, but this sounds as if I were repeating myself!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

America's 241st birthday

Birthday come and go and yesterday was another number for America.

We moved to this country the year after it celebrated its 200th birthday and while we didn't quite grasp the significance then, and we're still confused at times today by our new host country.

Today, the Nation seems rudderless, with a deranged individual at the helm and with expectations that are no longer in sync with common sense, keen observation and our modern times.

Take growth, for one thing. America enjoyed a tremendous growth based in part on free land and free labor and today that no one wants to be colonized anymore, we must compete without the unfair advantage of exploitation and in an overcrowded world competing for dwindling opportunities, space and resources.

We still could do okay if our Politic Class had the spine to tell it to us the way it is and honestly reset our expectations, but no, it keeps on lying and on painting unrealistic promises and fictitious schemes.

Without buying into the “Make America Great Again” utopia, I wish America can last at least another 241 years, but this far from certain and it will come at a cost of plain truth, lowered expectations and heighten sacrifices.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Sibling relationship

In re-editing some old family videos from the 80s, I ran into one in which my two kids (son and daughter) were getting into an argument.

You've all heard about the reasons for sibling rivalry as they generally range from the way kids were raised by their family, their education, their culture and a host of psychological and even psychiatric considerations.

I must say that I have serious doubt about all of these “scientific” reasons. I tend to think that if parents get twelve children, they'll discover twelve different personalities and behaviors altogether.

This further mean that, as sibling, you never get to chose your sister or brother. Siblings are placed into your environment, much like other tenants in a rental apartment, occupants of a condominium, neighbors in a subdivision, members of the military or just kids in school.

Some of the people you may be asked to live next to, or with, will never click with you. Some will become your very best friends while others won't stand you or you simply won't stand them.

Just like romantic relationships; pure chemistry is what it's all about, nothing more, nothing less and distributed compliments of randomness. This my simple, but perfectly logical take on sibling love and rivalry.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Meet Relive...

My son recently introduced to Relive, a Dutch startup that uses data to turn outdoor activities into 3D animated videos. It takes data garnered from Strava, another activity app, and creates 3D animated videos.

The app has already been used by professional cyclists and, as of May, the startup is said to have seen half a million users sign up, that are apparently creating 100,000 videos daily.

What I like about it is that it goes beyond statistics, health and performance-based metrics by focusing on the fun aspect of the outdoor experience.

While it's only available for cycling and running at the moment, I can't wait until I can use it for skiing too!
 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

America the Wasteful...

In Park City, each resident is provided with a recycling can for papers, plastics and the like as well as a regular garbage can.

The recycling can that is picked up every 14 days has a capacity of 95 gallons, while the smaller garbage can that is picked up weekly just holds 65 gallons.

Both offer sufficient storage for a family of four or even six, and since we compost, we could do with one fourth of that volume. If however these two cans won't suffice, it's possible to order more – as many as one wishes – and pay for the extra cost associated with regular pick-up.
Few households opt for this, except perhaps for one or two extra cans maximum in some very rare cases. So, the other day as we were walking in our neighborhood we were stunned to see 5 cans lined up for pickup in front of a residence (yep, 385 gallons!)

I knew that Americans were the biggest consumers in the world and that our GDP was made up of 70% worth of consumption, but I had not realized that we could also be the more wasteful nation on the entire planet!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A dream plugged into skiing

I only post some of my most bizarre and noteworthy dreams and only, of course, if I can remember them well. Right, nothing's made up!

Last night, I had an appointment with our new physician, a guy in his mid 70s that seemed a bit bizarre, if not totally deranged. I was waiting for my appointment in what looked like a vacated industrial site, with a few people sitting here and there, some having conversations, others gazing aimlessly.

Suddenly, a guy whom I thought I knew, hollered at me, calling me by my name, saying “how are you?” I said “fine, but not as well as I used to”. The man, who bore a strange resemblance to Bob Dylan, with a pencil thin mustache, walked over towards me and soon, we were deep into a conversation.

“We sure don't ski like we used to,” he said “...Today no more helicopters and spread eagles...” I agreed and since I couldn't remember the man's name, I overcome my embarrassment and mustered the courage to ask. The man responded: “Spider Sabich”.

Of course, I thought to myself. I meant to ask him how his French girlfriend was doing, but I didn't quite dare, because in the back of my mind I knew something weird might have happened to their relationship.

That's when it downed on me that Spider was shot dead by Claudine Longet on March 21, 1976 in Aspen, and it made no sense for him to be talking to me. That's when I woke up.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Season's first concert

This Wednesday, we finally got organized and attended our first outdoor concert of the season at Deer Valley Resort. The weather was perfect and the crowds much bigger than in years past.

Next time, we'll need to leave home much earlier to secure a good spot on the lawn and do some serious people watching. You didn't know it? Our concerts are 80 percent display of human vanity and just 20 percent (albeit good) music!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Low taxes and economic stimulus

The American right has said it all along and more particularly since Ronald Reagan: “Cut taxes and the economy will flourish!”

With a tax rate among the lowest among developed nations, Americans aren't particularly burdened by fiscal obligations, yet the concept of low taxes as some magical economic stimulus has become the Republican mantra and in practice doesn't work; at least, that's my point of view.

Let's take a few moments to understand why it hasn't. 
  • Entrepreneurs don't need tax cut to start a new venture. It's ingrained in them as they feel the urge to take control over their destiny and make their marks on the world. 
  • Established businesses hire, improve or expand when they see an opportunity in the market and do it before it goes away. 
  • Passionate professional follow their instinct and what possesses them, in creating something they love because it's irresistible, not because some manipulative politician is lowering their tax rates. 
  • If there were folks that would invest just because of some tax break, they'll do it just for some venal pursuit and in most cases, sooner or later, it would be guaranteed to peter out! 
  • Finally, most rich people will take any tax break they can get, stash them preciously away and won't even re-invest them... 
Take that fellow Republicans!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Coffee with Council

This program in which the Park City Council members, sometime along with our mayor, informally meet its citizenry for morning coffee during 90 minutes has been going on for a while.

Yet, because it landed in my span email folders, I've been ignoring it all along. Now that my wife pointed that invitation out to me, I finally attended Tuesday's session and was nicely surprised by the concept, the ideas shared and what I learned.

What I need to know is begin scanning more carefully whatever ends up inside my “social” and “promotions” folders instead of only checking the “primary” one. Okay, live and learn!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Judging things we don't even know...

Few days ago we are shopping at a local store; I know the sales guy very well, he's about my age and has lived in Park City for as long as I have.

We talk about business, guest visitations and the town explosive growth. We also talk about this past skiing season.

My wife and I say how much we like the Canyons area of the now expanded Park City Mountain. The man doesn't quite agree with us; he likes the old Park City and Deer Valley, much, much better.

We then recognize that Canyons it's rather large and sometimes difficult to navigate without getting lost.

Then we ask: “Do you ever ski there?” The man goes “No.” How can anyone speaks of something they don't know?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Old folks, incompetence and loyalty

Mr Trump is old (I know how bad this is, I'm about his age), his principles are stiff and he values more loyalty than competence.

When I used to work for a boss, I once had a leader that was exactly the same than the Donald. He expected total and blind loyalty from his subordinates and would have rather looked superior, even if that lead him to fail (which he eventually did more than a couple of times), instead of letting competent people challenge him and his ossified views and directions.
So, the morale of the story is simple. When surrounding yourself with associates, always prioritize their competence and their critical thinking over their loyalty to you. You'll learn more, you'll keep on growing and you'll succeed.

The opposite approach always fails.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Mountain-biking day #2

Saturday was a perfect day for going out; a good night sleep and cool morning temperatures. I did my routine course behind our home that amounts to about 8.2 miles and tried to do the best I could, but still felt that my time was bad.

Well, when I compared to my first outings of the 2016 season, I was 1 minute faster which was encouraging. What interests me is to see the relationship between aging and athletic performance and the only meaningful graph I was able to find dealt with swimming.
It showed that the angle of the slope is pretty steep after 55, but the loss seems to be around 1 to 2 percent per year after 60 years or so.

So things aren't so bad after all. I realize that swimming has little to do with mountain-biking, but it provides me with smidgen of reference.

I just need to get out more often...

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The American healthcare quandary

In the current discussion about Obamacare vs. Trumpcare, most people are focused on one single idea, but fail to see the larger picture. Sure, the American healthcare situation is a catch-22.
In 2015, the USA, healthcare cost ran about 18 percent of GDP at about $10k per person. Other OCDE countries are around 10 to 12 percent.

Unlike other industries, and because of Big Pharma's control of our politicians, as medicine advances, it become exponentially more expensive (x-ray vs. MRI), so don't expect the trend to abate. Now, if we don't take care of folks who can't buy insurance or have excessive deductible, we'll end up paying for their care, no matter what, making the whole package even more expensive because of total lack of screening and preventive care.

I'm under Medicare, it works very well, but cost $11k per beneficiary per year since it covers a very frail and broken-down age group. It seems to me that either through higher taxes or through excessive health care costs, we will all end up paying dearly for it, except that in a single payer system like Medicare, we can eliminate the Insurance industry share of profit.

We could also negotiate Big Pharma prices down if we could take money out of politics as it egregiously stands now. If Trumpcare passes, which in fact might create an interesting test, it might unleash a popular uprising that could accelerate a bruising GOP defeat and the advent of some form of public option.

That's my two-cent.

Friday, June 23, 2017

New US Ski Team logo?

As part of a two-year re-branding project, U.S. Ski & Snowboard just came up with a brand-new logo to replace the pair of logo used by the team and the association until now.

A bunch of “experts” and consultants were called to create the new logo. Since we say that too many cooks spoil the broth, I don't think the result is that good.
It looks as if it had been designed by a six-years old (I know, I'm an old grumpy guy!) I liked the old crest-logo much better.

Of course, regardless of the result quality, this big effort probably did cost a bundle that could have better been used in helping financially-strapped athletes!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

LGBT and today's culture

We just saw “Real Boy” another documentary film about a young transgender and her/his struggle with family, friends and society.

By the end of the movie, I realized the deep disconnect that exists between the entire LGBT community and society with its deep ignorance and unpreparedness, that is more noticeable and ingrained in its main institutions like family, school, government and religion.

Being LGBT is a probability at birth, just like any physical variation from what could be called the human norm. Let's say that it is 8 percent likely that any child will be born with LGBT traits just as some are born with flat feet, autism or dyslexia.

If society at large fully embraced that potentiality and expected its manifestation, there wouldn't be all the trauma, suffering and ostracism that are part an parcel of being LGBT. In that regard, our culture is flawed and is long overdue for change.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Yesterday Skype, now Facebook?

Most people are familiar with Skype. A select few use it a lot; I don't and I typically never use it when I'm on my computer as I find it a bit disruptive.

I've since migrated this app to my smartphone. Yet, when I check, I see very view folks on Skype at any given moment and this makes it hard to actually use.

A few days ago, my son called me from France on Father's Day, via Facebook Messenger (he was just doing a voice-call). I was a bit startled by the unusual ringtone, mangled the communication and had to call him back.

Instead of doing a voice-only call, I hit the video button and we had a video-chat that worked every bit as good as with Skype, if not better.

Since, more people are stuck on Facebook at any given time of the day, Facebook Messenger might take the place of Skype as far as I'm concerned...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Hard to get back in the saddle!

Like no other year before, I've found it very hard to get back in the saddle and cycling again.

Was it more apprehension, more procrastination or tiredness, I can't say for sure. We blamed the delay on May's atrocious weather, but this sounded like a poor excuse.

We finally got the bikes out around the middle of June, without any great enthusiasm and yes, all went well, except for the usual pain in the buttocks which never fails to accompany the very first days of riding. Will we break records this summer? I don't anticipate it, but let's say that we'll do our best.

By the way, if this were any measure of my commitment, I just bought a brand-new helmet!

Monday, June 19, 2017

June, the month for tuning skis?

In years past, I've always dusted off the family skis sometime in November, usually one or two days before the local resorts would open, the snow would begin to fall seriously or the day before I'd be ready to start skiing.

Usually, it was cold, dark, there was no time to procrastinate, it just had to be done. This routine changed this year as I decided to do it outside, on my front, lower patio, in perfect light conditions, comfortable temperatures, and just wearing shorts and t-shirt instead of bundling up.

I worked on four pairs of skis. Two of mine, my wife's and daughter's. Their skis were in far better shape than mine, reflecting both their greater care and my innate brutality.

I repaired the bases, did the edges but didn't wax. I'll wait for ski day #1 for this!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ski Association CEO's pay...

A few days ago, the French Ski Federation (FFS) approved boss Michel Vion's compensation for 2018. It was apparently unchanged from this year and will amount to 66,000 euros or $73,260.

I couldn't resist but compare it with his American counterpart, Tiger Shaw, head of USSA, that's also my neighbor of sorts, and was awarded a total compensation of $317,042 in 2016 which is over four time that of Vion's.

Is the USSA boss workload or his team's result 433 percent superior to those of Vion? Probably not; I'd say about the same, but the country footprint is much larger and after all, this is America, right?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Flight school

We have several large and tight evergreen trees around our garden that are home to magpies. Last year, we witnessed the spring chicks take their first flight down from the nest, and struggle to learn how to fly and eventually make it back to the family perch, higher up in the trees.
This month of June was not different with a similar routine except that the young “pilots” did a lot of exploring around our yard. Walking much more than they flew and discovering whatever insects or worms that were available to snack on. They all seemed to have fun and like any other species can be playful like all youngsters are!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Utah's record ski season

Utah broke an all-time skier-day record this season and it's an impressive performance. It grow its total visitation to 4,584,658 skiers, up 2.8 percent from last season that was also a new record.

It would appear that in the entire Rocky Mountain region, Utah was an outlier, since the overall region saw a 2 percent decline in visits, with Colorado down 2.5 percent.

Of course, the magical ingredient that makes for such an impressive result is... lots of snow! That's right, snowfall had been generous this season, with Brighton the total winner with a reported 632 inches of snowfall over the course of the season and more than 200 inches in January alone.

Since the breakdown per resort is a well-guarded secret, I like to guess, just for fun, how these skier-days are distributed among individual resorts. Just check the table; no guarantee, just a personal hypothesis...

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Gun violence and US Congressmen

Yesterday's shooting in Washington, DC hit a very sensitive segment of the US population: Lawmakers that support the National Riffle Association (NRA) and liberalization of arm sales.

Steve Scalise, a House leader from Louisiana along with other folks, was shot by a gunman who was later arrested.

The irony in this incident is that in 2015, Representative Steve Scalise himself, introduces a bill to relax restrictions on interstate firearm sales and has been the recipient of NRA contributions ($4,950 in 2016).

My point is that our crazy gun laws, including a blind adherence to the Second Amendment of the Constitution, are making our country much more dangerous and not at all safer.

Consider this: The entire European Union (508 million people) only counts 6,700 firearm death per year, against 34,000 for the 321 million individuals in the United States. That's over 8 times more firearm deaths per capita.

Do I need to say more?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The funeral luncheon

Besides a few bills, we don't much exciting stuff in the mail these day except for some catalogs and advertising postcards.

The only regular solicitations we receive is mostly for hearing aids, financial seminars meant to separate ourselves from our savings, (burial) life insurance and, related to the later, we received yesterday a nice invitation to attend a barbecue party organized by a nearby funeral home that wishes to sell us its services.
To me, the mere word “barbecue” coming from a mortician conjures pictures I don't even want to place into my mind's eye and since the organizers are based in the midst of “Mormon Country”, I seriously doubt wine or beer will be served to accompany whatever the fares end up being.

I guess we'll just pass...

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

When need unleashes creativity

The Foosball table repair saga has been on-going and might see a happy conclusion later today. After repairing one of the leg, I had to completely re-engineer, redesign and rebuilt the entire underbelly of that heavy table.

It took me through several options, a variety of suppliers, many re-dos and led me into fabricating new and sturdy channels for returning the balls with nothing less that a sheet of aluminum that I had to form to its final shape using my distant technical training, some rudimentary tools and my bottomless determination...

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Macron “miracle”

I had my doubts about Macron's ability to lead France, and today, after the sweeping success of his new party during the French legislative elections, I must admit I was flat wrong.

Indeed, after he “miraculously” got elected president back in May, I thought he would never be able to govern with a majority of his own party in the French Assembly; against my wise estimation, he pulled it off!
This goes to say that in politics, dramatic change is always possible and that it's never been more true these days than ever before. I'd just wish the positive French tide would turn in some similar way in the United States...

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The law of unintended consequences

Last Friday, we stopped by a neighborhood garage sale, as we often do when we walk around the block.
Usually, there's nothing grabbing our attention, but this time I found a nice folding ladder in excellent condition for just $35! I've got already one of these, but the price was too good to pass.

Then, as I returned with my car to pick up my prize, I also noticed a Foosball table that looked brand new and was also priced at $35! I thought we could have lots of fun with it every time my grandson comes to visit us.

Since the table and its spindles were over 50 inches wide, I couldn't fit it in my car and had to get a friend's Land-Cruiser to carry the monster back home.

When I got there, I realized that one of the four legs was broken and before I had time to think, I spent my entire weekend fixing the damned broken limb and discovered some other damaged and mising items as I spent more time exploring the underbelly of that piece of sporting goods furniture.

All this to say that we never know what we are getting into, each time we innocently venture into some seemingly harmless project!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Can Americans trust Trump?

Ever since he's been campaigning, Donald Trump has stretched or otherwise abused the truth a lot.

Since his goal is self-advancement and not that of the country, he could care less.

Compared to former FBI director Comey, I certainly fault the man for a number of questionable moves or mistakes, but I trust him entirely and if I had to compare him to Trump, the president would be left in the dust by Comey when it comes to honesty and truthfulness.

That's right; I'm convinced that Donald Trump is a liar.

Friday, June 9, 2017

How to get a good estimate

I keep on repeating that in life, we keep on learning. I'm currently in the process of starting a small project for which I need a series of estimates as a way to secure the best value for my money.

There are lots of tools at my disposal. A good search engine is one, but it often excludes good people who aren't too technology-savvy, don't have a website, or can't be found on the internet. The phone book has become a useless resource.

Some names can pop up here and there, but many times, it pays to reverse-engineer the process, by going to a supplier or a wholesaler; get educated in both the process and the product or service needed, and then ask that provider if they have a list of folks that can do the job.

This is just an entry-point into the process and as one takes the plunge, it become easier to cross-check and discover even more different approaches that will yield additional good result.

By all means don't stick to a rigid method; instead, always look at a project from its unlimited number of perspectives!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The businessman president

There are still too many naive folks who believe that those who calls themselves “businessmen” are apt to serve the country without making the essential difference between “good” and “bad” businessman, or businesswoman for that matter.

In my view, the man who got elected president last November, clearly falls in the “bad” category. Good business people listen to their people and their customers, are polite, diplomatic, mature and are not behaving like immature spoiled children.

President Trump is incapable of filling these basic traits. So here we are; being in business or not is totally irrelevant if a person isn't willing to walk the walk that is required of a professional. I'm afraid our chief executive's business acumen hovers at a very dismal level to be invoked as a reference.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Learning skiing with books?

I have yet to find a book that explain how to ski in bad, irregular or exceptional snow and less than ideal conditions.

Most of the manuals and teaching methods I know, are more centered on pure bio-mechanics, technique, learning tips than on actually putting the whole theory to work.

My wife tells me I should write a book about skiing and maybe therein lies the opportunity to write something really interesting and helpful!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Better than Trump? The Answer.

On June 2nd, I asked a very important question, and today, I wanted to follow up of your possible answers.
So let me start by saying that the entire conversation is purely conjectural. If you said you wouldn't be better than Trump, and voted against him or didn't support him, you're probably selling yourself short.

There's absolutely no question that you'd do a much better job if you were in the White House instead of him. Simply remember, the man is a “zero”. You're worth much more than that! If you'd do a much better job, you're on the right track.

Just leave no stone unturned and make sure the White House tenant can't renew his option on his four-year rent.

Of course, if you happen to have believed in the man lies and other “fake” promises and still are thinking he's doing a good job, you're clearly in big trouble and have some work to do. You might be considering yourself “less-than-zero”.

If, on the contrary, you bitterly regret your vote in favor of that swindler, you're on your way to remission; congratulations!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Vail Resorts vs. Trump

I was impressed to see that Vail Resorts came out and took position against Trump's decision to turn his back to the Paris Climate Accord.

I wished all other ski resort companies had done the same. I went on line on Facebook and took a lot a heat for it, in which pro-Trump or anti-environment ideologues criticized the ski resort company for all the ills of the world.

Well, in case you haven't noticed, our mountain weather temperatures aren't what they used to be. I've seen this devolve in my lifetime and the negative trend is picking up. As bad as mountain resorts are sometime portrayed, they're a breeze compared to the extractive industries do much more damage to the environment.

I was also told that corporate jets that patronize ski resorts are also part of the environmental problem; I frankly think this is a drop in the bucket compared to reviving coal fired power plants.
At any rate, it certainly feels surreal to see Trump join with the Syrian regime and say America doesn't care about the future of the planet and about our children and grand kids' future.

With that say, should we now have to look to countries like China for moral guidance since our president has abdicated responsibility and made America the world's destroyer instead of the savior as it was previously meant to be ?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sergeant Pepper redux

As a die-hard Beatles fan I didn't want to miss last night's PBS special about their landmark album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” on its 50th year anniversary.

Howard Goodall, an author and music historian re-explained the genesis of each song contained in the album, plus “Strawberry fields” and “Penny Lane” which weren't.

He tried to debunk many things I thought about these songs and went into minute details explaining the production work. He failed to convince me as I thought that the end result was more Beatles-induced “chaos theory” than anything else, which after all is called artistry instead of perfect engineering.

On top of that, why not have the two surviving members of the band interviewed to add some credibility to the entire piece? I also would have liked to hear a few of the songs in their entirety but was denied that small pleasure. Thumb down!

Ptecrôt, fifty years ago...

This place impossible to pronounce (this name translated from local Savoyard patois means, “small hollow”) used to be a cluster of small barns built to store hay during summer harvest before is was slid down the mountain in bundles also know in patois as “fés” or “portshiô” in late fall or early winter.

Just about 50 years ago, I was helping a famous local skier and instructor called Jean Berthet, from Les Gets, near my home in the French Alps, to disassemble, then transport these 12' x 12' tiny wooden structures also known as “bô” in the local dialect. It happen just after the end of the The Six-Day War or Third Arab–Israeli War, that was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967.

I was there with my brother Gaston and my cousin Robert Garnier. I remember that my cousin, who had fought in the Algerian war, was particularly delighted to see the Arabs severely beaten up during that conflict as we were evoking the current news during our breaks.

The place is incredibly steep and the work was hard. I don't even remember if we got paid for what we did, but we do it mostly to secure us a good word from Jean Berthet who then was quite influential in the ski industry, at a time when the three of us yearned to become ski instructors.

I was also about to enter the military and because of my education and to my chagrin, I was guaranteed a slot in the French Air Force instead of being in the “Chasseur Alpins” the French mountain division. This would have allowed me to ski and stay closer to the mountains for the 16 month mandatory ordeal.

The day went by, we got the job done and I never knew if Jean Berthet remembered that he should give some good word about me or not, or in the affirmative, if his intervention ever worked.
It didn't; I ended up in the Air Force!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Selfishness and Passion...

A few days ago, I was watching yet another extreme skiing video shot in Chamonix, on Yeld Peak, next to the Dent du Géant, and ending into the Contamine couloir off l’aiguille de Blaitière.

A lady posted a comment about the whole mountain culture of pushing the envelope, saying:

“My thoughts are going to the moms that are scared to death each time their boys go out and ski. These steep slopes have made a quadriplegic out of my son and killed his friends, both being experts in their own right. I feel these clips are deceptive and make such descent appear easy. My grandkids are growing up without their dad. How do you explain to them that the passion for the mountain is stronger than the other side of life?”

Pretty strong words, indeed. The thought that immediately came to my mind is that in love, sailing, politics, mountaineering, skiing, or you name it, the most extreme passions are often fulled by blind selfishness.

 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Would you be better than Trump?

After a theatrical campaign, a boisterous transition and more than four month in office, we now have plenty of elements to assess our new president's performance. I think it's time to ask ourselves a fair question.

“If I happened to be sitting in the Oval Office would I do a better job than Trump?”

Something worth thinking about it; taking one's time and be honest. I guarantee you that most of you will be surprised by their own answer.

In a next blog, we'll tackle the different options. In the meantime, just for the sake of full disclosure, just remember that I wouldn't qualify to answer either way that political question; even though, I'm an American citizen (I wasn't born in the country).

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Effectively pushing back against Trump

It's been more than 3 month since Trump is in the Oval Office and every sane person who dislike him is wondering how to push back against his insanity.

It may very well be that a traditional approach isn't working against such an iconoclastic and demented character. It might be better to “infiltrate” forums that support him like Fox News or Breitbart and subtlety expose POTUS' foolishness to readers of these media that constitute the hard-core base supporting him.

Just start by planting the seed of doubt and inferring how the man clearly doesn't walk his electoral campaign talk and expose his lies and contradictions.

An idea worth following through...