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...