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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Success Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires

How to spot a millionaire



I just finished reading a book I first came across 10 years ago. To my great surprise, it stood the test of time pretty well.

And, with the january credit card bill looming over the horizon, it might be a good time to start reading it.

21 Success Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires is an easy read packed with interresting ideas.

Author Brian Tracy does a good job of synthetizing the information and it probably is one of his best books.

There's no big insider secret, but rather logical and sound advice on how to become wealthy.

The downer is: it takes time and effort. But hey, as my friend Franco says: if it looks to good to be true, it probably is.

I will not give the 21 secrets here as I encourage you to read the book, but here are 2 phrases that caught my attention:

What kind of a world would my world be if everyone in it was just like me?

You will be the same person in five years except for the people you meet and the books you read.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Cashback



Once again, I owe my buddy Ben in Switzerland for the growth of my cinematographic culture.

A couple of weeks ago, he FedExed me a fantastic movie by director Sean Ellis.

The flick is Cashback.

In my humble opinion, it is one of the great movies of 2007.

Great story. Great actors. Great images. Great music. Funny. Intelligent. Romantic. Stunning.

But why describe the film when you can watch the trailer on the official Website?

If you want to learn about the making of, visit: http://myspace.com/cashbacklefilm

Monday, December 24, 2007

Hijacking the Christmas Spirit

picture by Danny Hammontree


Let me hijack the Christmas spirit for a few seconds and toss away all the clutter (gifts, parties, drinking, etc.) to reach the core: celebration, sharing and peace on earth.

Let us take a moment to realize how fortunate we are and think of how we can share our blessings with others less fortunate.

For 2008, let's try to find alternatives to the wars we are waging.

To kickstart the reflexion, let me quote former U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children... This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Now, let's delve into the raw the numbers:

The Pentagon suggesed that the cost of the conflict in Iraq would be approximately $75 billion per year over ten years. In accepting the Niwano Peace Prize on 8 May 2003, Dr Priscilla Elworthy, of the Oxford Research Group said, “We must compare this $75 billion to the costs of building international security in other ways.

a) in the year 2000 world leaders estimated that it would require $25 billion to $35 billion annually to raise levels of health and welfare in Africa to Western standards.

b) Unesco estimates that all the world’s children could be educated if we were to spend $7 bilion dollar per year for ten years.

c) Clear water and sanitation could be provided for everyone in the world for $9 billion annually.

d) HIV and Aids now claim 5,500 lives a day around the world – more that the Black Death, and twelve million children in Africa have been orphaned by the disease. Kofi Annan has called for $10 billion annually to address the Aids epidemic.”

(thank you Mr Richard Branson for shedding a light on this one.)

And finally, no world peace speech would be complete without a few words of wisdom from the Dalai Lama:

“If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another. If you wish to know that you are safe, cause others to know that they are safe. If you wish to better understand seemingly incomprehensible things, help another better understand. If you wish to heal your own sadness and anger, seek to heal the sadness or anger of another.

Those others are watching for you know. They are looking to you for guidance, for help, for courage, for strenght, for understanding and for assurance at this hour. Most of all – they are lookinf for your love.”


On that note, let me wish you all the best for the holiday seasons, and big dreams for 2008!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Zoonosis

When a pathogen leaps from some nonhuman animal into a person, and succeeds there in making trouble, the result is what's known as zoonosis. It's a word of the future.

The word Zoonosis is unfamiliar to most people. But it helps clarify the biological reality behind the scary headlines about bird flu, SARS, other forms of nasty diseases, and the threat of a coming pandemic. It says something essential about the origin of HIV. It's a word of the future, destined for heavy use in the 21st century.

Ebola is a zoonosis. So is bubonic plague. So are yellow fever, monkeypox, bovine tuberculosis, Lyme disease, West Nile fever, Marburg, many strains of influenza, rabies, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, and a strange new affliction called Nipah, wich kills pigs and pigs farmers in Malaysia.

The preceding excert is from National Geographic Magazine (October 2007).

They have a fascinating article on how we exchange diseases with animals and how globalization (and mostly the ease to travel averywhere) will have a major impact on our health.

And if the subject interrests you, you must also read Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize book Guns, Germs and Steel.

And you thought that extreme sports were dangerous...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Giant Speed Queen



While reading Richard Branson's biography Losing My Virginity, I came across an old lady. Her name is SS United States and she is the fastest ocean liner ever built.

She truly was an impressive ship : she weighted 52,000 tons and needed 240,000 horsepower to shift her.

The speed record she set was impressive : an average of 35.6 knots (40 miles/h).

She was built in 1952 at the cost of $79 millions - not a cheap date!

She won the Blue Ribband for the fastest transatlantic crossing.

At 990 feet long, she's the largest ship ever built in the US.

She carried numerous celebrities.

She now rests in Philadelphia.


For more info

Sunday, November 25, 2007

BMW WEB TV



Once again, BMW is a step ahead in terms of marketing. You'll remember their smart move with BMW films a couple of years ago. (Watch them again on YouTube - it's worth is, especially Star, by Guy Ritchie, starring Madonna.)

Now, in addition to their paper magazine, they have a new "Media" Website where you can learn about upcoming events, their cars, design, racing and much more. Of course, everything is video enhanced. Plus the site is cool.

These guys really take advantage of the Web to promote their brand. No wonder they are doing so well (yes, I admit, it helps that their cars rank among the best in the World too...)

Take a look at the site: BMW WEB TV

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Too Smart to Succeed?

If you had an IQ of 154 to give, your choice would be...

Having recently moved to a new house, I have thrown away a lot of junk; but I also rediscovered small treasures hiding in cardboard boxes.

One of these little gems is a paper dated 1996, by Howard Gardner (Adjunct Professor of Neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine, and Co-Director of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education).

It describes different types of intelligence and goes way beyond the simple notion of I.Q. which I always thought was overly biased in favor of educated and mathemical/left brain people - and it's not because I have a low I.Q. :o)

According to Gardner, there are 7 Types of intelligence:

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
The ability to manipulate ones own body, and control muscle movements with utmost precision (surgeons, pianists).

Musical Intelligence
The ability to understand and perform music.
Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
This also includes scientific ability.

Linguistic Intelligence
Knowledge and ability to manipulate language.
Spatial Intelligence
"The ability to form a mental model of a spatial world" (i.e. sculptors, engineers, surgeons).

Interpersonal Intelligence
The ability to understand others.
Intrapersonal Intelligence
The ability to understand oneself.

This is good news for those of us who do not have stellar IQ ratings and thought that God was really unfair when he gave, on top of everything else, an IQ of 154 (genius) to Sharon Stone. I mean, Bush Jr would have needed it more, don't you think? And it's not like he has anything else. With such an injustice, can anyone really say that God loves America?

But for us ordinary people (at least in terms of IQ), there's another consolation: the average plumber earns more money than the average MENSA (high IQ society) member. (BTW, if you look at their crappy Website, it is clear that they cannot afford a decent Web Designer.)

Finally, if on top of an average IQ you are not an academic star either, you'll be happy to know that statistics favor you in the long run:

Demographics refer to the characteristics of population segments. In business, its focus is fixed on the study of consumer markets. Taken at their worst, essays on human traits can end up being nothing more than a stereotyping of individuals into a common group because of age, sex, education, location, or some other social indicator. At best, the interpretation of demographic data is about as accurate as weather forecasting. Demographers may generalize about the relevance of education to success, but they cannot explain why 50% of North American millionaires never finished college. Nor can they provide the slightest clue as to why more than half the CEOs and U.S. senators and presidents graduated in the bottom half of their class. – Roger D. Touchie, Preparing a Successful Business Plan

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Expectations

"If a Nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be." - Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, November 15, 2007

6 Degrees of Separation


The latest trend of social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn made us realize all too well how a small World it is.

It seems we're all related in some way and, in fact, we are.

It's not a new concept. There was a site built around that concept in 1999, www.6degrees.com - check it out on the Wayback Machine:


Of course, it was too early and the site died in the implosion of the Dot Com Bubble.

For movie enthusiasts, there's a really cool site called The Oracle of Bacon that will tell you how far away an actor is from Kevin Bacon (by the way, Kevin Bacon is not the most connected actor).

For example, if I type in Reese Witherspoon, here's the answer:



And for the real fanatics among you, go ahead and read LINKED, a really fascinating book on networks written by the fantastic mathematician Albert-Laszlo Barabasi.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Titan of the Seas


In the summer of 1994, while we were getting tired of being assaulted by the crowd in Virginia Beach, my friend Burt took us to visit The US Naval base in the Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia - the largest naval station in the World.

After the usual tourist visit and guided tour, on our way to leave the base, we took a wrong turn and came across what looked like a really tall building. As we got closer, we realized that the building was in fact a huge ship.

We asked an officer about the boat and were told that it was the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. It was not open to the public but he was kind enough to show us around (this was before the 911 events).

Boy, what an impressive ship it is!

Launched in 1975, it is the second of 10 Nimitz class aircraft carriers.

The asphated deck is so long (1092 ft.), that you can jog along it. It is 252 ft. wide.

The height, from keel to mast is 244 ft. (equal to 24-story building)

It is propelled by two giant nuclear reactors connected to 4 screws (66,200 lbs. each) up to more than 30 knots (54 km/h).

More than 6 200 men can live aboard.

Number of anchors: 2

Weight of anchors: 60,000 lbs. each

Anchor chain: 1,082 ft. on each anchor (365 lbs. per link)

Total anchor weight including chain: 735,000 lbs. each

Distillation plant capacity: 400,000 gals.

Number of light fixtures: approx. 29,000


But these are just numbers. When you are face to face with that giant, you are awed...


For more info:







Friday, October 26, 2007

Billion Dollar Home

As I was reading the last issue of Conde Nast Portfolio, I came upon a modern tale of feudalism and one of the worst example of nouveau riche attitude.

Mr Ambani, India richest man, ordered an insanely extravagant house to be built on one of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) most expensive street.

Designed by Chicago Perkins and Will and estimated at $1 Billion, the 60 stories, 173m (570 ft) tower will boast a 168 cars garage, an entertainment center with a 50 seats cinema, several floors of greeneries, terraces and balconies, a health center with a swimming pool, gym, and 3 helipads on the roof.

As you've probably guessed by now, his employees do not exactly enjoy the same kind of lifestyle, not even close, and that's exactly how revolutions start...

Read the full article on Conde Nast Portfolio Web site: Rich Man, Poor Country

Monday, October 22, 2007

Why Spammers Spam



If, like me, you dream of strangling spammers wit your bare hands, here's some info about the ennemy.

Montreal based Vircom is on the forefront of the Spam War with their award winning Modus spam filter. I have been personnaly using their filter so I can testify to its efficiency. It filters over 90% of junk mail and blocks very few legitimate e-mails.

They wrote a very interresting white paper: Why Spammers Spam that will give you an insight into the spammers' life and motivation.

To download the document, go to this page

Friday, October 19, 2007

Plain Jane



Plain Jane Couture is probably Montreal's most original clothing company. Founders Zoum and Hardip Manku unusal duo have come up with audacious and provocative designs and an unmistakably sexy logo.

Check out their collection: http://www.plainjanecouture.com/


Something like a phenomenon in Time Square


Jessie Hollywood turning heads in NYC


Ben Z cruising his Riva on Lake Leman in Switzerland





Thursday, October 18, 2007

The New Demotivators


The new demotivators are out on http://www.despair.com/! Go and check it out.

P.S.: Even if running in front of killer bulls is not the fast track to a Nobel Prize, I have been to the fiesta of the San Firmin in Pampelona (the 3rd largest party after Rio's Carnaval and Munich's Oktoberfest) and I must admit that no people on Earth know how to party like the Spaniards!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Let My People Go Surfing


I am in the middle of Yvon Chouinard's amazing book Let My People Go Surfing and I couldn't wait to finish it before urging you to dive in it.

As founder of outdoor equipment and clothing manufacturer giant Patagonia, Chouinard is a well seasoned businessman. But that's the less interresting part.

What is fascinating is the story of this crafstman who became a reluctant businessman through a series of successes and failures.

And, more than anything else is how he uses his company and its ressources to make the world a better place. First by creating an inviting environment for his staff (and leaving them time to go surfing), then by investing millions of dollars of his profits to finance grassroots environmental organisations and inciting other companies to do the same through the 1% for the planet progam.

Finally, his vision and commitment turned his company into an example to follow for all of us business people who strive to change the World for the better.

Growing Fast Food



In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2001, they spent more than $110 billion. Americans now spend more money on fast food than on higher education, personal computers, computers software, or new cars. They spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music – combined.


- Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation (excellent book, BTW)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Crazy Carpets Down The Mountain


Adirondacks, New York State, March 2005

Together with my hiking buddies Jessie and Rob we went up the very steep face of Mt Algonquin though the Avalanche Pass Trail. Overall, it was a long ride and it took us all day to reach the top in adverse conditions.

It had snowed A LOT in the past weeks, and no one had gone up that route so we had to dig our own path with white powder up to our thighs (with snowshoes on) and a slope so steep that every 30 feet, the snow would slide down and we'd have to climb back again on the ice beneath.

When we reached the top, it was 10 PM, 25 degrees below and a blizzard was raging. Rob managed to have an eye frozen for a few seconds while trying to find the way down. It was an eerie moment because it was snowing in reverse as the fierce wind pushed the snow flakes upwards.

Once we went down into the treeline, everything was suddently quiet. No more wind, and instantly warmer.

Going down was one of the best thrills of my life. 45 minutes of crazy carpeting non stop in 4 feet of snow. Everything white in our headlamps ray and pitch black around, no sound except for the speed induced wind in our ears. After a few seconds, these little plastic sheets go VERY FAST!

Fortunately, there was a ton of snow and we somehow survived the numerous impacts we had with trees and rocks.

The fact that we used our walking poles as rudder helped, because braking with the snowshoes was hazardous as it lifted a cloud of snow that instantly froze on our goggles, bliding us completely.

At one point, the others were far in front of me and I leaned back, lifted my poles/rudder a bit and gained speed. I must have been going at 20 miles an hour or so (wich is scaringly fast on a plastic sheet going down a mountain with 8 feet of effective visibility) when I felt the ground disappear underneath me. Rob and I had hiked this trail (Van Hoevenberg) 3 years before and marked it as good for sledding back down. I didn't remember any significant drops or cliffs on the trail. Now that was conforting...

For a fraction of a second that seemed like forever, I was in mid air and pondering how high I was and what kind of landing strip waited for me. Fortunately for me, the drop was only 6 feet and I landed of soft snow. But what a rush!



Friday, September 28, 2007

Today's the day


This is the story of a man who went all the way toward his dream.

Every morning, he and his companions would dive in search of the elusive sunken treasure of the Spanish Galleon Atocha, only to come back empty handed. Every morning, he would cheer his companions: "Todays' the day!" And it went on for 16 years.

He had to fight over 100 court battles, bankrupcy and divorce as well as discouragement. And he kept going on for 16 years...

On July 20th 1985, he woke up and told his team once again: "Today's the day!" But this time, he was right.

On the seabed, they found the biggest treasure ever recovered from the ocean. Over 40 tons of gold and silver were located, including 100 000 Spanish silver coins known as "Pieces of Eight", gold coins, columbian emeralds, silver and gold artifacts and over 1000 silver bars. For a total worth of over $450 million.

The man's name is Mel Fisher and, had he stopped one day earlier, he would be a nobody instead of the World's Greatest Treasure hunter.

For more info:


Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Explorer's Club of New York



This club is more than 100 years old and a popular hangout for media types. The Explorer's Club was formed in 1904 by Henry Collins Walsh, when he invited a group of buds to create a club "to encourage explorers in their work by evincing interest and sympathy and especially by bringing them in the bonds of good fellowship."

The nonprofit club began in 1905, and the founding members consisted of an Indian fighter, museum curator, Arctic explorer, mountaineer, archaeologist, war correspondent and hunter.

What makes the Explorer's Club a must is the fascinating decor created by 90 years of collecting trophies and junk from around the world. The six-story 1910 town house with its magnificent library is an "in" site for parties in New York.

For those who do not live in New York, there are 27 regional chapters, seven of them in other countries (Australia, Britain, India, Norway, Poland and Western Europe).

The club likes to lend out numbered flags, so that you can take them to some godforsaken place on some harebrained quest, and then throw a party when you return the dilapidated piece of cloth. They sponsor some expeditions, award medals (the Explorer's Medal) and provide local support to scientific and educational programs, all based on merit.

The club publishes a quarterly journal and a newsletter and offers a 25,000-item library, a 500-item map room and historical archives. Membership includes 3000 men and women, with 500 of them outside the New York area.

As with most of these clubs, to join the Explorers Club of New York, you have to have some type of experience in being "adventurous." Driving a cab in Harlem probably won't impress them, nor will big-game hunting trips, extensive travel without a scientific purpose or photography in remote parts of the world. But if you provide sponsoring letters, fill out the application form and fork over the hefty membership fee, your chances are good.

You can be a "fellow" if your exploits are published, or try for regular membership if you are modest about your exploits. In any case, it will depend on what the membership committee and the Board of Directors say. Also available are student memberships (16-24 years of age, over 24 if you are pursuing a graduate degree), and corporate memberships. - Robert Young Pelton

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Be Well Remembered

Picture by Matt West



As I strolled past a funeral home the other day, I was struck by their slogan: "Be Well Remembered".

Is it how we see it? The last impression is the most important? The obituary, the burial or the cremation and all this masquerade? Will a more expensive casket in oak and silk and gold will really make a difference once I'm dead?

Hell no! Give me a cardboard box, no tombstone and bury me naked under a beautiful tree. (With global warming, cremation is soooo out!)

If you want to be well remembered, skip the funeral process part and concentrate on the important stuff: how you lived (and maybe how you died in some extreme cases), but certainly not how you were buried.

Monday, September 24, 2007

My 3000km week end



Just got back from a roadtrip to beautiful New Brunswick where, in Acadia, I probably met the nicest people in Canada; if not the World.

I shared the wheel with my dad and the old pilot managed to get me scared driving 120 km/h on narrow costal roads.

Beautifull scenery (check out the pictures), awesome seafood and a couple of World records including the longest bridge over ice covered waters (12.9km long Confederation Bridge) and, in the Bay of Fundy, the highest tides ever recorded: 52 feet!

Can't wait to go back!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

You are unique, just like everybody else


My biggest fear in life is to be like everybody else. Become average. It led me to do some crazy things, but il also pushed me forward toward expressing my individuality.

The more people I meet, the more I discover that the vast majority is very, terribly, well... ordinary. And it doesn't get better with age.

First, while not always unhappy, they do not exactly enjoy life to the fullest. They are, to quote Theodore Roosevelt, in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Second, they are so predictable it becomes boring. They have the same dreams as everybody else: be rich and famous, date a supermodel, look good, have a big house, a sports car, children, a successful carreer, bla bla bli bla bla blah. The stuff they sell you.

When I ask them what unique dream they have, the one that defines their individuality and will make them express the Picasso or Einstein they have within, I get a blank stare.

Another one that will go to his grave with his music still inside him.

Remember, people don't like sheeps. They eat sheeps.


“In the multitude of middle-aged men who go about their vocations in a daily course determined for them in much the same way as the tie of their cravats, there is always a good number who once meant to shape their own deeds and alter the world a little. The story of their coming to be shapen after the average and fit to be packed by the gross, is hardly ever told in their consciousness; for perhaps their ardour in generous unpaid toil cooled as imperceptibly as the ardour of other youthful loves, till one day their earlier self walked like a ghost in its old home and made the new furniture ghastly. Nothing in the world is more subtle than the process of their gradual change! In the beginning they inhaled it unknowingly: you and I may have sent some of our breaths toward infecting them, when we uttered our comforting falsities or drew our silly conclusions: or perhaps it came from the vibrations from a woman’s glance.” – Middlemarch

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gone Flying


A couple of years ago, I had the chance to meet a person who, for me, embodies the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.

His name is Carl Hiebert, he lives in Waterloo County near Toronto, Canada.

In his '20s, he was a sport jock: barefoot water skiing, motorcycling, hang gliding and other adrenaline junkies remedies. After a winter spent in the Northwest Territories, he traveled around the World on a 1,35$ daily budget and managed to hunt boars in India and make an attempt on the Matterhorn's summit.

On a fateful September 12th, in 1981, a hang gliding accident confined him into a wheelchair. While he was recovering from his accident, he left a message on his hospital door: gone flying.

He had found a new passion: flying ultralights.

He became the first paraplegic instructor in Canada, opened a flying school and became financially independent. But that was not enough. In 1986, he decided to cross Canada with his Ultralight (really, a chair suspended in the air) - 8000 km from the Maritime Provinces to Vancouver to Rally Expo '86 whose theme was Travel and Communications.

While so doing, he amassed money for numerous charitable organizations and took 14 000 pictures. The best 140 turned into a wonderful book: Gift of Wings - an aerial portrait of Canada.

Carl is now an international speaker and motivator. When he his not empowering people through is speeches, he travels the World (Haiti, Uganda) and comes back with pictures that he turns into books whose profits help build schools and hospitals in these impoverished countries.

Carl has a zest for life I have rarely seen and he's an example of courage for us all.

Next time you're busy finding excuses for all the things you "can't" do, think about Carl, and it will give you a kick in the butt. I know it does for me.


Monday, September 10, 2007

It's All Your Fault



The World is falling apart, and what are you doing about it? Let me guess... not much.

The average American spends 4.5 hours daily in front of his television. What a boring thing and what a waste of time.

We never had access to so much information with so few bothering to open a book. And when they do, 9 chances out of 10 it will be Harry Potter. Ah, yes, of course, it requires an effort to read. Sorry about that.

So we sit there, brain dead, in front of the TV with little knowledge of what is going beyond our little nombrilistic universe... until it affects us. And then we complain that the world is unfair.

I'm with Thomas Friedman from the New York Times when he said: "In today's globalized World, it you don't visit a bad neighborhood, it will visit you."

I just read in the paper this morning that the slump in the housing market doesn't seem to go away and that it had more impact than anticipated on the economy. Duh?

Wake up and smell the coffee Ms. Bueler.

Let me tell you, it's not going anywhere but down. People are up to their ears in debt and the interest rates can't go much lower than this. Exotic mortgages of 40 years and more with no down payment and only interrest payment the first years. It didn't take a genius to see it coming.

Its another classic housing market bubble. And you think that people would have learned? Next thing you know, people will have forgotten everything about the dot com crash of 2000-2001, and we'll have another stock market bubble.

The only thing we learn from history is that we don't learn from history.

Let me finish by quoting Michael Moore, from his book Stupid White Men:

“There are forty-four million Americans who cannot read and write above fourth-grade level – in other words, who are functional illiterates. How did I learn this statistic? Well, I read it. And now you’ve read it. So we’ve already eaten into the mere 99 hours a year an average American adult spends reading a book – compared with 1460 hours watching television. I’ve also read that only 11 percent of the American public bothers to read a daily newspaper, beyond the funny pages or the used car ads. So if you live in a country where forty-four million can’t read – and perhaps close to another two hundred million can read but usually don’t – well, friends, you and I are living in one very scary place. A nation that not only churns out illiterate students BUT GOES OUT OF ITS WAY TO REMAIN IGNORANT AND STUPID is a nation that should not be running the world – at least not until a majority of its citizens can locate Kosovo (or any other country it has bombed) on the map.”

“And to the C students, I say you, too, can be President of the United States!” – George W. Bush, in his commencement address to the Yale Class of 2001

So, I guess, we have the governments we deserve...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The World's Finest Hat



Toronto based Tilley is manufacturing what may be the finest hats in the world.

Alex Tilley, the company founder, is an avid yachtman and started designing the perfect hat he longed for but couldn't find.

Let me tell you, he did a mighty fine job.

I personnaly abuse my Tilley T3 hat on a regular basis and came to the conclusion that it will probably outlive me.

The duck cotton fabric doesn't shrink, the wind cords keep it on my head in hurricane force winds, it floats (yes, I tried), repels rain and sun, and it even has a secret pocket. It is garanteed for life (something you learn to appreciate the hard way) and assured against loss.

Now I understand why Indiana Jones risked his life to get his hat back.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The 53rd Democracy



Driving to work this morning at 6:00 am, I was listening to Al Gore's great book Assault on Reason on my i-pod.

I was a bit surprised to learn that the United States of America, are now ranked 53rd in the World on the Free Press Index. A huge drop from the 17th place it held in 2002, and not exactly great for a country that claims loud and far that it is the first democracy in the World.

And for my fellow Canadians, we are not that great either in terms of free press. In 16th position, we are behind countries like the Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovakia, Latvia, Portugal and Slovenia...

For those interrested in the subject, I highly recommend Kristina Borjesson's fascinating book Into the Buzzsaw about 15 high profile american journalists who lost their jobs, were discredited and sometimes prosecuted when they investigated too far.

Let us not forget that Freedom of press is limited to those who own one.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Should We Be Proud?


Canadian snipers in Afghanistan after September 11th made the longest recorded kills in history with this weapon. On a March afternoon in 2002, Cpl. Furlong of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) squinted through the scope of his McMillan TAC-50 and successfully killed an enemy combatant from 2,430 m.

The 11th Hour


Leonardo DiCaprio's powerful new documentary and environmental wake up call is coming soon to a screen near you. Watch the trailer.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

You'll Get Cancer And Die

Ok, ok, I admit, the title is not from me, it's from the excellent movie Crazy People with Dudley Moore and Daryl Hannah where a couple of geniuses and nutcases produce truly hilarious ad campaigns.

But back to business. Today, I received a very touching e-mail about the contribution that Yoplait made to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. The website was made by my good friend and competitor Julien Brunet at Cri Communication. Check it out, it is quite nice.

I think cancer reaserch or any research to cure us from such terrible illnesses is a good thing, and I'm glad that citizens and corporations alike join in the fight, but...

It made me think about the way we think. Despite the fact that each of us has more or less 50% chances of dying from cancer, what do we do about it? Nothing.

We (sometimes) give to research. That's it, nothing more; despite the fact that it has been proven that cancer is greatly influenced by how we live and mostly how we eat. Who changes their habits or their diet to get away from cancer? No one.

We hope that we'll be lucky or that by the time we get cancer (God forbid), a cure will have been found. Doesn't seem very proactive and it is our lives that are at stake...

Take fast food for example.

Dr. William Castelli, the former director of the Framingham Heart Study, used to say, “When you see the Golden Arches, you’re on the road to the Pearly Gates.”

Americans however, never ate so much fast food. Here are 2 interresting facts from Eric Schlosser's fascinating book Fast Food Nation:

In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2001, they spent more than $110 billion. Americans now spend more money on fast food than on higher education, personal computers, computers software, or new cars. They spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music – combined.

Anyone who brings raw ground beef into his or her kitchen today must regard it as a potential biohazard, one that may carry an extremely dangerous microbe, infectious at an extremely low dose. The current high levels of ground beef contamination, combined with the even higher levels of poultry contamination, have led to some bizarre findings. A series of tests conducted by Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, discovered far more fecal bacteria in the average American kitchen sink than on the average American toilet seat.


A BIG MAC anyone?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook



This is a very usefull little book.

In a few pages, you'll learn how to:

- Hot-wire a car
- Survive a poisonous snake attack
- Escape from a bear
- Win a sword fight
- Jump from a moving car
- Perform a tracheotomy
- Deliver a baby in a taxicab
- Land a plane
- Survive an Earthquake

and much more.

And it's fun too!

Thanks to my good friend CGuy for the gift.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

An Interresting Way to Get Killed


My friend Rob is, let's say, on the extreme side of things.

Rollerblading down the streets at killer speeds is not enough for him.

He's looking for a rollersuit and mountains roads to go FAST, just like the guy in this awesome video: http://www.glumbert.com/media/rollersuit

Friday, August 24, 2007

Commitment

Picture by offby1

Think of an eggs and bacon breakfast.
The pig is committed.
The chicken is merely involved.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Riding Giants



Probably the best movie I saw this year.

Legendary skateboarder/surfer turned movie director Stacy Peralta did more than just another good surfing movie in the likes of Billabong Odyssey and The Endless Summer.

Riding Giants isn't only about athlete surfers riding down mountains of water, but also about surfing history and way of life.

The way it was filmed, the camera angles, the sequences, everything is quite neat. Plus, the soundtrack is very good.

It's a feel good movie that makes you want to open the door and start walking toward your deams.

But enough said, watch the trailer!



Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Forgotten Airport



Gander Airport is located in a fog free part of Newfoundland in Canada. Today, it is only visited by a few local and cargo flights, but 50 years ago, it was the busiest airport in the world.

At that time, every plane traveling between North America and Europe transited by Gander.

In 1959, when traffic was at its peak, the Canadian Government invested $3 million to create a flagship airport and show to the rest of the world how modern and elegant Canada was. Queen Elizabeth II herself inaugurated the new terminal.

It was, and still is a design masterpiece. The terrazo floor tiles are inspired by Mondrian, and most of the furniture was created by canadian designers of the '50s, like the Primasteel chairs created by Robin Bush for Herman Miller or the space age black sofas designed by Christen Sorensen.

If you manage to visit the airport president's office, you'll see orange leather seats created by Jacques Guillon that once were in the VIP suite that saw the Beatles, Churchill, Kruchtchev, Ingrid Bergman, Ronald Reagan, Marlene Dietrich and Mohammed Ali.

But, as John Lennon said: "Life is what happens while you're making other plans.", and the following year, the advent of kerosene and fuel efficient jet airplanes made the airport irrelevant.

Today, who remembers Gander International Airport?

Like my parachute instructor says: "If you don't succeed at first, well, so much for skydiving."


For more info:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gander_International_Airport
http://www.ganderairport.com/

Friday, August 17, 2007

Double Your Money

Picture by Unhindered by Talent


"The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket." - Will Rogers

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Harry Houdini Was a Lousy Magician

Ask anyone to name you a famous magician, and they are very likely to come up with Houdini, even though he wasn't a great magician and didn't have the stage presence and charisma of other performers of his time.

In fact, he wasn't even a magician, he was an escape artist.

He created a new genre and that was made him famous.

In this light, we can considerd him a pioneer of the Blue Ocean Strategy popularized by Cirque du Soleil where, instead of competing in a saturated market (red ocean), you create new markets (blue ocean).

If this kind of outside the box thinking lights your fire, I strongly recommend you to read The Big Moo, by marketing guru Seth Godin and friends. It is a sort of sequel to his bestseller book Purple Cow and it is very inspiring. You'll learn more about the Houdini story and other fascinating ideas.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Ultimate Knife

Any serious outdoorsman will tell you: "You are only as sharp as your knife."

A good, all purpose blade is the best survival tool you can bring in the wild.

If, like me, you sometimes happen to end up quite far from civilization, you might want to take advantage of all the R&D that was made by the elite of the elite in terms of survival: The U.S. Navy Seals.

The knife they use has been developped by SOG and it truly is a masterpiece. Unsurprisingly, they call it the Seal Knife.

There are numerous small details that distinguises it from ordinary blades, but just take a look at the groove in the sheat, to cut rope without having to draw the knife. If you happen to be at sea in rough weather on an inflatable raft, this might just save your ass.

For those interrested, you can buy this knife at Le Baron on St-Laurent in Montreal.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wild Ponies


Approximately 300 years ago, a Spanish galleon wrecked off of a small island of the American East Coast.

Horses swam to shore and have since adapted to life on the Island.

Today, more than 2000 wild ponies roam free among the white sand dunes.

The good news is you can visit them as I did. Simply go to Maryland (10 to 12 hours drive from Montreal). The island is Assateague, one of the 10 best American State Parks, according to National Geographic.

It is well worth the drive.

Thanks to Burt for sharing the secret with me.




For more info:

Monday, August 13, 2007

Made to Stick

If you liked Malcom Gladwell's Tipping Point, you'll love Made to Stick.

It explains what makes ideas "sticky" (i.e. easily remembered and shared) like, for exemple, the urban legend about the kidney theft ring.

It's not only a good complement to the Tipping Point, it is a great book for people who want to be heard (or who want their clients to be heard).

You'll learn about:
- the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who drank a glass of bacteria to prove a point about stomach ulcers
- the Sinatra test
- the Mother Teresa principle
- the army chef who restores morale in Iraq
- How the campaign "Don't Mess with Texas" changed youth behavior in the lone star state
- Jared, the 425 pound fast-food dieter who inspired Subway's most successful advertising campaign

and a lot more...

A really good eye opener.

Thanks to my good friend Fabien Fayard for forcing me to read this book.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Learn The Game

Play for more than you can afford to lose and you will learn the game. -Winston Churchill

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Best Steaks in the World

Picture by Jodamajoo


I'm on vacation starting right now and feeling dangerously good. That's why I am going to give you a piece of advice that will change your life forever - provided you are a meat lover.

No bragging here, but a fundamental truth. It's not an overstatement when I say best steaks in the World. I had the chance to eat fine steaks all over the World, including at the overrated, overpriced Queue de Cheval Steakhouse in Montreal and trust me, nothing comes close to the steaks you can cook using the tricks I'm about to give you.

I'm a lousy cook, and I know only 3 recipes: taboulé, profiterolles au chocolat and steaks on the grill; but for these, I'm like the autistic geniuses, I can work miracles. Steaks, of course, are my weapon of choice.

Here's how to cook the best steaks in the World:

First, get good quality steaks. Not the second hand meat available at your average supermaket. Personnaly, I buy mine at Boucherie Côté. They have first quality AAA beef from Alberta that has rested for 21 days. I usually go for a T-bone 3/4'' or 1'' thick.

Second, the rub. I use a mix of honey, dijon mustard, steak spices and herbes de Provence, but it is not the biggest success factor. The only thing is to go light. If the meat is good, you do not want to kill the taste with too much seasoning.

Third, cook the steaks over a medium fire (I prefer charcoal), not too hot or the steaks will burn and become tasteless black rubber. Watch carefully during cooking time (approximately 4 minutes) and cut the meat to see how it cooks. When it becomes pink inside with a red line in the middle, take them out of the fire.

Fourth, and here's the secret : THE FOIL. Wrap the steaks in aluminium foil and let them rest for 3-4 minutes. I place them in a small cooler preheated with a hot water bottle. What will happen is that the heat will distribute itself evenly within the steaks, they won't seize due to a sudden change in temperature and the internal juices will flow back inside the meat.

Five, serve bare and enjoy (preferrably with red wine).

Try it and let me know how it went.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Greatest Mathematician of All Time


A few months ago, I read a very interesting book on networks theory by physicist Albert-László Barabási. The title is Linked.

With the same models, it shows how the humain brain is like an AIDS epidemics and how the human cell can be understood with the same laws that govern power grids in a big city. It is, indeed, fascinating.

The whole theory is a bit complex to explain in a few lines so I encourage you to read the book, but I wanted to share with you an interresting bit of history about one of the greatests mathematicians of all time that I found while reading the book. Here it is:

Euler, a Swiss born mathematician who spent his career in Berlin and St. Petersburg, had an extraordinary influence on all areas of mathematics, physics and engineering. Not only was the importance of his discoveries unparalleled, their sheer quantity is also overwhelming. Opera Omnia, the still incomplete record of Euler’s collected works, currently runs to over seventy-three volumes, six hundred pages each. The last seventeen years of Euler’s life, between his return to St. Petersburg in 1766 and his death at the age of 76, were rater tumultuous. Yet, despite many personal tragedies, about half of his works were written during these years. These include a 775 page treatise on the motion of the moon, an influential algebra textbook, and a three volume discussion of integral calculus, completed while he continued to publish an average of one mathematics paper per week in the journal of the St. Petersburg Academy. The amazing thing is that he barely wrote or read a single line during this time. Having partially lost his sight soon after returning to St. Petersburg in 1766, Euler was left completely blind after a failed cataract operation in 1771. The thousand of pages of theorems were al dictated from memory.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Take Me to The Riot


Montreal's phenomenonal Canadian indie pop band Stars recently released their new album In our Bedroom After the War.


It contains a fantastic song you oughta check out on i-tunes: Take Me to The Riot


As for the rest of the album, its almost as good as their previous one Set Yourself on Fire.


And for those of you who, like me, fell in love with lead singer Amy Millan's voice, check out her solo album Honey from the Tomb.

Rising Stars

In the midst of a nostalgia attack, I was parsing through my treasure chest, looking at old photographs, birthday cards from high school and other paraphernalia when I came across this old poem I wrote for my good friend Ben Z. during a summer trip in Switzerland some 13 years ago. I seemed unaffected by the passage of time, even a little prophetic I should add. So here it is:

The night is falling to pieces
While our sun's rising
There's plenty of time to burn
Before we're put to sleep
Here's a last one
To you my friend
Let's be rising stars
Among fading lights

...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Hurricane Mountain

The Top

The old fire tower



P-O relaxing on top





Me & Pat


Yesterday was just another perfect day in the Adirondacks (New York State).

Went up Mt Hurricane with a couple of friends from work.

Click here for the comple album.