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.

Hitler Wore Khakis

These are a sample of wittingly funny spoof ads by Vancouver based activist group Adbusters.

Check out their Website, it's cool.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

One Track Mind

As I left the gym yesterday, I was following a guy who had just finished his workout on the stairmaster. The gym is in the lower levels of a downtown mall and, as I was taking the stairs to leave, I saw that guy hopping on the escalators.

I was wondering, why pay 50$/month to climb artificial stairs, and avoid climbing any real ones as soon as you leave the gym? I guess he's the kind of person who will waste 15 minutes to find a parking space 100 feet closer to the doors of the gym...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Good Money

Picture by oashlynloveo

If you ever wondered how easy it was for banks to make money, take a look at this simple fact.

Let's say you want to buy an average house in a Montreal suburb. You will pay around 325 000$.

Suppose you have 25 000$ in cash and borrow 300 000$ on a 25 year term at 6.5% interest.

Around 80 000$ will go to the city to pay for the roads, sewage system, etc, etc.

The other 245 000$ will go to the contractor who built the house. Most of the money will go to pay for the material, the workers, the permits, the tools, etc. We can guess that the contractor's profit margin is, at the most, 20% and that he made 49 000$ in profits - which is very good.

As for the bank, over the 25 years, it will have made 302 838$ in interest (you can calculate yourself). Not bad, considering it is the only one that didn't work in the process!

And now, for the real kicker: What are the risks for the bank? Zero! Nil. Niet. Nada.

In the central banking system we have, banks need only keep 10% of the deposits as "garantee". Therefore, for every 100$ you deposit, they can lend 900$ to someone else. (That's what brings more and more currencies into circulation and creates inflation, but that's another story.)

Moreover, your house garantees the loan so if you default on your mortgage, the bank will seize the house.

Zero risk. No work. Maximum profit.

Not bad for something "legal".

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Biggest Selling Book in American History

In its first 24 hours on sale, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final installment in the wildly popular series by J.K. Rowling that officially went on sale at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, sold a record 8.3 million copies in the United States, according to Scholastic Inc., the book’s publisher.

What fascinates me here is not the excitement over Harry Potter. Even though I strongly anticipate that it will not be in my Top 10 books of all time, I will refrain from judging it because I haven't read it yet; and if I ever do, it will be in 10 years, when no one talks about it anymore.

What puzzles me is the excitement that drives people to wait in line, pay premiums and make all sorts of efforts to read it FIRST. Samething with movie premieres.

I mean, the book will be as good in a week, a month or even a decade. Is it because people have such boring lives that they need the excitement of waiting in line to buy a book? Is it because they are trying to make a personnality for themselves? Maybe they are seeking a moral advantages over fellows who haven't read the book yet? Or is it simply because the average person is suffering from mental inertia and cannot search any farther than what is offered right in his face? That would explain why most people score better in multiple choices tests.

I just finished a book by French adventurer Henry de Monfreid, a sort of pirate gentleman who smuggled weapons and haschich on the Red Sea at the beginning of the 20th century. The book was published in 1935, before my parents were even born. Since it is impossible to find it in any regular bookstore (they want to sell you the high margin hardcover bestsellers), I bought it online through this fantastic network of French bookstores Livre Rare Book. Paid 10 Euros (15$).

Without even reading J.K. Rowling's latest novel, I'm betting 100$ that this old dusty book with its yellow and torn pages is ten times better than that last Harry Potter.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Luck Can't Last a Lifetime...

Luck can't last a lifetime... unless you die young.

Thanks to the creative genius at for this one.

Check out their Demotivators series.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A True Friend

A good friend will come and bail you out of jail...but, a true friend will be sitting next to you saying, "Damn...we fucked up!!"

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Second Mouse

The early bird might get the worm, but it's the second mouse that gets the cheese.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lying in Madonna's Bed

July 18th 2007, I am lying in the extra plush king size bed of Montreal's W Hotel 10th floor Royal Suite, looking at the 20 feet concrete ceiling. Although the place is exquisitely beautiful, I find that 4000$ a night is a tad expensive; especially considering the fact that Madonna's not here today. My timing is off by a few months.

At least I didn't pay full price. I'm here with my 2 business partners for an offsite meeting and, thankfully, a day is a lot less expensive than a night. By "a lot", I mean 3500$ less. Not exactly a bargain, but worth it.

Check out the pictures.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Polaroids from the Dead

Another intriguing book from Canadian author Douglas Coupland, previously know for his uniquely funny and cynical books Generation X (where he coined the word McJob), Shampoo Planet (where he wrote: "If money is not so great, how come all the rich people keep it all for themselves?") and Life After God.

Polaroids from the Dead is a walk down on Memory Lane. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad (After all, Sharon Tate is on the cover) and often mellon collie

Coupland's style and the concept of the book can be guessed from a few lines:

« Brentwood, like many West Coast urban districts, acts as a living guide to what might be termed a catalogue of the new temptations :

instant wealth
emotionally disengaged sex
information overload
belief in the ability of ingested substance to alter the aura
of one’s flesh or personality architecture
neglect of the maintenance of democracy
willful ignorance of history
body manipulation
will rejection of reflection
body envy
belief that spectacle is reality
vicarious living through celebrities
rejection of sentiment
unwillingness to assign hierarchy to values
The punchline to this particular cataloguing is that the link between temptation and sin has been severed.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

You Could Miss It

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it." - Ferris Bueller

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Creature from Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island is off the Coast of Georgia, on the American East Coast. It is a beautiful place that once was the private property of a wealthy group of bankers from New York. Seven of them, representing at that time 1/4 of all the wealth in the World ; met there secretely in 1910 to create what became the Federal Reserve System.

Author Edward Griffin, in his book The Creature from Jekyll Island explains how it happened at a point in history dubbed The Dawning of the Cartels and, more importantly, what were the real motives behind the creation of the Fed.

According to his (very well documented) point of view, the Federal Reserve System is a joint venture (cartel) between the Government and the big banks and inflation is a tax.

To learn more about this fascinating subject, visit The Reality Zone.

Thanks to my good friend Jessie for this one.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The World's Most Dangerous Places

Canadian author and filmmaker Robert Young Pelton has made a career out of traveling through the world's most dangerous places. His recent journeys have taken him to the siege of Grozny in Chechnya, the battle of Qala-I-Jangi in Afghanistan, and Baghdad's "RPG Alley". He has been kidnapped by right wing death squads in Colombia, survived a plane crash in Indonesia, and gracefully endured numerous detainments and attacks. He is perhaps most famous for his world exclusive interview of the American Taliban, John Walker Lindh, in December of 2001.

I met (virtually) Robert Young Pelton in 1999 when, among other things, he had a column on ABCNews. I liked the guy, because he actually went to dangerous countries to bring back stories the media weren't covering or were reporting from far away. Moreover, he has a very personnal way of writing. I remember one of his paper on the military: How to travel the world for free, meet interresting people and then kill them.

RYP has writtten numerous books, but his most widely know is Fielding the World's Most Dangerous Places, an account of the most dangerous countries in the World.

To learn more about this iconoclast adventurer, visit his Website Come Back Alive.

There are also good interviews with him here and here.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The year without a summer

The best company name I've heard so far is Never Summer, a Denver, CO based snowboard manufacturer.

I've always thought they should name their best board 1816, in memory of the year withtout a summer. Who knows? Maybe someday they will.

For those of us who weren't born in 1816, here's the story:

Global cooling following the enormous volcanic eruption of Indonesia’s Mt. Tambora on April 5, 1815. That eruption injected so much dust in the upper atmosphere that the amount of sunlight reaching the groud decreased until the dust settled out, causing widespread famines even in North America and Europe due to cold temperatures and reduced crop yields in the summer of 1816 (“the year without a summer”).

Friday, July 13, 2007

Don't Blame the Weather

It's raining again. So what? The problem isn't the weater, its you. If your happiness of the moment depends on a sunny day, you very probably have a boring life. Fun filled, curious and active people are generally impervious to the weather.

If you had a date with Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, or if you were on your way to cash a million dollars, you wouldn't give a damn about the weather. You'd be smiling anyways.

If you lived in the desert or simply had a farm, you'd actually be glad for the rain.

So stop complaining and try not to be a one person recession (thanks again Mike Lipkin for having coined this one).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

32 Mind Sparks

A few years ago, my best friend Rob gave me an audiobook by Canadian motivator Mike Lipkin.

The title was Luck Favors the Brave and the content was generally very good, but it's the last chapter that really got to me. The title was 32 Mind Sparks and here's the transcript:

1. Courage
Courage means staying true to yourself. It means doing whatever it takes to honor your
intuition. It means never backing down when your instinct tells you not to. It means making
fear your ally, not your adversary. Most of all, it means acting in such a way that you are
proud of yourself the morning after. Courage means never having to regret what might have

2. Vision
Eventually, you will become the image you have of yourself so make it a magnificent one.
Describe the best you to yourself and whoever else will listen. Describe the actions you’ll take
and the results you’ll achieve. Make them bold but achievable. Harness the power of your
imagination to make it real in your own mind, then make it real in the real world. Everything is
created twice, first in your mind then in reality. The more you can sell yourself on the you of
your vision, the more you will attract forces that will help you make it so.

3. Purpose
Know WHY you want to do something and the HOW becomes a formality. But the WHY must
be a marvelous WHY. It must inspire you and greatly benefit others. Luck is attracted to
people who channel it in the direction of others. Define your WHY today, and the HOWs will
come looking for you.

4. Code of conduct
Know thyself. Hold yourself to standards higher that anyone else could hold you to. Step up
to a whole new level. Define your values, the forces that drive you at the deepest level. Write
them down. Live them. When circumstances change, you may need to change your code of
conduct, but live consciously. Be aware, especially in the challenging moments.

5. Self Belief
You have the Picasso, Michael Angelo, Einstein or Gretzky within you. Find out what your
genius is then develop it to the max. Know that you have been designed to do something that
no one else in the world can do as well as you. There are those who will pull you down and
there are those who want to lift you up. Ignore the former, romance the latter.

6. Optimism
Be brutally optimistic. Irrespective of your conditions, believe that they can only get better,
then backup your beliefs with action. Optimism is like oxygen, without it you perish. So see
things as you what them to be, then make them so, with little help from your friends. Look
back at your life, see the pattern. Things tend to right themselves, with a gentle push here
and then from you.

7. Confidence
Confidence is the ability to radiate certainty to others and in these times, it is the most sought
after skill of all. It doesn’t matter how you feel. What matters is how you make others feel.
Make them feel secure and your future will be secure. Know that you’re human and that you’ll
slip every now and then but know that you absolutely cannot afford to be tentative if you want
others to rally around you. Luck is turned out by doubt and diffidence.

8. Perspective
As the Globe&Mail says: “Perspective is everything.” When you feel the overwhelm coming
on, breathe, reflect, talk and see things from a different point of view. See the big picture,
then chop down. Break up the big picture into small pieces and deal with it one piece at a
time. Then move on to the next and the next and so on. Stay focused on each piece and you
will find the big picture assembles itself.

9. Action
“Just do it!” says Nike. I cannot say it any better. Do it before you are ready to do it. Do it
before its perfect. Do it before the other guy does. Do it because that’s how you learn to do it
even better. Do it because luck favors the person who does it first. Do it because everyone
else is waiting for somebody else to do it. Do it because you are brave, you are bold and you
want to get bigger.

10. Decisiveness
This is the core of leadership and influence. Think, research, talk, judge then decide and hold
true to your decision until you receive evidence that you should change it. Decisiveness
equals power because it eliminates doubt. Very rarely is a decision right or wrong. Just
making a decision will liberate your energies and give you the edge. What’s more, other
people will love you for it. Luck cannot reach you if you are in nowhere land.

11. Readiness
You never know where, and you never know when luck will approach you. What you do know
is that if you are not ready, luck will approach somebody else. So make sure your radar is on
at all times and treat every person as a potentially lucrative source of opportunities both to
give and to receive. Not only will they bask in the glow of your attention, they will become
advocates of your cause as well.

12. Congruence
Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. Make your words fit your actions and your
actions fit your words. Make every part of you reinforce every other part of you. Let your
passion shine through then translate your passion into results. Make a promise keep a
promise. Luck favors the brave, not the ambivalent. So don’t sit on the fence, stand for
something then back it up over and over again. Ultimately, we all become what we repeatedly

13. Speed
The fast eat the slow. Do it right, but do it fast. Fast is sexy. Fast is exciting. Fast is
necessary. If not now, then maybe never. But fast doesn’t mean reckless, it doesn’t mean
careless. It means accelerating your current tempo. It means cutting out the inessentials, the
unnecessary and the irrelevances. Simplify, focus, act, and the sooner you make your
mistakes, the sooner you can correct them.

14. Follow through
First with the head, then with the heart. Originate the idea, then execute it fiercely. Get
traction when the rubber meets the road. Be a great follow upper because they’re so rare.
Anyone who can actually make things happen is going to be the go to person for many, many
other people. Forward to the basics. Become known as a doer, not just a talker and luck will
favor you.

15. Adaptability
Be like the water, not the rock. Be like the chameleon, not the peacock. Be like the acrobat,
not the marionette. Be the change you’re looking for. Keep the core sacrosanct, but shed
your outer layers to suit the climate. Keep asking 2 fundamental questions. How can I
resonate with the people around me at the deepest level and what must I change about
myself to hum at the same frequency as the atmosphere around me.

16. Play full out
If you are going to do it, then do it. Don’t semi, quasi, kind of, sort of; do it. Do it or don’t do it.
Play full out very time you’re in the game. There’s no such thing as an unimportant meeting,
presentation or sales call. If you’ve got the privilege of even one minute of another person’s
lifetime, make it count. If you give it everything you have, you will have everything to give.
There’s a power that comes with holding nothing back: it’s called momentum, it’s called pride,
it’s called traction with your customers.

17. Sharing
After survival, sharing may be the most fundamental of all human drives. Without it nothing
feels or tastes the same. So give in to your instincts. If you what to increase your share,
share. Share your joy, your resources, your insight and your information. If you hold what you
have, it will wear you down and slow you down. There’s a reason why we are designed to
share: it’s called cross pollination. What I share with you and what you share with me
enriches both of us in a way that neither one of us could have achieved alone.

18. Generosity
I love this word. It means giving abundantly and freely. It means being free from meanness
and smallness of mind. Of all the traits that attract luck, this may be the most compelling. To
be generous is to be great, to be large, to be copious. If you’re generous, you’re already
wealthy. In your own mind, you have more than enough to give to everyone around you.
Generosity is great business and it’s a great way to live your life. Of all the things I try to be
every day. Being generous may be the most important.

19. Mentorship
Mentor was the loyal advisor of Odysseus, entrusted with the care and education of
Telemachus, Odysseus’s son, in the great story by Homer. Today, a mentor is someone who
is perceived to be wise and trusted coach or teacher. A mentor however is also someone
who commands your total trust and respect. Mentorship is the art of achieving that status.
Mentorship is almost always requested by one person from another. Honor the request when
you receive it and you put a huge deposit in the luck account.

20. Friendship
A friend is someone who you like and choose to spend time with. A friend is someone who is
there to give you assistance when you need it most. A friend is someone who is your support
in tough times. A friend is the antidote to loneliness and isolation. A good friend is good to
find, to keep, to have and to hold. Be a good friend and you will bask in the glow of reciprocal
affection. True wealth is measured in true friends. Be one.

21. Humor
Humor is a way of looking at the world through sun tinted lenses. It’s the ability to perceive
what’s comical or amusing in any situation. It’s also the ability to express that comedy so that
other can share in the laughter. The highest form of humor is the ability to see the funny side
of things that are not funny so you can lighten other’s load. Humor and joie de vivre go hand
in hand. Develop your sense of humor. Spend time with humorous people. Without humor life
can be a dark place indeed.

22. Doing more
It’s the foundational law of success. Exceed other people’s expectation even by a heartbeat
and you differentiate yourself from 99.9% of other people. In times of overload and
overwhelm, most people struggle just to do what’s necessary. Those who do what’s possible
get all the juice. Doing what’s necessary is the beginning, not the end. Do just a little bit more
and you will succeed. Do a lot more and you will soar. And remember, the more you do, the
more you will be capable of doing. It’s called learning in action. Start today and never stop.

23. Expecting more
If you expect more, you look forward to more. Your regard more things as likely to happen.
You anticipate more. You are also open to more. You sense more. You feel more. You have
more excitement. You also have more heartbreak and disappointment. So what? The amount
of excitement and fulfillment you experience massively overcompensates the pain you may
go through. So expect more from yourself, from life and from others. The alternative is to
expect less and the moment you expect less, you contract daily until there’s nothing left but a
shell. It’s your call.

24. Trust
Trust is a strong belief that things will happen just the way you want them to. Trust means
faith in yourself and other people to do what has to be done. It’s a reliance on yourself and
others to deliver on commitments. Your word becomes your strongest currency. Trust is also
a willingness to do whatever it takes to honor your word and to help others do the same. If
you can continue to trust despite everything, you will prevail. Trust is the most direct route to
well being and peace of mind.

25. Endurance
Life is a long game. Victory goes to the person who can outlast everyone else. Endurance
means human durability. Endurance is the capacity to stay the course irrespective of
setbacks, frustration, threats or fatigue. It means never, ever saying the words: “I give up.”
The history of broken dreams and broken people is the history of people who couldn’t endure.
Often, they broke down as they were about to break through. So don’t turn back as things are
about to turn around, hang in there just a little bit longer, and then a little bit longer. Hang in
for as long as it takes and you will take what you long for.

26. Resilience
Resilience means springing back from adversity. It means standing tall after slipping or
tripping. It means being elastic so you can stretch without snapping. Resilience means
staying buoyant when life threatens to sink you. It means being tough but flexible so you can
bend without breaking. Resilience is what you have when you know you have no alternative,
either you spring back fast or you perish, either in body or spirit or both.

27. Conditioning
It’s all about being in the right condition to succeed. It’s about training your mind and body to
go where your competition cannot follow you. There is a direct symmetry between your
willingness to train and your frequency of wins. You have the raw potential to be the best
there ever was at something. Your mandate and my mandate is to transform your potential
into performance and then sustain it, day after day, month after month, year after year. Get
into a mental and physical conditioning program that keeps you juiced and stay on it. It takes
big time effort to live in the end zone. But then where else is there?

28. Consistency
Consistency is the ultimate mark of a professional. Consistency means being at the top of
your game whenever you are playing your game. The difference between mediocrity and
brilliance is in the variance of your performance. The mediocre are awesome some of the
time. The brilliant are awesome all the time. In fact, if you’re brilliant you’re often the only
person who knows that you are not playing at the top of your game. Even on your off days
you appear on. So burn your excuses, make every phone call or meeting a masterpiece. Life
is a game of inches says Al Pacino. Each new superb performance takes you to the next, and
the next, and the next… Consistency is the quickest route to mastery.

29. Interpretation
Nothing in life has any meaning except the meaning you give it. The difference between
excitement and panic is simply the difference of how you interpret what’s happening to you.
That’s why two people can react so differently to the same event. One person translates the
event as an opportunity and the other as a threat. Remember, the champion sees the
opportunity in every threat. The also-ran sees the threat in every opportunity. If you see
everything as an opportunity that leads to something else you will consistently find more
opportunities. This is otherwise known as luck.

30. Sense of Wonder
To have a sense of wonder means to be constantly filled with admiration, amazement and all
about the surprises life brings us every day. A sense of wonder is the ultimate protection
against cynicism and fatigue. On any given day, you and I are gifted with a series of
extraordinary sights, sounds, feelings, tastes and smell that provide a fest for the senses.
Enjoy them consciously and with gratitude. There are no small things in life. Everything is a
miracle if you choose to see it as such.

31. Affinity for Adversity
There is trouble on the way. It’s coming. In fact, it’s coming soon to an office near you. Maybe
you caused it and maybe you didn’t. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how you handle it. It’s
not enough just to accept it, you have to relish it. Adversity is like a gymnasium for the brain.
The more problems you are forced to handle, the stronger your mind becomes. So love thy
problems. The more successful you become, the more problems you are going to have, you
may as well celebrate them. They have been given to you as your ongoing tutorials in the
school of life.

32. Letting Go
Travel light. Forget what you do not need to remember. Unlearn what doesn’t serve you.
Above all, let go of your grudges and anger towards anyone. Remember the Chinese
proverb: the person who plans revenge should first dig 2 graves. Think about it, life is about
losing things. Once you’ve lost them, leave them behind. Keep the lessons learned, that’s all.
It’s your choice: you can prepare for the future or suffer because of the past. Let the past go
and be free to be all that you can and where meant to be.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

You can't pack a lifetime into a retirement

That’s a lesson I learned from my good friend Carl.

He didn’t wait.

Here’s a simple and profound truth: WE GROW OLD AS WE HAVE LIVED.

You won’t change all of a sudden when you retire. You will end up being the sum of all those days spent earlier.

Try this: go and ask retired people you know. Ask them what their dreams were when they were young and if they realized those dreams when they retired. Probably not. Why? Because they waited all their lives and now it’s too late, they grew old as they lived. Like most people, they will go to their graves with their music still inside them.

If you still have dreams, start working on them right now. If you don’t, start looking for some.

Monday, July 9, 2007

My weekend on another planet

I just got back from a hike in the Presidential Range of the mighty White Mountains in Hew Hampshire where we were greeted by hail, fog, wind, rain and near freezing temperatures.

It’s not every day in July that you get to wear mitts and a warm hat. All of this only 200 miles south of Montreal. The only thing that comes close is sailing on the St-Lawrence east of Rimouski.

Three meteorological systems converge to give this area the worst weather in the world. It’s kinda like the Cape Horn of bad weather.

The scenery is phantasmagoric and most of our stay was INSIDE the clouds. It really feels like another world entirely and, in a way, it is.

Check out the pictures, courtesy of my hiking partner Jo.

Friday, July 6, 2007

4 Questions

I believe in the law of reciprocity and I found out that the best way to attract interesting people is by being interesting yourself. That’s why I try to avoid small talk and make it a point never to chat about the weather, headlines, sports, celebrities and other common subjects.

Here are 4 questions I always ask:

1. What is your biggest dream? (And what is your plan for achieving it?)
2. What is the biggest risk you’ve taken?
3. What is the dumbest thing you’ve done?
4. What is the best story you have to tell?

They help me learn more about my interlocutor than a day’s worth of chit chat.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Lessons from -40F

Last year, I went hiking in New Hampshire's Franconia Notch. This was not my first winter camping trip. It was, however, the first time I slept outside with a thermometer reading of 40 degrees below zero (before wind chill). Here's what I learned from the experience:

1. Minus 10 feels balmy when you just experienced minus 40

2. Your sleeping bag is your best friend

3. Good winter boots are expensive, but divide the price by 10 and consider it the price to save a toe from frostbite (and possible amputation). All of a sudden, you see a bargain.

4. White gas (naphta) can freeze

5. As the temperatures falls, it takes a lot longer to melt snow into water

6. If you happen to slide down a hill and hit a tree, the tree is actually harder at -40

7. If you're looking to get away from the crowds, look for really cold spots

8. You lose a lot of water just by breathing (When we woke up, there was a 2 inch crust of ice on the inside walls of the tent. That was the water we had breathed out.)

9. Batteries die at that temperature.

10. If you go far enough, deep enough or hard enough, someday, your life will depend on your equipment. Here are 2 words that will take a whole new meaning: "Lifetime warranty".

The rules of poker

"There's always a sucker sitting at a poker table. If you can't spot him within 15 minutes, it's you." - Matt Damon in Rounders

What are you busy about?

"It's not enough to be busy — so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about? — Henry David Thoreau

Time = 0

Karmablast springs into being!