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Archive for the ‘Shoe Review’ Category

Shoe review:  Itasca (manufacturer) Fairview (model) $25 (sale price) / $45 (current price)
I haven’t done a shoe review in quite a while.  Mostly because I haven’t been jogging much the last couple of years.  The spirit has been willing, but the heart (and various other parts) have not been entirely cooperative.  Be that as it may, this is my review of the “Itasca Fairview” hiking / walking shoe.  It can be used as a “heavy” / off-road jogging shoe if you don’t mind a stiff and knobby soled shoe.  I don’t.  I purchased this because I prefer a hard wearing inexpensive shoe.
First, the price was very good.  It was on sale at my local Big5 Sporting Goods store.  I was able to find my size (14) and it was wide enough for my “dogs”.  I have “paddles” for feet (much wider toe than heel area), so normal running shoes, which tend to the narrow fit, don’t really accommodate my feet.  As I began jogging a few years back with a mid-sole strike, my arches changed and I became no longer able to wear many of my older shoes.  My left foot (arch) in particular bars me from wearing size 13 shoes and most size 14 slip-ons.
I found these shoes very comfortable for my slow and steady jogging style.  I started off with a 1 mile jog and by the end of about 6 weeks I was consistently jogging about 4 miles a day.  Enough to get my 10K steps goal on my Fitbit.  All in all, I would estimate I jogged fewer than 100 miles during the pairs use and, if you add in another 50 (generous) miles for cool-down walks, I’d say the shoes were blown out by 135 to 150 miles of use.  By way of comparison, a good running shoe will probably cost you about $80-$120, and it is recommended you replace them every 400 miles or whenever they feel like they’ve lost their sponge under your forefoot.  So, the price I paid was about 1/3rd of a running shoe and the use was about 1/3rd.  I guess that’s considered equal value for relative cost.
Another significant factor on the shoes use is that I am extremely heavy (350+lbs) and therefore very hard on soles.  That is part of why I look for stiffer shoes with heavier tread – they tend to take a beating better than normal running shoe models.  Of course, the trade-off is you have to jog less upfront when the shoes are newer so you can break them in without giving yourself horrendous blisters.

Fresh from the box

Fresh from the box

View of new soles

View of new soles

Soles After 150 miles

Soles after 150 miles

Tops after use

Tops after use

After use:  You can’t really tell from the image, but center forefoot is completely worn through to the sponge padding under the forefoot.  The tops, on the other hand, were practically without blemish.  From the start, the shoe felt like I was jogging with a pair of wooden slats under my feet.  Again, on the other hand, the tops were very comfortable (once broken in), even when tied tightly.  Had the soles lasted another month, I would say the shoes were a very good value.  As it is, the best I could say was these would be good value (at sale price) if you were either normal weight or were only going to use them for actual hiking / path walking on the odd weekend out and about.
If you look at the “Soles after” image, you’ll probably notice a lot of outer heel wear and some “tippy-toe” wear.  The heel wear is from the daily walking where I do a lot of heel striking.  The toe wear is because I seem to push-off a lot when I do my jogging.  I should clarify.  I don’t “really” jog.  I would describe it as slogging (“slow jogging”) – basically, a little faster than walking with a jogging / shuffle motion.  In general, my heels wear out on my walking shoes, my forefoot wears out on my jogging shoes, and the top wears out if I try to get the comfortable light-weight mesh uppers common to many true jogging / running shoes.
Final recommendation: reasonable value for the price (I paid).  I went back to Big5 to get another pair.  Like most “sale” items at this type of discount store, “my” store no longer carries this model.  I also looked on-line and Itasca no longer manufactures this model.  It turns out other Big5 stores in my area do carry this model, but the current price is almost double what I paid on sale.  At that price, I leave them on the shelf…  I can find “real” running shoes for that price.
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On This Day In:
2017 Unseen Here, Too
2016 Criticized Anyway
2015 Sometimes The Truth Hurts
2014 All Agreed, Say “Aye”
2013 Two Books, Two Movies
Just Because
2012 God’s Requirements
2011 Greater Purity

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Sometimes, but not often, you can hear the sound of perfection.  Sometimes perfection is felt.  More rarely (I believe), it’s both heard and felt.
I don’t play golf, but I do enjoy going to the driving range to bang out a bucket.  Every now and then – for me it’s about once every 100-150 balls – you can get a “perfect” drive.  The swing is easy.  The ball is struck cleanly and true.  You hear a certain “ping” sound that comes to your ears almost as much as it travels up the club and through your arms.  And the ball jumps away from you straight and far.  It doesn’t happen often (for me anyway), but it explains completely why some folks LOVE golf.
For other folks, it’s the sound of the ball/net when a basketball goes through at just the right angle to miss the rim but not get hung up in the net.  It’s a “swish” sound.  It’s not the “bump” sound of off the backboard or the “bong” sound when the ball goes in but catches a bit of the rim.  Sometimes, even, when the ball falls through, just so, there’s almost no sound at all.  But for me, it’s that “swish” sound that makes the “perfect” shot sound.
In running (or jogging), when you’re on a gravel track and you’re “floating” along in your run, there’s a certain “crush / squishy” sound your feet make.  It’s kind of like a cross between walking on icy snow (“crunch”) or autumn leaves (“crush”) on your driveway.  You can hear (in the background) your breathing and the sounds of anyone you’re running with, but it’s that “cooush, cooush, cooush” sound from your feet – coming up to your ears through your body as much as through actual sound – that makes running feel perfect.
By now you’re probably wondering what is the point of this post?  Well, today I went out and bought a couple of pairs of running shoes to reward myself for …  well, for nothing in particular.  If you know me, you know I buy books, books and more books – and occasionally – running shoes.  Anyway, today I picked up a pair of Reebok SmoothFlex Ride 3.0 running shoes.

My New Keds

My New ‘Boks

They are mostly greyish/black with a little bit of orange thread for trim.  Well, being a S.F. Giants fan, all things Orange and Black call out to me.  Soooo….
Lacing them up, I went out for a spin around the local schoolyard to break them in.  In honesty, I was not expecting much.  I’ve never owned a pair of Reeboks before and of late, the last five years or so, I’ve been kind of a “minimalist” shoe user.  I tend to buy cheap or garish.  The “cheap” shoes I use for jogging and working out in.  The garish shoes I wear as fashion statements.  What?  You don’t think old men make fashion statements? (LOL)  (By “minimalist” I mean “water” shoes, after a few goes with “FiveFingers”.)
Shock of my life!!  Within five steps I heard that “cooush, cooush, cooush” sound coming from my feet.  As I’ve not heard that sound in nearly forty years, my body kind of lurched with shock as I looked down at my feet.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am no longer a “runner”.  Heck, I’m not even a “jogger”.  I consider myself to be a “slogger” – that’s a very slow jogger.  But, never-the-less, there was that sound.  I began grinning from ear to ear and just settled into that joyous feeling of remembering what it was like to be young (again).  I have NO idea how this sound is being created because I was jogging on asphalt, not a gravel track, but this shoe has “perfect sound” marketing for me.
I will try to do a fuller review after I’ve had them out for a few more jogs and then a final review after I’ve worn them out.  By the way, I picked them up at my local Big5 Sporting Goods store.  Still the best value for money, general purpose, sporting goods store in our area.  You can follow my attempt to get back into “slogging” by checking out my “Sweat Equity” page for the first quarter of 2014.  (And wish me luck…!)
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On This Day In:
2013 Still Waiting For Answers
2012 Informal Leadership
2011 A Little More Progress
2010 Bec’s Gone Again…

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End of week one.  Weighed in, down 2 lbs.  Morning at the gym – 5K (3.1 miles) 44:57.  Roughly 15 minutes per mile, but the first minute I walk (so the first mile is the slowest); finished mile two at 30 minutes and the last mile and one tenth for the difference.  Slightly faster for each mile…  Progress…  Slowly, slowly.
Drank 32 ounces of water during and immediately after the workout.  No call from the doctor, yet.  No heart palps today!!  Hopefully, it was all just a passing phase.
Oh, and another “no-sock” jog in the test shoes (Body Glove Triton Socks).  Slightly longer duration and distance – with no noticeable discomfort (toe-curling).  It looks like I will be able to finish the evaluation afterall.
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So, in my last post – on 27 September, I said the third shoe review was DOA. Well, I had second thoughts after wearing the shoes with no socks. Sure there is that initial “slimey” polyester feeling, but once you get past that the shoes were very comfortable. To make a longer story shorter, I decided to give them another shot, but without socks. Lo and behold, they didn’t curl my toes (painfully) and I managed to do 2 miles (about 30 minutes) done in them this morning.
I would say they are not as comfortable as the Ahnu’s – without socks – but they are ok, so I’m going to try to finish the test period.
As promised, here’s photo of the Triton’s sole with wear after only 6 miles. I’ve included the photo of a new sole, so you can see the difference. Because the soles are such a soft rubber, I doubt they will hold up thru normal (full 125 miles) review.

My Triton's with the soles "wear marked" at 6 miles.

My Triton’s with the soles “wear marked” at 6 miles.

Body Glove Triton Water Sock - bottom view

Body Glove Triton Water Sock – bottom view

Two points to make: they are, in fact, comfortable; and, at 1/3rd the price of the Ahnu’s and 1/10th the price of the Vibram’s FiveFingers, they really don’t have to last as long!
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First a quick note on the total miles on the 2nd pair – 56 miles.  Not quite half-way to the 125 I was hoping to do on each pair.  As an aside, I wore the shoes for work and they were extremely comfortable for the whole day – so it’s just the running in them that blisters my feet.
Ok.  Now, on to the third shoe review.  This will be one of the quickest in history.  The shoe is the Triton Water Sock, manufactured by Body Glove.  The retail is $19.99, but I got them at what seems to be the regular price of $12.99.  I say it’s the regular price because I’ve never seen them not at the “sale” price.  They can be had at Big 5 Sporting Goods.
The thing about this pair of shoes (which makes the review brief) is they don’t fit.  I checked out a site reviewing the shoe and it says it fits exactly as sized.  GONG!!  I am a size 12, but I normally wear a size 13 in most shoes because my feet like the extra room.  I’ll even go up to a 14 if the shoe feels narrow.
I tried these on with no socks at Big5 and they fit perfectly.  And they do…  As long as I’m only walking or sitting.  In fact, they are quite comfortable.  The problem is that nagging issue that I purchased them as “near barefoot running shoes”.  For that, they a fairly worthless.  They have a rounded front which makes them seem “toe-comfy”.  In reality, as soon as I began jogging my toes pressed into the front of the shoe and began curling and cramping.  The shoes (at Big5) don’t come in a larger size so these are walkers from here on out.
It’s a shame, because they felt really good walking into the building from my car in the morning.
This morning I did 4.39 miles in 70 minutes.  Another slow jog of medium duration.  I don’t think I could have taken much more of a pounding on my curled toes, though.
The shoes did not wear well.  I haven’t got a photo of the bottom yet so I’ll have to add one or two to the review later.  The basic wear was conventionally POSE/Chi-running, but the loss of tread was quite surprising for ONLY a little over 4 miles.  I seriously doubt the shoes would have made it 100 miles.  That’s not to say I’m marking them down (too much) for the soft soles – they are also what make the shoes so flexible and comfortably foot fitting.  In fact, wearing them to walk in reminded me of moccasins I once owned as a small child.
Anyway, I’ll add the photo of the wear later and just use these for kicking around – NO jogging.
The next pair up (number 4) is Hang Ten and are called the Belmont.  Same deal as before, purchased at Big5 and retailed at $14.99.  These were NOT on sale and I haven’t seen them on sale.  Everything goes on sale at Big5 eventually, so I’m sure if you wait ’em out, you can probably get a pair for a ten-ner.
As a courtesy, I’ve included a link to the Hang Ten web site, but don’t bother clicking thru – it’s CRAP!  On second thought, click thru – it’s good for a pathetic chuckle.  Considering they’ve been around for years and have made some really great stuff in their day – it’s sad…  Hopefully, the Belmonts are a lot better than the web site (that’s setting a pretty low bar).
For the record, test pair number one – the Ahnu’s are still the best of the three tested (although pricey at $40) so far.
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Abort!  Abort!  Abort!
Seriously, the first time I test wore the Speedo “Men’s Seaside Water Shoe”, I got a blister on the top of my foot.  I wasn’t wearing socks, so I gave that a skip as down to my bad…
I’ve worn the shoes pretty consistently on short runs – 2 miles to 10K and they’ve been ok.  Today, I wore them on a long, slow run (my second such in them) – two hours plus, and for the second time (on a two-hour plus jog) my right foot has blistered underneath!  Maybe, I can blame the socks.  Maybe, but I just don’t feel like it.  The review is over for these puppies!
I’m only at 55-60 miles on them, but stick the fork in – it’s done.  I’m attaching a photo of the bottoms so anyone who cares can see the wear pattern.

Wear pattern on bottom of shoes.

Wear pattern on bottom of shoes.

As you can see, the wear is on the outside of each mid-sole, rolling through the center of the ball, and then over the toe of both shoes.  Fairly classic wear pattern for POSE/Chi running.  Given the wear at just 50-ish miles, I doubt they would have lasted 125 to 150 miles.  Still, they were only $20; half the price of the Ahnu’s.
Final recommendation: I don’t recommend them for “almost” barefoot running.  They are NOT close to almost barefoot.  They are very comfortable for wearing around the office – VERY breathable shoes.  They are also comfortable for moderate walks – the crepe feel is different enough from regular shoes that they give your feet a different experience.  They are “supposed” to be water shoes.  Given you MUST wear socks with them, and wet socks are not comfortable for long days of wear – I can’t recommend them for their stated purpose.  Finally, my first thought was the top draw string was a great idea.  In fact, it does little to hold the shoe on.  Mud or current would easily suck the shoe off.  What it does do is make the shoe “feel” more snug across the arch of your foot while still easy to put on. VFFs tend to be either too snug or too loose to put on.  This kind of draw string would make a reasonable addition.
By the way, today’s jog was in the morning, 2 Hrs 20 Min and about 8 miles.  Like I said – long and slow.  Depending on how my time goes this week, I’m going to try for another 55 mile week.  It’s six months since my birthday and that was the week I last went that far.  I will try to get a chunk of it done at the gym, but I will have to cut back on reading, blogging and hunch.com to get even close.  I’m hoping today’s blister doesn’t end my effort before it’s started.
The two best things about mourning runs are the sky brightening and the birds singing.  The worst thing is the progressive increase in heat.
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Today I went a bit crazy… I’ve been experiencing a mad desire to get new running shoes (VFF’s, of course), so today I went out and bought two pairs! Yikes!!
Fortunately, my significant other (the love of my life) remained calm and just let it pass. I’m sure I’ll have to pay the piper some other day, but for now, no Mt. Etna. Phew!!
Anyhooo, I got a pair of brown KSO Treks and a pair of grey/green Bikila’s.
I was so jazzed, I broke my shoe review rules and wore the Bikila’s out for an evening jog – 70 Min, about 4 miles.   Slow and easy.  My initial reactions were quite varied.  To start off, the shoes are very difficult to get on.  The are completely different from my black-grey camo’s (normal KSO’s).  Those are soft and extremely flexible.  The Bikila’s are neither.  They are stiff like normal jogging shoes.  They bend thru the sole easily, but the tops are quite firm.  They have a heel-back which goes up much farther than the KSO.  I have to really pull them to get them on.  They are size M47, which is the largest they come.  Once on, there is much less play in the heel than with my KSOs.  The Bikila’s have the “pad” effect on the bottom of the soles (see the photos).  This makes them feel much more safe (and probably durable), but it also makes it seem like you’re further away from the ground.  Oh, yeah.  One last observation – the Bikila’s reek coming out of the box.  They smell of man-made, petrochemical, funk.  I can already tell these are going to stink to high-heaven with a little sweat in them (if they stink this bad already).  The KSO-Treks, on the other hand, have a sensual swede / leather smell and touch.  They tickle your nose and your fingertips.
Out for the spin…
When moving the front of the shoe feels like a second skin.  As I started going, my heel seemed to drift away from the shoe-heel and almost felt as if there wasn’t any shoe heel.  I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.  I take it as good for now as it means no heel blisters while I’m breaking them in (and while they’re breaking me in).
After a few minutes, the pod/pads really started to annoy me.  I guess everyone’s feet are different and there’s no perfect place to put the pads.  They don’t seem to quite match up with my toes.  The ball of the foot feels fine, but my second toe feels like it’s going to blister.  I shift around a bit as I move and although I’m vaguely aware of the pads, they stop irritating.
I’m going very slow (only on my mid-foot and the balls of my feet).  After about 15 minutes, my calves start playing up.  Again, just relax and change the stride for a while and this too passes.  I’m reminded this is my first go in the shoes and I have to take it easy.  When I first started the POSE/Chi running style, I about crippled myself by trying to run through calve pain.
At just about the 1 Hr mark, the balls of my feet really start to hurt.  This is very unusual.  It’s very much like the next day foot soreness after a real long run, but it’s intense and it’s NOW!!  I’ve only got 2 more laps to go to 4 miles, so I decide to push through it.  At the end, I feel like if I go much farther I’m going to be limping for a week.
I stop.  Stretch my calves a bit and by the time I cross the street and walk in the house the pain is completely gone.  With ANY normal shoes, I would expect some residual pain and soreness – but there is none.  I sit on the floor and do a bit of leg stretching.  My feet have NO soreness at all when I stand up.  In fact, it feels like I haven’t jogged at all.
The only thing I can imagine is the pads/pods must be lying on some pressure points in my foot which were telling me “enough for one day but otherwise, we like these shoes.”
I’ve been up and down on my feet for a couple of hours now and I’m ready to go to bed and the feet still feel good to go.
Now that I’ve broken my rules for my sticking to the test shoe during the whole test period, I guess I’ll have to decide if I should continue to mix shoes and track the distance separately.  I’m only about 40 miles in on the 2nd pair.  I’m not terribly happy with them for jogging, but they are quite comfortable for just wearing around.  Still, I don’t want to wear them walking much as this will influence my end review of the shoe wear.
Oh, well, I’ll try to be fair, but will be, will be…
In case you’re wondering, we’ve been going through an operating system upgrade at work so I’ve had a good chunk of OT, which I splurged with to get these two pairs of VFFs.  Once again, I thank God to be working and able to afford these personal items, (when I should be paying down the credit card bill).  I guess someone’s got to keep the economy ticking over – might as well be me.
One final note, the images are from Vibram’s site (or from one of the various retailers that sell VFFs) and I make no claim to them.  I’m just a proud owner of their products.
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Vibram FiveFingers - "Don't Infringe"

I Love My VFF’s!!!

I was stumbling around the web and found this ad for Vibram FiveFingers…  Even though I generally disagree with patents and copyrights, I love the attitude of this ad.   Generally, for all that goes into them (or doesn’t go into them), I really doubt VFFs cost $50 to make, market and distribute (and that’s being generous) – so the other $30 to $80 per pair is pure profit to the company.
Still, I love ’em!!!
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I’m on vacation this week!!
This morning I got up and jogged another 4 miles.  No big deal, but I decided to switch to my 2nd “shoe review” pair of shoes.  This pair is made by Speedo and is called: “Men’s Seaside Water Shoe”.  I got them at Big5 for $19.99 (on sale from MSRP $24.99).

Product Details (as stated on the Speedo site):
Mesh and jersey upper for ultimate ventilation.
Quick adjust bungee lace with toggle closure.
Durable TPR outsole for maximum traction.
Soft removable EVA insole.
Import.
Initial Impressions:  I tried the shoe on for about a half hour yesterday and it almost blistered my right foot.  The shoe has drawstring laces and at the center of the foot, on the inside of the shoe, there is a patch of raw, psuedo-leather which will chafe the heck out of bare skin (at least it did mine!)  By the end of the half hour, I couldn’t wait to tear them off.
These are definitely “shoes”.  Unlike the Ahnu Delta Water Shoe, these have a top, sides and back which feel like a canvas-ie shoe.  I’d say they even feel “padded”.
Slipping them on and off is not a big deal because they come with grip loops at the tongue and heel.  You just loosen the laces and give them a good tug.
Having learned my lesson with the pre-wear session yesterday, today I wore socks for my jog.  What a world of difference!  No chaffing at all.
Now as for jogging in them – I pulled the laces pretty snug to make sure there was a minimal amount of slippage.  There was none to speak of.  The soles are extremely flexible and soft.  I’d say they feel like a very soft pencil eraser type of rubber.  In terms of jogging, I’d say they feel like the soft rubber of an old-fashioned dessert boot (crepe soles).  They have “ssh-ssh” sound when you jog, instead of the normal “slap-slap” of running shoes.  They almost make you feel like you’re running lighter than you actually are.
Ok, now the not so good news…  After barely four miles, the bottoms are already starting to wear.  The bottoms have a real “aggressive” knobbing pattern on them, which I suppose gives them good traction.  Well, the knobs on the outer edges of both shoes already look about halfway worn down.  The wear pattern goes all the way thru the mid-ball of the shoes.  I will be shocked if these soles last 100 miles, let alone the 140-150 of the Ahnu’s.  Just to put this in perspective, the industry standard for “real” running shoes is to replace them every 300-400 miles due to loss of the shock-absorption in the cushioning materials.
Time will tell…
On other related matters:
Here’s a link to a review of Vibram FiveFingers in Wired Magazine:  Shoes for Nerds
Here’s a link to a “Nature” article with information about endurance running and how it may have affected our evolutionary development.
Here’s a link to a site that discusses the biomechanics of running by Dr. Daniel E. Lieberman (PhD).  To see/hear the Barefoot Professor discuss barefoot running.
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Ok, so here’s the first shoe review…  You may recall from my post on 29 May 2010 (Adult-Onset Athlete) that I promised to start reviewing minimalist running shoes and the first would be the Ahnu Delta Water Shoe.  The prior “initial review” gave my first impressions.  To recap: I purchased the shoes at REI in Concord, CA for $40.00.  Not a great price, but relatively cheap for a running shoe.  (Yes, I know it’s not a running shoe.)
Ahnu Delta Water Shoe
Total distance: 140 to 150 miles jogged.
Other actual use: minimal.  I wore them one day in the office.  (more on this later)  Other than that, only used for jogging/walking/running.
Types of runs: split about 50-50 between flat asphalt and flat treadmill.
Wear: Very good!  After about 100 miles the bottom outside mid-sole began to show wear as would be expected from Chi/Pose running style.
Comfort:  Although I had initial misgivings, the shoes turned out to be very comfortable.  There is plenty of room for your toes to spread out and the upper mesh is very breathe-able.  I did wear them one day (with socks – at work) and I found them extremely comfortable!  Cool and airy!
Other uses:  I would only use these for running in flat and fairly dry conditions – but on any solid surface.  As mentioned in my earlier review, my foot did not stay in place when I was walking/jogging on a treadmill with a mild/faint incline.  (My feet slipped off the back and would have blistered my heels with extended use.)  I would not recommend them for jogging/running any steep inclines or trails.  Even though the shoes are nominally for water use, I would not use them in any strong current situation.  Again, because they don’t have laces or some type of tying mechanism to secure them to your feet, I think they’d be pulled off in a forceful current.   Just as I think they’d be sucked off your feet if you were jogging/running in mud.  Having said this, I admit, I haven’t tested either mud or current.
Would I get them again?  Yes, because the wear was surprising good.
Would I recommend them over other minimal running shoes – too early to tell, but based on just price (twice the price of the next highest priced shoe and almost three times the two bottom priced shoes) probably not.
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Ok, so today I’ve moved a couple of photos off of my cell phone, over to my PC and now I’ve uploaded them into my Blog…
The photos are me in my “Change Can Happen” T-Shirt and my new Vibram FiveFingers – KSOs (Keep Stuff Out) shoes.  They feel like you’re wearing expensive driving gloves on your feet.  Sooooo Cool!!!

Kevin supporting

Kevin supporting “Change Can Happen”

My VFF-KSOs

Vibram FiveFingers-Keep Stuff Out (KSO)

Next are some photos of the great meals Hil has been making for us since we started on our Fat-Smash diet.  Very vegan, but still delicious and surprisingly filling.

Tonight's dinner: Baked Bell Peppers stuffed with rice pilaf and salad

Tonight’s dinner: Baked Bell Peppers stuffed with rice pilaf and salad

Avacado, Pinto Beans, Peas and Bok Choy

Avacado, Pinto Beans, Peas and Bok Choy

And finally, a photo of Mom, my sister (Carm), Sarah, Hil and my nephew (Sean Jr.)

Mom, Carm, Sarah, Hil and Sean Jr.

Mom, Carm, Sarah, Hil and Sean Jr.

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Family stuff first: Thursday, I drove down to UCLA to pick up Rebecca.  She finished her last final at 6:30, but wasn’t allowed to move out until 11, so we went to dinner and then just hung out until she was ok to leave.
We got back to the hotel (the Hampton Inn in Van Nuys) after 12:30.  We got back on the road by 9:30 the next day (Friday, 11 June) and were home by 3:30.  All in all it was a nice, smooth trip.  I was not looking forward to the drive down – mostly because it was all by myself, but it turned out to be not bad at all.  I listened to music (sang along) and it was quite enjoyable.
I had one of my serendipity moments on the way down.  I was at the northern end of the Grapevine and looked up at the hills and saw a unusual purple color on several of the (mostly brown) hills.  My first thought was, “Wow, they’ve either had a fire already or they’ve sprayed fire retardant in advance of the next fire.  As I got closer, I realized the color was from a small flower and not a chemical spray.  It was a faint, but very distinct purple.  It wasn’t on all of the hills or spread as evenly as the brown from the grasses – which was probably why I thought it was a spray and not naturally occurring.
Anyway, it occurred to me that I was probably seeing something which only lasts a couple of days a year and which probably only happens a couple of times a year – kind of like a “desert bloom”.
I would like to make a few quick comments about the hotel.  I’m not a big fan of hotels, but this was a nice little place for the price ($130).  It wasn’t much to look at from the outside and I can’t comment on the locale, but it was reasonably close to UCLA, which was my primary criteria.  The inside was surprisingly quite nice, appearing reasonably modern and well kept.  The room was a nice size with two full size beds.  There was a large flat panel TV, and free wireless internet in the room.  The bed was very comfortable and the shower was hot with good water pressure.  The room smelled a little musty when I first entered it, but that soon went away with the AC on.  All in all, I would highly recommend it.
I injured my back last week crawling around on the floor, shifting PCs at work in Oakland.  At first I thought it was just a strained muscle, but by the end of the day, I had tell-tail sharp pain all the way down my right leg.  The next morning, Tuesday, I tried to do a light jog to work it out, but all I did was aggravate it severely.  I had to stop jogging because the pain in my leg was so bad.  The pain continued all day until I could barely walk.  I texted James to set up my inversion table and I hung when I finally got home.  I managed to relax after about five minutes and I felt my spine snap back into place.  The leg pain was gone and I gingerly made it through the rest of the evening.  I decided not to risk injury by taking Wednesday off.
I haven’t had back (and leg) pain like that in quite a while and it put the fear of God back in me.  Thank God for inversion machines!!
James’ girl friend – Natasha – graduated from high school on Friday.
Sarah had her end of year band dinner last week – Saturday before last and we went.  It was lots of laughs and we are very proud of her.  Go Minuteman Marching Band!!
Home stuff: Hil and I took a trip down to The Shed Shop in Fremont to have a look at sheds.  We picked a model and size, so now we just have to have them come out and do the site evaluation and then we agree a day for installation.  Finally!!!!  We’ll have a shed.  We’ve also decided we’re going to start doing the floors with bamboo.  It’ll take us a few years to get it all done, but at least the decision has been made to move forward.
Perhaps, the most significant thing (to me) is that Hil has finally decided she likes our house and wants to stay in it.  I think this will mean we’ll move forward on a lot of different things now.
Movie Review: Well, I finally got around to watching my DVD copy of “Slumdog Millionaire“.  It was a very intense (and moving) movie.  I discussed it with my son James who dismissed it as a chick-flick, date movie.  It was – at a certain level – simply a love story, but it was a lot more as well.  It raised questions of philosophy – are our lives destined?  It also hi-lighted man’s inhumanity towards others – particularly in circumstances of dire poverty.  Bottom line – I highly recommend it.
Book Review: Yesterday, (Sunday, 13 June), I finished “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell (2005).  The book is about how we are able to make almost instantaneous decisions based on limited information and those decisions turn out to be (frequently) as reliable as decisions we make with great consideration and lots of data / information.  Another interesting discussion was about using different parts of the brain to remember things.  If we think of the picture of a cow, we use a different part of the brain than if we think of the word “cow” and try to describe it, height, weight, color, etc., and the very act of trying to describe something tends to make us “forget” the thing we are trying to describe.  This seems to happen because of the difference in the amount of brain power allotted to long term versus short term memory.  Long term memory is virtually unlimited, but short term is “thimble sized”.  It takes some time to move memories from short to long term and the act of interpreting the memory, by describing it, seems to short-circuit the transition from short to long term memory.
I found this point very interesting because at one point, I used to “think” in text, as in when I “thought of” a “brown cow” (in my mind), that’s what I saw – the words, not the “image” of an animal.  I remember being mildly surprised at the time that others didn’t “see” the way I did.  (I asked several of my friends.)  I actively tried to “see” the image of a brown cow instead of the words when I thought of it and in the space of a couple of weeks, I started “seeing” the images.  Unfortunately, I found I had lost the ability to “see” the words now.  I’ve tried a few times to think my way back, but it seems to be completely lost to me.  I don’t know if it’s a permanently one-way street, but it certainly seems to be since I’ve never met anyone else who admits to ever thinking of things that way.
Bottom Line: the book was a very fast read and raised some interesting points for me to continue thinking about.  You can’t ask for much more than that from an author.  I now plan to make time to go back and read the author’s other work: “The Tipping Point”.
Running and Diet: Not so good of late.  With the continuing little injuries (back and legs), it’s been easy to make excuses for not running at night.  I’ve found the jogging in the Gym to be not the same.  For one, I try to run instead of just enjoying my time jogging.  I also tend to get distracted by the TV.  This means my brain is not continuously involved in my moving.  It also means, when I go do my school yard jogs, my head is missing the extraneous input (distraction) from the TV.  I believe the long term solution is to not jog at the gym and instead do other cross training, cardio workouts.
I’m still wearing my first pair of test shoes – the Ahnu Delta Water shoes.  Granted I haven’t been pounding them daily, but they still seem to have almost no wear whatsoever.  I’m already over a month using them (sporadically) and I’ve not done a hundred miles yet, but they still seem very sturdy to me.
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Memorial Day Weekend —  Three days off to relax!
At church, Father Joe said his last 1200 Mass for us.  He has finished his masters degree in Berkeley and is heading back to Malaysia.  Hil and I will miss him.  His sermons were always about Love.  Love for God and love for each other.  His final sermon was about fear of change and the unknown.  We were both struck by how this was an intensely personal statement about himself couched in a message of reassurance for the rest of us.
James went to mass with us.  It was his first time in a couple of years.
Saturday, I went to the movies with James.  We went to see “The Prince of Persia“.  It was a summer action movie about a poor child who is adopted by a King and who then goes forwards and then back thru time to save the kingdom.  Very entertaining.  I look forward to it coming out in DVD so I can see it again.
Yesterday, 30 May 2010, I finished reading “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance“, by Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. (2002).  I had seen the book in the used bookstore several times, but never picked it up because my past experience is these books always end up being self-serving autobiographies.  Then, about six weeks ago, I saw the book on a list of the 100 greatest business books ever written.  This piqued my curiosity and I decided to pick it up the next time I saw it.  I ended up looking for it several times (and places) before I finally found it.  Anyway, I found it this week and dove in.
I have to admit I was both correct – it is self-serving – and I don’t care because it is both very well written and offered me some thoughtful moments.  I must admit any book which can make me consider a point vis-a-vis conditions within SSA, is a book I will review positively.  I will offer a few quotes:
“Successful institutions almost always develop stong cultures that reinforce those elements that make the institution great.  They reflect the environment from which they emerged.  When that environment shifts, it is very hard for the culture to change.  In fact, it becomes an enormous impediment to the institution’s ability to adapt.”
“The truth is that no large enterprise can work without bureaucracy.  Bureaucrats, or staff people, provide coordination among disparate line organizations; establish and enforce corporate-wide strategies that allow the enterprise to avoid duplication, confusion, and conflict; and provide highly specialized skills that cannot be duplicated because of cost or simply the shortage of available resources.”
“I’ve never been certain that I can abstract from my experiences a handful of lessons that others can apply to their own situations.”
“A successful, focused enterprise is one that has developed a deep understanding of its customers’  needs, its competitive environment, and its economic realities.”
“Execution —  getting the task done, making it happen — is the most unappreciated skill of an effective business leader.”
“Great institutions are not managed; they are led.  They are not administered; they are driven to ever-increasing levels of accomplishment by individuals who are passionate about winning.”
“Most of all, personal leadership is about passion.”
“Thus, what every CEO has to do is decide what is going to be uniquely local (decentralized) and what is going to be common in his or her enterprise.”
“Great institutions balance common shared activities with highly localized, unique activities.”
Ok.  Having said how good the writing was and having listed a few quotes, what did I find “wrong” with the work?  To start off with there is an assumption that value in big organizations comes from systems and procedures.  Gerstner downplays this assumption by repeatedly discussing all of the great individuals he worked with.  But in the end, it is the big customer which must implement the technology (internet) before the value can reach the individual customer.  I’m not sure I agree with this.  Anybody can buy a shoe at a store – on-line or in bricks and mortar.  We don’t need the internet for that.  Knowledge, though, that is different.  The more widely we can make knowledge (facts and opinions, but not lies) accessible, the greater all societies will be.  It is the PC and the internet which are driving this phenomena, not the ability to buy shoes or jeans.  I’m not dismissing the value of on-line shopping for businesses or individuals, I’m just trying to establish where I place real value.
Of course, the process of posting to the internet does not differentiate between facts, opinions and lies – but that is another discussion.  The fact that buying and selling shoes and jeans is what ultimately pays to keep the internet up and running is also something for another day.
Ultimately, the most interesting part of the book is the infrequent mentioning of research and implementation.  Where a product cannot be driven to market in a timely manner, it needs to be leveraged by “selling” the use to others who will drive the product to market.  Essentially, this and the effort to make IBM a system integrator and service supplier are the key ideas for any company based on true intelligence / knowledge.  “We know how things work together.  We make some (most) of the parts (especially the big, expensive parts,) and what we don’t make we can help you buy and put together.  You pay some for what we make, but you pay most for what we know.”  [That is me, not Mr. Gerstner being quoted.]
I have to agree, this is a true growth industry and one that a large multinational corporation can make a lot of money from.
Today I went to REI and (finally) got myself a pair of Vibram FiveFingers (KSO).  They are SOOOOOO cool!!!  I wore them home from the store and they are extremely comfortable.  The biggest downside is the price: $85.  So, this is probably the only pair I’ll ever own.  But in the meantime, they are COOL!  Black and gray with cammo bottoms.
I will continue my current test pair, but I can’t wait to start logging some miles in the KSO’s.
Incidentally, last night I ran 240 minutes – about 7ish miles.  My feet feel good and my Achilles are a little tender but not bad.  Otherwise, I feel great!  And there was virtually no wear on the Delta Water Socks (the test pair).
Also today, I picked up and watched “Paper Chase“.  It’s a movie about a first year law student at Harvard.  I first saw it when I was in my 20s and I’ve wanted to get it for ages.  I couldn’t wait to get home and watch it.  Review: Even after all these years, it’s still EXCELLENT!!  John Houseman rocks as Professor Kingsfield.  He got an Oscar for his performance.
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Today, 28 May 2010, I just finished another tremendous “running” book.  This one is titled: “No Need For Speed“, by John “The Penguin” Bingham (2002©).  He is a former columnist for Runner’s World Magazine.  The book has some very practical advice for the beginning runner, but really, it’s about the spirit and philosophy of becoming / being a lifetime runner.
The book is very reminiscent of the “Born To Run” book and juxtaposes against Sheehan’s “Running And Being“.  It’s about the joy of running, not the agony.  This is a book I’ll keep handy and browse thru every now and then for inspiration, more than for advice.  Well worth reading for a philosophy of living, not just running.
Some quotes:
“The moment of truth for many of us as adult-onset athletes is when we first realize that changing our lives is going to be much more difficult than we ever imagined.”
“The days when you have to drag yourself out the door are very often the days when you will learn the most about yourself, not necessarily as a runner, but as a person.”
“Try to keep your expectations reasonable.  You’re beginning the journey of a thousand miles with a single step.  Each step is important; every step counts.”
“Each of us can maintain an effort level of about half our maximum perceived effort almost indefinitely, regardless of what that perceived effort level is.  We may not be able to maintain it continuously, but with a few exceptions, most of us can move our bodies at about half of our perceived maximum for as long as we want.”
[I doubt this is actually true. I can go for a good distance (several miles) at 4mph.  I have done 9mph (very briefly), and feel I could do 10mph (very, very briefly).  I guess there needs to be a “fudge” factor for “extremely” slow runners like me.]
“Don’t do anything today that might keep you from running tomorrow.”
“Frustration is the first step toward improvement.  I have no incentive to improve if I’m content with what I can do and if I’m completely satisfied with my pace, distance and form as a runner.”
“For the dedicated runner, frustration is to be sought out and savored, not avoided.”
“I continue to run because I like running.  I like to run even though I’m not, by their standards, any good at it.  What matters to me is that I like to run, not what they think about my running.”
“Life can’t be taken so seriously that you live it without risk.  There are times in life, as in running and racing, when the only way to see tomorrow is to walk right up to the edge of today.”
“It isn’t the shoes, socks, clothes, or even the speed that makes me a runner.  It’s running.  I pay my membership dues every time I lace up my running shoes.  I realize that every time I challenge myself to do more, struggle to get a little faster, or face the limits of my abilities, I am a runner.”
“A real runner, not just someone who runs.”
[The contradiction between this and some of the earlier quotes is stark.  Does the author truly enjoy running, or is it all about some “other” psychological satisfaction – like testing one’s self.  This is a trap I fall into. Wanting to go faster and be “better”.  …And then I take a long, slow jog out in the fresh air, watch the clouds go by and the day change, and I realize I just run because I like running.]
Other Topics – first of many shoe reviews:
The plan is to use each test pair about 30 days and or 100-125 miles of jogging.
Model: Delta Water Shoe
Price: $40 but you can get a discount if you are a store member.
Ahnu Delta Water Shoe
Manufacturer: Ahnu
Web site: www.ahnu.com
Bought at: REI store in Concord, CA
Web site: www.rei.com
Initial impressions:
This is BY FAR the most expensive shoe of this type I’ve bought for my reviews.  More than twice the price of the next highest.
Not very easy to get on.  I tried to wear cotton socks with them.  I managed to get them on my feet, but they pulled the socks back into my toes so every step felt like I was kicking a wall.  I had to sit and remove the socks.  After that, they were extremely comfortable in a slimy, polyester kind of way.  Without socks, getting them on is a tug/slip/pull/straighten, but it’s not too bad.
The feel for the ground is excellent.  You can feel the smallest cracks in the pavement and the smallest stones, but there seems little danger of penetration by sharp objects.  I do my laps in a schoolyard and there is a fair amount of broken glass – and near the buildings – loose staples and paper clips.  (Who thought the world was so unsafe for feet!!)
So far I’ve done three runs on a treadmill and another four on the asphalt – about 25 – 30 miles and there is almost no sign of wear at all.
The good news is the slimy feeling goes away quickly because the shoes ventilation is great.  It remains to be seen how that translates into stink as they get a little more sweat in them.
I did a walk on the treadmill with maximum slope to see how the shoes felt.  I was surprised to find my foot consistently slid right off the back of the shoe.  If I were out in the boonies on a long jog, I would have had a problem with blisters under my heels in no time.  I was surprised because the shoe is relatively difficult to get on my feet and the lip feels snug enough to prevent stuff from getting in the shoe, so I imagined the sole would be more stable under the foot.
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