Aren’t ur feet cold mister?

Aren’t your feet cold? That is the most common question I get asked at this time of year. As a dedicated barefooter I wear my sandals as long into the cold season as possible, breaking them out every time the temps hover around freezing. I only wear the sandals to keep the cold off the bottom of my feet when walking about. So the short answer is no! My feet are not cold, my sandals keep my feet warm enough to be cold in all but the worst, coldest part of the winter. In truth, apart from the heavily insulated winter boots with felt liners, most “winter” shoes offer little more protection from the elements than my sandals. It’s true that they are closed toe thus preventing wet from getting in (most times) but this also prevents wet getting out when they do get wet inside. If the weather stayed in and around the freezing mark I would do away with the sandals all together, reverting to my summer time practice of only wearing sandals when forced by archaic rules and intolerance. There are many studies that illuminate the benefits of barefooting which I have alluded to before and so won’t reiterate here. For now I will only say once more, my tootsies are quite comfortable even though it is 30 degrees F outside. Keep them bare and happy holidays to all!

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Back again …

August 2009? Has it really been that long since I last posted to this blog? How time flies by! Well it is now November, late November really and weather here in Ontario is cooling. It was about 5 degrees Celsius this morning, not what I would call cold and not cold enough to put on my shoes. I am still barefoot, although some morning I do don sandals just to separate my soles from the cool pavements. Do I get strange looks? Occasionally. Do I care? Not at all.
The most common question I get late into the fall, when I am shoeless is … “Aren’t your feet cold?” or some variation of that. The truth is no, not really. My feet get no colder than my hands and my hands are not “cold” or in gloves usually until late December and even then only on the days when the temp is down below 0 celsius. I much prefer to be bare foot even with cool feet than be shod and have hot sweaty feet. Seems to me to be much like wearing gloves on your hands all day. But then I have rambled on about this all before so I won’t bore you with more on this day.
Instead I would like to tell you about “Global TV Access”, a service (an internet service really) that I subscribe to that allows me to watch British television stations on my TV in London, Ontario as if I was in England. In effect I can watch BBC and ITV at the same time in the same way as any one in England (barring the 5 hour time difference of course!), but even better I can watch it at my leisure through “catch ups”. These television shows are streamed over the internet to my computer then via the HDVI output to my television. This service is so convenient and works well enough that I have completely abandoned my local cable and satellite providers opting instead to use just this service for my entertainment. I would recommend it to almost anyone fed up with high television bills. The only drawback at the moment is the fact that it does not include any American stations (the few who actually stream their service) and so we miss out on stations such as Fox and HBO. If GTVA would expand their services to include some of the American stations then it really would be a replacement for the cable and satellite monopolies.

ode to hard copies

So have you ever considered how much the modern electronic age is changing the habits of consumers? In the past year I have not purchased a single CD, though I have purchased a substantial amount of music, I have bought only a few (5 or 6) paper books though I have bought many more books than that and just lately I have ended my relationship with my cable TV provider. In place of hard CDs, hard copy books and cable television I now use, purchase, read, listen and watch either on my computer or on a device that is updated from my computer. In place of albums I now purchase tracks from Itunes from all kinds of artists in many genres of music. In place of paper books I now read ebooks on a Sony Reader buying them from stores all round the world, getting books I never would have seen in my local Chapters store. In place of cable TV I (and my family) have been watching BBC (from England), CBC (from Canada) and sitcoms from the US, all streamed to our computer in HD quality and most days displayed on our HD television.
In most cases the switch is painless, inexpensive and rewarding for the breadth of material that comes available. In Itunes I can (most times) find music I would not find in local stores, sample tracks and then buy individual tracks or whole albums. Some retailers though just don’t get it, book sellers are the worst. For instance the other day I was looking at a new “World of Warcraft” novel (yeah I know it’s crap and will never replace Tolstoy as a classic, but it is a good read), the book in hard cover is $32 in Canada. You would think that the Ebook, with no shipping, no bulk should be cheaper right? Wrongo! The Sony ebook site wanted $25 US for it (not really any cheaper when translated into Canadian dollars) and WH Smith in the UK wanted 20 pounds for the same book. I thought the hard cover was too much at $32, I am certainly not paying a similar price for the Ebook version. Makes no sense. Some of the music vendors are similarly afflicted charging hard copy prices for electronic goods.
Balance will come though as more and more consumers start to buy electronic versions of books, music, television shows and other consumer products. A great many stores, industries and services are still finding their way in the new world of electronic commerce, discover what they can sell and how to sell it. I for one can’t wait, though I do keep draining the damn batteries in my music player and my reader and my PDA … sigh.

shoes? Not!

Do you remember when you were young, how you ran barefoot in the summer? Feeling the grass on your feet, the texture of warm pavement? So why are you wearing shoes right this moment? Is it because (almost) everyone does? Because the rules (what rules?) say you must? Because your boss says you must? Because the sign at the entrance says you must?

It’s probably for all of these reasons and many more myths that need to be forgotten, changed or unlearned. The truth is going barefoot is incredibly natural, more healthy for you and puts you in touch with your environment like few other experiences can. Wearing shoes cramps the feet, affects your posture, promotes athletes foot and a host of other nasties, costs more and is not particularly eco-friendly.

Going barefoot in the modern world is unusual perhaps (given our social mores) but is not particularly hazardous. Many of us work in offices, retail establishments, at home, schools and universities where the greatest hazard is having someone wearing oxfords stepping on our toes. There are lots of places where the hazards of the environment call for some sort of protection for your feet, factories, construction and overheated kitchens come to mind. However in general going barefoot is not hazardous at all. There are in fact no laws that prohibit going barefoot in any retail establishment, restaurant, office or while driving. Individual stores or establishments may well choose not to serve you if one is barefoot, that is their choice (to give up my sale) just as my choice is to go barefoot.

In the modern profit oriented materialistic society that we live in, even the big name athletic shoe makers have discovered that there may just be something to this barefoot thing and have started marketing “barefoot” sneakers. These are shoes that are more ergonomically designed to match walking barefoot, doing away with raised heels, arch supports, thick rubber soles and such. Seems like an ok way for the sneaker makers to get in on the game I guess but why not do away with the sneakers all together and go barefoot? I will be I assure you.

Happy barefooting!
Additional Reading:

New York Times article

Wikipedia says …

Vibram barefoot shoes

Running barefoot prt.1

Running barefoot prt.2

clothing optional …

Remember when you were young and you and your friends ran to the library to look at the pictures in the National Geographic’s? The ones showing the African or South American or South Sea Island natives in the all together?  I was reminded of this strangely enough by a radio news story about a German dude who was arrested for hiking in the Black Forest in the nude and was subsequently allowed to go to serve his sentence in the nude, ostensibly because he was a naturist. In remembering the N.G. pics, then as now what struck me most about them was not the naughty bits on display but the complete nonchalance and candidness of the pics. Those natives thought nothing about being in the buff, weren’t really displaying their naughty bits because no one in their society had spent 10000 or so years telling them they were naughty.

The incident in Germany, which reminded me of the N.G. pics also reminded me of a vacation I took a few years back to Panama and the nude beach I frequented there and further back in the stores of my memory a vacation I took with some friends in college to a naturist resort up near Ottawa. In both cases one shed their clothes at the entrance and thought nothing of it. At the beach were people of all sizes, shapes, colors, walks of life. Trouble was, we were all exceptionally equal there. We all had two arms, two legs, 10 fingers and toes and a few naughty bits (only considered naughty because we been told that for a few thousand years).  Nobody walked up and down the beach in total arousal, ogling the opposite sex, passing any kind of judgment related to appearance. Everyone was there to enjoy the sunshine, lounge about, read a book, swim in the ocean (an incredibly exhilarating and natural feeling, swimming naked in the salt water of the ocean).  It was the most natural thing in the world, put you in touch with the environment in a way that can never be matched when clothed and no we weren’t eaten alive by mosquitoes and black flies.

Recall the huge fuss and kerfluffal a few years back when a few women in Ontario chose to go topless in summer? There were court cases, media coverage and outrage on all fronts, it was going to be total anarchy they said. Why?  Because it’s taboo for women to go topless that’s why. No one blinks an eye when a man (good looking and muscled or 450 pounds ugly as all get out) goes topless, funny that. Mostly it’s because we equate nudity with sexuality, believe that the moment someone get naked (or even partially so) we’re all going to lose control, get aroused and do the things that everyone knows should be private. Truth is that is not so however.

Remember that vacation at the naturist camp I mentioned? I was in my last year of college in those days, so I was young (compared to my age these days) but still old enough to see the truth before me. The resort we stayed at could have been mistaken for any posh resort or KOA campground you care to mention. There were people playing tennis, lounging by the pools, kids canoeing in the lake, playing Frisbee. There were two major differences however, first there were no clothes to be seen anywhere, second there was no way to tell (by looking at the people there) who had arrived in the Mercedes 450SEL and who had arrived in the Ford Maverick. Everyone at that resort was just that, themselves, equal and any shape, size, color you could imagine. Couldn’t tell how rich how poor, what religion, what preference they were. They were just people, no taboos, no naughty bits, no embarrassments, no judgments.

So why do we wear clothes?  In the beginning way back when we were less civilized (some might argue that point what with modern wars, prejudice and inequalities) we wore clothes to keep us warm, keep the dudes in the next cave from bashing our heads in, to show off our hunting prowess and maybe attract the good looking girl on the other side of the cave. Funny how little things have changed over time? Modern clothes are the costume of society, the badge of office, the suit of armor for the business world. Kids can’t be cool if their shoes aren’t Nike, their jeans aren’t DKNY. You can’t be a professional if you’re dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. You can’t be better off than the Jones’s if you shop at Wal-Mart instead of Neiman-Marcus. Oh and don’t forget, you can’t display any of the naughty bits; we’ll all lose control of ourselves.

first star to the right and on till morning …

So my family and I (My wife Jacky, my son Matthew and myself) have decided to up sticks and leave the rat race, commuting 100Km to work, winters, concrete cities, noise, smog and the crazy pace of city life behind and move to the country side of Southern France. For 10 months or so at least in any case. Then we’ll see what is next, maybe stay there, maybe move on. Are we nuts you say? No I don’t think so, time marches on, we all get older, we all talk about doing it but few of us actually do it.

Life is a great adventure, it should be lived, full and vibrant every day. It is far too easy to be stuck in a rut of day to day survival, working 9 to 5 to pay the bills, pay for the commute to work. Both my wife and I are very interested in history, art, classical music so what better place tgo experience ity than from France. Being in France most everywhere we would dearly love to visit is accessible within a day or two of driving, less by train and some by walking out the front door. From Canada, visiting the Louvre or the Artists Quarter in Paris, or Notre Dame (or any of a thousand other places) would be an expensive airpline trip and a weeks vacation away. So we made the decision, “let’s do it!” and “let’s do it now!”.

So now we are preparing for the move and what a job that is! Decided to keep our house  and rent it so we have some minimal fallback should it all go pear shaped (don’t expect that it will though as we’re both of a spirit to make it work). Then discovered that we really should spruce up the kitchen with a lick of paint … but wait that made the counters look dull so we’ll spruce them up … ah but now the trim in the front room looks a little tired, better paint it up as well .. and so it goes. Then we decided to sell up the detritus, flotsam and jetsam we didn’t want to take with us, didn’t want to store and didn’t want to leave. Wowsa! What pack rats we are! Four billion books, two billion nick-knacks, 750 assorted appliances, some classic vinyls records, ancient calculators, old lamps, 17000 bits of old clothing (some fits, some doesn’t), enough shoes and sneaks to keep Immelda Marcos happy, prints, pictures and so much more. Can all this stuff possibly come out of our one house? Not to mention that now we have moved all this stuff from it’s original spot to the living room, the place now looks like several bombs went off! Well it all has to go somewhere by the end of the month (August) because  on September the fifth we’ll be on an airliner headed for France. Winging our way to sunshine, a slower easier pace of life and trying madly to master enough french so as to not embarrass ourselves when we land. Watch this space, I’ll post more as the month progresses, it’s sure to be fun and funny.

Turning 50

Well I have just turned 50, think of that! When I was just a sprout I couldn’t believe I would ever be an adult and do adult things, life was all summers and rules dictated by my parents. Each spring just like Douglas Spaulding (Dandelion wine – Ray Bradbury for those who haven’t read this fabulous story) I would nag my mother for that new pair of sneakers full of running and fresh cut grass, daisies, tree climbing and skinned knees.

 

Half a century later more or less I am now the parent, my children and grand children hitting me up for sneakers, summer togs and concert tickets. They say I am getting older, though most days I don’t feel it. Like my children, like I have all of those past years, I still go out in spring and get my new sneakers, reverently retiring the old. I have more creaks, and cracks, certainly I am aging but growing old? Never. Life, living and summer still flows in these old veins.  I am just as active now as I was when so long ago I was 11 standing on the edge of summer, if a little less frantic. Summer doesn’t rush by (though it always ends too soon!) so much as saunter by full of freshness and life, each summer full of new experiences, new adventures even now after having seen 50 of them.

 

On this birthday, the day that always marked the beginning of summer adventures for me, I did something that mostly was for me, an affirmation of spirit that has guided me, formed me and been a part of me for many many years. I got a tattoo, on my arm, not the usual skull and cross bones or “I love Molly” or flames but something much closer to my heart, simpler yet full of the meaning of life, my life. It is a string of characters, kanji characters, each one a word, each one a virtue I have always lived by. They are in fact the Kanjii that states the Bushido code, the warriors’ code. Honor, Honesty, Sincerity, Courage, Compassion, Loyalty,  Courtesy. Who could disagree with such virtues? I literally do wear my heart on my sleeve, or in this case my arm.

 

Is this the start of a mid life crisis? Is the next step a shopping trip for chains and a corvette? No chance! More like a simple statement of what really matters. Life is for living, aging doesn’t mean getting old, slowing down or abandoning vim and vigor. Aging is the gathering of experience, the adventure of living, the treasure of sharing all of life with the ones you love most of all, your wife, your children, your grand children. In 50 summers I have gathered many adventures, many experiences, all of them treasured, stored away in my mind, just as Douglas once did, to be brought out in the dead of winter to warm the heart and your feet wrapped in those heavy oxfords. I am 50 going on … well some younger age perhaps, many more summers  to come, many more adventures to come. Now where have my sneaks go to …

pretty tv people

Have you noticed how pretty people on television are? Just the other day while watching the news (a rare occasion really as I seldom watch the news except for the weather) I was witness to a story about some crime or other in Toronto. Now it wasn’t the crime which struck me as interesting but the forensic team going into the scene to investigate. All of them had hair nets, booties and full enclosure body suits so as not to infect the crime scene with foreign matter. This is a far cry from the CSI shows that are so popular on TV. There are no portly graying men in hairnets and full body suits here ladies and gents, oh no. CSI hires only the best, they have muscled young blokes with six-pack stomachs, pretty blondes with lots of perfectly coifed hair to shake in full view of the camera.  They pull up to the crime scene in their immaculately polished Hummer, stride into the crime scene in their designer jeans and Gucci pumps, purposefully dropping their toolbox square in the middle of it.

Cut now to the DNA lab, a place chock a block full of sensitive machines and whirring centrifuges where the smallest particle of DNA will point out exactly who committed the crime. Are any of the lab techs wearing anything other than a sparkling white, strategically revealing lab coat to protect against intrusions into the samples? Nope nary a hair net in site anywhere. They’re all perfectly coifed, perfectly made up in designer clothes looking more like runway models than CSI lab workers.

Switch channels now to NBC, the show playing is Lost, the premise, a bunch of airline passengers crash on an island and are lost. The camera pans up the beach revealing  a burning wing, some parts of a very large fuselage, wheels and a jet engine or two. The planes remains look like they may be from a 747 or something with a few hundred people on board (as do the reminiscing cut scenes of people remembering their old lives), yet only about a dozen are walking up the beach looking for other survivors. On the day of the crash they look a bit rough, torn shirts, dirt smudges and a bleeding cut or two. Hardly the vision of a bunch of people who just crashed into the beach as their plane disintegrated around them. Within a day of the crash the men are all looking like dashing natives showing off their Tarzan physiques and six pack tummies. The women meanwhile are all perfectly dressed, coifed, nails done and looking like Mrs. Howell, not a stitch out of place.

What’s with the premise of Lost anyway? The writers would have you believe these people (the few survivors) are on this island and totally unfindable, unrescuable by anybody, spending many months on the island. Yet the island is not lost, it is run over by villainess pirates, by strange creatures that shake the bushes at night, by a secret underground lab fully stocked with food, medical supplies, guns and ammunition, even a radio. Although somehow the radio seems to get smashed in some sort of argument so they can’t call for help after all. Is there really in this day and age any island or land mass anywhere in the oceans of the world that hasn’t been photographed, mapped, charted and explored by Google Earth, NASA and a hundred other agencies? I doubt it.

I heard the other day that one of the American broadcasters is going to make a mini series about Henry the Eighth and his  wives. The catch? The producers don’t believe that the historical vision of Henry VIII as depicted in every painting of him of a 400+ pound red head is very saleable to American audiences. So they have cast a pretty young American actor with tight buns and a great six pack (can’t recall his name) to play Henry. No doubt they will also cast six entirely gorgeous runway models to be his six wives, all with perfect hair, perfect teeth, perfect complexions and designer gowns. All of which was common in the fifteenth century I am sure what with the crusades, plagues, pillaging, open sewers, no refrigeration, limited hot water, lack of soap and hygiene. I know I’ll be watching for that one.

cats, dogs and clocks

So what is it about cats, dogs and clocks? More specifically why is it they insist that everyone should be up and about by 5:00 am? In my household live 6 cats and two dogs. The latest, Minnie (after Minnie the moocher) starts barking round a bout 5:15, “let me out, it’s time for walk-a-bout” she is saying. If one of us actually gets up and takes her out, the other one, Charlee the chunk, a hefty cocker spaniel with snow shoe sized paws comes and plants his size 10s on the edge of the bed and licks your face. Get shut of him and you are again wakened by a parade of cats all purred up, gently walking round your noggin, insisting that you get up and feed them, scrape the cat box and let them out for a gamble. So you see in my household every day starts about 5:30 when everyone, cats, dogs, guinea pigs, fish turtles and people get out of bed and greet the day. All of them are eclectic lovable and irreplaceable even if they don’t realize that on Saturday and Sunday I should be sleeping in ( at sixes and sevenes) instead of commuting to my place of work.