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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eco-friendly? Not!!

I have just been reading the press blurbs about the new Nissan Leaf, a totally electric vehicle, the first of which was delivered to a happy consumer in Ottawa recently. This car is only one of several being developed and to be sold to consumers in the coming months.
These vehicles are being billed as “zero emissions” vehicles, viable alternatives to gas powered vehicles, economical, eco-friendly and many other superlatives. Judging from the reviews articles and websites I have read, nothing could be further from the truth.
The car itself is expensive at $38000, more than many other compact cars of merit and better styling. This price also does not include the costs involved in installing a 240 volt charging station in your home, the additional electrical bills, the insurance (likely to be charged) for a new untried and rare vehicle or the maintenance. The economic kicker is the fact that the batteries which power this car are leased to the owner (They cost $10000.00) because they are too expensive to replace and expected to last no more than 5 years.
Being billed as a zero emissions vehicle is almost false advertising in my view. The car itself indeed produces no emissions, however experts say that the emissions created in generating the additional electricity required to run it is about equivalent to a well tuned compact diesel car. This also does not take into account the carbon footprint of shipping raw materials around the planet to produce the exotic batteries and other components before they are assembled into a shiny new Leaf.
In terms of performance Nissan claims a top speed of 144 Km/H (90 Mph) and a range of approx. 160 Km (100 Mi.). Nissan also notes that the trickle charger takes some 21 hours to full charge from low battery. If one were to take those claims as accurate then a trip from London to Ottawa would take me about 8 days or about the same as if I travelled by horse and carriage. I dare say the horse would be more ecologically sound to boot. So this car is not a touring car designed for long trips but an inner city commuter. For 38 Grand I can purchase any one of several dozen more attractive commuter cars and even some not so commuter cars.
One final point in this rant, the Leaf and all it’s brethren from other manufactures are pure electric cars, getting their “get up and go” from the power grid. Here in Ontario every summer Ontario Hydro complains that too many people crank up their air conditioners sucking up electricity and causing brown outs. Ask yourself, what would be the effect of a few million consumers plugging in their electric cars every night? Then again maybe that’s not a great worry as Nissan only expects to sell 600 of these by 2012, hardly seems worth the effort.

A new website …

Good day to all, been a while since I was last here, not really a regular blogger. I have just been creating a great new website for the Argyle Business Improvement Association. This is a non-profit organization that aims to improve community spirit, promote prosperity in business and beautify the Argyle Area here in London. Now creating a new website is not always a big deal, however I have not created a site from scratch for a while now and I was a bit amazed at how much the technology has changed. At the University of Waterloo, when I was managing the Math Faculty web site technologies like Facebook and twitter were only starting to emerge, we were just starting to see JavaScript libraries on sites and technologies like HTML 5 and CSS 3 were mostly rumour. Today all those are commonplace, sites are dynamic, linked in and if you are not connected to Facebook, well then you’re just not connected! So our new website is connected, uses Google maps to tell people where we are, shows the local weather and is a great start to what we hope will be a great website that everyone (in London at least!) will want to visit. I invite everyone to take a look and pass on your comments.

Blue-ray but no Blues

As the title suggests this entry is about Blue-ray DVDs and my humble experiences with them. In the past I have looked at blue-ray displays in the stores, the ones where they have two views of the same film side by side and to be quite honest couldn’t see the difference. Most times I put any differences down to the set up of the televisions not the blue-ray. I honestly couldn’t see enough difference to warrant the additional costs of replacing my current DVD player and my DVD collections.

Then my son purchased a Sony PS3. This was the newest, hottest, most amazing, “you gotta see this Dad!” games system he could lay hands on. In the first week we watched a few of our current DVDs on the system and they did seem to be clearer, sharper and better looking on our LCD TV. Then he got hold of The Matrix and Pearl Harbor movies, both on Blue-ray. WOWSA! The picture quality was astounding and the uncompressed sound track was stunning. It was amazing how good these two slightly older movies were. The colors, details, sharpness of the picture was as good as real life (and some times not too flattering to the poor actors!). The sound was just amazing, there is no other word for it, everything came alive, explosions knocked you out of your seat.

It gets better however, this past weekend we found “A Bridge Too Far” and “Rambo” in the bargain bin at Walmart, $14 each for the Blue-ray versions. Ancient movies by anyone’s standards you would say. But no! These movies came to life with stunning graphics, incredible picture and sound that was astounding in the least. When Rambo blows up the middle of Smallville, USA I half expected neighbors to come running while phoning the fire department! When the panzers roll into Arnheim, you are ready to run the opposite direction. It is obvious to me now that Blue-ray is absolutely better than my old DVDs and can only get better as the technology matures. I will be spending my money this Christmas rebuilding my DVD collections in Blue-ray! I can just imagine how sweet the ,merlins powering the Spitfires in Battle of Britain will sound, as close to the real thing as one can get I would think.

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.

Well I finally got down to Novaks in London here on the weekend to try on these “Vibram Five Finger” shoes that have appeared in this list from time to time and are supposed to give that barefoot feeling. However after spending near ten minutes getting my toes into the little fingers, discovering that they uncomfortably press on the end of my toes and noticing how incredibly tweedy they look I am inclined to ask, what is the point? They don’t give me that barefoot feet but instead feel like thin shoes. They aren’t attractive looking in any way, in fact one would look like a pillock when wearing them. It seems to me that they would be more popular with shoddies who want to pretend to be barefoot than with barefooters. Then again maybe that’s just me, I certainly would rather be $100 richer and barefoot than looking silly and $100 poorer. I’ll pass on these for now I think.
These shoes seem to me to be an attempt by shoe companies to make the most of a burgeoning lifestyle trend in much the same way that we now see “green” products cashing in on all manner of “eco-friendly” products. I also believe that being barefoot and living barefoot is in about the same place that being “green” was a few years back and that being vegetarian was in when I was in College. Not terribly respected and mightily resisted by the non-initiates. However 30 years later vegetarian is not so strange, many stores stock vegetarian foods and being “green” is suddenly cool. I can only hope that being cool when barefoot doesn’t take another 30 years.

btw here’s a link to info on the shoes …

Vibram

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.

Free your soles!

Free your soles! Go barefoot. Have you ever noticed how evangelistic and intolerant people are towards barefooting and the barefoot lifestyle? I was reading a Globe and Mail article just recently, one of the interviewees in the article (an acquaintance from a newgroup I belong to) was quoted as saying …

“One thing I can tell you is I’m gay and it’s much easier to come out to people as gay than coming out to people as a barefooter,”

Have you ever heard such a sad statement? It is absolutely amazing, the intolerance, scorn and insidious whispering judgment that you run into going around town as a barefooter. Nay sayers often tout the infamous “there are health and safety regulations” or “It’s against the law to be in here without shoes”, yet no internet search engine ever returned a web page that pointed to a law, regulation, bylaw or other statute in that regard. The NSNSNS idiom is a dress code put up by proprietors and store managers who are predisposed to believing that everyone barefoot is somehow unclean or derelict or a rebel out to wind up society by being a rebel.

Here’s a question for nay sayers, shopping in a supermarket (full of good shoe wearing shopers) you notice that a plum (or perhaps an apple or an asparagus bunch) drops to the floor, rolls around for a bit only to be picked up and placed back on the stand by one of the shoppers. Would you knowingly but that piece of fruit (or veggie)? How does being barefoot change this scenario in any way? The answer of course is no you wouldn’t knowingly buy it and no being barefoot doesn’t change it in any way.

Here’s another thought, cost. What does an eight inch long, four inch wide, one-half inch thick bit of cork cost? Is there anything in a $250 pair of Nike runners or a $1000 pair of Laboutin pumps that could possibly justify the price? Unless you are a slave to fashion and so horribly concerned about having the latest greatest fashion styles to brag about, I would say no there is not. Consumer footwear is one of the more ridiculously priced fashion items. Kids are bullied at school because they don’t have the right sneakers, young girls spend many distraught hours worrying whether their high heel pumps are the “in” fashion or simply last years.

We attach all sorts of meaning and status to our footwear in modern society. You can’t look professional and work in the bank wearing your canvas sneakers or your flip flops. You can’t wear last years shoe fashions, that simply won’t do. Yet in some circles we can rebel (ever slightly), such as at University where professors are known to wear sandals, but they must be Birkenstocks (the aforementioned $100+ piece of cork) or similar not cheap flip flops! Barefoot though? That’s banned, you can’t enter University buildings barefoot. Shoes (and footwear in general) serves two purposes really, fashion and protection. We have covered fashion, now consider protection, would you consider wearing oven gloves all day everyday in summer? Would you wear your winter gloves all summer? Again the answer is no. So why would you encase your feet in socks and shoes all year round, indoors and out? If you are a construction worker, mechanic or someone else who works in a profession with obvious dangers to your feet, absolutely put shoes on. You wouldn’t ride a motorcycle without a helmet, you wouldn’t dig a ditch without safety boots. It only makes sense. Walking down a sun warmed sidewalk in summer? Doing banking at the local bank or maybe enjoying a pint with friends at your local? Shed the shoes, go barefoot. Your feet will thank you.

Walking barefoot is natural, healthy, better for you feet, tendons, ankles and your posture. It puts you in touch with your environment in a way that the thinnest of shoes or sandals can not. You can feel the texture of the grass, sand, carpet and (yes) concrete on which you walk. You can feel the warmth and the coolness of the ground. It’s green, cleansing and self-cleaning (a walk in the rain clean all road dust from your soles) and lightens your soul. Tender feet you say? Tender feet come from wearing shoes, not from taking them off. The more you walk barefoot the easier it becomes. Try it for a week, see if you ever put shoes on again. I dare you.

The article in Globe and Mail.

the dust settles …

Hello again, it’s been a while since my last blog entry. At that time Zoom airlines had just gone south and our plans to go to France had all gone bust leaving us in a real fuzzle. We had deposits made we couldn’t recover, sold most of our stuff, an offer on the house, the lot.

Well now it is almost a month later and things have settled somewhat. We lost the money for the airline tickets (or looks good as anyway), lost the deposit money on the rental in France, didn’t sell the house after all and have decided to stay in London … sort of. In the end a bit of R & R (Renovation and Retail Therapy) eased the blow. So we have spruced up the basement to a nicely finished family area, replaced the furniture with some nicer newer bits. In lieu of moving to France we will be taking longer (up to a few months) vacations to choice spots (like warm beaches in the middle of winter!). Looks like it will be a fair trade so far. Everyone is calmer, cooler, my son has returned to University to do more of his courses, our contract work has continued without break (as it would have had we moved) and I am enjoying not working 9 to 5, commuting 100KM to work and explaining to my bosses why I prefer to be barefoot. All in all it looks like things will work out. Everything happens for a reason, I guess France was not the answer we needed at this time, maybe later, maybe somewhere else. I let the universe decide.

House of cards …

Have you ever seen a house of cards collapse? It is coming up to Thursday (tomorrow) and I can tell you this time last week we had it all but this week? Naught. Last Thursday we where set to retire to France on September the 5th (two days from now), we had sold the house, sold most of the furniture, arranged distance courses for Matthew, bought airline tickets, paid a deposit on the property in France and rented transport at that end. It was all arranged, when we arrived in France, we would have enough savings left to carry us should something go horribly wrong. What we didn’t figure on was that the airline might go bust before we left, taking all our careful planning with it. This week we have no airline tickets, a several thousand dollar hole in our savings, a lost deposit on the France rental property and no immediate travel opportunities since airfares seem to have suddenly gone skyways. Acquiring new tickets to France (or any other destination involving airline tickets) would eat up so much of our savings that we could not recover should something go wrong, which it is now evident that it can. So we have naught. The only good news so far was that the France car rental company has returned the $65 deposit on the car rental. The only advice we have received regarding our Zoom Airline tickets is that we probably will never see that money again so don’t bother chasing it. Ditto for the deposit on the rental property. As for the sale of the house, there is no easy way to back out of it (we were not particularly attached to it having decided to give it up for France *but* we do need a place to live) as the sellers have few rights in this case having signed the agreement of sale. So we are scrambling for a place to rent before the closing and trying to pick up the pieces as well as can be. It is amazing however how totally knackered life has become because of the failure of Zoom Airlines, a factor out of our control and so utterly unexpected. A meteor strike in the middle of London would have been less devastating! Watch this space, I’ll let you know what’s happening when the cards cease falling down around us.