Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I'm really enjoying my time off from work

I have to say that The Man's chanterelles last night were out of this world. He used goat cheese and Marsala wine and who knows what else. It is nice to have a Man that can cook.

I hope we go out again to get some more mushrooms. It rained today. Maybe we can get some more tomorrow.

Today was a lazy day. I took apart one of my favorite homemade sandals and made a new sandal. I figure rather than keep adding stuff I'll just recycle stuff. It's good to practice non-attachment too. I only made one sandal, though. Maybe I can make the other one this weekend. Then I'll take a picture.

I wore my latest homemade shoes on a hike. My feet were really tired toward the end of the hike. And my new homemade shoes were all muddy. I washed them off and then the next hike I wore regular trail running shoes. My feet didn't hurt as much. I wonder why that is. My homemade shoes don't hurt at all if I just put them on and walk around. But they don't have any cushioning at all and the soles are pretty thick, so perhaps they are too stiff or hard or both.

I drove to the Tandy Leather store in Ventura today. I don't know anything about leather. I looked around. There are big hunks of leather for sale. Like whole animal skins. I didn't know what to do, so I plucked a few scraps from the scrap bin and filed everything else away for the future. I don't feel confident enough in my skills to buy a whole cow.

They had little kits you could buy there to make a cowboy vest or a pair of moccasins. They had one of those butterfly and stick hair things I remember from the 70s. I always wanted one of those. I have all this leather lying around now, I guess I can make hair things.

I went to the bank today to deposit two checks. I have a magic bank account. When I was rich the money grew and grew because there was no way I could spend it all. Oddly, it continues to do that now even though I make much much less. The Man is largely responsible for that, but I like to believe there is magic, too.

If it keeps up like this, I'll be able to blow this joint for a cheap life in the Third World, which means I will be financially secure at some level.

Meanwhile, just being able to identify many sought-after foods in the forest makes me feel like a millionaire.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Big Plate 'O 'Shrooms

We went back for more mushrooms. We gave a few to our chef neighbor. It was worth $29 a pound to see the look on his face!
Big Plate O' 'Shrooms!

Monday, December 27, 2010

I'm alive!

We lived. They were chanterelles. And tasty, too.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


chanterelle_dinner_1.JPGWe found chanterelle mushrooms today on a hike. The Man and I aren't mushroom experts, but I am confident enough to eat them. We found Jack 'O Lantern mushrooms once and these are not like those at all.

If I never write in my blog again, you will know they weren't chanterelles.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Resolutions for the new year

I waste too much of my free time. I have not considered making shoes a complete waste of my time, but it has consumed a lot of it lately. So has watching TV.

I don't particularly want to watch TV, but it feels antisocial to lock myself away in my room doing something else, so I watch TV to be sociable.

I need to spend more time doing the things I want to do with my life. I think this will be my resolution for the new year. Things I would like to do with my time:

- Get more exercise. Walk more. Perhaps run. I have wanted to run a local ultramarathon. It would be nice to be able to do that. I'd be happy for now if I just walked more.
- Be a better musician. I should practice my flute/whistle and fiddle more.

Well, that's all I can think of for now.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My minimalist shoes

beige shoes
Leather closed toe sandal
Pink and black moccasins
Alp Sandals
Black fabric shoes
Open-toe hiking sandals
I have a fleet of somewhat minimalist shoes and sandals now. Pictured are the ones I like. All the other ones I made suck in one way or another. These are the good ones.

Except for the strappy sandals which I did not make, I only resoled, they all use basically the same pattern from Simple Shoemaking - the two-piece casual. I made little changes, such as altering whether they are closed-toe or not, altering the decoration across the vamp and heel area, changing the heel piece to cover more of my foot, and changing the materials used for the uppers and the fasteners.

All these shoes lack arch support and are zero-drop, which means no rise in the heel. The heel is the same height as the ball of the foot (except that after a while of walking, the ball of the foot does lower itself a bit.) Some have almost no cushioning and others have thicker soles which provides a little more cushioning. None of them are squishy soft, though. They all have ample toe-box width.

I wear them to work and class, to parties and on hikes. It is a wonderful feeling to wear shoes that don't do things for my feet. I have to walk a little differently and I'm getting used to not having a raised heel. It's strange to see how much that feature has altered the natural functioning of my body over time. It's like learning to walk again in some ways.

It's a wonderful feeling of freedom to have made all these shoes myself. I hope that they serve me well. You see, after my 2008 PCT hike, I left the trail with horrible stress fractures caused by motion control running shoes (specifically Montrail Hardrocks, the good ones before they changed them and everybody decided they sucked.) Those shoes forced my feet into an unnatural position with my toes pointed up to the sky. I hurt the bones at the balls of my feet as they were forced to hit the ground unnaturally with every step. Eventually I had metatarsal stress fractures and was in so much pain and agony I had to leave the trail.

At home I researched online and found these articles about the physical problems shoes can cause. So much of my pain was explained. I walked around barefoot in my neighborhood, bought some huge Keen sandals for work, and tried to heal my feet. It took a long time.

Before my second hike, I made sure to purchase shoes that were flexible rather than stiff and "corrective." This helped a lot, but they were not quite wide enough in the right places so eventually I got other injuries. I found the squishiness of the EVA foam soles to feel okay after miles of pounding on the trail, but in actuality, when I got home and did some test walks in different shoes, I found the squishy foam caused me to feel like I was working a lot harder to cover the same ground. Firmer shoes felt like the energy transfer went directly into forward motion. I think now that softness should be an add-on, something you can stick inside the shoe when needed and removed when not needed.

Long ago I read Ray Jardine and he suggested low-top hiking shoes rather than high-top boots for backpacking. I made that switch and it was like night and day. I was able to use the full range of motion of my legs to power up hills. I never went back. My ankles are strong as tree trunks. I've never hurt them. I think perhaps it is the same for arch support. If I can build strong ankles why not strong arches and strong feet? To do that means eliminating shoe features that try to "help" me. It means minimalist shoes.

No companies make the kind of minimalist shoes I was looking for (I guess they are starting to do that now), so I made my own. I really didn't want gorilla feet Vibram Five Fingers. I had some long ago and I did not like them. Instead I made relatively normal-looking shoes. It's wonderful to have a fleet of them. I like the feeling when I wear them and the feeling of independence having made them. I look forward to seeing what, if any, changes they make to my foot health.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Silver and rainbows

Two beautiful things were seen today.

First I drove over the hill from downtown to the Mesa and saw the ocean. It looked so pretty and silver in the bright light of the rain clouds.

Next I was shopping at a drug store with big windows facing the mountains. The brightest rainbow I've ever seen was right outside the window. The purple row was brighter and wider than I've ever seen. It was so beautiful it didn't look real.

I need a camper shell so I can live in my truck and spend my days looking at beautiful things like this. Nature is authentic. Computer screens are artificial.

Monday, December 20, 2010

It's not me. I'm not the crazy one.

I went to the company holiday party for one of the companies that I work for last night. I have told The Man about the stressful working conditions there with some sense that maybe he thinks I am exaggerating.

I have had a long streak of bad luck when it comes to jobs. I'm sure that The Man has started to believe that I am the problem since almost everywhere I go there's someone that makes me miserable. I have wondered the same, too, at times. But I know that my current situation is not normal.

I sat at the long dinner table with the people who sit near me at the company. The first thing one of them said was, "I'm here so that I won't be a target Monday morning. I don't want to get yelled at." The guy sitting next to him said, "Yeah, me too." I couldn't believe they not only felt the same as me but they said so out loud without prompting from me. I poked The Man and said, "See, it's not me. Everyone feels this way."

Everyone does. The boss is a tyrant. It's very stressful. We cannot talk to each other even if we are ordered to do projects for one another. Any time any of us tries to talk to each other, the boss walks over, butts in to the conversation and changes the subject. I learned at the dinner that everyone there has a chat account somewhere and they IM each other in order to talk. I don't know why they never told me, but in as dire a situation as ours, it doesn't help to get paranoid.

Whenever the boss leaves the office to go to the post office, the office bursts into conversation. Not idle chit-chat, we actually have a chance to talk to each other and coordinate our efforts. When the boss takes a vacation the office becomes a happy place. People smile and enjoy themselves. I can't help but wonder what people don't do because of the boss' behavior. I know that I have to resist the urge to not try my best. It's tempting to do poor work, but that wouldn't benefit me in the long run.

This morning I walked in and felt tension in the air immediately. Instead of saying hello, the others already there whispered or mimed hello. Seemed that anyone who hadn't gone to the party last night was now a target. There was much yelling, but none directed to those of use who went to the party. I think I earned bonus points for drinking the groppo.

It's a horrible way to work. I am so sick of bad jobs I have very little desire to look for yet another one. The devil you know, thing. Or maybe it's Stockholm Syndrome. The good thing is I get to do interesting work in between being yelled at. It's the only thing keeping me coming back. But I really do need to leave for my sanity. It is bringing me down. I feel worse and worse every day. Nobody should have to live under such stress.

Should we build the ark out of bamboo?

It's raining so much I think we'll need to build an ark soon. The Man joked, Oh no! We'll have to put 2 cockatoos on the ark! I said no way, one is enough.

I ride a Vespa normally. It is very difficult to ride a Vespa in this kind of rain. Many streets are flooded and I sometimes have to drive very circuitous routes to find streets I can cross. I'm wondering if I will even be able to get to work, both to my job downtown because downtown floods a lot and to my job out in Goleta which often floods even worse near the airport (which was built on a swamp.) My job in Goleta is by the airport.

This should be an interesting day.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Great weaher this time of year

Beautiful weather this weekend. Just like summer. It is this time of year when I am glad to be in Santa Barbara. We have terrible summers. 6 months of the year are socked in with fog. But around this time of year, between crisp cold spells and storms that bring interesting sunrises and sunsets, there are theses gorgeous summer-like periods.

I think it was in the 80s today. Actually a little too hot. Last night the company holiday party was held outside and I didn't need a jacket. That's more than I can say for the average day inside any office.

The air is pretty clean, too, so there are crisp views. The fall colors are out so the wilderness is full of color. Recent rains have sprouted the green grass. I even saw my first spring wildflower in bloom—a Shooting star.

Too bad the weekend's nearly over. It was too short.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Latest or possibly last homemade shoes

leather_closed_toe3.JPG I made another pair of shoes, this time from leather. I think I finally achieved a decent pair of shoes. They feel so comfortable. They fit like a glove. The sole feels wonderful. There is no slipping off the back or any issues with fit at all.

I am going to wear them to a party tonight even though they are totally unprofessional and informal. I don't care. Nobody will see them under my outfit anyway.

I don't think I will make any more shoes for a while. I really like the Vibram Newflex soling material I made these out of. I don't want to ruin it with any more shoe projects that don't work. If I use the Vibram for anything else, it will be to resole some of my existing shoes.

If I do make another pair it will be another one just like these. I have some black leather to make them. It's my last project I had planned. But I don't feel like making anymore shoes. I need to dispose of most of the other shoes I made. None are as good as these. All were part of the learning process, though, so it's not a total waste.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I am tired of living this life

I am so tired of my life. It feels hectic and stressful. People at work communicate so poorly. Emails are literally a game of "can you spot the differences?" That's how hard it is to find the part of the message to respond to. Some emails are literally mind reading exercises. Can you tell what this blank email was supposed to say? Verbal communication is frequently even less clear. I get yelled at for not knowing something nobody ever said anything to me about. Sometimes I feel like crying or throwing up because of the stress. Nobody at home cares. It's like living with my dad. "That's why they call it Work."

Coming home should be a place of peace and relaxation but it is not. I only get a few minutes a day to myself. Most of the time spent at home is spent having to pay attention to the TV so that I understand what the heck The Man is joking about or arguing with. I don't want to watch the TV. I want to read my email. But I can't. I rarely can read through an entire sentence without 20 interruptions.

And then there are the birds. Even if I get some time to myself I can't do anything with my hands or a telephone unless I hide in the bathroom or in a back room with the door securely shut. Even with the door shut, birds will follow me and sit outside the door trying to get in. I can rarely type or play musical instruments because birds have to sit on my hands all the time. It's frustrating. I can't read anything because they start to poop on me so I have to run over to the newspaper, or they sit on my reading material like a cat would so I can't see it.

I can see no end to this. In the US you have to work until you die. The age of pensions is long over. 401K savings are a joke. All your savings could be wiped out in one bad day on the stock market. I read somewhere that you can retire in Nepal with $50,000. You'd be living extremely frugally, but they say with $100K you can live comfortably. All I need is something between the two and I could escape this unending life of constant frustration. I could work a little here and there to supplement. It would be so much better than doing the same thing, enduring the same frustrations, day after day after day with no end in sight. I'd never get to hike the PCT ever again, which would be sad, but they have good hiking in Nepal.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Big birds are bad

Picture from M.C Bird and Exotic Rescue/Adoption Services, yeah a bird rescue because that's where they all end up eventually
We have an umbrella cockatoo. It seems that recently she may have finally gotten her full allotment of cockatoo hormones. She has suddenly become impossible for me to live with.

She chases me around the house trying to bite my shoes. I know it is because she watched me make them and she's now completely obsessed with my shoes. She also cannot stand it if I wear a hat and I wear a hat every day. She cannot stand my glasses. First she didn't like the leopard print glasses but now she doesn't like any glasses. Her whole life is organized around how she can get to me and bite my shoes, bite my hat, rip off my glasses and bite them. Sometimes she bites me instead, and her bite is very injurious.

I don't know what to do anymore. I hide in the bathroom each evening as it's the only place I can be safe.

Birds are bad news. Never get a big bird. If you must have a bird, get a little bird. My littler birds have all been very good. They don't pick their feathers, they don't run around biting me, they don't plan and scheme. Cockatoos are big birds and they should never be kept as pets.