Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Berghaus Vapor Claw GTX Sneakers Review

Berghaus Vapor Claw GTX Sneakers (Yellow)
$199 (Retail)
- A Review

I have recently bought myself a new pair of Sneakers from a local store called Mountain Designs. A quick run down of the Specifications are as follows, from this website:

Designed for single track trail grip and security underfoot in a light, breathable package ideal for fast challenging multi-sport activities. Part of our Vapour Light range, this shoe has been tested for the harsh and demanding environments of the Dragon's Back race.

Weight (approx.): 612g
Best Buy - Outdoor Enthusiast, March 2013
9/10 - Best in Test -Tradition incorporates technology to great effect Trail running Magazine, October 2013
Gold - Men's Running Shoes - Trail Category - Men's Running 2013 Product Awards.

Before launching into a product review I should mention a few things. I don't normally review shoes, for the simple reason that my website is largely for books and creative pursuits; that being said, I am also a very comfort and quality conscious person. I am conscious of brand, not because of some need to be fashionable, but because comfort and quality are sometimes synonymous with good brands. In addition to this, I have had 34 years of experience at wearing shoes. 

I'm damned good at wearing shoes.

The shoes I used to wear, from Columbia (the brand, not the country), are no longer available for purchase. They are similar to the Grants Pass Shoes as shown below, Shoes that I was so impressed with because they were stylish, very comfortable, with great value for money and they lasted well over 3 years with frequent use. With such high expectations I decided to review the Berghaus Vapor Claws.
So sad to say goodbye :(
From the outset I should mention that although these are promoted on the website as running shoes, I don't run. There are a few circumstances where I might run as follows:

1. I am being chased by someone with a dangerous weapon
2. The shop, which holds my only hope of a chocolate bar is about to close

So its fair to say  these running shoes have not seen any running action yet! They have however, been on rough terrain and mild elevations at our local walking track, and their small shard-shaped grips have made walking in these conditions comfortable and enjoyable. Indeed, one of the functions of the shoe is the limpet- fit system which is designed to enclose over the feet, allowing for maximum comfort by the wearer, in addition to having a goretex upper, which makes the shoe breathable and lightweight. The goretex upper is also designed for protection from light rain and the elements.

Of particular note is how masculine the shoe is. Referencing the above it has been tested by people who run up mountains for a living- because nothing says MAN like "I CAN RUN UP A MOUNTAIN, WHAT CAN YOU DO...PUSSY?!" This testosterone charged shoe also boasts the name Vapor Claw- Say that with the right effect and it sounds like an ultra-manly Supervillain:


Walking in them with and also sometimes without socks- and keeping them on all day, I can say because of their light weight, the "burden" felt by taking them off was much less than other cushioned shoes; In this way, the Berghaus shoe was even more comfortable than my good old Columbias and the design of having laces, secured in place by webbing is a small but incredibly helpful piece of design, combating the often annoying "re-lacing" that goes on as the shoe is used more and more. The price of the shoe itself is moderately expensive ($199 for full retail, $99 for me because of a sale), but it is well worth it for the features and if it holds up to prolonged use.

As a final note- being a natural extrovert, nothing screams confidence and enthusiam like shoes with yellow trimmings, enabling you to feel that special joy when your friends inevitably say how much they like them, you can casually say "Yeah mate...They're for going up mountains".

Its obvious that this review is premature, as I have not yet tested them adequately in wet terrain or running, but I will eventually do a sprinting test on it one day at around about 4:55. (five minutes before the shops close...)

Ben Mathewson.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Picture Them Naked!

Picture Them Naked: 
Everything you wanted to know about public speaking but were afraid to ask.
Jennifer Burrows.

Today I have chosen to review Jennifer Burrows Book 'Picture Them Naked' by Jennifer Burrows, published by Macquarrie House 2014- a book of 248 pages, for a retail price of $39, available in physical soft cover book from this website: 

Electronic copies of this book are available  for $10.63 on at the following website:

The author, as stated previously, is Jennifer Burrows- A professional public speaker on the business and motivational circuit. Jennifer is also an executive coach / mentor for Value for Life-  She has co-authored the book You Can Live the Life of Your Dreams and has also authored the book Present This! She describes the following about herself in the Value for Life website:

"Jen’s genuine interest in the development of human potential through coaching and mentoring coupled with her professional experience means she has an intimate understanding of both the interpersonal demands placed on today’s senior leaders and the know-how to cultivate an individual’s promise in presentation and communication skills."

Value for Life can be found here:

Before launching into a review, perhaps I should qualify that I am a public speaker myself. By no means am I a professional public speaker, but someone who has some experience before medium to large audiences. I have had the opportunity to speak or perform at school assemblies, public gatherings, small groups, extended family groups and small auditoriums, so my interest in this book comes from someone who has already done some wading into the deep ocean of public speaking.

Picture them Naked interviews 17 (18 including Jennifer herself) professional public speakers who come from a wide range of backgrounds- from professional volunteering and animal conservation to the fields of information technology and fitness. In these interviews, Jennifer asks these professionals similar questions with an intent to giving them capacity to express their areas of expertise, but also to ask great, practical questions like the following: 

* Do you suffer from nerves and if so, how do you manage them?
* What / who was your first inspiration?
* What do you believe are the top 5 attributes of a successful speaker?
* What are the best methods or strategies for keeping motivated and focused?
* Did you ever feel like giving up?

The format Jennifer chooses by interviewing these professionals gives the reader a comprehensive fabric through which to see the art of public speaking. Including the nuances of interviewees of varied fields and speakers of both sexes also adds to this fascinating fabric. Simply put, regardless of your ability and experience in public speaking, there are nuggets of valuable, well tested information in this book for everyone. Each of the speakers represent a 'chapter' in the book and under the profile picture of each of the public speakers is a phrase which represents the central theme of their message in the interview, such as my personal favourites, Pat Rae's Take massive action now and Kate Burr's Humour is great for business. I found these chapter-themes to be helpful memory cues, especially given that some speakers messages will resonate with the reader more than others.  

I found Jennifer's writing style to be honest, and her choice of interviewees very good, with most speakers having a good balance between personal anecdotes, professional tips and guides to a great presentation. As an observation rather than a critique, I would have personally enjoyed more stories of overcoming failures to round out what is largely a fairly comprehensive guidebook to success as a public speaker. Some truths which occur more frequently than others, which alert the readers to what is really important, are as follows:

* Practice Practice Practice.
* Know your Audience.
* Know your information back to front.
* Be prepared for any eventuality.
* Make a start! Get involved in the world of public speaking.

Splashes of humour, philosophy and personal interaction transforms what could potentially be a boring how-to book into an intriguing, practical handbook with great ideas throughout. 

The last section of the book contains many resources which can also be of practical use, with themes like creating a short pitch, phobia cures, and preparing a speakers kit. The last section also includes references to get in contact with the speakers; but undoubtably the most potentially helpful part of the book is the free gift section, in which many of Jennifer's colleagues offer a free gift, many of them more than the value of the book itself! Whilst the book itself is an excellent, valuable reference, the gifts may be a clincher for those who are penny-conscious but want to learn more.

I find it difficult to fault this book, and it has inspired me to consider wandering deeper into the ocean of public speaking. Come on in! The water's fine... 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Universal Conflict: The Struggle

Book Review

Universal Conflict: The Struggle.
David Claridge.

Perhaps because I am a little 'left of centre', I picked up a book I hadn't heard of, from an author unknown to me. The Author's name was David Claridge, and the book is called "Universal Conflict: The Struggle", a Science Fiction novel set is deep space. As an aside, I would highly recommend this way of reviewing something, since reviewing higher profile authors can create an expectation in the reviewer, and actively choosing something you think you will will enjoy also can influence your review. All of that being said up front, I think I am qualified as being open-minded enough and impartial enough to provide a good review.

The story revolves around the protagonist, Kimberly Saunders- a battle hardened veteran in the Memay Special Forces, and her role in the Universal Conflict. The beginning of the book reveals the Moggotrons: a Pig-like alien race with a history of warfare with humans. A routine Memay intelligence gathering reveals a new planned Moggotron-lead alliance with the Frizens- A demon-like alien race more vicious and cunning than anything the Memay special forces have encountered before This mission is one which indirectly leads to the assassination of earthling world leaders and the eventual invasion of the Memay planet.

In Universal conflict, the panorama of many conflicts lies out before you- from the daring, small team skirmishes, hell-bent on creating strategic craters in the enemy defense, to the scenes of grand invasion which threaten to destroy the whole species. You will read also of the beginning of great alliances, the cleverness of enemy subterfuge, and the tragedy of seasoned combat colleagues as they are crushed in the brutality of war. Science Fiction is not a preferred genre for me, but I would highly recommend this book as a good option to start reading in this genre.

After reading this book, I can honestly assert that I am a fan of Mr Claridge's work. Although difficult at first to get into, and perhaps occasionally awkward editing and turns of phrase, His sweeping, imaginative scope makes it easy to become immersed in the characters, and drawn into the deadly conflicts in this book. Largely action driven, but with reasonable character development, this book reads more like a Sci-Fi Tarantino film, with enough blood and action to satisfy action fans, yet also enough intrigue in the storyline to satisfy more cerebral readers. The dialogue and the characters in this book also add to the general gritty, bloody and matter-of-fact nature of the ongoing Universal Conflict.  Universal Conflict: The struggle is the first in a planned set of 9 Universal Conflict Books, published by Raider Publishing and is 364 pages long.

more information on Universal Conflict Here:            ...and its sequel Universal Conflict 2 Here: 

Friday, 6 February 2015

In Praise of Grandparents

The last couple of days it has been on my mind to go visit my grandparents, who are, in their own way, an inspiration to me, so I have decided to share with you a piece with my thoughts on them. I hope you enjoy. 

In Praise of Grandparents

Perhaps you have noticed it, perhaps its impossible not to. Libraries full of books about love stories- Protagonists saving damsels; winning battles and reveling in their strength and shrewdness; or the nubile, impossibly beautiful women that have fallen in love with heroic men- the women with lustrous hair and wide, amazing eyes. Innumerable stories on every bookcase of men of valor, and women of quiet strength- Yet so few books write about the 'happily ever after' part. In our determination to hear tales of these young women and men, we have overlooked the stories of the love of old men and women, and why so few songs are sung of the stalwart determination of the aged, the commitment and trials it takes to build a happily ever after. The vicissitude​s of life- bills, hard work, family dramas and the ever watchful tax man all erode the magic of young love, yet unexpected heroes are forged by the constant adversarial nature of life, so that a real, true love can emerge. My Nan and Pop shared this love together and they gave me many memories of my childhood. No, not many stories are told about the love of grandparents, so here is mine to paint for you:

A light zephyr breeze touched our faces as we sat underneath the shadecloth, on the grass outside my grandmothers house. Surrounded by the familiar fuchsia bushes, magnolia and feijoa trees which bordered the cement slab where so many christmases of late where we had set up the tables and chairs.

Much of Nan's garden formed a patchwork of memories during my childhood. The vegetable garden, at the east side of her house, not always flourishing, but always providing a pea, or some berries or something interesting for little hands to grab, the ramshackle old cottage at the back of Nan's property where the gate ends, which became a source of imagination for me; with it's broken floorboards and secret corners containing various treasures made of wood and rusty steel- a place which now my own children enjoy; and the walk down the hill to see the unusual farm machinery we used to imagine the uses of, perhaps in retrospect because the reality was not near as interesting as what we could make up in our heads.

Past the gates enclosing the cows stands a shed, which now contains wood, but once kept the billy cart we used with our cousins. . The memories of racing down the steep hill outside, kicking up the dust and pebbles were all part of this rich tapestry. I also remember the satisfying 'pop' of the fuchsias when we would grab at them, and looking at the velvety purple interior- It was a place where little fingers and imaginations were free to explore and imagine, and best of all, a place where our little mouths were fed.

My grandmother used to make amazing milkshakes from a retro looking shiny milkshake maker. I remember the taste of chocolate and raspberry, or getting into nan's cupboards surreptitiously and eating the saccharine she kept in the plastic orange containers- or making a beeline to the little ornamental container sitting on the mantlepiece- a small shiny jar in the shape of an apple which opened to reveal any number of different lollies.
A few adult steps from the brown 70's carpet onto the Lino of the kitchen, we would sit at the table, which we always have- a table just like the owners - stalwart, reliable and predictable. The small kitchen too, contained the big cottage style combustion oven that formed the heart of the house growing up, and which now as an adult, I envy. Many meat-and three-vegetables dishes were served up on that table growing up, served with raw milk in sparkly cone shaped tumblers. It was a place where cousins, aunties and uncles would gather and even if they were too busy, there was always Christmas Day or Boxing Day.

Nan was a diminutive, wiry lady who was always polite, and always knew more than she let on. Grace was said before every meal and she was one of the leaders of the temperance union. She was gentle with family and between her and Pop, seemed to know everyone in the small farming town she was part of. She never pushed the Bible on anyone, but remained faithful. It is hard to say how much she knew God, but regardless, she had a silent strength that seemed to come from beyond herself. She served, too. Not like a kept woman, or an obligated slave, but as a woman who served as a choice, and out of love. Afternoon tea was always served at three, or thereabouts, when "the menfolk" as she would call them- my cousin and Pop; had come back from working in the fields around their house. She knew what biscuits and slices Pop loved, and us as grandchildren eagerly devoured them, only learning the politeness of hesitation as we became older and wiser. She also loved Pop, and Pop loved her- knowing and appreciating her humility and little quirks more as they got older together.

Pop was hardworking and always wore the same blue business shirts around the farm. So much of my childhood was spent hearing of in-jokes between my dad and his brother, and Pop. Sometimes they were hilarious, but usually they were lame puns and dad jokes, which I have only come to truly appreciate the magic of, having my own children to annoy with them. Pop was sun bronzed and  strong, and knew about everything practical- Diesel engines, the life cycle of cows, pump filtration rates, nature itself and how it all worked. He talked slowly, and kindly, and laughed at the same jokes. He called the radio "The wireless", he hardly watched TV and played Scrabble with Nan often.

Un-bigoted. Uncomplicated. Some might say quaint, yet strong and seemingly ageless. Perhaps Nan and Pop don't look like the fairytale couple anymore, and perhaps they never did, but they are heroes in their own right, and stand as statues of virtue in a world that desperately wants happily ever after, but it is dressed in overalls and looks like damn hard work.