Asian stocks up, Europe set for mixed open ahead of US non-farm payrolls
Asian stocks up, Europe set for mixed open ahead of US non-farm payrolls
Full coverage of day five of the South African athlete's trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in Pretoria on Valentine's Day 2013 Thursday's events, as they happened
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It is a point of pride and, to an extent, shame that I introduced the TC audience to minimal running shoes aka crazy monkey shoes. Since first reviewing odd shoes back in 2009 I've tried to keep up with the trends. The latest stop in my exploration? Adidas Springblade.
Why is this on TechCrunch, you ask? Because these are some high-tech shoes, friends, and I suspect some of you out there in the Valley/Alley enjoy a spot of running now and again, in between complaining about things being on TechCrunch and coding.
While the bright, blaze orange upper alone is enough to turn heads, these shoes have plastic springs instead of a sole. These springs add a bit of "lift" each time you step, essentially springing your foot back into the air after each footfall.
I've been a minimalist runner since 2009, first using Vibrams and then trying various models from Brooks, Adidas, and most recently Skora. After a fairly complete and debilitating injury during marathon training, my long-distance running days are pretty much shot, but I still try to get at least 10 miles in a week. It's not much, but hey, I'm not running for Miss Blog USA. I'm also fairly slow.
That said, running with the Springblade has been, if not a revelation, then quite surprising. I'm a bit more tired running in these than in minimalist shoes, which is normal. These are about 12 ounces and those 16 springs on each foot add just a bit of weight. However, I've seen my maximum speed increase from 8 minutes per mile to about 7:50 per mile - a measure taken at my peak speed using a Nike+ GPS watch - an improvement that is fairly important for a slowpoke like me. I also felt less pain in my shins and ankles and a distinct difference in the tiredness I felt after my three-mile runs.
Do I think it's the shoes? Sure. The soles are far springier than I'm used to and I honestly enjoy them over the last pair of full running shoes I bought, the New Balance M1080v2. They also wore me out far faster and I definitely felt a distinct soreness in my calves that I hadn't experienced in a while. In short, at the very least these shoes changed my stride slightly.
Would I recommend them over minimalist shoes? I'm not sure. Vibrams helped me out of a bout of plantar fasciitis, which has not flared up to this day. I have fought shin splints and other knee issues that I believe are weight related and I know I could use a more solid pair of shoes to perhaps take some of the strain off the ankles and joints. These could do the trick.
These shoes expel energy forward and work best while running on concrete and less well on soft surfaces like sand or trails. I was worried they'd get caught up in the buckling Brooklyn sidewalks but I noticed no issues. Apparently these are extensively tested to ensure the springs don't break or buckle and, if anything, they look wild.
The shoes are available for pre-order for $180 - quite pricey for their weight - but they are a fascinating improvement to the standard, mushy thick-soled running shoes that I've eschewed for a number of years.
I've yet to see many experts weigh in on these shoes, and even Runner's World is still mum about their opinion. I'm under no illusion that these shoes are more than an interesting gimmick that may shave off a few seconds at your fastest pace. But as a sheer feat of technical improvement to the tired running shoe, I applaud Adidas for attempting something so bold. I would expect these to rise to the level of the Nike Free over the next few months as people try them out simply for the novelty of the design. While I'm not exactly sure if I'll stick to these over the long run, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
"Power tends to corrupt," said Lord Acton, "and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
The sexism needs updating but the sentiment remains true. That's been all too obvious this week, during which the powers that be did their damnedest to protect their once-secret surveillance programs...while the NSA responded to Freedom Of Information Act requests with the claim "There's no central method to search [internal NSA emails] at this time."
@rezendi In related news, NSA says it's never come across the term "dogfooding" in any of its data trawling, & doesn't know its definition.-
Lun Esex (@LunaticSX) July 24, 2013
The black-comedy message is clear: surveillance is something that the powerful do to the powerless, in their own perfect secrecy. Two-way transparency is but a pipe dream in the minds of civil libertarians. Which puts me in mind of science-fiction guru Charles Stross's recent blog post A Bad Dream:
Is the United Kingdom a one party state? [...] I'm nursing a pet theory. Which is that there are actually four main political parties in Westminster: the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Ruling Party. The Ruling Party is a meta-party...it always wins every election, because whichever party wins is led by members of the Ruling Party, who have more in common with each other than with the back bench dinosaurs who form the rump of their notional party [...] Any attempt at organizing a transfer of power that does not usher in a new group of Ruling Party faces risks being denounced as Terrorism.
Of course in America this is old news. The one thing that the Tea Party and the Occupy movement have in common is their desire to throw the Ruling Party bums out of Washington. It's an accepted axiom in American politics that anyone who has been in Washington too long is suspect and probably corrupt. (More than 75% of Americans think their political parties are corrupt.)
The wave of hope that drove Obama into office was fuelled in part by the belief that he wasn't a member of the Ruling Party. Well, even if he wasn't then, he sure is now. That's what usually happens to successful politicians:
The GOP establishment: Obama is a tyrant, except in the areas where we want to give him sweeping unilateral power to exercise in secret.-
Conor Friedersdorf (@conor64) July 26, 2013
Nancy Pelosi in 2005: Patriot Act "a massive invasion of privacy" 1.usa.gov/1bOHdyZ Today, she voted to let that invasion continue.-
Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) July 24, 2013
Similarly, the recent spate of antigovernment street protests in Turkey, Brazil, etc., are-arguably-protests against the various international incarnations of the Ruling Party. As Slavoj i ek writes in the London Review of Books:
What we first took as a failure fully to apply a noble principle (democratic freedom) is in fact a failure inherent in the principle itself. This realisation - that failure may be inherent in the principle we're fighting for - is a big step in a political education. Representatives of the ruling ideology roll out their entire arsenal to prevent us from reaching this radical conclusion.
i ek's a Marxist, and I'm a staunch capitalist, but even I have to admit that he may be on to something there. it's possible that multiparty democracy suffers from an inherent and fundamental flaw: the eventual installation of an entrenched, parasitical Ruling Party.
So, of course, as a techie who instinctively thinks in terms of hacking and fixing systems, I immediately find myself wondering: is there a technical fix? Can better technology save us from the Ruling Parties, or at least alleviate some of our governments' more glaring flaws? Or will technology further entrench and empower them?
These days it's hard for Silicon Valley to look at Washington with anything other than dismay trending towards horror, along with a powerful sense of "there has to be a better way." I expect that's why people have seriously called for Google to buy Detroit. I suspect that's what Larry Page had in mind, at least in part, when he mused aloud about the desirability of a mad science island untrammeled by antiquated laws and politics, where we could experiment with new and better systems:
We're changing quickly, but some of our institutions, like some laws, aren't changing with that. The laws [about technology] can't be right if it's 50 years old - that's before the Internet. Maybe more of us need to go into other areas to help them improve and understand technology.
Google is, after all, the apotheosis of the Valley; a company that muses about offering eternal youth to its employees somewhere down the road, a company that oozes scientific method. Doesn't that sound a whole lot better than the Ruling Party? Doesn't it seem like the best thing we could do is import the Google Way to Washington, and turn our government into a genuine technocracy?
Sorry. No. Silicon Valley thinks of itself as built on merit, innovation, iteration, and rational thought, and to some extent it is, but its worldview can be even more blinkered and bubble-bound than that of the Ruling Party. Technology does not solve all of the world's problems, and it's dangerous hubris to think that it might. Rational thought is a flawed tool in a world full of irrational people. And most of all, power corrupts; anyone who replaces the Ruling Party will probably eventually become a member.
But on the other hand, avoiding politics and/or pretending that it has nothing to do with us is no longer an option for the tech industry. Edward Snowden has shown us that much. We have become too important and too powerful. As I wrote here almost three years ago:
You probably don't want to read about political idiocy here, and I can't blame you. But it may be time for the tech industry to start paying much more attention to the political world, because as Wikileaks vividly illustrates, these days almost every political issue has tech aspects-and hence, down the road, tech repercussions.
Can't help but think I wasn't wrong. But that doesn't mean the tech industry should be trying to directly shape what happens in Washington and Westminster. We provide tools; we don't dig trenches. That's not what we're good at. (Witness FWD.us.) Instead we should collectively be trying to ensure that tomorrow's technologies, and tomorrow's networks, support individual authority (and privacy), rather than building centralized panopticons which increase and cement the existing hegemonies.
I realize that this all sounds simultaneously paranoid and na ve. But I believe we're nearing a crucial point at which, depending on a myriad of separate decisions ultimately made by individual people, tomorrow's technologies can-and will-either increase or diminish our individual and collective freedoms by a very significant degree. The direction we will take seems finely balanced, and could still go either way. So keep your fingers crossed, and your eyes wide open.
Postscript: I'll be in Las Vegas this week to cover the Black Hat and DefCon security conferences. I'm not entirely sure yet what kind of reportage I'll be filing, but if you're interested in occasional sardonic tweets from Sin City, follow me on Twitter.
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