Counterfeit FiveFingers and Business Practices

I think it is interesting that people often get angry with counterfeiters. The only reason to counterfeit anything is if there’s profit to be gained from doing it. In the case of FiveFingers, I think Vibram is really ‘shooting itself in the foot,’ pun INTENDED. Vibram’s are so expensive. So they’re worth counterfeiting. And people who can’t afford to buy the ‘real deal’ are the ones who are more than willing to buy knock offs, based on the idea, that ‘maybe they’re kinda the same?’

I myself am at a crossroads. I want Vibrams, I really do, BUT I can’t afford to drop 85 bucks for a pair o shoes, especially when they’re supposed to ‘mimic’ being barefoot. (why not just be barefoot?) I walk barefoot all the time, and I’ve read the literature on how unnatural shoes are and how they cause most of our ankle, knee, and spinal pains and issues. The only issue that I have is that in our insane culture we have to obey certain social conventions and wearing shoes is irritatingly one of these rules.

I can’t go to that consult barefoot. Resturaunts will not seat me without the proper attire, I.E. shoes. So my main concern in buuying a pair of Vibrams would really be more for cosmetic reasons than anything else. And this is what brings me to my dilemma. Why should I spend 85-150 bucks on a pair of shoes that claims to be ‘minimalist?’ Theres nothing minimalist about those prices. These ‘counterfeiters,’ these ‘bastards’ that make ‘fake’ Vibrams seem to be providing me with a public service.

What they do is only illegal according to the very confusing rules of our paticular social games. The fact is ‘these assholes’ are bringing fire to the people. They’re making these great products affordable for the common man. I can get knock off FiveFingers for about 20-30 bucks. That’s a 75% discount. That brings glove like, heelless foot wear into my financial realm of possibility, complete with all the podiatric health boons that come with it.

Now, why should I be against this? If I drop 30 bucks for a pair of knock offs and they’re half as good as the ‘real thing’ (as though these weren’t essentially the same damn thing) and they last me 6 months, I might spend $60 a year in FiverFinger(ish) footwear. If I compare that to the $100 pair of ‘authentic’ Vibrams that might last a year or even a year and a half at most, then it is far better for my wallet to buy the knock offs.

And as for the business practices of these ‘evil counterfeiters,’ it looks to me like they’ve just found another way to win the game. It is a very thin and very blurry line between ‘skill’ and ‘cheating,’ and the inferior intelligence will always accuse the superior intelligence of cheating the moment they use their brains. Vibram’s assault on these counterfeiters is essentially a philosophical pissing and whining. Vibram is saying, “We were having a business contest to see who could build the best shoe (and make the most money from it) and then you made shoes that are alot like ‘mine’ and sold them for less money (attracting more customers), and you’re not playing fair!”

Playing fair? What did you think Vibram? That you were the only one that could possibly concieve of a glove-like shoe for the feet? Did you really expect to have a monopoly on the intelligence and the tools that make ‘toe shoes’ possible? Of course you did. You did think you would have a monopoly, thats why you patented them; so that you could have that monopoly.

Using one of the very absurd (and progressively obstructive) maneuvers possible (patenting) in our complicated social game (litigation) you basically announced to the world that you have this great idea that could help everbody. You told us you had an amazing product that was going to be more natural, strengthen the human body, put us back in touch with the Earth and make use of the 200,000 nerve endings in the soles of our feet; a product that would ease and prevent joint pain and make us healthier and happier.

You told us all this and then what did you do? What did you do Vibram? Rather than share the idea that it may be collaboratively improved upon and bring about good health and a podiatric revolution, you instead decided to exclude the idea itelf from the common good and sell the product for an exorbitant price; forbidding and condemning anybody from attempting to make their own glove-like footwear and vilifying anyone who dares to sell a cheaper version of your product.

You have cheated the people.

Instead of bringing happiness to all (or even most) people, you like all the other greedy businesses of your ilk, have created a financial barrier to something good. You have engineered a social situation in which the only people who can have the kind of health benefits your footwear might bring are the kind of people who have enough money (or who want the product so bad that they manage to gather enough money) to drop 150 bucks on footwear.

So I say, good on the counterfeiters. Hooray, cheating counterfeiters, making a product that is very close to the original for a mere fraction of the price, thus begining to destroy the financial barrier to this type of product.

Vibram, the only way to stop the counterfeiters is to make your products affordable so that most people won’t have to seek out your competiton. Be content with lower profit margins, change your prices to match this acceptance of lower profit per unit, and watch your competition be snuffed out over night. As a consequence you’ll make more money than ever before as new customers flock to your doors choosing to buy ‘the real thing’ because it won’t break their wallet in half.

Your competition won’t be able to hold out, because at your new lower prices ‘the best deal they can offer’ will be about 10-20 bucks lower than your price, and people WILL pay slightly more money for the original, authentic design. But what they will most definitely NOT pay, is a price that is 60%, 70%, 80% higher than what they can get somewhere else, even if they’re not, ‘the real deal.’

So, you think about this Vibram and any company that operates under a similar methodology. Your greed is going to choke out your own business. Yes, you may be successful for a time, but it will not last, especially if this global economy continues to take a nose dive. People are going to start saving their pennies.

…It suddenly occurs to me that the failure of the business may actually be taken into account already. Perhaps thats the point, to start a business, sell a product with the intention to profiteer at the expense of the customer and even at the expen and eventual demise of the business itself (including all the employees counting on the business to stay open). Maybe the goal is to push product based on greed and when the profit dries up and the business’s failure is inevitable, the owners simply let the business die, take their money and move on; setting up a different business, selling a different product, but using the same formula.

And yet I wonder… Reader, your thoughts?

Categories: Blogging, Business, Character Development, Economics, Fitness, Government, Health, Leadership, Medicine, philosophy, Politics, Self-improvement, Society | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1/25/12 Lift Heavy Things 3: LEVEL UP!

This is actually my third session of Lift Heavy Things (LHT). The first was my self assessment, the second happening about 3 days from then, and now we have this one. Here’s how it went:

Max Effort

Knee Push Ups- Goal 50- 1st Set 50- 2nd Set: 50

Full Squat- Goal 50- 1st Set 50- 2nd Set 50 LV UP

Jack Knife Press- Goal 20- 1st Set 20- 2nd Set 21

Forearm/Knee Plank- Goal 90 sec- 1st Set 90 sec- 2nd Set 90 sec LV UP

1 Leg Assisted Pull Ups- Goal 15- 1st Set 15- 2nd Set 15

Notes: I’m ready to step it up on my squats and my Planks, I think I’m accomplishing them too easy and in good form. So I’m Leveling Up. Yes, thats right. As though this were an Final Fantasy game, I’m Leveling Up.

I do have some thoughts about my results though… I’m noticing that my lower body is vastly stronger than my upper body. My squats are going to LV 5!!! and my Planks are moving up to LV 3 after only 10 days. Even when I look in a mirror I notice that my thighs are huge in comparison to the rest of me. And its not fat. My extremities don’t seem to have that much fat; its all pretty much centered around my ass, my abdomen, and my upper torso.

My upper body results leave something to be desired. I made the goals set, but Knee Push Ups are seriously kicking my ass (though not as much so it IS an improvement.) And I get the feeling that I am using too much ‘leg’ with my chair assisted pull ups.

I do love how the workout is truly a TOTAL body workout. One exercise I used to do for my lower back was hyperextension with a kettle bell. I think the planks pretty much take care of that now, in addition to all my other core muscles: abs, obliques, hip flexors. I even notice that proping myself up on my forearm works my upper back.

Full squats REALLY get the heart rate going. I remember back when I was going to the gym and eating a shit ton of carbs before my 20 minute morning cardio and then I would hit the free weights; and NEVER out of all those gym workouts with weights have I had my HR increase so fast and so powerfully than with these prisoner squats.

I love the Jack Knife Press. Its difficult, but I just like the movement; the muscles it works. I’m doing pretty good on them, I reached the goal today without too much of a ‘stop’ between reps, but I think I should continue until I can blast the full 20.

Categories: Character Development, Fitness, Health, Leadership, Medicine, Nutrition, Paleo, philosophy, Primal, Society | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prelude to my Primal Experiment. I was so strong before, what happened?

Ladies and Germs, for those that don’t know back in September of 2011 I went on a really long bike ride. I rode from Yakima WA to San Diego CA. It took about 55 days and I rode over 1700 miles living on $8-$11 a day. During the trip I became fascinated by a diet called the Paleolithic Diet. Far from being a fad diet, Paleo was about a lifestyle and  required many changes to bring ones life more closely aligned with how we’ve evolved over 2 million years. I won’t go into the details of Paleo living, literature abounds on the net. Google it yourself.

However I am here to tell you that for the duration of my trip I adopted the Paleo Diet and doing no ‘exercise,’ that is without setting aside a specific time to ‘train’ or ‘workout’ I lost 40 lbs in about 2 months. Many would say that my biking 30-50 miles a day on average helped. I’m sure it did, I’m sure the moving and the exertion of effort was a great factor into my weight loss and strength gain.

But I don’t believe thats all there was to it. I met many cyclists on the road who were no where near as fit as I had become. They had been cycling for years, they were around my age, and they’d been ‘exerting themselves’ for waaayy longer than I had, yet they had a mere fraction of the strength I’d only recently developed. What was the difference between us?

The one thing I noticed was our diets. Both the items we ate, the nutrient contents, and the money spent. They spent way more money, ate way more food, but stayed about the same. When I told them of the complete transformation that I was undergoing they wondered how it was possible that I would make such progress in such a short amount of time.

Consider these photos:

This is what I looked like before my trip in July of 2011. I didn't actually decide to take the plunge and go on my trip till September of that year.

And this photo:

This is me in a hotel in Garbersville CA, just 26 days into my cycling trip.

No pictures were taken unfortunately, but I looked even better by the time I got to San Diego and I was stronger, so much stronger than when I started.

What did I do? How did this progress happen in such a relatively short period of time? The only thing I’ve come up with is that I adopted a Primal Lifestyle. Part of it was a choice and part of it was just the necessities of cycling across the country with no money. I didn’t eat dairy products. No milk, cheese, yogurt. Where would I have put these things? I wasn’t packing a refridgerator on my bike; they would have spoiled. And they were expensive. Some travellers I saw would buy a half gallon of milk everytime they wanted a bowl of cereal. I don’t have that kind of cash nor a desire to drink that much milk in one sitting.  So travelling and financial necessity demanded that I give them up.

I learned how to listen to my body. Early on in my trip, grains just werent cuttin it for me. I love oatmeal, but it just wasn’t filling. Nor was pasta or rice. After a half hour of biking I would be ravenously hungry. From time to time I carried meat with me. I usually bought it in small quantities and only on rare occasions as it was, comparatively, expensive. I started to notice that on the mornings that I ate beef or chicken, I stayed full till my next planned snack/ lunch in 2.5-3 hours.

Grains stopped working for me, so I gave them up. I decided that meat wouldn’t be that expensive if I stopped buying grains. I knew I couldn’t afford to buy both grains and meat, but I figured that the money I’m not spending on grains I could reinvest into meat.

I of course ate ALOT of fruits and vegetables. Some I ate less frequently because of their cost (blueberries, blackberries, avacadoes) but when I added up what I was saving from not buying grains I found that I had money left over, even after buying meat. So I was able to gradually work these more expensive, but very healthy foods into my diet.

At some point, I realized that the fat in the meat was what kept me full and gave me energy for long bike rides. I worried about my carb intake. I figured that carbs were very important since I was cycling across the country and all. So I researched my foods on the internet to see how many carbs I was eating without bread and rice and oatmeal. I found I was still eating about 150- 170 g of carbs a day. My fruit and vegetables were full of them!!

I began to research low carb diets on the internet to see if eating such a low amount of carbs was healthy for me. This is when I came across the Paleolithic Diet. You can read about the diet on your own time, but during my cycling trip my body had basically been telling me to eat almost exactly the way The Caveman diet described.

Once I include eggs (yes I found a way to carry them on my bike) nuts, and a bottle of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) I was set, my food costs did jump to a outrageous $8 a day on their own, but even if you add the average $5 a night it cost me to camp in the Hiker/ Biker sections of State Parks, I was living an incredibly nutrition, healthy, active, and most importantly FUN lifestyle on $13 bucks a day!!!

This is why I think the ruling powers in our society hate vagabonders and generally disdain adventurous travel. Its so friggen cheap!! And Good for you!! You can’t make money off the vagabonder. He eats low cost nutritious food so theres no money to get out of him for overpriced, unhealthy, processed foods. He’s active all day, so his immune system is powerful and he almost never gets sick and even when he does, water and proper rest usually sees him back on his feet in a day or two, so pending any catastrophic genetic health disorders, theres no money to be made off him in pharmacutical drugs or medical tests or hospital bills.

He’s content to live simply, and doesn’t go to excess, but doesn’t neglect what is fundamentally important to him: his health and quality of life. And he understand that the quality of his health, is the quality of his life. He’s also smart enough to know, that it doesn’t take much to be healthy.

Now, I told you that to tell you this. I am currently in Providence KY. I have been here with my parents for a little over a month. Recently, I’ve been on their diet; I eat what they eat. They eat: Bread, Rice, Fried Meats, Pasta, things that are supposed to be good for you. I also go for runs and jogs. I’m not exactly biking 30-50 miles a day, but I’ve still been kinda of active; I run 3 miles a session for about 2-3 sessions a week; 6-9 miles a week. I’ve also occasionally had a few sessions of push ups and crunches. Not a lot of activity, but not sedentary either. I’ve been eating what they eat for about a month. This is what I look like now:

January 15 what I look like after eating my parents high carb diet for 1 month

So what happened? Heres what has changed: I’m not NEARLY as active as I was during my trip. I’m eating grains again, which I wasn’t doing. Because grains are basically ’empty’ carbs I’m essentially eating sugars (thats what carbs are) that have no nutritional value, or we could say that I am eating carbs that have ‘some’ nutritional value, but no nutrient that I couldn’t get from better fruit and vegetable based sources.

I think that I can reproduce the fast and dramatic results from my cycling trip. The Primal Blueprint sounds about like what I was doing on my trip. Low carb, high fat, moderate protein, lots of low impact exercises, with sessions of short high intensity physical exertion. Yes, cycling across the country, when taken day by day, mile by mile, is a fairly low impact activity. The cycling wasn’t difficult except when I had to grind up the hills and the switchbacks. Other than that, it was fairly low intensity; I just kept plugging along.

The constant activity, combined with with what was essentially a Primal Diet, resulted in pounds melting off me and improved physical strength. The only major difference between what I was doing and a Paleo/ Primal lifestyle was the type of exercise I did. Cycling is defnitely cardio and Primal frowns on Chronic Cardio and instead focuses more on strength training and building lean muscle mass to burn calories.

So I am planning an experiment. I will follow a Primal lifestyle for 1 whole month and see if I notice a significant difference either in my physique or in ‘the way I feel.’ I will post regular updates here and possibly videos on my Youtube account. Details of the experiment to follow in another post.

Have fun watching me ‘Go Primal.’

Categories: Character Development, Fitness, Health, Leadership, Medicine, Nutrition, philosophy, Primal, Society | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why I hate conventional health (Sick) care.

The Price of Health.

I hate conventional health care. I mean I really hate it, which is painful for me to say since I enlisted in the Navy as a Corpsman, volunteered as an EMT and work as a Nurse Aid and was contemplating becoming a Nurse; I once thought of going to Medical School. However comma, my opinion has changed, not in spite of my experience with our health care ‘industry,’ but because of it.

Recently, I made a decision to go to the hospital via ambulance and get checked out by the local hospitals Emergency Room department. I did this because I was having symptoms of dizzyness, nausea, chest pain, along with muscle twitching and numbness in my bottom three fingers in my left hand. It seemed pretty serious to me.

Normally when I feel in ill health, the first thing I’d do is take a look at my diet; what I’m eating and how often, or I’d drink more water, consider how much I’m exercising, and look at recent changes in lifestyle to account for the suddeness of my symptoms.

But nearly becoming unconcious from an acute manifestation of… something, warrented more immediate action in my book, so I made the decision to call the ambulance.

Short version of the story: I spent over 4 hours being ignored by the hospital staff, had to talk to three different Nurses (all Male and all jawjacking at the nurses station) to get my IV taken out, and in the end it was a Medic who actually bothered to take out the line. One of the Nurses eventually got around to seeing me and gave me shit for letting the Medic take out the IV.

The first person that talked to me upon my arrival to the ER was a 19 year old girl in scrubs with a computer, who wouldn’t make eye contact and started by asking for my social security number, my BILLING address, my date of birth, my last name, middle inital, and first name… IN THAT ORDER!!!!

These people wanted to know how they could charge me before they wanted to know why I was there or what potentially life threatening conditions I may or may not have. The Doctor eventually came around after my second hour and asked my symptoms. I told him all the things above, and he told me he didn’t know what was wrong. He had NO CLUE. All those years in medical school; $300K invested into his medical education and he couldn’t even ball park it. He kept saying that there was nothing he could do and he was very sorry, but he could refer me to people.

If I’d had wanted ‘referals’ I’d have opened a phone book!!! My vitals were fine, X-Ray came back clean, and blood work showed that I was the picture of friggen health. My electorlytes were normal, CBCs normal, WBCs normal, Urine showed no signs of drugs or alcohol. As far they could tell I was fine and there was nothing they could do for me.

I was having chest pains IN THE ER!! and the EKG and my cardiac enzymes said I was fine. Three of my fingers were numb and they said they’d refer me to a cardiologist!

They discharged me with a diagnosis of “Dehydration.” I got news for them, I drink water, I exercise fairly often, I eat healthy; disdaining sugar, vegetable oils, fried foods, caffeine, chemical additives and eat a generally low carb diet. I don’t salt my food, but I’m not afraid of salt either. Water and hot Green Tea are about the only things I do drink.

So ‘Dehydration’ is bullshit. I bring them chest pains and numbness in an extremity and they come back with dehydration. I tell them I drink water and relay my diet to them and they maintain their diagnosis while looking like they couldn’t care less about new information.

The fact that I was still experiencing my ‘Dehydration’ symptoms after they pumped 1000 ml of Normal Saline (NS) solution into me, didn’t give them any cause for double checking their statements.

My incident began at about 8pm. When they discharged me it was 1230 am. I only live a short 20 minute car ride away. And I didn’t know anyone in Madisonville that I could call to come get me, my parents being asleep after having a few beers; they couldn’t (shouldn’t) drive even if I woke them up.

So… I hitchhiked home. At 1 oclock in the morning, after receiving such great treatment from our healthcare system.

The cost of this ‘advanced medical care?’

$2,742.73 !!!!!

Does anyone else see a problem with this!? THEY DIDN’T DO ANYTHING!!!!

Here are the line items on my bill:

Billed Balance–                               $1,483.73


Hydration up to 1 hour–               $300.00

Hydration add or SEQ hr–           $132.00


Account Balance–                          $2,742.73

I don’t even know what this means! What am I being charged for? Hydration is a simple process, just add water, maybe some sodium and it looks like it cost $432 to pump a tall glass of salt water into me. They did decide to X-Ray me, and if it cost me 800 bucks to get an X–ray that I didn’t even ask for, I swear these streets will run with blood.

This could bankrupt somebody!! A charge like this (for service like that) could ruin one’s financial life. My only safeguard is that I am currently unemployed. Yes, folks. That’s right. Not working is to my financial benefit. Apparently, our healthcare system has several programs that help the uninsured homeless and the unemployed pay their medical bills. Its sad that if I actually had the good fortune to have any kind of job, but just happened to not buy insurance because I’m generally healthy, the hospital would actually expect me to pay 3K for that horrible service.

Don’t think that this incident didn’t make me think about getting health insurance once I get a job. But, I thought about it. And in our society, thinking is ‘bad’ because if you think about how something works long enough, you’ll eventually figure it out. Must be why our government hates critical thinking among the general populace.

The cost of insurance isn’t worth it, even in the face of such outrageous medical expenses. Consider this. My mother pays about $200 per month for health insurance, which she uses (only because she has it.) That’s $2,400 per year, which is close to my current bill. BUT! Her healthcare is not free, it is only reduced to reasonable prices. Its $30 for an X-Ray and she still pays about $20 everytime she gets a medication and she has a couple of them. It still costs money to go to the doctor’s office or to get bloodwork and other tests done.

These charges are IN ADDITION to the $2,400 she pays over the course of a year. Its an interesting ( and hugely profitable dynamic) because if she doesn’t get sick in a given year, she basically wasted $2,400 that year. If she does get sick it actually costs her more than $2,400.

And either way the health insurance company wins!!

If she pays and doesn’t need their services they’ve made $2,400 that year off one individual for doing nothing. If she does need their services they have to cover apparently only part of the total cost, which means she’s still paying out of pocket, but not as much, which I guess to some people sounds better.

We also have to wonder if the hospitals charge the insurance companies the same thing they charge us? As far as I know the business dealings of my local hospital are not a matter of public record, so I can’t just go in and ask to see their books and research insurance expenses.

It makes me wonder… if I had insurance, would it cost my insurance company 2,800 dollars for my bill? Even if I had to pay half, would the hospital charge the ins. company 1,400 bucks? If I’m paying my half do they pay theirs? Maybe ins. companies only get charged what its actually worth like $300. Which would mean the total bill (in this hypotetical case) would actually cost $1700. This would be extremely profitable for the ins. company. They pay $300 while making $2,400 a year off me. That’s still a profit of $2,100.

And the benefit to the ins. company wouldn’t necessarially lay in their financial profit, since any profit is still profit. The extreme benefit would be in what they made me think that they paid on my behalf.

Consider this: if they’re really charged significantly less than what I would have been charged because they have ‘deals’ with the hospitals, then they pay many times less than I would have even though it appears that they have done me a great favor. I’d be thanking my ins. company for covering such a huge portion of my bill.

But if their protion of my bill was not as large as I am lead to believe, then I would have, in reality, paid them a good deal of money for almost nothing while still paying some out of pocket money, even as they sit back and profit.

And we have not even begun to ask questions about the quality of the service provided for such costs. My friend is sometimes having dizzy spells during the day, so using her insurance she goes to see the Doc, who prescribes her a medication for dizzyness that has a side effect of dizzyness.

Wait… what?

Yes, the medication that is supposed to treat a condition has a side effect that causes the condition it treats. Talk about quality. The Doc also told her that its really the only med she can prescribe for her dizzyness. I just took 30 seconds to Google herbal remedies and found 10, count them 10 herbal remedies to alleviate the symptoms of dizzyness.

Now, I am not as simple as to assume that one herb is going to solve her problems, or that one should be taking herbs (or drugs) based on one symptom. If my casual study of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has taught me anything, its that individual symptoms mean very little and it is best to look at the whole pattern of disharmony before choosing a course of treatment.

But the point is the information she was given. She was told by a highly trained (12 years of school), medical professional (read a science god we’ve put on a pedestal) that there was only ONE DRUG she could give, and that this was it. I defied this Doc’s claim of truth in 30 seconds.

And so I am left to ask a very serious question. Is our health care, advanced though it may be, worth the cost?

Categories: Health, Leadership, Medicine, philosophy, Politics, Society | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Blog at