Newton Gravity V – Initial Impressions

An early Christmas gift from my daughter and one that came pretty timely. My Kismets are getting a bit long in the tooth and while they have more miles left on them, it is time to start getting ready to add in another pair to the rotation. Yep, another pair of older shoes that have been replaced, but still available.

Enter stage right the Newton Gravity V, my second pair of Newton Gravity line of running shoes. I had the originals and ran well in them and because of how well I have been running in the Kismets I decided to get another pair of Gravity’s.

The green colorway is not a favorite, but at least they are bright and annoying, so they are bright enough. In other words they are an obnoxious enough of a color that people will see them. Which is part of why I wear bright and obnoxious colors when I am running – I actually want to be seen on training runs…especially when I am running on the roads and this is where I will be running the majority of my runs in the Gravity’s.

Fit wise they are very close to the Kismet 2’s, although the toe box is slightly longer and the end a bit more pointed. It doesn’t seem to have affected how the fit feels, since the size 8.0 feels similar to the Kismet. In other words they fit quite well!

Which meant they were begging to be run in.

I try to do a Friday 5.0 miler most weeks and figured it would be a good test of how well the Gravity’s would do.

It was!

I went down-back and the road had frozen ruts that were starting to melt as I was going through. Which gave me a good idea of how they would be on uneven surfaces that has some skim frozen on top of frozen mud. Surprisingly they did better than I thought they would, at least I didn’t fall on my butt and still maintained a decent pace in-spite of what I was running on.

When I got back on the tar, I could definitely tell they were POP1 not 2’s. The lugs were much more noticeable and whenever I focused on the shoes, I could feel the difference. However, when I just ran I forgot about the differences and really didn’t notice the, front lugs. Which was a good thing.

I was also worried that I would have to adjust to the POP1 with my calves and Achilles. Guess what — didn’t have any issues. All the time that I have spent in the Kismets made the first run in the Gravity’s a LOT more comfortable than my previous experience running my first pair of Gravity’s.

I was able to pick up the pace when I wanted to and had to throttle back a couple of times on Tiffany. Today is not a fast run, it was a fun run where I got to just run. I didn’t use the metronome, helpful hints, timer or anything else. I just wanted to focus on how the Gravity’s were working.

First runs are usually an adventure and give you feedback on things you need to adjust or what doesn’t feel quite right. In this case about the only adjustment will be not tying the shoes as tightly, otherwise they felt really good during the run. They provided good feedback when I wasn’t running with my feet going forward, actually better than the Kismets do now. Which is another reason why I thought it might be time to start getting a new pair of Newton’s into the rotation sooner rather than later.

After finishing the run, no new aches or pains and that is what I am looking in a pair of new shoes – no new pains.

Just to be consistent I weighed the Gravity’s and they both came in a 9.0 ounces. Light for a daily trainer, but right in the ballpark that I am looking for in y daily trainers and only .2 less than the Kismets.

A very good first run in the Newton Gravity’s, let’s see how they do going forward.

Apple’s iPad Pro 10.5 – A Week Later

All the experts seem to have written “a week later” post on their experiences with Apple’s iPad Pro 10.5 and while I am definitely not an expert by anyone’s stretch of imagination – I think I have a pretty good idea of how to use and what I want from my computers. This is the observations from a new to the iPad universe user, but not new to computers, having used them for way too many years

First of all the my iPad Pro 10.5 is a “real” computer.

It has plenty of onboard memory at 256gb and 4gb RAM, there are lots of software (yes, I know they are now called apps) that can do almost everything that you need to do.

While iPads have a reputation as being primarily a digital consumption device, using my iPad Pro over the past week has wiped that stereotype completely from my view of iPads at least at my iPad Pro 10.5 level. It can do pretty much anything that most computer users need to get done and do it well enough for most people who are not power users or required to use particular software where they work.

Differences

The biggest change for me is that I had to shift my mindset and accept that I had to create new work flows or look differently at how I accomplished a task. The iPad Pro is not a Windows machine, not a Chromebook clone, it is not a Mac (although it shares some abilities) and it is not a Linux distro – it has its own operating system.

I just have to embrace the differences.

They are real.

  • No support for a mouse or trackpad
  • Differences in how apps may look versus their legacy counterparts
  • Changes to where software commands are found/implemented
  • No integrated keyboard – I will not and do not classify their onscreen keyboard as a “real” keyboard – I don’t like it all that much
  • The desktop is just for apps, not files, you can get them there, but it is not what I would call intuitive.
  • The iPad is primarily a touch interface
  • The file management system is purposely limited by Apple
  • You still have to sync your old music collection with iTunes on a different computer
  • And others that are more subtle. Those ones that I only notice when they happen, but do not really pay much attention to because they are not that different, but there is a difference

The differences are there.

Some I really like and some well they are just different from what I am used to.

However, let me be totally honest – I would not like my iPad Pro if I did not have a keyboard paired with it. Typing on the screen keyboard sucks and I would not have gotten it. I would have gone with as new a 11.0″ MacBook Air as I could find.

What I Like

The portability is amazing compared to the other laptops I have had. I can move it around the house or take it on trips with me and it sits nicely on a flat surface or my lap with the Zagg keyboard combo that I got. I really like that I can quickly remove it from the keyboard and just use it for reading or viewing a video/movie or TV show without any issues. When I go to have a vehicle worked on, if I don’t go for a run, I don’t hesitate to bring my iPad, whereas I hardly ever brought my laptop – it just wasn’t convenient.

I thought that I would really miss the mouse, trackball, trackpad method of moving the cursor around – after the initial WTFO how do I live without those things, I am getting acclimated to using keyboard shortcuts, my finger on the screen or my cheap $5.00 stylus to move the cursor around or to select icons. Enough so that when I had to use my wife’s Windows machine I found myself using her touchscreen more than the mouse – you can teach old dogs new tricks.

Speaking of the stylus. No I didn’t get the Apple Stylus – I have no doubt that it is a quality piece of equipment, but for the way that I am going to use a stylus, it is overkill. If I need to take a note I will use the keyboard or ask Siri to create one. I do not draw and am not a graphic artist, plus since I retired I don’t think that I going to be correcting/editing other people’s work anytime soon – so my cheap $5.00 stylus works quite nicely and I know that I have a couple more laying around the house. Yeah, I was a little worried that I would need that $100 Apple stylus too – I don’t.

Siri – Yes, I am using her more and more, as I learn how to use that technology, within the limitations that it still has. Although I gotta admit it is weird talking to the computer, it is the way of the future as predicted all those years ago in Star Trek or Hello Hal.

I am finding myself creating my own hybrid method of typing that is a combination of touch typing, using my stylus and fingers on the screen (the word prediction) and keyboard. It is weird, but the more I use it the more natural it is becoming.

Having a camera to create .pdf documents in Notes or simply to quickly an easily take a photo of something that I want to write about is convenient and a feature that I didn’t think that I would use as much as I have. Like taking the photo of the stylus after I got through writing about it. In the past I would have to get my phone, take the picture, wait for it to upload, then add it to a post. With the iPad’s camera I set the stylus on the table opened the photo app, took the picture, added a space in my post and added the photo. No fuss, no mess.

Which brings up another use where I couldn’t conveniently use my laptop. While using the elliptical, I can watch TV on the iPad, it fit well into the into the notch on the machine’s screen, so it is another option to distract me when working out on it or if I go to the gym and run on the treadmill, I can actually read a book or watch something I want, not necessarily what is on the TV.

I got the Zagg Rugged Messenger case/keyboard combo and have been extremely pleased with the protection it gives and also the keyboard itself.

I can type without worrying about whether it will keep up with me and I wonder how many people who actually use the Bluetooth connection keyboard type 90-100 WPM, like some of the reviewers do who complained about the keyboard not keeping up with them? I know that I don’t have that issues and while I touch type without looking at the keyboard pretty well, I certainly don’t have that kind of speed. So can I make a small prediction – I have a feeling for most mere mortal typists the Zagg Bluetooth keyboard and many others will keep up with us. I will probably do a review of that at some point in the next couple of weeks.

One of the reasons that I did get the iPad versus going the Mac route, it is the same operating system as my iPhone 7. Which has meant that things that I learn for one is usually applicable to the other and vice versa. Whereas if I was using a Mac or Windows machine, I am using two separate operating systems that do things differently. I wanted to simplify my computing experience and after only a week on the iPad, I can see how important this will be going forward. Especially, as IOS continues to improve and the other operating systems make changes also that I no longer have to really worry about.

Another thing that I did was buy the 200gb iCloud plan for $2.99 a month. I figure that should be enough to keep my iPad Pro backed up and have all of my files in one place versus in Google, Box, SkyDrive, DropBox or all the other places I have squirreled away data/files. I am tired of things being scattered across the Internet and moving to the iPad Pro has been a good impetus to consolidate things (once I figure out the file system to get the data into iCloud and on my iPad). This will take a while to sort through, but once it is done, I have a feeling that I will be happier.

That doesn’t mean it is perfect, because it is not.

The same software name may be the same, but it doesn’t mean that how the software may look, works or interacts with users is the same. Let’s use Apple’s Numbers spreadsheet – it works slightly differently in IOS than OS-X, how we access commands are different. Not enough to be all that bad, but enough to be a pain in the rear. Websites might not render the same in IOSand while some can be changed manually in IOS back to legacy views, I tend to forget that it does that.

Some apps for the iPhone do not work well (if at all) on the iPad – like Garmin Connect or Strava and I have to use the web versions.

Unfortunately, the biggest impediment for a lot of people and one that made me think long and hard before getting it, is the cost of getting into the iPad Pro 10.5 256gb edition. You do have to have a keyboard, which I know that I factored into the cost of getting it. However, when you buy Apple products that extra cost you pay for this brand is a known factor.

Dongles – enough said – everyone bitches about having to have a dongle to do stuff – I knew it would be an issue when I got it. I can see it becoming one down the road when I know that I will want/need them.

The biggest thing that I do not like is:

The file system limitations and it is not the iPad Pro’s issue that it cannot do something – it is more the choices Apple has made.

I want all of my files on my iPad and synced in iCloud since there is ample space for them there – especially my photos and .pdf files. Unfortunately, after a week I am still working on getting my photo library copied from Google Photos to my Photo library on the iPad Pro, there was no direct way to bulk move those files from Google to my iPad that I have found. I am not going the single download file route – 60gb of photos would make that a bit time consuming.

The best method I could come up with was to put iCloud on my wife’s Window’s computer, then do a Google take-out, unzipping the files, and now I have to figure out how to upload the mess to actually get in iCloud and then sync to my iPad. Sure does seem like a convoluted mess to simply transfer my data from Google’s silo to Apple’s.

Once I get it in there it will be fine, but getting stuff moved in has proved to be more difficult than it should be.

Although I have a feeling might be simpler to just keep everything in Google that is there and move forward from this point on in the Apple ecosystem. Naw that would be way too easy, I will find the solution, not because I have to, but because I am a stubborn old fart who has his mind set on having as much of my data on the iPad as possible.

Yeah, a stubborn old fart.

There – that short rant is over.

The reality is that

After only a week, I really don’t need anything else but the iPad Pro 10.5.

Yes, the file system stuff is a pain in the ass, but will not really be that big of a deal once I get things where I want them and going forward the file system is good enough once you have your data in Apple’s silo. Now I just have to get it there.

I have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly I am adapting to not using a mouse/trackpad to get stuff done.

Do I foresee it not doing anything that I need to do with my computer…not really. However, that is part of the fun of owning something different from what most folk have – is finding out what works for you and what does not.

I am sure there will be a few annoyances, having to re-learn how to accomplish tasks and tweaking the iPad to make it Harold’s iPad. I am still playing with what Apps are actually useful and eliminating the ones are not. Eventually, I would like to be able to retire my legacy accounts at Microsoft and Google or other places. Kind of clean up my stuff online, but I hate having an email that ends in .iCloud.com it just tells too many out there what kind of system you are using – which may or may not be a good thing in today’s world.

What I can say today about using my iPad Pro 10.5 is something that I haven’t said about a computer in a long time is that I am having fun with it and I am getting what what I want to do – done.

It is just that I have to do some thing differently than I used to.

Chi Running – Thoughts After a Month

I can’t say that Chi Running is some kind of miracle cure for all my running ills, but I have to believe that it is more than mere coincidence that I am running as well as I am now. Before I started reading and attempting to implement the concepts of Chi Running into my running, I was struggling to run a mile, little more than a month ago.

Yeah, a run was something that was endured – not enjoyed, if I ran at all.

Needless to say I was frustrated, tired of being in pain and just wanted even a glimmer of hope that I would start running like I know I could – at some point in the future. The way I felt that night, that hope was fading fast. I seriously questioned whether running was going to be a thing of the past.

Too many injuries, too much discomfort and pain every time I ran made running a chore versus the sport that I loved.

Back on October 14th, needless to say I was in a very dark place with my running. Since early September I had been dealing with a balky right hip that wasn’t getting any better and I was getting ready to go see a doctor. Not one of my favorite things to do if you know anything about me. I had visions of…well you know or can imagine where my mind was taking the lack of progress with the hip and being 60 put me right in that ballpark.

On that Saturday night when I purchased the Chi Running eBook for my Kindle Reader, I will say I was desperate and in the back of my mind, subconsciously or whatever to hell you call it – I was pretty sure that how I ran was a lot of the problem. Even more than too much Harold being Harold stuff.

I had dabbled with Chi Running back in December 2012, when I got the Chi Running book for Christmas. I was running fairly well and it seemed like too much work to change everything just to do what some book thought was the best way to run. I passed the book on to someone else who was more interested in it and continued to run Harold’s way.

That night I read more than half the book and finished it the next day. I kept finding myself nodding my head and saying to myself this is me. Then I re-read it and highlighted areas that I wanted to focus on. A little later, I ordered the Chi Marathon book and Chi Running log, because I am old-fashioned and sometimes when I actually handle a book and write on things. I understand better and remember what I am doing at a higher level using a real book it seems.

DISCLAIMER: There is nothing scientifically based or probably even replicable by someone else, all the following is my anecdotal account of what happened during the month or so after I read and attempted to implement Chi Running into Harold’s running. So the disclaimer is that Chi Running has worked great for me, but it might not be the right thing for you or how you do things in your running. I have personally purchased all of the books I reference in this blog post and was not asked, prompted or paid in any way for writing about Chi Running – these are completely my thoughts and experiences with it.

Reading Chi Running really hit home hard this time, because I was at the bottom of the barrel looking up, without a lot of hope that running was going to be a part of my future if I didn’t make some drastic changes. I knew that my form sucked, I had seen video and photos of me running, but had never really taken the time to make changes that I should have made. I was under the belief that was “how I ran” and not a whole lot could change it. Plus there were studies that “showed” attempting to change your form mostly moved around what got injured.

For me, my way of running wasn’t working – I guess Harold’s running form was too f’d up to and while I might run well for a while, I inevitably ended up with some kind of injury or discomfort in the Achilles’ tendons, calves or hips that either shut my running down or was something that I learned to block out and would “grin and bear it” to run.

Enough of the background.

With my usual aplomb, after reading Chi Running, for the next two weeks I attempted to implement all of the tenants of Chi Running into my running immediately. While there were some improvements, there was a lot more frustration on my part and I was feeling overwhelmed to say the least by attempting to do too much too soon, without knowing enough about Chi Running for it to make sense or become a part of how I run incrementally.

I have never been one to do a process well and take time to incorporate something slowly – I WANT IT NOW! Unfortunately, after more than 40 years of running, completely overhauling my running form overnight is not gonna happen. There is just a little muscle memory and scar tissue to overcome everything that quickly.

One of the best things I did in this transition, was getting the Chi Marathon running book and reading through that. It cleared up many of the questions that I had about Chi Running from the first book and best of all, it had a process that I could use to actually implement Chi Running. You might call it a training plan, I call it a process that I could follow to let me learn the basics of Chi Running without getting overwhelmed with attempting to change everything about my running all at once (which wasn’t working).

If you are an experienced runner and are considering trying Chi Running for yourself, I strongly recommend getting the Chi Marathon book. I think it explains things a little differently than the Chi Running book and it gives you a process to transition to Chi Running. However, you really do need both books, also you will need to watch many different videos and eventually go to a Chi Running clinic (which I will do at some point).

Yeah, in other words trust the trust the process and make the changes incrementally.

The first couple of weeks were not wasted, I did learn what I didn’t know and what I needed to change about my form and yes, even when I am walking. I think many of the form/posture things that I needed to work on changed the most while I was walking and carried over to my running.

Walking is an important part of the Chi Running change process in my opinion.

The biggest and hardest change for me was and is keeping my feet pointed straight ahead. After several injuries to my feet, ankles, knees and hips (running and non-running), both of my feet were badly splayed, but the right foot was especially splayed out and when I look back at photos that have tracks behind me, they have been that way for many years.

Which meant that everything was out of alignment from the hips down and more than likely the root cause of many of my injuries. The other thing is that I have had issues with my Achilles’ tendons and learned that forceful toeing-off might be one of the causes – which is how I was taught to run way back in the dark ages – use a hard toe-off to propel yourself forward faster.

Over the past month plus I have worked hard on improving my posture and while it still is not perfect, there is significant improvement in how I walk and run with all parts going pretty much in the same direction. I still have a way to go on the right leg the muscle memory of that splay foot style is still causing tightness at times, but the pain and discomfort are almost gone.

Another thing that I have worked pretty hard on is lifting my foot and landing with more of mid foot strike. This seems to have helped the issues I had with my Achilles’ tendon. A good example of this was on my run this morning, the left Achilles began to bark at me at about mile 4.5 and in the past it would have progressed to the point where I would have had to walk this summer. Instead I simply adjusted my stride a little to lifting my foot, versus toeing-off and the barking stopped after a bit and I finished the run without any other issues.

However, don’t get the idea that this has been a wonderful experience that has been effortless transition to better running.

It has not been easy!!!

My body doesn’t like the focus on running with my feet pointing straight ahead, it was damned uncomfortable during some of the early attempts and at times a little bit of pain when I bust up the scar tissue that had formed (it is in there and I feel it when it releases).

When Chi Running mentions effortless running, it sure as hell ain’t me they are talking about and it is in my opinion some marketing drivel, because while I have felt great while running on a couple of occasions, it never is effortless.

It doesn’t mean that it is not worth doing, but if you do attempt to transition to Chi Running, expect to work hard to do it correctly and be ready for it to take longer than you want for it to show a lot of/if any progress. I am one of the lucky ones, I have been able to do a lot in a short time – it ain’t that way for everyone.

The reality is that

Chi Running is not for everyone, but for me it has given me hope for my running going forward and a process where I can work on improving my running form and running efficiency. Hell, in this short of a time, I have gone from wondering if I will ever run pain-free again, to thinking about racing again.

A major change in perspective.

The biggest thing that Chi Running has forced me to be is more mindful about my running. Each run has a focus and a strategy to maintain that focus – which is what I need. Instead of heading out the door and running while I am thinking of everything that is going on in my life, I am focused on keeping my feet straight, is my body aligned, hips level, lengthen the neck and all the other focuses that my beginners training plan has me doing.

Yes, I do cheat a little and add more of the focuses together or run a few more miles than the plan calls for at times, but at other times, I just focus on those one or two things for the entire run. I have attempted to temper my enthusiasm for how well I am doing and stick to the Chi Running transformation process – well most of the time :-).

Who know maybe I am learning patience and the value of using a process to make positive changes to my running..

You can believe or not that changing your running form is doable or even a good thing. All I know is last month at this time I couldn’t run a mile without being in pain and since I have started using the Chi Running method, I am back on the roads running and enjoying it more than I have in a long time, especially the part where there is a LOT less pain or discomfort during my runs, but by no stretch of the imagination is Chi Running effortless. There is a lot of hard work involved and at times a more than a little discomfort to go through to get to the good side.

My experience tells me that these were changes to my running form that were needed, because my running form was too screwed up to be sustainable as a 60-year-old runner, who wants to keep running at a decent level for many more years.

It will be interesting to see where I am six months from now. Not that I will be a world-beater or anything, but it sure would be nice to run consistently for a long period of time to see what is left in the old body.

Chi Running is making a positive difference in my running and for now that is more than enough for me.

Initial Thoughts on Apple’s iPad Pro 10.5

I have been using the iPad Pro 10.5 for about a day now and have a few initial thoughts about it.

First and foremost – I like it — a lot.

Secondly – There is a learning curve.

Thirdly – I am really glad that I got the keyboard.

Let’s be real, I have learned in the last 24 hours that using an iPad is a different beast than any laptop that I have ever owned! While it is simple to operate/use, it works differently than a laptop does – just the way it is. You have to either embrace the differences or you will never adjust to how it works.

The biggest difference for me is the lack of a mouse or trackpad, I find myself attempting to figure out the keyboard shortcuts (all new muscle memory kind of thing), reaching up to touch the screen which sort of, but not really interrupts my workflow. Huh, when I first started to reach for the screen it felt a bit odd last night, but this morning it feels more dare I say “normal”.

I don’t find myself searching for the trackpad with my thumb nearly as often. I find myself touching the screen to get the pointer close to where I want to be onscreen and then using the arrow keys to get the rest of the way there – a bit awkward, but as I get more comfortable with things I am sure it will improve.

One thing that I found helped me with the transition was finding an old cheap stylus that I had for something else and finding that in many instances it works quite nicely as a mouse/trackpad and for somethings even better i.e. turning pages or quickly moving somewhere on the screen. It even takes decent notes. So while it is not the Apple stylus, it seems to be working for how I will use a stylus as a non-artist. It was definitely a LOT cheaper and doesn’t need to be re-charged.

Software or I should call them apps going forward, do not work or often look quite the same in IOS as in other operating systems. Getting used to those differences will be a part of the learning curve as I move away from legacy software and move back to Apple’s offerings. I have a feeling that I will probably keep my running log spreadsheet in Google Spreadsheet until next year, just to give me time to acquaint myself with the IOS version of Numbers. There are enough differences to make using Numbers, not as intuitive as other Spreadsheets.

The IOS version of WordPress is different and I can’t really say it is as good as the web version or even the Linux one that I had been using. There are less tools available to use, but the basic ones are there and I will get used to how it does things.

Speaking of Apps – that is a big change. I had become primarily cloud-based for most of my productivity software (Google’s Drive or G-Suite stuff) that I lived most of the time in the browser. Now I have to get used to being App based on the iPad. Which is not a bad thing, but it does make me have to twirl my head around a bit to used to looking at things differently – yet again.

I am loving the size and portability around the house, although on the spreadsheet having the smaller screen is going to take some getting used to or maybe I just need to simplify things and not worry about stuff that I can see on Strava or Garmin Connect.

The reality is that

Moving from a traditional laptop with Windows, OS-X or even one of the Linux flavors, there is a significant difference in how I will be doing things moving forward. After 24 hours I am seeing the potential and possibilities that using the iPad Pro 10.5 has, but the work flow and yes, muscle memory makes things feel pretty damn awkward – for now.

It will take a couple of weeks to figure out which apps work best for the way that I do things and how the body/head will embrace the iPad way of doing things.

Whether they are more efficient or simply different remains to be seen.

All-in-all though I am very happy with the progress I have made in moving to my new computer. Notice that I didn’t say replacing my laptop – the iPad is not a laptop, it is a different computer system and there is always learning curve to any new computer.

Will it replace what and how I did things on a laptop – from the short-time I have used it, I believe with maybe one or two exceptions that it will quite easily. I am already more comfortable with how it does things than I was on the Chromebooks that I had, so that is saying something already.

Let’s see where I am in a month. 🙂

New Balance Vazee Rush V2 – 50+ Mile Review

Okay, I got a bit behind and my New Balance Vazee Rush V2’s have over 70 miles on them. However, I did make a change to them at around 50 miles and wanted to see if the change made a difference in how the shoes felt/performed.

KIMG0470

Screenshot at 2017-04-16 11-34-27

First of all, they are last year’s model and I bought them on Amazon for a wicked good sale price. So they met one of the big requirements that I have they were reasonably priced. Continue reading

Karma and My Blog’s Theme Review

It is surprising how Karma works sometimes, when I wrote my Runners Have You Really Looked at Your Blog Lately last Saturday night, I didn’t realize how much that I would be talking about myself.  After a couple of people asked me to take a look at their blog, I thought that I better take a look at my own first.

I had recently switched back to an old theme that I really, really liked because the one I was using had a fatal flaw that I couldn’t correct. Unfortunately, I had forgotten about the old theme’s fatal flaw – the page links did not work correctly.

This is the problem that I find with more than a few of the free Blogger templates that I have downloaded and tried – something usually doesn’t work or is missing and I don’t have the knowledge or ability to fix what is wrong. That is also why I seem to keep changing my blog themes so often. I know just enough to be dangerous.

So if you had been to my blog and attempted to go to any of the pages lately and couldn’t – I apologize.

Looking at My Own Blog

I might just as well put my money where my mouth is and review my own blog and reveal all of its warts – that I can see.

This is what is above the fold when my blog was first opened to do my review.
Overall First Impression
Boring is the first word that I use. Yes it has clean lines, but it is pretty evident that this is one of the Google themes that has been customized a little bit. It doesn’t have that “look” that sets it apart from other blogs. The theme is boxy and too square.

I will probably be looking for a better looking Blogger theme that works, unless Google gets going on their Dynamic views and gives us the ability to have sidebars with those themes. Like most everyone I don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on a premium theme, so I do have to find one for free that everything works correctly.

Header
The header does not line-up like it is supposed to. The pictures are blurry instead of being crisp, the tagline is not current – it should read “Keep smiling and good things can happen :-)”.  To be honest this header is hastily put together and looks it. The header needs to be changed to something cleaner, so until I can create a header that looks great, I will leave it plain gray, which looks better than a bad header.
Readability
Good – Black lettering on white background
Color Scheme
Gray, white, dark blue, they all seem to work together, but the theme seems a bit dark. Probably need to lighten it up.
Post area
  • Adsense ad at the top has gotten a few clicks, so I want to leave that there. I really like a magazine style landing/home page, but unfortunately this template you have to manually create the page breaks to achieve this effect.
  • I don’t like the social media widget on the landing page, it is great for the post page, but would like to option of whether to show or not on front page – in my opinion it makes the landing page look cluttered.
  • Reduce the number of posts that are visible to correspond to the sidebars, so there is not a lot of empty space as the reader scrolls down.
  • Move the Amazon widget to the bottom post area, to present a cleaner look at the bottom of the blog.
Left Sidebar
  • Recent Picture – Personally, I believe that readers want to see the blogger(s) and that having your picture or an image that depicts you helps. This to me, gives the readers a quick sense of who the blogger is and if they are who they say they are and walk the walk, not just talk about it. Yes pictures can be doctored or look nothing like the actual person, but after a while, if the writer is not who they say they are, it gets figured out.
  • a quick blurb to let readers know what to expect when reading AVR.
  • an Adsense widget
  • 3 buttons of things that I belong to or am doing (when the doing is over, the button will be retired to a page that I am creating for that purpose).
  • DailyMile training widget – which helps remind me to log my run there and also lets readers know that I am still running. Just another way to show you are walking the walk. Also the edges of the widget are outside of the sidebar.
  • Popular Posts for the past 30 days – give the readers an opportunity to look at some of my other more popular posts.
  • Blog Archive – if a reader wants to quickly go back and see other posts that I have written. I have room to expand this to the open position and might do that now.

Right Sidebar

  • Search this blog widget – some users might use this if they are searching for a particular subject on my blog, put it up where it can quickly be found,
  • Contact me by email: I use Kontactr because it is easy to use and free. I don’t like publishing my email on my site if I don’t have to, this cuts down on spam emails. There are other email services you can use.
  • Follow me widgets for the social media sites that I participate on – unfortunately these are separate widgets for following me via RSS, Email Google Friend Connect, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.  I would prefer to have an all in one widget that looks better than a bunch of separate widgets. This is on my todo list.
  • Adsense widget – I have 4 ads on my blog and haven’t tried to over do them.
  • Blogs I Follow – I think it is important to share those blogs that you enjoy reading with others, not all the “experts” agree with this, but my blog my choice.
  • Feedjit widget – I enjoy seeing where people are coming from and when they were here, just me being nosy.  I decided to not use the popular world maps widget, since it didn’t really tell me a whole lot that Feedjit doesn’t.

Bottom Widget bar

I have to clean this area up, it is a place where I dump widgets I am not sure of keeping or are not working correctly and I need to fix them for my blog or widgets that I just can’t think where they actually belong end up here.

That was a quick review of my blog theme. I have a lot of work todo!  I am not crazy about the theme, but everything works and that is important. I have to figure out if I can live with this theme, until the sidebar is available in Dynamic Views themes or do I just go out and look for a great theme for Blogger?  Any suggestions?

The reality is that

everyone has their idea of what makes a great looking blog and what widgets you have in your sidebar. There is a great deal of personal choice in setting up your blog. However, if I hadn’t taken my own advice and gone through my blog to make sure that everything worked, I would still have a theme up that frustrates my readers when they clicked on the pages.

Todos

After doing this review I can see somethings that need to be improved, changed or gotten rid of.

  • Look at other 3 column themes
  • While I have this theme change the background page and borders, so it flows better and doesn’t look as boxy.
  • Create an appealing header
  • Fix DailyMile widget
  • Get rid of the 3 on the Google+ widget
  • Find an all in one follow-me widget that I like
  • Clean up the bottom widget area.

What did I miss?

This is your change to tell me thing you don’t like about this theme and offer come constructive criticism or welcome advice on things that a reader of this blog you would like to see me improve in my theme.

If you go back and look at your theme, did you find anything that didn’t work, you didn’t really like or just didn’t fit the direction you are going. Do your own blog review and then link back here, so we can see the improvements we are making in our blogs.

Thanks 🙂