Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for September 3rd, 2007

New version of Guide now available

with 5 comments

The earlier versions of the Guide to Gourmet Shaving included quotations from B&B and ShaveMyFace (with links to original posts). The idea was to give the reader a sense of the posts in the forums to encourage him to join and participate. I of course secured permissions from all the authors of the posts before including them.

Joel, however, informed me that B&B owns the copyright for all content created by the members (as it turns out, that’s part of the agreement when one joins the forum—I hadn’t realized that) and definitely will not permit those quotations to be used. So I’ve removed all the B&B quotations—there were, it turns out, just a handful. ShaveMyFace, has a different policy: copyright remains with the original authors, so there was no problem in using those quotations, and they remain.

So this new edition (1.94 – Sept 2007) differs very little from the previous edition: just fewer forum quotations.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2007 at 7:52 pm

Creating an out-of-body experience

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I mentioned in an exchange of comments that scientists have figured out how to trigger an out-of-body experience at will. I thought that might be worth a post.

From New Scientist:

You no longer have to dice with death to have an out-of-body experience. Anyone can now have the eerie sensation of leaving their body, thanks to an experimental procedure developed by researchers at University College London. It provides the best proof yet that people who claim to have left their bodies during surgery, say, are imagining the experience.

The key to creating an artificial out-of-body experience is to scramble a person’s visual and touch sensations, tricking their brain into perceiving that they are somewhere else. To do this, Henrik Ehrsson filmed seated volunteers from behind and fed the footage live into headsets so they were viewing themselves, but from an unfamiliar angle. Next, Ehrsson prodded the volunteers in the chest with a plastic rod while simultaneously prodding a second rod at the camera. For the volunteers, the combined effect of appearing to watch “another” person being prodded, while they themselves felt the prod, gave them the spooky sensation they were watching their own bodies from a distance (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1142175).

Even though they knew it was them, it made them feel totally disembodied. “It gives you a very strong sensation you’re sitting somewhere else,” says Ehrsson.

Also, see this story in the NY Times.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2007 at 6:46 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Tomorrow’s shave

with one comment

I washed the brush that didn’t do so well today (following the method in Em’s first video here), and I’ll use it tomorrow to see whether that corrects the problem. Giovanni identified the problem, which stemmed from my misguided use of silicone grease in making the shave sticks: silicone grease gums up the brush and kills the lather.

Tomorrow I’ll use the brush with a regular soap, and the following day (if all goes well) with a shave stick—undoubtedly the QED Mocha-Java.

The anticipatory excitement builds…

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2007 at 3:45 pm

Posted in Shaving

Consumer protection down the tubes

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One area of disagreement between conservatives and liberals is the proper role of the government in protecting the public. On the one hand, the extreme free-market side would say the government has no role: the market will punish those who harm the public, so no government action is necessary or desired. On the other hand, most of the public seems to like some protection, especially given the disparity in strength and power between a business or industry (many businesses working together) and members of the public.

So, having a democratic government where the public has a strong voice, the government does in fact provide a lot of protections, but under Bush many of those legally mandated protections have eroded. See, for example, this story:

In March 2005, the Consumer Product Safety Commission called together the nation’s top safety experts to confront an alarming statistic: 44,000 children riding all terrain vehicles were injured the previous year, nearly 150 of them fatally.

National associations of pediatricians, consumer advocates and emergency room doctors were urging the commission to ban sales of adult-size A.T.V.’s for use by children under 16 because the machines were too big and fast for young drivers to control. But when it came time to consider such a step, a staff member whose name did not appear on the meeting agenda unexpectedly weighed in.

“My own view is the situation is not necessarily deteriorating,” said John Gibson Mullan, the agency’s director of compliance and a former lawyer for the A.T.V. industry, according to a recording. The current system of warning labels and other voluntary safety standards was working, he said. “We would need to be very careful about making any changes.”

Robin L. Ingle, then the agency’s hazard statistician and A.T.V. injury expert, was dumbfounded. Her months of research did not support Mr. Mullan’s analysis. Yet she would not get to offer a rebuttal.

“He had hijacked the presentation,” Ms. Ingle said in an interview. “He was distorting the numbers in order to benefit industry and defeat the petition. It was almost like he still worked for them, not us.”

Under the Bush administration, which promised to ease what it viewed as costly rules that placed unnecessary burdens on businesses, industry-friendly officials have been installed at agencies that oversee the nation’s workplaces, food suppliers, environment and consumer goods.

Top officials at the Consumer Product Safety Commission say they have enhanced protections for the American public in recent years. But they have also blocked enforcement actions, weakened industry oversight rules and promoted voluntary compliance over safety mandates, according to interviews with current and former senior agency officials and consumer groups and a review of commission documents.

At a time when imports from China and other Asian countries surged, creating an ever greater oversight challenge, the Bush-appointed commissioners voiced few objections as the already tiny agency — now just 420 workers — was pared almost to the bone.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2007 at 1:34 pm

Interesting: combat deaths decline

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Combat deaths

The troop deaths graphed in my earlier post were all troop deaths, including non-combat deaths (e.g., helicopter crashes). But if you look at just combat deaths, they are indeed declining (though Iraqi civilian deaths are increasing):

American combat deaths in Iraq have dropped by half in the three months since the buildup of 28,000 additional U.S. troops reached full strength, surprising analysts and dividing them as to why.

U.S. officials had predicted that the increase would lead to higher American casualties as the troops “took the fight to the enemy.” But that hasn’t happened, even though U.S. forces have launched major offensives involving thousands of troops north and south of Baghdad.

American combat casualties have dropped to their lowest levels this year, even as violence involving Iraqis remains high.

Military officials and observers are wondering whether the lower U.S. casualties are a sign of success or an indication that insurgents and militiamen simply chose a different battlefield when the Americans mounted their offensive in Iraq’s capital.

“Nobody here is doing cartwheels yet,” said one senior military official at the Pentagon, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely.

One British analyst, using the example of the British drawdown of forces in southern Iraq, suggested that the lower numbers may mean that American troops are irrelevant to the many conflicts racking Iraq: ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods in Baghdad, massive bombings of religious minorities by Sunni Muslim extremists in northern Iraq and Shiite-on-Shiite-Muslim violence in southern Iraq.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2007 at 1:20 pm

Posted in Iraq War

Improvements from the Surge?

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Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2007 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Iraq War

Authoritarianism

with 3 comments

One of my readers, a conservative, commented that the political stuff included in the blog makes it hard to read. I’m sensitive to that, and I have count many conservatives among my friends. So I’ve tried to make the posts palatable across the political spectrum by trying to be fact-based (e.g., the graph comparing troop deaths in 2006 to those in 2007, which indicates that the Surge is not working in terms of lower losses among troops—and, as the LA Times reports, civilian deaths also have increased) or by explaining why I hold positions that I do for things that are more a matter of values—trying to find a common ground. For example, in mentioning the ACLU, I point out that most Americans, liberal and conservative, embrace the Bill of Rights, and the ACLU puts most of its efforts into defending the Bill of Rights. Thus (for me) support for the Bill of Rights includes support of organizations that defend the Bill of Rights, and the ACLU is high on that list.

Glenn Greenwald, who also tries hard to be rational and fact-based (in my opinion), has an interesting post today, examining some contradictory positions held by Thomas Sowell. In the course of the post, he talks about Authoritarians and references the (free) book, The Authoritarians (PDF file, and not large).

Authoritarianism, of course, occurs across the political spectrum, from left to right. It uses a more or less rigid hierarchy in which allegiance is given to the Leader and dissenting views are strictly punished. We’ve seen this in governments and in organizations of various stripes—and again, it has nothing to do with conservative vs. liberal.

I do believe, and I think many conservatives will agree, that the American Right today includes a strong component who embrace Authoritarianism (though not by name, of course). On the Left, the on Authoritarianism I can think of that’s active today is the “Politically Correct” police—not much of a political force but having many characteristics of Authoritarianism.

I wonder whether it might be that group, the Authoritarian Right, that dislikes cats. Dogs are a group animal, organizing themselves into packs. They recognize—indeed, crave—a hierarchy and are intensely loyal. These characteristics would appeal to Authoritarians (and to others as well, but we’re trying to figure out why cat-hatred is a characteristic of the Right), and thus perhaps it is that component of the Right that hates cats because cats are solitary individuals that don’t respect authority, don’t seem to have the sort of obvious loyalty that dogs exhibit, and ignore hierarchical structure.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2007 at 12:55 pm

Posted in Books, Cats, Daily life, GOP

Food notes

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At the supermarket I remembered the “try a new food” drill and got a Santa Claus melon. I had no idea why it’s called that—calling it a Football melon would make more sense, since it’s about that shape. But, thanks to Google, we see:

From the outside a Santa Claus melon, with its long oval shape and splotchy green-and-yellow skin, looks like a small watermelon. Inside, however, its yellowish-green flesh looks and tastes more like honeydew melon. This member of the muskmelon family grows to about a foot in length, with some specimens weighing as much as 10 pounds. Santa Claus melon, also called Christmas melon, was so named because its peak season is in December. Choose a melon that is slightly soft at the blossom end, heavy for its size and has a yellowish cast to the rind. Avoid those with soft spots or with damaged skin. See also melon.

Also, I’m making the Cold Soba Noodles with Sesame Seed again, but this time I made the dressing this way:

2 teaspoons rice vinegar
5 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons agave syrup
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 clove crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice

I also cut up some ocean scallops in it. They’re delicious raw.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2007 at 11:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Sterilize iffy drinking water

with 2 comments

I read that every stream, brook, and creek in North America is now contaminated with giardia, a bad bug. Plus if you travel in some countries and drink tap water… well, watch out. But you can readily sterilize a glass or small bottle of water in 60 seconds with a Steripen. Here’s what Cool Tools says:

I took a SteriPEN to Africa for 3 months this summer and the verdict is in: it’s the best water purifier you can carry without a tractor-trailer. It’s basically a UV ray flashlight you submerge into your glass. The water stays cool and it doesn’t change the water, except to kill all the living things in it, viruses included. It is expensive, but pays for itself quickly, as you don’t have to buy bottled water. On my trip, often when I asked a waiter for a glass of tap water, my request would elicit a smile or a laugh. In some cases, they simply would not bring me a glass of water. Most of the time, though, I convinced them — and then, to their amazement, I would take out the SteriPEN, push a button, and stir the water with the glowing purple UV light that always brought stares from other diners. After less than 60 seconds, I would take out the SteriPEN and drink the water, occasionally hearing gasps from other tables. Then I’d mention that UV light is how certain towns and companies now sterilize water.

In the 3 months I used it while abroad, I never got sick and the recommended CR123 batteries lasted all summer. Of course, it doesn’t make Uganda’s water taste any better, and often buying a plastic bottle and tossing it in the car is more convenient, but the SteriPEN will save you if you need it and it will save you money if you use it. For backpacking, it’s what we call a disruptive technology — no other water purifier comes close. I haven’t tried the MIOX, but it seems like a hassle in comparison. You have to make a kind of concentrate that you pour into your water and you need salts for it. I would bet on the SteriPEN because you treat the water 100 percent, there are NO consumables, and there aren’t any follow-up steps, which you might screw up. I have tried pills and filters in the past, but I think the SteriPEN is the best solution in all circumstances. I would take one on an extended wilderness trek with no hesitation. It will become a permanent travel companion.

I bought the lightweight Traveler version, and my only complaint is that the silver coating disintegrated after a while somehow. It works fine, but now it looks more like a Star Trek prop than it did when I bought it. Since the Traveler and Adventurer models are the same product, just different colors, I would recommend the Adventurer. Quick asides: SteriPEN’s solar charger is way too heavy at this point. For a DIY SteriPEN, simply fill a bottle with water and leave it in the sun for several hours — the UV rays will kill the bacteria.  — David Siegel

SteriPEN:  $125 from Amazon

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2007 at 10:44 am

Spicy food and diabetes

with 3 comments

It’s not really news, and Lord knows that I have a heavy hand with the crushed red pepper, the habañero, the hot sauce, and whatever, but still it’s good to get more confirmation:

In this study, capsaicin – a phytochemical found in hot chili peppers – was found to attenuate obesity-related inflammation by modulating adipokine release from and macrophage behavior in obese mice adipose tissues. The authors point out that adipokines, which are involved in obesity-related inflammation, play a key role in the genesis of conditions such as type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis. In this study, capsaicin was found to inhibit the expression of IL-6, MCP-1 mRNAs, and protein release, while it was found to enhance the expression of the adiponectin gene and protein. The action of capsaicin was associated with NF-kappaB inactivation and/or PPARgamma activation. Capsaicin was also found to suppress macrophage migration induced by the adipose tissue-conditioned medium, but also macrophage activation to release proinflammatory mediators. The results of this study suggest that capsaicin holds potential as a therapeutic agent in the prevention and treatment of obesity -related inflammation and obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis.

Source: “Capsaicin, a spicy component of hot peppers, modulates adipokine gene expression and protein release from obese-mouse adipose tissues and isolated adipocytes, and suppresses the inflammatory responses of adipose tissue macrophages,” Kang JH, Kim CS, et al, FEBS Lett, 2007 Aug 14; [Epub ahead of print]. (Address: Department of Food Sciences and Nutrition, University of Ulsan, Ulsan 680-749, South Korea).

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2007 at 8:21 am

Posted in Food, Health, Medical, Science

Brush problem

with one comment

Generally I can work with any brush I’m given, but today I had a problem with an Omega Silvertip. I used a shaving stick (of course—it’s Monday), and the Omega I selected seemed too large and too soft (not dense enough) to lather satisfactorily on my face. It also seemed a little waterproof, so time for a cleaning (see the video at ShaveInfo.com). I’ll clean it and try again when I’m using soap in a tub or a shaving cream.

It was enough of a problem that I rinsed my face (and the brush), used a different shaving stick (the D.R. Harris Almond), and picked up the Plisson HMW Size 12. That did a fine job, and I calmed down. The razor was my new old-stock Gillette NEW (discovered in an old drugstore that was being liquidated) and one of the Wilkinson blades—I think an Economie. This is the NEW with the turned-down comb and the ball-end handle.

Extremely smooth shave—lathering twice seems to have helped—with no sign of nicks or weepers. Still, I used the Thayers Medicated Superhazel—good for bites, burns, and skin irritations. It’s 20% alcohol (their other astringents are 10%), the same as their Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera Aftershave. The “medicated” refers to the camphor it contains.

I just noticed that their aftershave comes in a 4 oz bottle: too big for the TSA 3-oz. limit. But the witch hazels in the Thayers sampler pack come in 2-oz. bottles, which meets the TSA limit with room to spare. (Peacefrog pointed this out on TheShaveDen.) That pack doesn’t include the aftershave, but any of them makes a good aftershave.

UPDATE: Giovanni of RazorandBrush writes:

I read your blog about the waterproof Omega brush. The problem you describe can be caused by shaving sticks in which Silicone grease is used as a slider lubricant. Nothing prevents lathering and makes badger hair waterproof faster than silicone grease. I don’t know if this is what happened in your case, but I thought I’d mention it, just in case.

That’s exactly what happened: the shave stick I used was one I made, and I lubricated the inside of the container with silicone grease, which clearly was a Truly Bad Idea. I’m going right now to revise earlier posts and include a warning.

Many thanks, Gio.

UPDATE 2: A post on SMF tells me that no lubricant is in fact needed:

You only need to start with a clean container and then fill it with the desired soap. Allow the soap to harden and you should be good to go. If you find the soap is hard to advance put the stick in the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer and allow to sit for 10 minutes at room temperature and then try to advance the soap. Once the soap moves freely you are done. Soap is poured and removed from plastic molds all the time and usually does not stick too much so the freezer part may not even be necessary but is a trick soapmakers use on stubborn batches. No oil should be necessary to get the soap to release.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2007 at 7:57 am

Posted in Shaving

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