Later On

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

Archive for August 2011

Some interesting facts about the US

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This whole column is worth reading (and pondering), but let me just tempt you by showing you the update:

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, the former Chief of Staff to Gen. Colin Powell when Gen. Powell delivered his infamous Iraq/WMD speech to the U.N., is certainly aware of these omitted facts and is unwilling to ignore them.  I was on Democracy Now with him this morning, talking about Dick Cheney’s book, and he had some very interesting things to say. He’s what someone with a moral conscience sounds like after being involved in some very bad acts.  It’s well worth watching.  Raw Story has the story and the video here, and the transcript is here.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 August 2011 at 10:09 am

The big DHS scam

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Companies are reaping billions in taxpayer dollars and we endure weird airport procedures. For what? Greenwald looks at the issue:

The Los Angeles Times examines the staggering sums of money expended on patently absurd domestic “homeland security” projects: $75 billion per year for things such as a Zodiac boat with side-scan sonar to respond to a potential attack on a lake in tiny Keith County, Nebraska, and hundreds of “9-ton BearCat armored vehicles, complete with turret” to guard against things like an attack on DreamWorks in Los Angeles.  All of that — which is independent of the exponentially greater sums spent on foreign wars, occupations, bombings, and the vast array of weaponry and private contractors to support it all — is in response to this mammoth, existential, the-single-greatest-challenge-of-our-generation threat:

“The number of people worldwide who are killed by Muslim-type terrorists, Al Qaeda wannabes, is maybe a few hundred outside of war zones. It’s basically the same number of people who die drowning in the bathtub each year,” said John Mueller, an Ohio State University professor who has written extensively about the balance between threat and expenditures in fighting terrorism.

Last year, McClatchy characterized this threat in similar terms: “undoubtedly more American citizens died overseas from traffic accidents or intestinal illnesses than from terrorism.”  The March, 2011, Harper‘s Index expressed the point this way: “Number of American civilians who died worldwide in terrorist attacks last year: 8 — Minimum number who died after being struck by lightning: 29.”  That’s the threat in the name of which a vast domestic Security State is constructed, wars and other attacks are and continue to be launched, and trillions of dollars are transferred to the private security and defense contracting industry at exactly the time that Americans — even as they face massive wealth inequality — are told that they must sacrifice basic economic security because of budgetary constraints.

Despite these increasing economic insecurities — actually, precisely because of them — the sprawling domestic Security State continues unabated.  The industry journal National Defense Magazine today trumpets: “Homeland Security Market ‘Vibrant’ Despite Budget Concerns.”  It details how budget cuts mean “homeland security” growth may not be as robust as once predicted, but “Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Boeing and Northrop Grumman . . . have been winning more contracts from DHS”; as a Boeing spokesman put it: “You’ll still continue to see domestically significant investment on the part of the government and leveraging advances in technology to stand up and meet those emerging threats and needs.”

Of course, the key to sustaining this Security State bonanza — profit for private industry and power for Security State officials —  is keeping fear levels among the citizenry as high as possible, as National Defenseexpressly notes, and that is accomplished by fixating even on minor and failed attacks, each one of which is immediately seized upon to justify greater expenditures, expansion of security measures, and a further erosion of rights:

Polls still show that there is increasing public concern about another terrorist attack. It is this fear and an unrealistic American perception of risk that will continue to propel some aspects of the market, analysts say. . . .

Small-scale attacks, whether successful or not, will continue to prompt additional spending, the market analysts at Homeland Security Research Corp. say. They point to the failed 2009 Christmas plot of a man trying to blow up a flight to Detroit with explosives sewn into his underwear and the attempted car-bombing in Times Square early the next year. Though unsuccessful, these events led to immediate White House intervention, congressional hearings and an airport screening upgrade costing more than $1.6 billion.

The LA Times, while skillfully highlighting these wasteful programs, depicts them as some sort of unintended inefficiencies.  That is exactly what they are not.  None of this is unintended or inefficient but is achieving exactly the purposes for which it is designed.  That’s true for two reasons.

First, . . .

Continue reading. Normally, of course, Congress would be taking a hard look at pointless and expensive projects, but now Congress has come under control of the people who make money from these things, so Congress will never object. The mainstream media are owned by large corporations that themselves are eager to control Congress, so the media are not going to attack this. And the US populace seems to be increasingly beaten down and frightened by financial worries, so they are becoming increasing manipulable. Not a good time.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 August 2011 at 10:01 am

Made it! 5th edition now published!

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I wanted to get the 5th edition of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving published in August, and I made with hours to spare. As you see at the right, it’s now available at the CreateSpace estore. List price is now $12.95.

A lot has been added. I noted in a comment earlier that the lists (of vendors, sampler packet sources, artisan soap makers, etc.) have of course been updated. I also reorganized the chapter on lather quite a bit and added a new section on water, with some additional subsections. I added several new makes of razors to the list and various additional hints.

The book as a whole seems much more solid now. I added enough material that I had to drop the font a point size to keep the page count down.

The book also acquired a theme, of sorts, which I touch on in the new preface and that arises from time to time in the book itself, a theme I might term sic transit gloria mundi. As one sees over just a few years’ time vendors of quite fine artisanal products arise and then, after only a few seasons, vanish, one recognizes the transitory nature of life’s glories—and indeed of life itself. Something about the daily cutting of the beard seems to echo that.

Back to practical matters: I have ordered a small supply to send to various friends and vendors, but I won’t have them for a week. If you order from the “Buy it now” link at the right, you’ll probably get your copy before I get mine.

Sales will also be made through Amazon.com, but that will take a week, and based on previous experience, initial sales will be with no discount: full list (though if you’re an Amazon Prime member you of course get free shipping). After a few months of sales experience, their discount algorithm seems to kick into action and from then on the Amazon copies will have a discount. But that’s some months away.

I’m happy to answer questions, and I’m eager to hold the new book in my own hands—but that’s at least a week away.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 August 2011 at 8:37 am

Posted in Books, Shaving

CSF experiment with MWF

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Very nice lather from the Vie-Long horsehair brush shown and MWF. The Coral Skin Food was for an experiment: put a few drops of CSF on top of MWF to see the effect on the lather. The only effect I noticed was the rose fragrance, but that was pleasant. However, I normally get good lather from MWF in any case.

Three passes of the Edwin Jagger DE89 DE87 [correction thanks to sharp eye of Mantic59: videographers see things others miss. - LG] holding a Feather blade: still smooth and awesome. A question arose about whether a DE8x might have the older head by Merkur rather than the new head designed by Neal Jagger with the Müller brothers of Mühle-Pinsel. I didn’t think so: I got one of the new heads to try when they first came out (using on my Chatsworth) and as I recall the DE8x came out after that. And, as it turns out, my memory was (in this case) correct; from an email received this morning from The English Shaving Company:

Have spoken with NJ.  This is the response as I thought but needed to clarify. The New DE8 styles always had the EJ head Never the Merkur. The original EJ head was upgraded in 2009.  Both the black ones illustrated on Amazon and Highland Menscare have the latest head.  The one you illustrated from Fendrihan has one of the original new style heads; not sure where that image came from as they buy regularly and would not have stock from so far back.

This was to respond to a question that arose on Wicked_Edge.

After the shave, the aftershave, and Alt-Innsbruck, with its menthol/tobacco fragrance (Salem cigarettes?) kickstarting the morning.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 August 2011 at 8:18 am

Posted in Shaving

I’m getting one for The Wife

with 7 comments

This truly is a Cool Tool for the groggy-when-awakened. And I think The Wife will like it, too.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 August 2011 at 3:45 pm

Better software alternatives for Windows

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The ones I have actual experience with, I agree with the writer. Here’s the post.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 August 2011 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Software

Pens and happiness

with 4 comments

I am getting a good deal of pleasure these days from my fountain pens and fine stationery. As I wrote to The Niece this morning on a sheet of handmade Crane 100%-cotton-rag stationery, now no longer made, a little-known secret of letter-writing is the enormous amount of pleasure one gets in writing with a good pen and ink on good paper. (The Crane’s has quite a bit of tooth, so I used the Montblanc Agathie Christie—a black pen in which the gold nib has on it a silver snake’s head engraved, and the clip is a silver snake slithering down the cap, with rubies for its eyes. John Mottishaw did the nib work to make it a perfect medium italic point, and it writes a little wet, just right for this paper. The ink was Noodler’s Ultrablack or whatever it’s called: their blackest, most light-absorbent ink. On the creamy white stationery, it made quite an impact.)

So, if you’re going to write a letter, you can really pump up your enjoyment of the task by using really nice stationery. It’s just as in shaving: if you have a task you feel you must do, then exert some ingenuity to make the task a pleasure. If you’re going to have to do it anyway, become drawn to it by the pleasure that doing it affords: shaving in the one case, letter-writing in the other. And so for all tasks, to the extent that you can: cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, and so on. (I have not succeeded with all, but with more than you might think.)

One impetus for this post was, not the Agatha Christie, but another pen I brought out just now for use: I can’t even recall the name of maker or model… ah, but they’re thoughtfully engraved on the cap: it’s a Marlen Eclisse, and the “Eclisse” refers to the moon theme: a sort of faux-primitif flat silver clip, slightly rounded, with an odd little offset at the top, stamped with a Sun at the top of the clip, an Earth at the bottom, and (quite out of scale) somewhat below the Sun, a partially eclipsed Moon.

The moon theme continues—because an eclipse is all about the moon, of course—with the color—black, with whorls of color, iridescent and inside the plastic, forming a haloed moon on the side, though you don’t at first see it—and also with the cap screwing onto the barrel eccentrically. You get quite an odd feeling when you start unscrewing the cap and it begins by going a bit sideways. And as you continue to unscrew it, it bobs eccentrically about as if on an epicycle (as the moon in its orbit, as we so painstakingly learned when we read worked through Ptolemy’s Almagest).

It should go without saying, but: regardless of how you start the cap, it screws back on—again disconcertingly eccentrically—to stop a final flush finish with the barrel: no remaining eccentricity to be detected. (I take that as a comment on the eccentricity that we each harbor within, however conventional a façade we present.) And the same thing happens in reverse on the opposite end, as you stow the cap for writing: you screw it onto the eccentric knob, watching it swing in and out, as if on an epicycle, and then finish, flush again with the barrel.

This pen has an extremely nice point—another italic point made by Mottishaw. As I filled the pen—a converter, but you can’t have everything—I thought about having tried all sorts of inks—excellent inks: the Noodler stuff I got recently, some Private Reserve, and I even have two unopened bottles of the redoubtable (but now unobtainable) Doctor Black, the darkest, most bulletproof ink known: proof against water, sun, outdoor weathering… incredible (The guy who does (or did) the ink sampler books had a permanency test in which he dabbed some ink on paper and put it out for 24 hours on the roof. One time he forgot, went on a two-week vacation, it rained off and on, and when he finally remembered and checked his samples, all but a few were simply blank paper. Only one was absolutely crisp, dark, and distinct: Doctor Black.)—and though I have tried and liked many of the inks, I keep coming back to Waterman: Florida Blue when I want washability, Blue Black for permanency.

That little thought, when I unpacked it as I went, was larger than I expected. The whole point is that I like Waterman inks, a thought I had when I filled the pen, but I suppose the context is part of the thought.

And, actually, this post (the one I’m writing) itself has its own context, which for it is another post, pointed out by the ever-invaluable Jack of Amsterdam. Worth reading, and he (rightly) advises clicking the Strauss link therein.

Another thing recently giving me great pleasure is (appropriately) rediscovering Epicurus. As I read the slim booklet that remains of his writings, I realize that it was this book that led me to St. John’s… but enough context for now, I think.

UPDATE: I’ve been searching for a good photo of the Marlen pen, and I discover that Eclisse is not the particular model I have (the model I describe above), but a more general name for Marlen pens. I do not in fact know the name of this particular model. I’ll have to track it down. Maybe Detlef Bittner knows—he’s the one who sold it to me in his little Carmel store.

UPDATE 2: The moon being so close to the Sun bothered me, so I just spent some time looking again at that clip. I realize now I had it backwards: the top emblem stands for the Earth—this is a Ptolemaic clip, in which the Earth is the pre-eminent body in the equation, and I had been looking at the clip with post-Copernican eyes, assuming that the major and most important body in the system shown would (naturally) be the Sun. Except that people don’t live on the Sun, they live on Earth, so it’s the important one. And then, just down from the Earth lies the waxing or waning Moon, and at the very end of the clip, off in the distance, is the Sun, its disk just beginning to be eclipsed.

Quite an extraordinary pen.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 August 2011 at 1:49 pm

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