Later On

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

Archive for September 5th, 2007

Truffled chicken

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I once bought some fresh truffles from Plantin—about a year ago, I think. I had a chicken all ready, and as soon as they arrived, I cut thin slices: under the skin on the breast (high, and low), under the skin at the leg, and probably under the skin elsewhere. Butter, too. I know butter was involved. Roasted. Delicious. Stunning, even. (Truffles fade fast, so you should be ready to cook with them the instant they arrive.)

Now The Amateur Gourmet documents a roast chicken he made with truffle butter. It looks pretty good, too.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 6:39 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Simpsons delight

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Via a thread on TheShaveDen.com (started by me), this wonderful page of Simpsons excellence.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 4:40 pm

Posted in Shaving

Women the best gatherers

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Maybe this is why so many women (in comparison to me) enjoy shopping:

Men hunted, women gathered. That is how the division of labour between the sexes is supposed to have been in the distant past. According to a new study, an echo of these abilities can still be found today.

Max Krasnow and colleagues at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have discovered that modern women are better than men at remembering the location of food such as fruit and veg in a market.

The researchers led 86 adults to certain stalls in Santa Barbara’s large Saturday farmer’s market, then back to a location in the centre of the market from where the stalls could not be seen. They were then asked to point to each stall’s location. This requires dead reckoning – a skill that men may once have used to return from hunting, and one that men today still usually perform better than women in experiments. Despite this, the women performed 27 per cent better than men at locating the food (Proceedings of the Royal Society B, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2007.0826).

They were also consistently better at locating high-calorie foods such as olive oil and honey than low-calorie foods such as cucumbers, regardless of whether they liked the stall or the food. Observations of modern tribes suggest that foragers need to preferentially remember where such high-value foods are, the researchers say.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 3:35 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

The world’s coasts are under threat

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Global warming will eventually produce a higher sea level and already seems to be producing more energetic storms—a category 5 hurricane struck Mexico just last week, though not in a highly inhabited area. And what do we see happening on the coasts?

The US is far from being the only place where growing coastal populations are creating a human and ecological crisis.

In 1990, just under a third of the world’s population lived on the coast. By 2002, that figure had risen to 41 per cent, and coastal populations are now growing at four times the global average, according to Maria Martínez of the Institute of Ecology in Xalapa, Mexico, and her colleagues. Some of the fastest-growing megacities, such as Lagos in Nigeria, are also on the coast. That is going to create problems, predicts Martínez, since coastal areas provide over three-quarters of all “ecosystem services”, such as fresh water (Ecological Economics, vol 63, p 254).

Rising population levels can also leave coastal communities more vulnerable than they need be. Many mangrove trees in Asia have been cut down to improve access to water, for example. Satellite images of the Indian coastline taken before and after the 2004 Asian tsunami reveal that some villages survived because they were sheltered by mangroves, while others nearby without protection did not.

“People are attracted to the coasts because of the high density of ecosystem services, but then the concentration of population has the side effect of depleting those same services,” says Robert Costanza, an economist at the University of Vermont in Burlington. “It’s like tourism: people are attracted to gorgeous natural settings until they become so full of people that the attraction is destroyed.”

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 3:32 pm

High-fructose corn syrup: another warning

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To be added to previous warnings and doubts about the safety of HFCS:

It’s not cast-iron proof that high-fructose corn syrup causes diabetes, but new evidence suggests we should think twice about using it to sweeten soft drinks.

Chi-Tang Ho at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and his colleagues found that adding the syrup to fizzy drinks makes them up to 10 times richer in harmful carbonyl compounds – elevated in people with diabetes and blamed for causing diabetic complications such as foot ulcers and eye and nerve damage – than fizzy drinks containing cane sugar.

The most harmful compound, called methylglyoxal, is known to damage cells directly. “The link between methylglyoxal and diabetic complications is well documented,” says Ho, whose team found carbonyl compounds in 11 popular brands of soft drink sweetened with the syrup.

High-fructose corn syrup is popular in the US, where import tariffs make cane sugar relatively expensive. It is made by treating corn starch with enzymes that transform some of the glucose into fructose. Ho says these free-floating monosaccharides can undergo the so-called Maillard reaction, which converts them into carbonyl compounds. By contrast, cane sugar consists almost entirely of pure sucrose, a disaccharide.

While Ho stresses that consuming carbonyl compounds has not been shown to cause diabetes, he urges a switch away from the syrups as a precaution. The results were presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston last week.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 3:27 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Medical

Surgery with tiny scars

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Interesting:

How do you squeeze a kidney through a keyhole? Put it in a plastic bag and pull, it seems.

In the latest milestone in keyhole surgery, or laparoscopy, surgeons have succeeded in removing an entire kidney through a single 2.5-centimetre-wide hole in the belly button, barely leaving a scar. Kidneys are normally removed through a 25-centimetre incision across the side of the abdomen.

Pulling a fist-sized kidney through the tiny, semicircular hole involves a mixture of compressing the organ and distending the incision, says Jeffrey Cadeddu of Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, who carried out the operation. “We place the kidney in a plastic sack like a ziplock, which is compressed as we pull it through the incision,” he says. “Also, the skin stretches quite a bit.”

So far Cadeddu has performed the procedure on three people: two with kidney infections and one with a cancerous kidney.

… The kidney is the latest of several organs Cadeddu has tugged out through the navel, including the gall bladder, the appendix, the spleen and the uterus.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 3:24 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Tidbits from New Scientist

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From the Feedback column:

Why does NASA show the movie Armageddon as part of its management training programmes? We’re talking about the thriller in which Bruce Willis saves the Earth by nuking an asteroid the size of Texas into dust just moments before it wipes out the home planet. If your first thought was that they’re training NASA managers to put the proper PR spin on any doomsday asteroid, the door to the paranoid ward is on your right.

In reality, the screenings are just a game for NASA’s space geeks: who can find the highest number of impossible things in the movie? The record, Feedback is told, stands at 168.

Also:

Did you ever wonder what gives the tangy taste to salt-and-vinegar flavoured potato chips? It’s sodium acetate, Feedback learns in a press release from the American Chemical Society, which cheerily informs us that the same compound “is the key to a new waterproof coating for protecting concrete from water damage”.

It seems that sodium acetate seeps into the pores in concrete, where it hardens and forms crystals when exposed to water, blocking the entry of additional water. By preventing further water absorption, the new coating “can be expected to increase the service life of the concrete”, the release goes on, leaving us wondering about the service life of our stomachs.

More at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Daily life

Bookmark for Friday afternoon

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If you want to play, you might want to use Mute—the game does make sounds. And the game is fascinating.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Games

The neurophysiology of synaesthesia

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Synaesthesia (conflating senses—the punch line of an old scifi story in which a blow to the head caused synaesthesia in the protagonist, leading to an operation to correct the problem, was that he recovered from the anesthesia and said, “What smells purple?”) seems to be a lot more common than was originally thought.
This post explains the neuropsychology of synaesthesia. It begins:

In the 1880s, Francis Galton described a condition in which “persons…almost invariably think of numerals in visual imagery.” This “peculiar habit of mind” is today called synaesthesia, and Galton’s description clearly defines this condition as one in which stimuli of one sensory modality elicit sensations in another of the senses.

There are several different kinds of synaesthesia, and the condition is now known to be far more common than was previously thought. Galton was describing a specific type of synaesthesia, called grapheme-colour synaesthesia, in which printed numbers or letters elicit the sensation of specific colours. The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, who reported seeing equations in colour, was a grapheme-colour synaesthete, while the expressionist artist Wassily Kandinsky, in whom musical tones elicited specific colours, was a tone-colour synaesthete. Kandinsky used his synaesthesia to inform the artisitic process – he tried to capture on canvass the visual equivalent of a symphony. There is also a type of synaesthesia called mirror-touch synaesthesia, which was discovered only very recently (see below).

There are a number of theories which seek to explain synaesthesia in terms of neurobiological mechanisms. One of them holds that synaesthetes have unusual connections between different sensory regions of the cerebral cortex, perhaps because a failure to prune improper, under-used or redundant synaptic connections during development of the nervous system. Thus, stimuli entering one sensory system will generate activity in another sensory system, and activity in the latter system will also evoke sensations in the synaesthete, despite an absence of the appropriate stimuli for that modality.

According to the other, …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 1:23 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Cool new stuff from Apple

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As everyone knows, I’m a big fan of Apple, and the new (today) announcement looks extra cool—especially the partnership with Starbucks:

Owners of Apple‘s latest iPod will be able to purchase and download music from iTunes wirelessly, thanks to a new line of players the company introduced this afternoon.

The latest high-end digital music players will also feature touch sensitive screens and look much like the company’s recently-introduced line of iPhone smartphones. The new, Web-connected iPods will come with Apple’s Safari browser installed. 8GB is $299, $399 the price for the 16 gigabyte model.

Apple also announced a new partnership with Starbucks. If you like that Norah Jones song that’s playing as you wait for a cappuccino, you’ll be able to click a button on the new iPod and buy the song instantly.

Apple refreshed its entire iPod line this afternoon at a press event in San Francisco, ranging from the Nano, with new colors and built-in games, up to a $349 model 160 gigabytes of memory.

The new iPods shipped today, said Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs, and should be in stores by this weekend.

Analyst reaction to the Jobs presentation was enthusiastic. “The consensus is, they knocked it out of the park,” said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at research firm Jupiter who attended the event.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 1:17 pm

The Democratic defense of Larry Craig

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AmericaBlog has a post that makes a very good point: the ones attacking Larry Craig belong to the GOP, not to the Democratic party:

Because I’m a small step above a Luddite, I still belong to AOL. One of the few perks are the columnists who write there on a daily basis. Yesterday, I came across a column by Dinesh D’Souza.

In the column, D’Souza tries to turn around the “Republicans are hypocrites” narrative by saying that liberals would react differently if Larry Craig was a Democrat.

If Larry Craig was a Democrat, we’d be hearing a lot from liberals in the media about how he was bravely exploring his sexual identity. We would hear indignant objections to this policeman who, obviously having nothing better to do with his time, was doing surveillance in airport bathrooms in search of innocent people to harass and victimize. The ACLU would be right in there, asking about Craig’s right to privacy and wondering why such ambiguous evidence (he placed his bag in front of the door, he tapped his foot) was enough to warrant arrest and prosecution. Even Craig’s guilty plea would be employed in his favor: look, the man is at least being honest about what he did, and why should he be ashamed of being who he is? If Larry Craig was a Democrat, the system, not Craig, would be on trial.

Frankly, it’s a stupid argument for a number of reasons. First, Democrats haven’t been asking for Craig to resign. It’s the GOP and conservatives that have forced Craig out (no pun intended).

But what really undermines D’Saouza’s argument is that liberals have, in fact, made the very arguments he suggests on behalf of Craig. For instance, D’Souza says that if Craig were a Democrat, a liberal would complain about surveillance being done in a public restroom. But Arianna Huffington has already made that point on behalf of Craig.

In the consensus judgment of America’s 16 intelligence agencies, the terrorist threat to our homeland is “persistent and evolving,” placing our country in “a heightened threat environment.”

Given that chilling assessment, isn’t it the height of madness to use America’s finite law enforcement resources to seek out and arrest people for tapping the foot of a cute undercover officer in a restroom?

D’Souza then suggests that some liberals would attack the evidence and wonder whether it warranted prosecution if Craig was a Democrat. But Matthew Yglesias has made that very same argument on behalf of Craig.

On the other hand, I do regard this as somewhat mitigated by the fact that I continue to regard Craig’s arrest as fundamentally unjustified.

Clearly, D’Souza didn’t do any type of research before making his ridiculous claim as both Huffington and Yglesias are pretty prominent liberal bloggers. Given his past statements, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if D’Souza wrote this column without doing any checking to see if his claims were accurate.

But I think it speaks to a real mindset of the right. Since they are not intellectually honest, they do not expect anyone else to be. Conservatives disregard an argument the minute it conflicts with one of their desires (they care about States Rights, until a state passes something they don’t like, like a “right to die” initiative). D’Souza assumed liberals wouldn’t defend Craig based on their ideals, because as another partisan hack, D’Souza wouldn’t defend a Democrat based on his own ideals. I hope someone sends this to Dinesh, cause he ought to at least apologize for being wrong. But more to the point, he ought to learn that intellectual consistency does exist, just not on his side of the aisle.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 1:03 pm

Posted in Democrats, GOP

Great selection of traditional aftershaves

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Thanks to a post on TheShaveDen.com, I just discovered this great source of old-timey aftershaves. Some guys don’t use an aftershave, but I really like the sense of completion—and, let’s be honest—the fragrance that a good aftershave provides. The fragrance is usually short-lived, gone within an hour, but it does feel nice and starts the morning right.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 12:53 pm

Posted in Shaving

Pet peeve

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Have you noticed how many blog posts begin with a numeral? “7 tips…” “13 goals…” “6 ideas…” “15 steps…” and so on and on.

I’ve had it with the numbers. Just give me the items. I’ll count them if I want to. I probably won’t. The number of them is not important. The items (one hopes) are.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 11:24 am

Posted in Daily life

Simplify your life

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As I sit in an apartment filled with collections—books, CDs, fountain pens, pocket knives, Go and chess sets, cookware, shaving equipment and supplies, and so on—I belatedly realize that I’m going to have to get rid of all this stuff. The more stuff one has, the heavier the burden. So when you acquire something, take thought of how you’ll manage the disacquiring of it. Who will get it? Will they want it? Is it destined to be thrown away?

And of course, the stuff not only costs money to acquire, it costs money (in terms of buying enough space) to keep it.

That’s when simplification becomes appealing: in retrospect. But you can do it in advance, if you’re thoughtful. From Zen Habits today:

A simple life has a different meaning and a different value for every person. For me, it means eliminating all but the essential, eschewing chaos for peace, and spending your time doing what’s important to you.

It means getting rid of many of the things you do so you can spend time with people you love and do the things you love. It means getting rid of the clutter so you are left with only that which gives you value.

However, getting to simplicity isn’t always a simple process. It’s a journey, not a destination, and it can often be a journey of two steps forward, and one backward.

If you’re interested in simplifying your life, this is a great starter’s guide (if you’re not interested, move on).

The Short List
For the cynics who say that the list below is too long, there are really only two steps to simplifying:

  1. Identify what’s most important to you.
  2. Eliminate everything else.

Of course, that’s not terribly useful unless you can see how to apply that to different areas of your life, so I present to you the Long List.

The Long List
There can be no step-by-step guide to simplifying your life, but I’ve compiled an incomplete list of ideas that should help anyone trying to find the simple life. Not every tip will work for you — choose the ones that appeal and apply to your life.

One important note: this list will be criticized for being too complicated, especially as it provides a bunch of links. Don’t stress out about all of that. Just choose one at a time, and focus on that. When you’re done with that, focus on the next thing.

Here’s the list.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 11:22 am

Posted in Daily life

Publishing a book with Lulu.com

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As you probably know, the Guide to Gourmet Shaving was published through Lulu.com, which IMHO is a great way to publish a niche book that will probably not appeal to commercial publishers but for which there may be a small market.

One commenter asked how I could possibly be in the red on the book, since Lulu is free. That’s a good question, and the answer is below. But first, I’d like to praise Lulu: a very clean and simple process, and if you don’t buy copies of the book yourself and sell the books only through Lulu, it’s absolutely free. You can use free PDF tools (like cutePDF) to submit the camera-ready copy, and the book will go on sale (and/or be downloadable) at no cost to you. (If you go for distribution through retailers, you’ll have to find a way to create an Adobe-distilled PDF files that includes fonts. I’m lucky in that The Wife has a copy of Adobe so I didn’t have to buy it. It’s expensive.)

Several things enter into it. First, I purchased a good number of books as review copies and to send to shaving vendors and to family and friends. There was that cost and the associated postage. Also, to get distribution to the on-line retailers (Amazon et al.) costs $100. (See this Distribution FAQs for the process and fees.) Once a book has entered distribution, making a change costs $80. I’ve paid that 3 times, most recently to remove the B&B quotations.

I set the price of the book was set as low as I could, so the royalty is not great, particularly for sales through Amazon, where various cuts are taken along the way. Finally, the sales volume is not high. Altogether, just over 300 copies have been printed, and that includes the complimentary and review copies mentioned above.

Still, as I said, it’s a labor of love. I’m book-oriented, and it seemed desirable to me that there should be a reference and guide book for the guy who’s just starting to think about traditional shaving. Plus I like to explain things. Plus it’s a good retirement hobby.

My thought was that the book would see its primary use as something given by a traditional shaver to a friend or relative who’s expressed interest (or who might at some point express interest if they knew more about it ) ). If the book were ever reviewed in some Sunday Style section, I might get a little bump in sales from guys with no connection to the informal shaving network on the Internet (and thus the book includes links to the shaving forums, reference sites, and on-line vendors), but that’s not likely to happen. But, who knows?

If you’ve read the book and want to help, post a review on Lulu.com and/or Amazon.com and/or in your shaving forum of choice. The more word gets out, the more copies of the book will get into circulation and get passed along to those who have not yet made the discovery that shaving can be enjoyable.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 11:12 am

Tiny Showcase

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Another good tip from Cool Tools:

Keeping tabs on the art world is tough and time-consuming. Being a collector is tougher — and downright expensive. This site does all the work for you and allows you to amass your own hip, limited edition prints for cheap. Sign up for the newsletter and once a week you’ll receive a heads up about the artist whose work will be available later that day for $20 a pop. They usually make only 100-200 prints and it’s first come, first serve. The first piece I bought on a lark sold out in less than 15 minutes! I discovered the site nine months ago when a friend gave me a gift certificate. Although I’ve already spent my gifted wad, I still check the newsletter religiously, almost obsessively. Stumbling on amazing art(ists) is wonderful. Decorating our home with little, unique prints is very satisfying. And part of every purchase is donated to a charity chosen by the artist, too. — Steven Leckart

Tiny Showcase $20/print Available at TinyShowcase.com

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 10:48 am

Posted in Art, Daily life

Yellow Mountain Imports Go sale

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Yellow Mountain Imports is having a sale on Go equipment. I have grown to like the single convex Go stones: flat one side, the better to snap them down as you make your move, convex on the other. They also help in playing a variation: as you begin the variation, place the stones flat-side up. When you’re finished, you know exactly the stones to remove to return to the original position.

The fall season is on us, and the nights will soon be longer than the day. Time to learn a new game, or to return to an old favorite. They also have Shogi, for Chess fans: the pieces you capture can return to the struggle, only fighting on your side. And Chinese Chess, with the river running across the board.

Engage your mind.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 10:11 am

Posted in Daily life, Games, Go

Sew buttons on one last time

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VERY good tip from Cool Tools. You can get it here.

Kevlar thread

I tend to be rough on buttons (or maybe I’m just gaining weight). I started using Kevlar thread to sew fire toys and found it is very strong. I now use Kevlar thread for all my sewing. On buttons, I don’t need to use as much thread to secure them and the thread is tougher than the fabric I sew into. By weight, Kevlar is five times stronger than steel wire and is used in bulletproof vests. Do NOT try to break it by hand — you’ll just hurt yourself. The very thin thread works well with beads — it’s very abrasion resistant — and there are thicker varieties that I use for sewing leather. — Sean Rutlidge

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 9:34 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Pre-packaged foods: more costly, but don’t save time

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Interesting research from The Accidental Hedonist:

I found this newsletter from UCLA Alumni to be a fascinating look at dinner behaviors in Los Angeles. There’s much to be harvested from the piece, but there’s two points that I want to highlight:

With almost all of the home-cooked meals, families served some sort of packaged convenience food. Frozen entrées (such as stir-fry mixes, potstickers, chicken dishes and barbecued ribs) were the most popular products, followed by vegetables (canned or frozen), specialty breads (ready-to-eat, parbaked or from mix), canned soup and commercial pasta sauce. Beck did not consider dried pasta and tortillas to be convenience foods, but she did count bagged salads and hot dogs.

Surprisingly, dinner didn’t get on the table any faster in homes that favored convenience foods. Meals took an average of 52 minutes in total time to prepare. The difference in the total amount of time expended was not statistically significant between meals involving extensive use of convenience foods (with such foods making up 50% or more of a meal) and more limited use of such items (between 20 and 50%).

In fact, families saved only when it came to the amount of hands-on time spent preparing dishes — and the savings were relatively modest.

What I think this means is either people really don’t want to cook, don’t know how to cook, or simply don’t wish to deal with the hassles that cooking entails (grocery stores, expenses for additional ingredients, cleaning the kitchen).

The article tries to extrapolate some meaning from these findings as well:

“Some people don’t fight the fight of getting the kids to eat what’s being served for dinner,” she said. “The kids frequently got entirely separate entrees or separate items from the adults, so that adds to the overall complexity of the meal.”

But the demands of serving as short-order cook only partially explained heavy reliance on commercially prepared foods. Other contributors seemed to include taste buds increasingly shaped by the food industry and dwindling reliance on grocery lists, Beck said.

Okay, the kids thing I sorta understand, although if I had a child, they’d have to deal with pot roast and asparagus from time to time. But hey, it’s easy to judge.

The scariest item is that we’re allowing the food industry shape our tastes. For the life of me I cannot fathom why some folks think that Hamburger Helper and Ragu Spaghetti Sauce are “good enough” let alone “good”. But again, not being responsible for the feeding of a family, there are variables that I’m likely missing.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 9:30 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Lemon fresh!

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I got an order of new shaving supplies, so of course could not wait to trot them out. First to be tried was the Palmolive Refreshing Lemon shaving cream (scroll down). It really is refreshing lemon—has the distinct smell of fresh lemon, not unlike Honeybee Spa Fresh Lemon Soap.

With shaving creams in a tube, I squirt out a snurdle and rub it on my cheeks so I can build the lather on my beard. (If the cream’s in a tub, I can twirl the moist brush over the surface of the cream.)

Because the Omega brush yesterday didn’t seem suited to lathering on my beard, I perforce must use another Omega brush today. This one has a gold ring around the top of the handle (base of the bristles) and a slightly shorter loft. It did a great job, immensely satisfying. It seemed denser than yesterday’s brush, and the lather came up fine.

The Treet Black Beauty, day two. I transferred the blade to the gold lined Chatsworth from Edwin Jagger and got a lovely smooth and effortless shave—easier, in fact, than yesterday. I wonder whether the Chatsworth, with its Merkur Classic head, presents the blade differently than the Lady Gillette.

I decided that with the Treet Blue Special, it’s best to keep using the blade until you use it up, rather than let it rest for some days between shaves, since that might give time for edge oxidation. Certainly no problem with the shave today.

And to top it off, Thayers Lemon Witch Hazel astringent.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2007 at 9:20 am

Posted in Shaving

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