Later On

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

Archive for February 12th, 2008

A Baltimore cop who didn’t make The Wire

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Written by Leisureguy

12 February 2008 at 4:11 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

Torture not needed

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Spencer Ackerman:

Yesterday the Pentagon announced that it will try six inmates of Guantanamo Bay on murder charges related to 9/11. It was a stunning victory for the Bush administration’s argument for “enhanced interrogation” techniques, since there was no way FBI agents could have gathered the evidence against the 9/11 conspirators without waterboarding and other brutal approaches applied by the CIA.

Oh, wait. That’s not what happened at all. Reports The Washington Post:

The admissions made by the men—who were given food whenever they were hungry as well as Starbucks coffee at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba—played a key role in the government’s decision to proceed with the prosecutions, military and law enforcement officials said.FBI and military interrogators who began work with the suspects in late 2006 called themselves the “Clean Team” and set as their goal the collection of virtually the same information the CIA had obtained from five of the six through duress at secret prisons.

To ensure that the data would not be tainted by allegations of torture or illegal coercion, the FBI and military team won the suspects’ trust over the past 16 months by using time-tested rapport-building techniques, the officials said.

So we tortured these people, forever sullying the reputation of the U.S. during a time when we’re allegedly fighting a war for Muslim hearts and minds, when we could have offered them a cup of coffee for the same—and probably better—effect.

Well, not the same effect. If we didn’t torture, say, Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, he would never have told us the lie that Saddam Hussein gave chemical and biological weapons training to al-Qaeda, and Colin Powell would never have said that at the United Nations in February 2003, and the Bush administration (at the very least) would have had a harder time invading and occupying Iraq, and 4,000 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis would still be alive. So it’s a good thing the White House is still reserving the right to torture people. You never know when we’ll need someone to tell us that Iran is up to no good.

Written by Leisureguy

12 February 2008 at 3:52 pm

Arbitration vs. justice

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Ugly. The Justice Department refuses to investigate, of course.

A Houston, Texas woman, who says she was gang-raped by her co-workers at a Halliburton/KBR camp in Baghdad, says 38 women have come forward through her foundation to report their own tragic stories to her, but that many cannot speak publicly due to arbitration agreements in their employment contracts.

Jamie Leigh Jones is testifying on Capitol Hill this afternoon. She says she and other women are being forced to argue their cases of sexual harassment, assault and rape before secretive arbitration panels rather than in open court before a judge and jury.

Jones returned from Iraq following her rape in 2005. She was the subject of an exclusive ABC News report in December which led to congressional hearings.

After months of waiting for criminal charges to be filed, Jones decided to file suit against Halliburton and KBR.

KBR has moved for Jones’ claim to be heard in private arbitration, instead of a public courtroom, as provided under the terms of her original employment contract.

Halliburton, which has since divested itself of KBR, says it is improperly named in the suit and referred calls to KBR.

In arbitration, there is no public record or transcript of the proceedings, meaning that Jones’ claims would not be heard before a judge and jury. Rather, a private arbitrator hired by the corporation would decide Jones’ case.

In fact, Tracy Barker, who says she was sexually harassed and sexually assaulted while working for Halliburton/KBR in Iraq, also recently tried to file suit against the companies. She was forced into arbitration last month.

Jones will tell Congress today that she was not aware that when she signed her employment contract, she was effectively signing away her right to bring a lawsuit.

“When I decided to pursue a civil suit, I was informed that within my 13-page employment contract that had an additional five pages attached, [there was] included an arbitration clause,” Jones says in her prepared statement to the committee.

Jones didn’t know much about arbitration when she signed the contract and was shocked to learn what she had done.

“I learned that I had signed away my right to a trial by jury,” she said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

12 February 2008 at 3:36 pm

Fabulon not so fabulous

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In fact, it’s downright dangerous:

Researchers have tentatively linked polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in people—and their dwellings—with Fabulon, a product used throughout the late 1950s and 1960s as a durable top coat for hardwood floors.

During a survey of 120 homes on Cape Cod, Mass., researchers found two houses with unusually high PCB concentrations in air and house dust. Residents in both homes remembered a sealant that had been applied decades earlier to their floors, notes Ruthann A. Rudel of the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Mass. Research by her team turned up the PCB-laden recipe for Fabulon, which one resident remembered using.

Best known as oily insulating compounds used in electrical transformers, PCBs have been linked with reproductive harm in animals and IQ losses in children.

Three individuals who had lived in the high-PCB homes for decades carried 650 to 1,520 nanograms of PCBs per gram of fats in their blood. Such values put them in the top 5 percent of PCB-tainted Americans, based on data from a recent national survey.

Refinishing Fabulon-finished flooring appears to offer no panacea, the researchers report in the January Environmental Health. In one home where some floors had recently been refinished, Rudel notes that airborne PCB levels became especially exaggerated.

Overall, dust values for PCBs measured in the two heavily tainted homes ranged from 21 to 190 micrograms per gram (µg/g) of dust—well above the 1 to 10 µg/g maximum values typically reported in other studies. Although no federal health-based limits exist for PCBs in house dust, Rudel’s team notes that a federal limit on PCBs in soil, intended to protect people facing long-term exposure, is only 0.22 µg/g.

Written by Leisureguy

12 February 2008 at 1:25 pm

Celery enhances taste of broth

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Good to know:

Celery makes chicken soup taste better. Tasting the stringy vegetable isn’t necessary to enjoy its flavor-enhancing attributes. Tasteless compounds that are captured by the nose actually boost the broth’s flavor, Japanese scientists report.

The researchers had previously dissected celery’s odor, zeroing in on the compounds that give the vegetable its characteristic smell. In the new study, the scientists selected four of these compounds, known as phthalides, to determine which ones intensified the complex flavor of chicken broth.

Kikue Kubota and colleagues boiled celery, separating the evaporated components from the solid. Then the team added each component, in concentrations too low to smell, to samples of broth. Ten female panelists, who were screened for satisfactory olfactory and gustatory skills, tasted the doctored broth and broth alone. They also sampled broth with each phthalide added, also in concentrations too low to detect by smell. Panelists then repeated several of the tests while wearing nose clips.

The evaporated fraction of the celery, which had no taste, enhanced the chicken broth’s flavor significantly more than the solid residue did, the researchers report in the Jan. 23 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. And three of the four phthalides bumped the broth’s flavor up a notch, but this boost wasn’t detectable to panelists wearing nose clips. So take that clothespin off your nose and finish your soup.

Written by Leisureguy

12 February 2008 at 1:22 pm

Kitchen hint on stainless cookware

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Every time you use your stainless cookware (pot, sauté pan, skillet, whatever), clean the cooking surface with a stainless cleanser such as Barkeeper’s Friend, Cameo, Kleen King, or the like. Don’t use steel wool, but a nylon or copper scratchy pad is fine. This cleaning will keep the surface pretty much nonstick.

Written by Leisureguy

12 February 2008 at 12:43 pm

Posted in Daily life

Votes that the telecoms bought

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The final votes from the Senate are now posted, so you can see which Senators voted as the telecoms directed: for retroactive immunity, for whatever the telecoms did (we still don’t know exactly what laws they broke, and now we’ll never know).

Let’s defeat all the senators who voted for retroactive immunity: if they are willing to give big companies immunity after the fact for whatever illegal actions they take, these senators will do anything.

Voting to strip the immunity provision—against the will of the telecoms and Bush:

Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Casey (D-PA)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Murray (D-WA)
Obama (D-IL)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Tester (D-MT)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)

Voting in favor of the telecoms:

Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bayh (D-IN)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Carper (D-DE)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Coleman (R-MN)
Collins (R-ME)
Conrad (D-ND)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Dole (R-NC)
Domenici (R-NM)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagel (R-NE)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Inouye (D-HI)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kohl (D-WI)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Lugar (R-IN)
Martinez (R-FL)
McCain (R-AZ)
McCaskill (D-MO)
McConnell (R-KY)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Smith (R-OR)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Stevens (R-AK)
Sununu (R-NH)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (R-VA)
Webb (D-VA)
Wicker (R-MS)

Didn’t bother to vote:

Clinton (D-NY)
Graham (R-SC)

Written by Leisureguy

12 February 2008 at 11:15 am

Posted in Congress

ZAP: an all-eletric by 2009?

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Maybe Kent Bouchert has already ordered one. (More photos at the link.)


All-electric vehicles may seem like an impossible dream to most, with a price point that’s far out of reach. That may soon change, if car company ZAP gets its way. It has just announced a partnership with China Youngman Automotive Group to produce the Alias, a $30,000 electric vehicle that will be available in 2009.

ZAP believes that thanks to how fast automotive technology is advancing, it can produce such vehicle by the specified time frame. Its a difficult task as they have yet to produce a full prototype of the Alias. It does have a full specification showing what it hopes the final product will be. The three-wheeled Alias will be powered by two in-wheel 320-horsepower motors, which will be capable of taking the car from 0 to 60 in about 6 seconds. It should take go for 150 miles on one charge. A hybrid range extender is also in the works.

Getting a full vehicle within two years seems difficult, however the car manufacturer is hopeful. It has just recently made an invitation to its suppliers with hopes of getting to the affordable price range that it is looking for. Having said that, if they can bring that car at that price, well, they could own the market.

+ZAP Says its $30K Electric Sports Car Is Coming in 2009
+ZAP Alias

Written by Leisureguy

12 February 2008 at 10:59 am

Good food in NYC: where the cabbies eat

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Fascinating report from Lou Howe, a writer and filmmaker based in New York City:

Diop Mor eats thiebu djeun once a day, and a Big Mac once a year. And really, who can blame him?

The Senegalese native recently explained his simple dietary philosophy to me while deftly weaving his yellow cab through northbound traffic on Sixth Avenue. We were heading up to Little Senegal, a two-block stretch of 116th Street, which Diop assured me is the New York heart of all things West African. I began to worry for my safety as his culinary proselytising grew more passionate, his eyes darting from the road to me in the backseat as he explained the simple tenets of his dietary creed.

According to Diop, Thiebu djeun, the national dish of his native Senegal, is the perfect food. A spice-soaked fish stew, it evokes the pristine beaches and percussive rhythms of his homeland. The Big Mac, on the other hand (arguably the national dish of his adopted homeland–and my own), makes him sleepy–a side effect too dangerous during a 12-hour shift behind the wheel in Manhattan traffic. I made a feeble and entirely unconvincing attempt to defend the benefits of the mass-produced burger, but Diop quickly shot me down. You’ll just have to wait and see, he told me. The wait was well worth it.

Within ten minutes of hailing Diop’s cab, I was sitting in front of a steaming plate of thiebu djeun in the expansive second-floor dining room of Africa Kiné, Diop’s regular haunt in the heart of Little Senegal. The restaurant, on 116th Street just east of Frederick Douglass Boulevard, has been a mainstay in the neighbourhood since 1995, and is one of the first outposts of West African immigrant life on this bustling block. Little English can be overheard on these streets, having been replaced by a mix of French and Wolof (the Senegalese dialect). Storefront speakers blast African beats while the adhan, the Islamic call to prayer, flows out over the sidewalk five times a day from the nearby Masjdid al-Aqsa (Holiest Mosque).

I had the excellent luck of arriving for lunch during a heated football match on television, and the restaurant was packed. While the crowd buzzed with the flow of the game, my focus was trained purely on the food: a heaping pile of red snapper; cassava, okra, and carrots bathed in a thin tomato sauce sat next to a mound of broken rice. An underlying heat burned deliciously throughout the meal, accentuated by a single scotch bonnet perched atop the dish.

The flavours of the spice-saturated stew were dense, rich and often surprising. Washed down with homemade ginger juice–made with freshly grated ginger, pineapple juice and vanilla extract–the meal was everything Diop had promised. I couldn’t help but imagine those pristine beaches that he longs for daily behind the wheel of his cab.

My meal at Africa Kiné set me off on a gastronomic mission to discover some hidden New York culinary gems. And who better to guide such a search than those who have migrated from distant corners of the globe to ferry passengers through every nook and cranny of this metropolis: taxi drivers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

12 February 2008 at 10:55 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Immunity for lawbreaking

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It’s for sale, you know:

Last December, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) successfully filibustered consideration of a measure that would grant immunity to telecom companies that were complicit in warrantless surveillance. But in the Senate today, an amendment by Dodd and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) to strip retroactive immunity from a Senate Intelligence Committee bill failed to reach the necessary 51 votes. The final vote tally was 31-67.

Written by Leisureguy

12 February 2008 at 10:28 am

Posted in Congress

Not since the Spanish Inquisition…

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Military prosecutors announced yesterday that they have filed death penalty charges “against a former senior leader of Al Qaeda and five other Guantánamo detainees on Monday for their roles” in the 9/11 attacks.

One of these detainees, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the so-called 9/11 “mastermind,” has been confirmed to have been waterboarded. Yesterday evening, Attorney General Mike Mukasey refused to rule out using this evidence in court, saying, “What evidence gets presented at this trial is up to the prosecutors.”

On CNN last night, Charles Swift, the “hero of Guantanamo” who represented Salim Hamdan in the case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, slammed the government’s refusal to rule out waterboarding-based evidence in the military commission:

SWIFT: And if we use — we move beyond the torture discussion to the question of using this in a trial where life and death is at stake. If we use waterboarded testimony in that trial, to my knowledge…the last precedent for using that kind of testimony was the Spanish Inquisition.

Watch it.

Swift added the government’s “incredibly unenviable position” of using torture evidence “is further compromised by the fact that we destroyed the tapes of the interrogations themselves,” referring to the CIA’s interrogation tape destruction.

And according to Swift, the trial could be unfair, as the government’s Office of Military Commissions has no attorneys who are “death-penalty-qualified currently assigned” to the case. They “don’t have the resources,” he said. “The government seems to almost intentionally insure that there is not sufficient assets to put on a credible defense.”

Swift concluded, “I have absolute faith in our system of justice that we can convict an admitted mastermind without using torture to do it. It’s the fact that we keep trying to do it that’s destroying us.”

Written by Leisureguy

12 February 2008 at 10:12 am

The Dvorak keyboard

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I’ve blogged before about this, including my complaint about the ANSI standard restricting itself to existing keycaps so that the “?” ends in an up-shift position. (On the true Dvorak keyboard, you don’t have to press the Shift key to type a “?”.) But enough about that. Here’s report from a guy who found that the Dvorak keyboard greatly lessened his wrist pain:

At the beginning of 2007, I began experiencing pain in my wrists. For a while I just ignored it, but when I realized it wasn’t going to magically disappear I decided to do something about it. I figured it was obviously because, as a writer, I spend most days doing nothing but typing.

My first investment in 2007 was the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. I set this up with my Mac mini (the irony was not lost on my wife, who still taunts me to this day) and within a week my wrists were feeling better; my left wrist was pain-free, but the effects on my right hand were, while existent, quite minimal.

In October, 2007, I purchased a Logitech VX Revolution mouse, designed to be a comfortable ergonomic mouse. It’s a notebook mouse that’s not too small, so I figured I could use it at home or take it on the road. It does a good job as a powerful (though somewhat overpriced) rodent, but the effect on my wrist was again minimal.

My search for some pain relief was what brought me to the next stage, my obsession with productivity aside.

Three months ago I rearranged my iBook’s keys and started learning Dvorak myself. While the layout has been refuted in studies as having little to not effect, I say: screw the studies. The pertinent wrist pain I was experiencing has all but disappeared, and I can safely say that I get more writing done each day. Whether that’s because it’s simply easier and less stressful, or because the Dvorak layout is by nature more productive, I can’t say for certain – the important thing is that it works.

As he notes:

One of the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard’s greatest innovations was putting all the most frequently used consonants on the right hand side of the home row, and all the vowels on the left hand side. Every word has a vowel, and with QWERTY that means you’ve got to sprawl all over the keyboard to type almost all of them – the only vowel on the home row is the letter A.

By putting all those keys on one row, the typist has to move about less and can type a huge number of words all on the one row. This means:

  • Less strain on the wrist, and
  • The average typing speed increases

It’s not only an ideal layout for those experiencing wrist pain after working with computers all day long, but also ideal for those who want to squeeze the most out of each minute.

Read the full article.

Written by Leisureguy

12 February 2008 at 9:57 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Hmmm. Would Megs like this?

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The FURminator De-Shedding tool. Cool Tools says:


The FURminator is the only really functional cat-grooming tool I’ve ever found. The stiff steel rake grabs the undercoat while leaving the topcoat intact. It does a tremendous job of removing loose fur. Be prepared, especially the first time you brush your cat. For my cats, the big difference between the FURminator and regular brushes is that the softer bristles of standard brushes just get hair from the surface — the topcoat, and a bit of undercoat — whereas the stiffer teeth of the FURminator primarily snag the undercoat (and lots of it!) as well as loose hairs of the topcoat. The best part is that all that fur goes in the trash, and not on your sofa, bed, or carpet. The environment of my apartment has been improved dramatically, and I no longer need to spend a lot of time vacuuming up cat hair. While the FURminator is expensive for a grooming tool, it’s solidly constructed and ergonomically designed, and best of all, it really works. My vet used it on my cats while they were in for a visit. I was shocked at how much hair came off in just a few strokes, so I bought one to take home and have been using it for several months. I then threw out the other standard, cat/slicker brushes I had acquired over the years, and bought two more FURminators to give to cat-owning friends. The one I use is 1.75″ and is intended for cats, so although the FURinator comes in larger sizes for dogs, I can really only speak to its utility when it comes to cats.  — Debbie Chachra

FURminator De-Shedding Tool:  $28 — Available from Amazon (for cats)
Manufactured by FURminator, Inc.

Written by Leisureguy

12 February 2008 at 9:34 am

Posted in Cats, Daily life


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Another site that accepts ingredients and suggests recipes: SuperCook. These seem to work best if your ingredients are pedestrian mainstream.

Written by Leisureguy

12 February 2008 at 9:27 am

A sad day for the country

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But a great day for the power of big business to bend our government to its will. Glenn Greenwald:

The Senate today — led by Jay Rockefeller, enabled by Harry Reid, and with the active support of at least 12 (and probably more) Democrats, in conjunction with an as-always lockstep GOP caucus — will vote to legalize warrantless spying on the telephone calls and emails of Americans, and will also provide full retroactive amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, thus forever putting an end to any efforts to investigate and obtain a judicial ruling regarding the Bush administration’s years-long illegal spying programs aimed at Americans. The long, hard efforts by AT&T, Verizon and their all-star, bipartisan cast of lobbyists to grease the wheels of the Senate — led by former Bush 41 Attorney General William Barr and former Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick — are about to pay huge dividends, as such noble efforts invariably do with our political establishment.It’s worth taking a step back and recalling that all of this is the result of the December, 2005 story by the New York Times which first reported that the Bush administration was illegally spying on Americans for many years without warrants of any kind. All sorts of “controversy” erupted from that story. Democrats everywhere expressed dramatic, unbridled outrage, vowing that this would not stand. James Risen and Eric Lichtblau were awarded Pulitzer Prizes for exposing this serious lawbreaking. All sorts of Committees were formed, papers written, speeches given, conferences convened, and editorials published to denounce this extreme abuse of presidential power. This was illegality and corruption at the highest level of government, on the grandest scale, and of the most transparent strain.

What was the outcome of all of that sturm und drang? What were the consequences for the President for having broken the law so deliberately and transparently? Absolutely nothing. To the contrary, the Senate is about to enact a bill which has two simple purposes: (1) to render retroactively legal the President’s illegal spying program by legalizing its crux: warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, and (2) to stifle forever the sole remaining avenue for finding out what the Government did and obtaining a judicial ruling as to its legality: namely, the lawsuits brought against the co-conspiring telecoms. In other words, the only steps taken by our political class upon exposure by the NYT of this profound lawbreaking is to endorse it all and then suppress any and all efforts to investigate it and subject it to the rule of law.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

12 February 2008 at 9:07 am

Rosy morning

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Geo. F. Trumper Rose shaving soap is quite nice, but my tub was hiding. I found it, and this morning greatly enjoyed the lather I made with the Rooney Style 3 Size 1 Super. The ivory-handled Chatsworth held an Astra Superior Platinum blade of a certain age, but still provided an easy and smooth shave.

Then a drop of LLPSO (Leisureguy’s Last-Pass Shaving Oil) for the finishing pass, and—once again—a flawlessly smooth shave. I finished with Acqua di Rose, made by Manetti & Roberts:

Created with the pure essence of the Centiflora rose and distilled in spring water. Used for toning skin during or after bathing. Perfect as a soothing aftershave. Obtained after triple distillation, this is pure rosewater in the Florentine tradition.

A note on the oil pass: a shaver on commented that he tried it with AOS (Art of Shaving) shave oil, which gummed up his razor. I haven’t used AOS shave oil, but in view of his experience, I can’t recommend it. If it gums up a DE safety razor, I can’t imagine the effects on a multiblade cartridge. I’m surprised they can sell it.

So far, the oils I’ve used have rinsed from the razor quite satisfactorily with hot water.

Written by Leisureguy

12 February 2008 at 9:04 am

Posted in Shaving

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