Later On

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

Archive for February 27th, 2008

Cool bento box

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I like this one:

Laptop Lunchbox

Since I started using this bento-style lunchbox to take my meals to work, I have found it’s made me much more particular about what I eat. I’ve never been one to spend much time in the kitchen, and I recently realized I was eating way too much junk/restaurant food as a result. I decided if I were to present my meals in an appealing way, I might pay more attention and start eating better. I also have the Mr. Bento Lunch Jar, which definitely has good presentation capabilities, but I found when I was taking it to work regularly it was difficult for me to fill up in such a way I did not have way too much food or a lot of unused space. The Laptop Lunchbox is the perfect size for me. I carry a little under 600 calories in it in general, just enough to get through a work day. Unlike the Mr. Bento, this lunchbox doesn’t keep things hot, but the containers are advertised as microwave-safe. I generally bring foods that are ok at room temperature or cool: sandwich, nuts, apples/applesauce, carrots, hummus.

The box is 9″ x 7″ x 2″ and holds four main containers, two that are 4.5″ x 3″ x 1.75″ (volume each: ~1 cup) and two that are 2″ x 3″ x 1.75″ (volume each: ~1/2 cup). There’s also a small dip container that is 1.5″x1″x1.5″, which goes into one of the other containers. Only the dip container and one of the larger containers has a lid, so you have to use mostly non-liquid foods. The lid of the outer box rests nearly flush with the tops of the inner containers, so small items don’t fly around even if you hold the lunchbox sideways. I usually leave out one large container and put a sandwich there instead (cut in thirds, it fits better and looks quite nice on display). It’s somewhat marketed for kids. I’ve seen reviews from users who send one with their 2-year-olds to daycare — a bit surprising considering how much it holds — but the site sells more adult-appropriate bags and additional containers. They also offer an insulated Bento Sleeve with Ice Pack, which I would consider if I didn’t have a fridge in my office.

Having been pushed into the prepare-my-own-food mindset, I’m actually starting to cook more for other meals (I even bought a rice cooker and immersion blender). It’s been somewhat life-changing, which may seem a little odd. Of course, there’s a Flickr pool for Laptop Lunches, so I know I’m not the only one.  — Maria Blees

Laptop Lunchbox $21  (no sleeve but includes copy of The Laptop Lunch User’s Guide)
Available from the manufacturer, Obentec, Inc.
$34 (w/sleeve, no book)
Also from ReusableBags

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Jazz in the brain

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Very interesting:

A fantastic study has just been released by open-access science journal PLoS One that investigated the neuroscience of jazz improvisation.

Jazz musicians were put inside an fMRI brain scanner and were asked to do complete a number of different musical exercises using a specially adapted magnet-friendly keyboard.

The musicians were asked to demonstrate musical scales, a pre-practised fixed piece, and an improvisation exercise while their brains were scanned.

A summary of the study by the John Hopkins medical school team gives the main results:

The scientists found that a region of the brain known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a broad portion of the front of the brain that extends to the sides, showed a slowdown in activity during improvisation. This area has been linked to planned actions and self-censoring, such as carefully deciding what words you might say at a job interview. Shutting down this area could lead to lowered inhibitions, Limb suggests.

The researchers also saw increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, which sits in the center of the brain’s frontal lobe. This area has been linked with self-expression and activities that convey individuality, such as telling a story about yourself.

Some years ago, psychiatrist Sean Spence suggested that Jazz music may have been born owing to the ‘the father of Jazz’, Buddy Bolden, having schizophrenia and suffering from associated frontal lobe impairments.

Spence argued that reduced frontal lobe function meant that Bolden could only improvise, as he didn’t have the cognitive control to stick to pre-learnt pieces.

At the time improvisation was considered a sign that you couldn’t play ‘proper music’ well enough, but Bolden took improvisation to a new level with wondrous flights of fancy and, as the legend goes, jazz was born. That’s not the whole story of course, but it’s possible an ingredient.

While these new findings don’t give us much of a lead on whether this might have been the genuine beginning of jazz music, it’s interesting that the idea that reduced frontal lobe function ‘frees up’ the over-inhibited playing of set pieces, is consistent.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Music, Science

Commerical fuel cells

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Although many people continue to say that practical fuel cells remain in the distant future, are they right? Probably not.

The commercialization of small fuel cell chargers is proceeding rapidly, with the first portable units potentially hitting stores as early as next year. One of the companies on the forefront of fuel cell development (they recently signed a deal with Duracell) is MTI Micro. Their Direct Methanol Fuel Cells (DMFC) will be shown this week at the Fuel Cell Expo in Japan. The biggest benefit of DMFCs is that they keep portable electronics products running for longer than conventional batteries and make recharging much easier. From the article,

“DMFCs produce electricity from a reaction between methanol, water and air. The only by-products of the reaction are a small amount of water vapor and carbon dioxide, so the fuel cells are typically seen as a much greener form of energy than traditional batteries. A big advantage of DMFCs is that they can be replenished with a new cartridge of methanol in seconds. The cell-phone DMFC prototype takes advantage of this quick replenish and potentially offers an immediate recharge when the battery dies, while the camera DMFC provides twice the energy of a Lithium Ion battery-based grip.”

Before the cell phone unit hits, MTI is planning to release a DMFC-based charger. Equipped with a usb input, this device would be able to recharge a cell phone about eight to 10 times. A replacement methanol cartridge would give you another month. Obviously, for road warriors or people out in the field, the advantages of having such a power source would be enormous. MTI expects these chargers to be available in early 2009.

Check out the article for more details.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 3:25 pm

Evil throughout history

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Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 3:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Breaking news: Obama outbids Microsoft for Yahoo

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The Borowitz Report reports:

Cash-rich Obama Buys Yahoo
Outbids Microsoft for Internet Giant

Flush with cash after a deluge of online donations, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) stunned the business world today by outbidding Microsoft for the Internet giant Yahoo.

The purchase of Yahoo is believed to be the largest acquisition of a multibillion-dollar company ever by a Democratic presidential candidate, industry experts said.

A spokesman for Microsoft at the company’s Redmond, Washington headquarters acknowledged that the company was “disappointed” to lose Yahoo to Sen. Obama, but added, “We can’t really be mad at him, because we love him so.”

The news of Sen. Obama’s $48 billion offer for Yahoo sent a shudder through Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)’s campaign, which for the past six weeks has been subsisting on Ramen noodles.

In his televised debate in Cleveland, Ohio with Sen. Clinton, Sen. Obama said that he was able to purchase Yahoo because his campaign was reaping online donations averaging $1.8 billion a day.

Mr. Obama also offered to “personally hire” 2 million Ohioans to do odd jobs around his campaign headquarters.

“People say, can we really come up with enough errands for 2 million Ohioans to do?” he said. “Yes we can.”

Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick praised Sen. Obama’s plan, telling reporters, “His campaign is more than just words, he is offering people a real opportunity to go on a Starbucks run.”

Sen. Obama later added, “My campaign is more than just words, I am offering people a real opportunity to go on a Starbucks run.”

Elsewhere, President Bush said that the economy was not in a recession, leading economists to conclude that the economy was in a recession.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 12:14 pm

Posted in Business, Election

Tryphon Shaving Creams

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I’m mostly a shaving soap guy, but I might be changing. I got some Tryphon Lime Shaving Cream recently, and it was so nice—very “fresh lime” fragrance and wonderful lather—that I ordered some more: Rose, Violet, and English Lavender. They just arrived and the fragrances are compelling. They also are made without added coloring—some of the English shaving creams have so much coloring they will stain your silvertip brush. The Lavender, moreover, does not have the medicinal and unpleasant scent that bothers me with some lavenders—the Tryphon fragrance is quite floral.

I’ll be trying these over the next few days, but let me encourage you to try some of these as well.

UPDATE: Giovanni writes to say, “My shaving creams do have some coloring (except for the Sandalwood and the Permafrost), but it is very weak and food color based. They do not stain the silvertips of expensive brushes. All my creams are Paraben-free.”

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 11:58 am

Posted in Shaving

How do you get rid of the incompetents?

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It’s hard when the Boss is also incompetent:

What if Alberto Gonzales were still attorney general?

The independent investigations, congressional hearings and growing media outrage seemingly doomed Gonzales. But what if he had refused to resign and President George W. Bush, who had begun working with him long ago back in Texas, had continued his support? Gonzales would now preside over a huge bureaucracy that was collectively holding its breath until Bush left the White House.

The scenario is not too hard to envision —because it’s happening right now at the General Services Administration under Administrator Lurita Doan.

In May, a White House Office of Special Counsel report found that Doan had violated the Hatch Act, the law that prevents federal employees from engaging in partisan politics. Investigations from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and also Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) laid out charges that she intimidated employees, awarded a no-bid contract to a friend and inappropriately interfered in approving a contract where the government was overcharged by millions of dollars.

Yet Doan still leads GSA— to the surprise and dismay of a number of congressional investigators and GSA employees. That she hasn’t resigned and the White House’s hasn’t told her to raises a broader question: What does it take before a government official leaves for the good of her agency?

“Working in the negative atmosphere that Doan’s created is hard,” said Ted Stenchey, a 28-year GSA veteran in the office of Inspector General. “Hopefully, the next 11 months will go quickly.”

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Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 11:27 am

The CIA and JFK

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What are they hiding?

The Central Intelligence Agency will quietly defend its refusal to release a batch of top-secret files related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in a Washington courtroom tomorrow.

Amid all the headlines about the discovery of a cache of previously unknown JFK material in Dallas, agency lawyers will make their first response to a court order to explain the secrecy surrounding a career CIA undercover officer allegedly involved in the events that led that to the murder of the president on Nov. 22, 1963.

For four years, the agency has been battling in federal court to block my Freedom of Information Act request seeking disclosure of the secret operations of a deceased CIA officer named George Joannides. He is a shadowy figure in the complex story of JFK’s assassination. At the time of the Dallas tragedy, Joannides was serving as chief of the CIA’s Miami-based “psychological warfare” operations against Cuban leader Fidel Castro. In December, a three-judge panel in the D.C. Court of Appeals threw out the many of the agency’s decades-old claims of secrecy around Joannides.

Circuit Judge Judith Rogers and two colleagues ordered the CIA to search its operational files for more material on Joannides. They also ordered the agency to explain why 17 reports on Joannides’ secret operations in 1962, 1963 and 1964, are missing from CIA archives. In legal briefs, agency officials have claimed that more than 30 documents about Joannides’s actions in the 1960s and 1970s cannot be made public in any form—for reasons of “national security.”

Joannides’ curious connection to the JFK assassination story was unknown until 2001.

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Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 11:25 am

Posted in Government

US welcomes Burmese pythons

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More bad news:

Burmese pythons—an invasive species in south Florida—could find comfortable climatic conditions in roughly a third of the United States according to new “climate maps” developed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Although other factors such as type of food available and suitable shelter also play a role, Burmese pythons and other giant constrictor snakes have shown themselves to be highly adaptable to new environments.

The just-released USGS maps can help natural resource agencies manage and possibly control the spread of non-native giant constrictor snakes, such as the Burmese python, now spreading from Everglades National Park in Florida. These “climate match” maps show where climate in the U.S. is similar to places in which Burmese pythons live naturally (from Pakistan to Indonesia).

A look at the maps shows why biologists are concerned.

The maps show where climate alone would not limit these snakes. One map shows areas in the U.S. with current climatic conditions similar to those of the snakes’ native ranges. A second map projects these “climate matches” at the end of this century based on global warming models, which significantly expands the potential habitat for these snakes.

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Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 11:21 am

Destroying the American West

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Bad news:

The West has become 500 percent dustier in the past two centuries due to westward U.S. expansion and accompanying human activity beginning in the 1800s, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Sediment records from dust blown into alpine lakes in southwest Colorado’s San Juan Mountains over millennia indicates the sharp rise in dust deposits coincided with railroad, ranching and livestock activity in the middle of the last century, said geological sciences Assistant Professor Jason Neff, lead author on the study. The results have implications ranging from ecosystem alteration to human health, he said.

“From about 1860 to 1900, the dust deposition rates shot up so high that we initially thought there was a mistake in our data,” said Neff. “But the evidence clearly shows the western U.S. had it’s own Dust Bowl beginning in the 1800s when the railroads went in and cattle and sheep were introduced into the rangelands.”

A paper on the research funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was published in the Feb. 24 issue of Nature Geoscience. Co-authors included CU-Boulder’s Ashley Ballantyne, Lang Farmer and Corey Lawrence, Cornell University’s Natalie Mahowald, the University of Arizona’s Jessica Conroy and Jonathan Overpeck, Christopher Landry of the Center of Snow and Avalanche Studies in Silverton, Colo., the University of Utah’s Tom Painter and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Richard Reynolds.

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Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 11:18 am

Posted in Environment, Science

How People Count Cash?

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Via Boing Boing

Vodpod videos no longer available. from posted with vodpod

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 10:49 am

Posted in Daily life

The purposes of play

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I missed this article when it first came out, but it’s definitely worth a look. It begins:

On a drizzly Tuesday night in late January, 200 people came out to hear a psychiatrist talk rhapsodically about play — not just the intense, joyous play of children, but play for all people, at all ages, at all times. (All species too; the lecture featured touching photos of a polar bear and a husky engaging playfully at a snowy outpost in northern Canada.) Stuart Brown, president of the National Institute for Play, was speaking at the New York Public Library’s main branch on 42nd Street. He created the institute in 1996, after more than 20 years of psychiatric practice and research persuaded him of the dangerous long-term consequences of play deprivation. In a sold-out talk at the library, he and Krista Tippett, host of the public-radio program ‘‘Speaking of Faith,’’ discussed the biological and spiritual underpinnings of play. Brown called play part of the ‘‘developmental sequencing of becoming a human primate. If you look at what produces learning and memory and well-being, play is as fundamental as any other aspect of life, including sleep and dreams.’’

The message seemed to resonate with audience members, who asked anxious questions about what seemed to be the loss of play in their children’s lives. Their concern came, no doubt, from the recent deluge of eulogies to play . Educators fret that school officials are hacking away at recess to make room for an increasingly crammed curriculum. Psychologists complain that overscheduled kids have no time left for the real business of childhood: idle, creative, unstructured free play. Public health officials link insufficient playtime to a rise in childhood obesity. Parents bemoan the fact that kids don’t play the way they themselves did — or think they did. And everyone seems to worry that without the chance to play stickball or hopscotch out on the street, to play with dolls on the kitchen floor or climb trees in the woods, today’s children are missing out on something essential.

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Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 10:33 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Astronomy can be beautiful

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Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 10:16 am

Posted in Science

Newsweek and Karl Rove

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Interesting. Michael Hirsch is a senior editor of Newsweek.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 10:10 am

Peas with onion, mint, and olive oil

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This recipe sounds delicious. Photos at the link.

Peas with Olive Oil and Mint
Serves 2 as a side dish

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups frozen green peas
1 small onion or shallot, sliced into paper-thin rings
2 sprigs fresh mint

Pour the oil into a medium saucepan and add the peas, onion slices, and mint. Add the salt and one tablespoon of water, and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer over low heat for 6 to 7 minutes. Shake the pan occasionally. Serve hot.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 9:31 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Oh, yum: spare ribs, cabbage, and sauerkraut

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This recipe from Simply Recipes sounds just delicious:

It does take twice as long to make as our other recipe. But it really is amazingly good, and so worth it if you can make the time.

  • 3 to 3 1/2 pounds spare ribs
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 32-ounce jar of sauerkraut, drained
  • 4 cups thinly shredded cabbage (about 1 medium head)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bottle of your favorite beer
  • 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
Rub the ribs with garlic, caraway seeds, and cracked black pepper. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours (if you have time, otherwise skip).

Preheat oven to 400°F. Unwrap ribs from plastic wrap. Season the ribs with salt and pepper. Wrap with aluminum foil and place on a roasting pan. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Place sauerkraut, onion, caraway seed, brown sugar, and cabbage in a Dutch oven. Stir in beer, water, and chicken stock. Add pepper to taste. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F. Bake the sauerkraut cabbage mixture, covered, for 3 hours.

Lower the oven temperature to 325°F. Place ribs over sauerkraut, cover, and cook for an additional hour. Add more liquid if needed.

Serve the ribs with the sauerkraut. Good with boiled potatoes.

Serves 4 to 6.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 9:24 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

The human cost of torture

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Not just to the victim, but also to the perpetrator:

A psychiatrist who has treated former military personnel at Guantánamo prison camp is telling a story of prisoner torture and guard suicide there, recounted to him by a National Guardsman who worked at Guantánamo just after it opened.

Dr. John R. Smith, 75, is a Oklahoma City psychiatrist who has done worked at military posts during the past few years. He is also a consultant for the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Services, and is affiliated with the Veteran’s Affairs Administration Hospital in Oklahoma City. The court-appointed psychiatric examination of Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Murrah Federal Building in 1995, was conducted by Smith. A few years ago, he became a contract physician, treating active duty members of the US military in need of psychotherapy.

Smith spoke on February 22, 2008, at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, held in Washington DC. His presentation dealt with the psychological impact on guards of working at Guantánamo . He focused on a chilling case history, of a patient he called “Mr. H.”

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Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 9:03 am

Excellent climate change article in Salon

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Very good, well-reasoned article on climate change, which begins:

The more I write about global warming, the more I realize I share some things in common with the doubters and deniers who populate the blogosphere and the conservative movement. Like them, I am dubious about the process used by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to write its reports. Like them, I am skeptical of the so-called consensus on climate science as reflected in the IPCC reports. Like them, I disagree with people who say “the science is settled.” But that’s where the agreement ends.

The science isn’t settled — it’s unsettling, and getting more so every year as the scientific community learns more about the catastrophic consequences of uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions.

The big difference I have with the doubters is they believe the IPCC reports seriously overstate the impact of human emissions on the climate, whereas the actual observed climate data clearly show the reports dramatically understate the impact.

But I do think the scientific community, the progressive community, environmentalists and media are making a serious mistake by using the word “consensus” to describe the shared understanding scientists have about the every-worsening impacts that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are having on this planet. When scientists and others say there is a consensus, many if not most people probably hear “consensus of opinion,” which can — and often is — dismissed out of hand. I’ve met lots of people like CNBC anchor Joe Kernen, who simply can’t believe that “as old as the planet is” that “puny, gnawing little humans” could possibly change the climate in “70 years.”

Well, Joe, it is more like 250 years, but yes, most of the damage to date was done in the last 70 years, and yes, as counterintuitive as it may seem, puny little humans are doing it, and it’s going to get much, much worse unless we act soon. Consensus of opinion is irrelevant to science because reality is often counterintuitive — just try studying quantum mechanics.

Fortunately Kernen wasn’t around when scientists were warning that puny little humans were destroying the Earth’s protective ozone layer. Otherwise we might never have banned chlorofluorocarbons in time.

Consensus of opinion is also dismissed as groupthink. In a December article ignorantly titled “The Science of Gore’s Nobel: What If Everyone Believes in Global Warmism Only Because Everyone Believes in Global Warmism?” Holman W. Jenkins Jr. of the Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote:

What if the heads being counted to certify an alleged “consensus” arrived at their positions by counting heads?It may seem strange that scientists would participate in such a phenomenon. It shouldn’t. Scientists are human; they do not wait for proof. Many devote their professional lives to seeking evidence for hypotheses, especially well-funded hypotheses, they’ve chosen to believe.

Less surprising is the readiness of many prominent journalists to embrace the role of enforcer of an orthodoxy simply because it is the orthodoxy. For them, a consensus apparently suffices as proof of itself.

How sad that the WSJ and CNBC have so little conception of what science really is, especially since scientific advances drive so much of the economy. If that’s what Jenkins thinks science is, one would assume he is equally skeptical of flossing, antibiotics and even boarding an airplane.

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Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 8:45 am

Clove & Tangerine

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Mama Bear’s Clove & Tangerine shaving soap produced a very good lather with the help of the Simpsons Emperor 3 Super—and once again I enjoyed the size of the brush. Variety: it’s wonderful!

The English Aristocrat and shave 2 on the Sputnik blade—the better shave than shave 1, for some odd reason.

Three passes, and for the Oil Pass, I used again my own mix: very nice.

The clove fragrance tilted me toward Bay Rum for the aftershave, and I picked Taylor of Old Bond Street Bay Rum, one of my faves.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2008 at 8:40 am

Posted in Shaving

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