Later On

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

Archive for April 15th, 2008

Interesting chart from CIA

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Take a look:

Current account balance
Date of Information
China $ 363,300,000,000 2007 est.
Japan $ 195,900,000,000 2007 est.
Germany $ 185,100,000,000 2007 est.
Saudi Arabia $ 88,890,000,000 2007 est.
Russia $ 74,000,000,000 2007 est.
Switzerland $ 67,890,000,000 2007 est.
Netherlands $ 59,280,000,000 2007 est.
Norway $ 55,820,000,000 2007 est.
Kuwait $ 51,490,000,000 2007 est.
Singapore $ 41,390,000,000 2007 est.
United Arab Emirates $ 36,110,000,000 2007 est.
Algeria $ 31,500,000,000 2007 est.
Sweden $ 30,190,000,000 2007 est.
Canada $ 28,460,000,000 2007 est.
Malaysia $ 25,930,000,000 2007 est.
Taiwan $ 24,700,000,000 2006
Hong Kong $ 19,870,000,000 2007 est.
Iran $ 19,000,000,000 2007 est.
Venezuela $ 17,020,000,000 2007 est.
Nigeria $ 14,610,000,000 2007 est.
Angola $ 13,640,000,000 2007 est.
Austria $ 12,610,000,000 2007 est.
Libya $ 11,710,000,000 2007 est.
Luxembourg $ 11,300,000,000 2007 est.
Finland $ 11,240,000,000 2007
Belgium $ 11,040,000,000 2007 est.
Indonesia $ 10,210,000,000 2007 est.
Brazil $ 10,200,000,000 2007 est.
Thailand $ 8,619,000,000 2007 est.
Chile $ 8,184,000,000 2007 est.
Iraq $ 7,802,000,000 2007 est.
Qatar $ 7,733,000,000 2007 est.
Azerbaijan $ 7,535,000,000 2007 est.
Argentina $ 7,438,000,000 2007 est.
Philippines $ 6,700,000,000 2007 est.
Korea, South $ 5,950,000,000 2007
Israel $ 5,941,000,000 2007 est.
Denmark $ 4,699,000,000 2007 est.
Turkmenistan $ 4,300,000,000 2007 est.
Trinidad and Tobago $ 3,884,000,000 2007 est.
Oman $ 3,785,000,000 2007 est.
Egypt $ 3,115,000,000 2007 est.
Uzbekistan $ 3,045,000,000 2007 est.
Botswana $ 2,231,000,000 2007 est.
Peru $ 2,045,000,000 2007 est.
Bahrain $ 2,009,000,000 2007 est.
Burma $ 1,676,000,000 2007 est.
Gabon $ 1,626,000,000 2007 est.
Cyprus $ 1,469,000,000 2007 est.
Bolivia $ 1,325,000,000 2007 est.
Congo, Republic of the $ 1,094,000,000 2007 est.
Namibia $ 1,065,000,000 2007 est.
Cote d’Ivoire $ 1,056,000,000 2007 est.
Bangladesh $ 683,000,000 2007 est.
Morocco $ 433,900,000 2007 est.
Papua New Guinea $ 314,000,000 2007 est.
Equatorial Guinea $ 250,000,000 2007 est.
Yemen $ 178,000,000 2007 est.
British Virgin Islands $ 134,300,000 1999
Cook Islands $ 26,670,000 2005
Palau $ 15,090,000 FY03/04
Samoa $ -2,428,000 FY03/04
Tuvalu $ -11,680,000 2003
Comoros $ -17,000,000 2005 est.
Kiribati $ -19,870,000 2004
Tonga $ -25,200,000 FY06/07
Swaziland $ -26,710,000 2007 est.
Lesotho $ -28,000,000 2007 est.
Vanuatu $ -28,350,000 2003
Gambia, The $ -31,690,000 2007 est.
Micronesia, Fed States $ -34,300,000 FY05 est.
Macedonia $ -37,560,000 Nov 2007
Anguilla $ -42,870,000 2003 est.
Belize $ -54,000,000 2007 est.
Sao Tome and Principe $ -58,000,000 2007 est.
Kosovo $ -58,300,000 2007
Paraguay $ -73,000,000 2007
Antigua and Barbuda $ -83,400,000 2004
Tajikistan $ -102,000,000 2007 est.
Burundi $ -137,300,000 2007 est.
Seychelles $ -141,000,000 2007 est.
Chad $ -144,500,000 2007 est.
Togo $ -165,500,000 2007 est.
Rwanda $ -172,800,000 2007 est.
Guinea $ -175,000,000 2007 est.
Malawi $ -180,000,000 2007 est.
Haiti $ -184,800,000 2007 est.
Cape Verde $ -218,000,000 2007 est.
Guyana $ -229,700,000 2007 est.
Uganda $ -241,000,000 2007 est.
Benin $ -278,800,000 2007 est.
Eritrea $ -343,100,000 2007 est.
Laos $ -355,000,000 2007 est.
Uruguay $ -400,000,000 2007 est.
Cambodia $ -410,000,000 2007 est.
Malta $ -411,000,000 2007 est.
Armenia $ -440,000,000 2007 est.
Honduras $ -446,000,000 2007 est.
Fiji $ -465,800,000 2006 est.
Cameroon $ -501,000,000 2007 est.
Zimbabwe $ -538,000,000 2005 est.
Mauritius $ -552,000,000 2007 est.
Moldova $ -569,000,000 2007 est.
Ecuador $ -600,000,000 2007 est.
Kyrgyzstan $ -677,300,000 2007 est.
Mozambique $ -726,000,000 2007 est.
Cuba $ -750,000,000 2007 est.
Burkina Faso $ -752,000,000 2007
Nicaragua $ -754,000,000 2007 est.
Zambia $ -856,000,000 2007 est.
Panama $ -861,000,000 2007 est.
Albania $ -918,000,000 2007 est.
El Salvador $ -929,000,000 2007 est.
Tunisia $ -935,000,000 2007 est.
Kenya $ -980,000,000 2007 est.
Senegal $ -1,085,000,000 2007 est.
Sri Lanka $ -1,118,000,000 2007 est.
Madagascar $ -1,145,000,000 2007 est.
Slovenia $ -1,165,000,000 2007 est.
Vietnam $ -1,199,000,000 2007 est.
Costa Rica $ -1,259,000,000 2007 est.
Tanzania $ -1,422,000,000 2007 est.
Jamaica $ -1,573,000,000 2007 est.
Georgia $ -1,582,000,000 2007 est.
Jordan $ -1,690,000,000 2007 est.
Guatemala $ -1,772,000,000 2007 est.
Ethiopia $ -1,851,000,000 2007 est.
Ghana $ -1,885,000,000 2007 est.
Dominican Republic $ -1,993,000,000 2007 est.
Bosnia and Herzegovina $ -2,021,000,000 2007 est.
Syria $ -2,160,000,000 2007 est.
Belarus $ -3,056,000,000 2007 est.
Estonia $ -3,092,000,000 2007 est.
Slovakia $ -3,119,000,000 2007 est.
Lebanon $ -3,337,000,000 2007 est.
Iceland $ -3,384,000,000 2007 est.
Croatia $ -3,836,000,000 2007 est.
Ukraine $ -3,890,000,000 2007 est.
Sudan $ -4,465,000,000 2007 est.
Kazakhstan $ -4,643,000,000 2007 est.
Colombia $ -5,132,000,000 2007 est.
Lithuania $ -5,320,000,000 2007 est.
Mexico $ -5,414,000,000 2007 est.
Czech Republic $ -5,701,000,000 2007 est.
Latvia $ -5,839,000,000 2007 est.
Pakistan $ -6,477,000,000 2007 est.
Hungary $ -6,681,000,000 2007 est.
Serbia $ -6,700,000,000 2007 est.
Bulgaria $ -7,189,000,000 2007 est.
New Zealand $ -9,973,000,000 2007 est.
Ireland $ -12,600,000,000 2007 est.
Poland $ -18,130,000,000 2007 est.
India $ -18,530,000,000 2007 est.
Portugal $ -18,530,000,000 2007 est.
South Africa $ -20,060,000,000 2007 est.
Romania $ -22,600,000,000 2007
France $ -35,940,000,000 2007 est.
Turkey $ -36,270,000,000 2007 est.
Greece $ -36,400,000,000 2007 est.
Australia $ -50,960,000,000 2007 est.
Italy $ -57,940,000,000 2007 est.
United Kingdom $ -111,000,000,000 2007 est.
Spain $ -126,300,000,000 2007 est.
United States $ -747,100,000,000 2007 est.

This page was last updated on 15 April, 2008

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 7:45 pm

Better performance through folding your arms

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This is somewhat weird:

Faced with a challenging task, try folding your arms – new research shows people persevere for longer when their arms are crossed.

Ron Friedman and Andrew Elliot gave dozens of students an impossible anagram to solve. Half the students were instructed to attempt the puzzle with their hands on their thighs, while the other students were told to sit with their arms folded. The thigh group only persevered for about 30 seconds on average, while the students with their arms folded struggled on for nearly 55 seconds.

A second experiment involved testing more students with anagrams that had multiple solutions. This time, the students with their arms folded came up with more solutions than the students sat with their hands on their thighs.

The students had been told the research was part of an investigation into whether arm movements aid problem solving, and none of them guessed the true purpose of the study.

Further analysis showed that the benefits of arm folding were not related to mood or comfort. Rather the researchers believe that over many years, the act of crossing our arms comes to be implicitly associated with perseverance, so that adopting that position activates a nonconscious desire to succeed. However, they cautioned that it was important to consider context when using arm folding to influence your behaviour. In social contexts, arm folding may carry different meanings in different cultures, and can lead people to feel more distant from others.

The new findings follow a wealth of previous research showing how the positions of our bodies and the expressions on our faces don’t just reflect how we are feeling, they can also influence our mood and behaviour. For example, smiling can cheer you up (pdf) and slouching can make you feel more helpless.

References at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 6:25 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

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And it’s worse elsewhere

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Take a look:

As food prices continue to escalate worldwide, some of the poorest nations in the developing world are in danger of social and political upheavals.

The unrest, which is likely to spread to nearly 40 countries, has been triggered largely by a sharp increase in the prices of staple commodities, including wheat, rice, sorghum, maize and soybeans, according to the United Nations.

Following last week’s food riots in Haiti, which claimed the lives of four people, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appealed to international donors for urgent assistance to one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean.

A meeting of the world’s finance ministers in Washington over the weekend warned that rising food prices were more of a threat to political and social stability than the current crisis in global capital markets.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has singled out six countries with an “exceptional shortfall in aggregate food production and supplies”: Lesotho, Somalia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Iraq and Moldova.

An additional six countries with “widespread lack of access” to food include Eritrea, Liberia, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and North Korea.

The steep rise in basic foodstuffs has already sparked demonstrations and/or riots in Egypt, Cameroon, Haiti and Burkina Faso, while an increase in both fuel and food prices has triggered unrest in Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Mozambique and Senegal.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Two views of the economy

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First, this view, shared by two guys:

Second, an article in the NY Times, which begins:

The consumer spending slump and tightening credit markets are unleashing a widening wave of bankruptcies in American retailing, prompting thousands of store closings that are expected to remake suburban malls and downtown shopping districts across the country.

Since last fall, eight mostly midsize chains — as diverse as the furniture store Levitz and the electronics seller Sharper Image — have filed for bankruptcy protection as they staggered under mounting debt and declining sales.

But the troubles are quickly spreading to bigger national companies, like Linens ‘n Things, the bedding and furniture retailer with 500 stores in 47 states. It may file for bankruptcy as early as this week, according to people briefed on the matter.

Even retailers that can avoid bankruptcy are shutting down stores to preserve cash through what could be a long economic downturn. Over the next year, Foot Locker said it would close 140 stores, Ann Taylor will start to shutter 117, and the jeweler Zales will close 100.

The surging cost of necessities has led to a national belt-tightening among consumers. Figures released on Monday showed that spending on food and gasoline is crowding out other purchases, leaving people with less to spend on furniture, clothing and electronics. Consequently, chains specializing in those goods are proving vulnerable.

Retailing is a business with big ups and downs during the year, and retailers rely heavily on borrowed money to finance their purchases of merchandise and even to meet payrolls during slow periods. Yet the nation’s banks, struggling with the growing mortgage crisis, have started to balk at extending new loans, effectively cutting up the retail industry’s collective credit cards.

“You have the makings of a wave of significant bankruptcies,” said Al Koch, who helped bring Kmart out of bankruptcy in 2003 as the company’s interim chief financial officer and works at a corporate turnaround firm called AlixPartners.

“For years, no deal was too ugly to finance,” he said. “But now, nobody will throw money at these companies.”

Because retailers rely on a broad network of suppliers, their bankruptcies are rippling across the economy. The cash-short chains are leaving behind tens of millions of dollars in unpaid bills to shipping companies, furniture manufacturers, mall owners and advertising agencies. Many are unlikely to be paid in full, spreading the economic pain.

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 4:55 pm

Consumers get to testify about credit woes after all

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Good news, reported in The Washingotn Indpendent by Mike Lillis:

Last month, House Republicans on the Financial Services Committee silenced consumer witnesses at a hearing to examine proposed credit card reforms (as we reported here). The witnesses were scheduled to testify about tough experiences with their cards, including hidden fees, unannounced rate hikes and contract breaches on the part of the card companies. But at the last minute, GOP committee leaders required the consumers to sign vague waivers allowing the banks to discuss the witnesses’ financial histories — without limitations on the when, where and why. The witnesses refused, and their testimonies were scrapped by Democrats wishing to salvage the remainder of the hearing.

Well, now those same consumers will get another shot. The Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit has scheduled a Thursday hearing on legislation to make credit cards more consumer friendly (the same topic the committee explored last month), and four of the five silenced witnesses will be returning to testify. They did have to sign waivers, but this time around the language specifies that the card companies may discuss their clients’ finances only with the committee staff, and only then for purposes of the hearing at hand.

So the Republican efforts to save the big banks some embarrassment has backfired. Instead of being silenced, the witnesses’ saga will probably get them twice the attention this week that they otherwise would have.

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 4:51 pm

Obama and John Stewart

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Vodpod videos no longer available. from posted with vodpod

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

Psychology and psychiatry progress report

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Interesting report. Post at the link begins:

The debate about the effectiveness and safety of psychiatric drugs rambles on while new (if not conclusive) psychological studies come out with the frequency of fad diets.

We invited some people who think a lot about such issues — David B. Baker, John Medina, Dan Ariely, Satoshi Kanazawa, Peter D. Kramer, and Laurie Schwartz — and asked them the following:

How much progress have psychology and psychiatry really made in the last century? Do we know enough about the human psyche to prescribe the medication that we do?

Here are their answers. Thanks much for their participation and insights.

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 12:41 pm

Doesn’t it look as though they were alive?

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And swimming?

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Science

Bush backs down

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He wanted something bad quite badly, but now has backed off and claims it was all a mistake by some low-level staffer. Typical. Here’s the story from ThinkProgress:

In May 2007, the Bush administration responded to intense public criticism and “introduced plans to force companies to notify the government about evidence of contract abuse worth $5 million or more.” Previously, such reports were voluntary and not surprisingly, the number of company-reported fraud cases had “declined steadily over the past 15 years.”

Yet someone at the Justice Department quietly slipped in a provision exempting U.S. contractors who do work overseas from the reporting requirements. Bipartisan groups of public officials criticized the loophole, including the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA). Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) has also led calls for a House inquiry into the matter.

The loophole has now been removed, after months of resistance by the White House. ThinkProgress has obtained an updated version of the Justice Department’s proposal, drafted April 4, that requires reporting on all contracts, including ones abroad. From the new proposal:

It is still unclear exactly which official was responsible for slipping in the loophole. Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher originally requested the new reporting requirement last May to apply to all contracts, including ones overseas. But in November, the rule was published by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget with the loophole. Somewhere along the way, the provision was changed. A Bush administration official claimed the loophole was the result of a “drafting error” and faulty cutting and pasting.

“I hate to sound cynical, but what lobbyist working for a contractor in Iraq wanted this get-out-of-jail card?” wondered Patrick Burns of Taxpayers Against Fraud. Several contractors interviewed by the AP said they agreed with the rule, although they all claimed they did not request it.

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 12:17 pm

The Marianas Islands scandal

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This is one strand of the Abramoff scandal, and some participants are still in Congress—notably, for now, Republican Bob Schaffer, who’s now running for US Senator from Colorado. Needless to say, he doesn’t want to talk about that. Josh Marshall has this good video at TalkingPointsMemo:

High-res version at

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 12:11 pm

Endocrinologist visit and report

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No weight loss at all so far, and then he asked me if I was using my kid’s plate. Embarrassed: “No.” And he has one: I took one in to show him and see if he wanted it as a prop to help other patients focus on portion size (small) and food distribution (1/4 protein, 1/4 starch (complex), 1/2 vegetables). So he had it there in his office to point to. Caught!

I told him about my walking program, and that I blogged it which helped provide external motivation. He laughed out loud. But then my HbA1c this time was down to 5.8% (excellent), which he thinks is probably due to the walking. I sort of doubt it—I haven’t been walking that long—but I expect by the next visit it’ll be even better and I can drop the glipizide again. And I am going to get out my kid’s plate.

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 11:45 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

Steps toward a better life

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The Eldest sent a link to this good story:

HIRGIGO, Eritrea (AFP) – Kneeling by the sparkling waters of the Red Sea, Ahmed Shengabay presses sand carefully over a mangrove seed. “When this grows, it will provide protection for fish and food for my goats,” Ahmed said smiling, waving at a long and thick line of tall trees already reaching high into the sky.

“We’ve planted all this already,” the fisherman cum farmer added proudly, the mangroves lining the shore beside his small desert village of Hirgigo. “The little fish like the mangroves, the big fish like the little fish — and we like the big fish.”

The seed-planting is part of a remarkable yet low-tech pilot project, designed as a model to improve the lives of desert coastal communities by using the salt-water trees to increase fish numbers, provide feed to raise livestock – and combat desertification.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 10:33 am

Posted in Daily life

Balancing US policy toward Israel

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An interesting note from

“Some of the country’s most prominent Jewish liberals are forming a political action committee and lobbying group aimed at dislodging what they consider the excessive hold of neoconservatives and evangelical Christians on U.S. policy toward Israel.” The group “will fill a void” as a counterweight to the right-leaning American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

UPDATE: Via Kevin Drum, there’s an excellent comment by Laura Rozen on this new group:

… “What has happened in the political world is that the people both elected [to Congress] and candidates and the folks around them have come to believe that the only way to speak to the Jewish community is to take the most right-wing position,’ [Jeremy] Ben Ami said. “There is no political benefit to be at the center.”

… For now, Ben Ami tells me he is working out of his basement, the organization has no headquarters and doesn’t plan for one, and plans to operate heavily in the online world. “We’re following the MoveOn model, of being virtual, and heavily online,” Ben Ami says. “Part of our goal and plan in the coming year is to develop an online presence in the way that Obama and Dean and MoveOn have done … and to tap into that and have a large base of small donors.”

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 10:24 am

Posted in Government

The $3-Trillion-Dollar Shopping Spree!!

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Via ThinkProgress:

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 10:22 am

Mental soroban

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I got and used a soroban as my primary calculator for some years. Once you learn the handful of basic combinations, you can add quite quickly—and addition was all I ever attempted, though the soroban can be used for the other arithmetic operations. I prefer the soroban to the Chinese abacus because of the soroban’s simplicity: 4 lower beads, one upper, in contrast to the Chinese style of 5 lower beads, two upper. The grandson has a soroban, but I’m not sure that he uses it. Perhaps he should watch this video, which I found on

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 9:48 am

Posted in Daily life, Science, Video

Tagged with ,

A first step in the War on Drugs

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Via, an excellent article by the former mayor of Baltimore on how we can start to recover from all the damage wrought by the War on Drugs. The article begins:

A different commander-in-chief will soon assume leadership of the War on Drugs. Let’s hope that a new leader will implement a new strategy, because for nearly a century now– following the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914–America’s War on Drugs has been seen primarily as a criminal justice problem. And for nearly a century, we’ve seen this approach to fighting drugs fail and fail and then fail again. Almost nobody’s pleased with the results. So my question is: Why haven’t we been able to change course? And why haven’t we been able to convince policymakers and the public to deal with one of our great domestic blights the way it should be dealt with: primarily as a public health issue?

It has been twenty years since I, as Mayor of Baltimore, joined in efforts led by others to reform America’s national drug control policy. Prior to my election, I had served as a loyal foot solider in the drug war as a prosecuting attorney. From that vantage point, I viewed the drug problem one-dimensionally, as a crime problem. Drug dealers and users were to be arrested, prosecuted, incarcerated, and their material gains were to be seized. The assumption was (and remains) that in time this would decrease the problem and rid our cities of the scourge of substance abuse. Throughout the country, major arrests and drug seizures were announced with great fanfare. Cars, planes, boats, and houses were confiscated. Arrest and incarceration statistics soared. The public perception was that we were winning the War on Drugs.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 9:28 am

Brain Rules

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Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 9:21 am

Posted in Education, Science, Video

Monday steps: 12,308

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Monday was breezy and a bit chilly—but sunny and clear and a very nice sort of day for a walk. I did the full hilly out, and the flat back. I had to run a few errands, and distant parking added the rest. I plan to walk again today, rather than go to alternate days. I want to get in a minimum of 4 walks a week, not 3.5 as I would get with alternate days. Still no weight loss, but I suppose that will come in time if I curb my appetite a bit.

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 9:11 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

Tabac and a new blade

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Of course, now that I have a good shave, I really can’t tell whether it was the TOBS preshave gel, the new blade, the Tabac, etc. But I’m not conducting a science experiment, I’m just enjoying my shave each morning: that’s my goal.

I did indeed use the TOBS Herbal Preshave Gel again, and picked the Simpsons Emperor 3 Super to build the lather from the tub of Tabac—and a great lather it was: very quickly reached that dense, wet, thick stage of perfection that one wants—where the lather sticks to the razor like rolled-up snow rather than dripping off.

I loaded a new Elios blade into my Edwin Jagger Chatsworth and proceeded. Very smooth, very nice. At this point, I really like that brand, though of course I need to use it more to be sure. Three passes, the I used King of Shaves Kinexium for the oil pass—man, what a terrible fragrance! Once again, it struck me as smelling like machine oil. It has absolutely fabulous packaging—my favorite, of all the shave oils—but the fragrance makes it almost unusable (for me). Still, it did a fine job on the oil pass, and then I finished with Tabac aftershave. [rubbing face to check again] Yes, a really nice shave.

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2008 at 9:09 am

Posted in Shaving

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