Later On

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

Archive for July 29th, 2013

This doesn’t bode well for self-driving cars

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Cyrus Farivar at Ars Technica:

One of the world’s foremost academic experts in GPS spoofing—University of Texas assistant professor Todd Humphreys—released a short video on Monday showing how he and his students decieved the GPS equipment aboard an expensive superyacht.

Humphreys conducted the test in the Ionian Sea in late June 2013 and early July 2013 with the full consent of the “White Rose of Drachs” yacht captain. His work shows just how vulnerable and relatively easy it is to send out a false GPS signal and trick the on-board receiver into believing it.

“What we did was out in the open, it was against a live vehicle, a vessel—an $80 million superyacht, controlling it with a $2,000 box,” he told Ars. “This is unprecedented. This has never been shown in this kind of demonstration. That’s what so sinister about the attack that we did. There were no alarms on the bridge. The GPS receiver showed a strong signal the whole time. You just need to have approximate line of sight visibility. Let’s say you had an unmanned drone, you could do it from 20 to 30 kilometers away or on the ocean you could do two to three kilometers.”

In this case, Humphreys’ student sent out the spoofed signal from on-board the ship itself. All GPS signals are sent from satellites to Earth without any authentication or encryption. So Humphreys is using a small software radio device to essentially fool the on-board receiver into listening to his fake signal, rather than the authentic one. GPS, in its civilian form, is provided for free, globally, by the American military GPS Directorate. The agency did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment. . .

Continue reading.

Remote control of computer-reliant transportation seems to be easy for high-tech individuals and organizations. Does anyone sense that this might be dangerous?

Video at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2013 at 8:25 pm

Posted in Technology

Senate Majority Whip: FISA Court Is ‘Fixed’ and ‘Loaded’

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Conor Friedersdorf writes for the Atlantic Wire:

The Obama Administration says the FISA court adequately safeguards Americans’ civil liberties. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, who holds the second-highest Democratic leadership position in the Senate, disagrees.

“These FISA courts — there should be a real court proceeding,” he said on Sunday. “In this case, it’s fixed in a way. It’s loaded. There’s only one case coming before the FISA court: the government’s case. Let’s have an advocate, or someone, standing up for civil liberties, to speak up for the privacy of Americans when they make each of these decisions, and let’s release some of the transcripts, redacted, carefully redacted, so that people understand the debate that’s going on in these FISA courts.” When you’ve got a senior lawmaker calling a secret court “fixed in a way,” implying that it doesn’t conduct “real” proceedings, and affirming that its judges aren’t hearing information that would be relevant to their decisions, that’s alarming.

Unless, of course, what you want is a rubber stamp for the surveillance state.

Durbin said in the same interview that Congress should rein in the NSA’s data hoovering. “I really believe that . . .”

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2013 at 4:01 pm

Why our food isn’t safe and efforts to improve that

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Short answer: Food isn’t safe because Congress won’t fund food inspection. Reason: Food companies and agribusiness don’t want to be inspected—they’re big on voluntary guidelines—so they pressure/pay Congress to cut the inspection budgets. But the FDA searches for workarounds. Marion Nestle has a good report at Food Politics:

The FDA has finally released safety rules for imported foods, two years after Congress passed the food safety law.  OK.   We now have them.  At last.

Here’s what the FDA is up against:

  • 150 different countries ship foods to the U.S.
  • These account for about 15% of the food supply, but 50% of fresh fruits and 20% of fresh vegetables.
  • The agency has the capacity to inspect about 2% of imported foods.

To deal with this disconnect, the FDA proposes to hold importers accountablefor the safety of what they ship to us.

The proposed rules allow two ways to do this: Importers can do their own onsite safety audit, or they can verify that their suppliers did so.

Both methods involve verification by certified verifiers that suppliers used “prevention-oriented food safety practices” (HACCP in other words), and achieved the same level of food safety as domestic growers and processors.

Neither requires inspection by FDA, although importers may use inspection.

The proposed rule and the third-party accreditation proposed rule areavailable for public comment for the next 120 days.

The previous proposed rules, for produce safety and food production facilities (see below), have been given another 60 days for public comment.  Comments on all proposals will now be due at the same time.  The FDA expect to issue the rules 12 to 18 months after the comments come in and then it will take another 18 months for rules to go into effect.

What does all this mean? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2013 at 1:37 pm

Jo Nesbø on Norwegian Crime Writing

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Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2013 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Books

Small Space Design: 15 Fold-Up, All-In-One Bathrooms`

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Very cool.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2013 at 1:18 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Spike Lee’s list of essential films every aspiring director should see/study

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Via Open Culture, which provides context and commentary. The list;

Spike Lee Essential Films
Spike Lee Essential Films 2

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2013 at 12:34 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Tampering with a car’s brakes and speed by hacking its computers: A new how-to

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Somehow one recalls Michael Hasting’s death in a one-car accident on a deserted straight LA street in the early hours of the morning, going very fast and crashing. Dan Goodin reports in Ars Technica:

Just about everything these days ships with tiny embedded computers that are designed to make users’ lives easier. High-definition TVs, for instance, can run Skype and Pandora and connect directly to the Internet, while heating systems have networked interfaces that allow people to crank up the heat on their way home from work. But these newfangled features can often introduce opportunities for malicious hackers. Witness “Smart TVs” from Samsung or a popular brand of software for controlling heating systems in businesses.

Now, security researchers are turning their attention to the computers in cars, which typically contain as many as 50 distinct ECUs—short for electronic control units—that are all networked together. Cars have relied on on-board computers for some three decades, but for most of that time, the circuits mostly managed low-level components. No more. Today, ECUs control or finely tune a wide array of critical functions, including steering, acceleration, braking, and dashboard displays. More importantly, as university researchers documented in papers published in 2010 and 2011, on-board components such as CD players, Bluetooth for hands-free calls, and “telematics” units for OnStar and similar road-side services make it possible for an attacker to remotely execute malicious code.

The research is still in its infancy, but its implications are unsettling. Trick a driver into loading the wrong CD or connecting the Bluetooth to the wrong handset, and it’s theoretically possible to install malicious code on one of the ECUs. Since the ECUs communicate with one another using little or no authentication, there’s no telling how far the hack could extend.

Later this week at the Defcon hacker conference, researchers plan to demonstrate an arsenal of attacks that can be performed on two popular automobiles: a Toyota Prius and a Ford Escape, both 2010 models. Starting with the premise that it’s possible to infect one or more of the ECUs remotely and cause them to send instructions to other nodes, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek have developed a series of attacks that can carry out a range of scary scenarios. The researchers work for Twitter and security firm IOActive respectively.

Among the attacks: suddenly engaging the brakes of the Prius, yanking its steering wheel, or causing it to accelerate. On the Escape, they can disable the brakes when the SUV is driving slowly. With an $80,000 grant from the DARPA Cyber Fast Track program, they have documented the cars’ inner workings and included all the code needed to make the attacks work in the hopes of coming up with new ways to make vehicles that are more resistant to hacking. . .

Continue reading. Read how the writer hijacked a friend’s Bluetooth from another car and took control of his radio. It surely seems easy to extend that to locking the accelerator down, disabling the brakes, and locking the doors.

At any rate, I would bet that these hacks are well-known by the CIA and NSA.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2013 at 11:47 am

Posted in Business, Technology

Our microbiomes and our health

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Interesting NPR story by Rob Stein:

Not so long ago, most people thought that the only good microbe was a dead microbe.

But then scientists started to realize that even though some bugs can make us sick and even kill us, most don’t.

In fact, in the past decade attitudes about the bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microbes living all over our bodies has almost completely turned around. Now scientists say that not only are those microbes often not harmful, we can’t live without them.

“The vast majority of them are beneficial and actually essential to health,” says Lita Proctor, program director for the Human Microbiome Project at the National Institutes of Health. The project is identifying microbes on key body parts, including the nose, gut, mouth and skin, in order to get a better sense of the microbes’ role in human health.

This sea change began with a pretty simple realization.

“When you’re looking in the mirror, what you’re really looking at is there are 10 times more microbial cells than human cells,” Proctor says. “In almost every measure you can think of, we’re more microbial than human.”

The horde of microbes is so vast that their genes swamp our genes. In fact, 99 percent of the genes contained in and on our bodies are microbial genes.

Scientists are getting a much broader idea of what microbes do for us. We’ve known for a long time that we depend on bacteria to digest food. But there’s a growing realization that they’re really like an 11th organ system. Proctor says, “You know, you have your lungs, you have your heart and, you know, you have your microbiome.”

This week, scientists from NIH and research institutions are gathering in Bethesda, Md., to debate themicrobiome’s role in disease and human health, including obesity, behavior, heart disease and cancer.

Perhaps one of the most important things the microbiome does it to train the human immune system, starting at birth.

“It learns early on which microorganisms are friendly and how to recognize microorganisms that are not so friendly,” says David Relman, an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine who studies the relationships between microbes and humans.

Microbes influence how much energy we burn and how much fat we store. There is even evidence that the microbes in our guts send signals that can affect our minds. These signals may affect how the human brain develops, and our moods and behavior as adults.

People who live in places like the United States tend to have far less diverse microbiomes than people who live in less developed countries and take fewer antibiotics. That, some scientists think, could be a factor in human diseases.

“As organisms are being lost, a lot of diseases have just skyrocketed,” says Martin Blaser, who directs the human microbiome program at the NYU Langone Medical Center. He lists diabetes, celiac disease, asthma, food allergies, obesity and developmental disorders like autism as health problems that have become more common.

But many researchers caution

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2013 at 11:18 am

Photography Legend Roger Ballen: ‘Photos Are Like Fossils’

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Jack in Amsterdam sent a link to an interesting article that includes a slide show of photographs. Here’s one:

Fotografie/ Roger Ballen 07

The article is definitely worth reading, and it includes this music video. Jack notes:

“Die Antwoord” = The Answer
“Platteland” = Countryside

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2013 at 10:55 am

Posted in Daily life, Music, Video

Greenwald notes shift in US opinion regarding NSA’s spying on Americans

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The whole column is worth reading as he tracks the enormous shift in public opinion, now that we finally know what the NSA is doing (thanks to Edward Snowden). I recommend you click the link. I’ll include here just one footnote to the article:

If I had to pick the most astonishing aspect of this episode so far, it would be that everyone now knows that the Obama administration’s top national security official, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper,outright lied to the Senate about NSA programs. And yet – as I said on ABC yesterday morning – not only isn’t he being prosecuted for that crime – as much of a crime as anything Edward Snowden is accused of doing – but he still has his job. That, of course, is because the “law” does not apply to high-level Washington officials and DC’s National Security State is an accountability-free zone. But the law that makes Clapper’s behavior a felony is clear and concise, and can be read here.

I find that the links Greenwald includes are virtually always worth clicking.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2013 at 10:09 am

Inside Account of U.S. Eavesdropping on Americans

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And this one is from 2008—we’ve know about this for a long time, though the extent of the Big Brotherism was not really understood.

Despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia.

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), called the allegations “extremely disturbing” and said the committee has begun its own examination.

“We have requested all relevant information from the Bush Administration,” Rockefeller said Thursday. “The Committee will take whatever action is necessary.”

“These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones,” said Adrienne Kinne, a 31-year old US Army Reserves Arab linguist assigned to a special military program at the NSA’s Back Hall at Fort Gordon from November 2001 to 2003.

Kinne described the contents of the calls as “personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism.”

WATCH Kinne discuss why it was ‘awkward’ listening to her fellow Americans.

She said US military officers, American journalists and American aid workers were routinely intercepted and “collected on” as they called their offices or homes in the United States.

Another intercept operator, former Navy Arab linguist, David Murfee Faulk, 39, said he and his fellow intercept operators listened into hundreds of Americans picked up using phones in Baghdad’s Green Zone from late 2003 to November 2007.

“Calling home to the United States, talking to their spouses, sometimes their girlfriends, sometimes one phone call following another,” said Faulk.

WATCH Faulk discuss what a day on the job was like listening to Americans.

The accounts of the two former intercept operators, who have never met and did not know of the other’s allegations, provide the first inside look at the day to day operations of the huge and controversial US terrorist surveillance program.

“There is a constant check to make sure that our civil liberties of our citizens are treated with respect,” said President Bush at a news conference this past February.

But the accounts of the two whistleblowers, which could not be independently corroborated, raise serious questions about how much respect is accorded those Americans whose conversations are intercepted in the name of fighting terrorism.

Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of “cuts” that were available on each operator’s computer.

“Hey, check this out,” Faulk says he would be told, “there’s good phone sex or there’s some pillow talk, pull up this call, it’s really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, ‘Wow, this was crazy’,” Faulk told ABC News. . .

That was the initial scandal, and where the telecom immunity issue came up. Although the article is old, it now has new relevance. Read it and watch the videos: they were doing it then, and they’re doing more surveillance now, and they don’t want to quit.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2013 at 9:52 am

Signs of the sale of a Senator

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This is from back in 2007, but it does show how a Senator is readily purchased if you give him/her enough money. It’s worth reading in the light of the vote-buying visible in the recent NSA vote. Ryan Singel wrote in Wired:

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) is reportedly steering the secretive Senate Intelligence Committee to give retroactive immunity to telecoms that helped the government secretly spy on Americans.

He has also recently benefited from some interesting political contributions.


Top Verizon executives, including CEO Ivan Seidenberg and President Dennis Strigl, wrote personal checks to Rockefeller totaling $23,500 in March, 2007. Prior to that apparently coordinated flurry of 29 donations, only one of those executives had ever donated to Rockefeller (at least while working for Verizon).

In fact, prior to 2007, contributions to Rockefeller from company executives at AT&T and Verizon were mostly non-existent.

But that changed around the same time that the companies began lobbying Congress to grant them retroactive immunity from lawsuits seeking billions for their alleged participation in secret, warrantless surveillance programs that targeted Americans.

The Spring ’07 checks represent 86 percent of money donated to Rockefeller by Verizon employees since at least 2001.

AT&T executives discovered a fondness for Rockefeller just a month after Verizon execs did and over a three-month span, collectively made donations totaling $19,350.

AT&T Vice President Fred McCallum began the giving spree in May with a $500 donation. 22 other AT&T high fliers soon followed with their own checks.


Prior to that burst of generosity, the only AT&T employee donation to Rockefeller was a $300 contribution in 2001. That supporter did not identify herself as a company executive.

When asked about the contributions, an AT&T spokesman told THREAT LEVEL: “AT&T employees regularly and voluntarily participate in the political process with their own funds.”

Both companies are being sued for allegedly turning over billions of calling records to the government, while AT&T is also accused of letting the National Security Agency wiretap phone calls and its internet backbone. A federal judge in California allowed the suits regarding the eavesdropping to continue despite the government’s attempt to have the suits thrown out on the grounds they will endanger national security. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed that decision in August. The judges seemed reluctant to toss the cases, but have yet to issue a ruling.

This is the issue that turned me against Obama. He pledged to vote against retroactive immunity for the telecom lawbreaking, but apparently he must have gotten a hefty amount of money, because when the vote was taken, he broke his pledge with no sign of regret and voted for immunity. That ended my own contributions to his campaign (small though they were) and revealed to me that he simply could not be trusted. Not at all. “Distrust and verify” is the slogan. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2013 at 9:26 am

Lawmakers Who Upheld NSA Phone Spying Received Double the Defense Industry Cash

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Sad but obvious: Many in Congress (and elsewhere) will sell out in a New York minute for a little cash—often surprisingly little, given the value to the buyer of what they’re selling. (They really should read Fisher and Ury’s Getting to Yes to become better negotiators.)  David Kravets writes in Wired:

he numbers tell the story — in votes and dollars. On Wednesday, the House voted 217 to 205 not to rein in the NSA’s phone-spying dragnet. It turns out that those 217 “no” voters received twice as much campaign financing from the defense and intelligence industry as the 205 “yes” voters.

That’s the upshot of a new analysis by MapLight, a Berkeley-based non-profit that performed the inquiry at WIRED’s request. The investigation shows that defense cash was a better predictor of a member’s vote on the Amash amendment than party affiliation. House members who voted to continue the massive phone-call-metadata spy program, on average, raked in 122 percent more money from defense contractors than those who voted to dismantle it.

Overall, political action committees and employees from defense and intelligence firms such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies, Honeywell International, and others ponied up $12.97 million in donations for a two-year period ending December 31, 2012, according to the analysis, which MapLight performed with financing data from OpenSecrets. Lawmakers who voted to continue the NSA dragnet-surveillance program averaged $41,635 from the pot, whereas House members who voted to repeal authority averaged $18,765.

Of the top 10 money getters, only one House member — Rep. Jim Moran (D-Virginia) — voted to end the program.

he numbers tell the story — in votes and dollars. On Wednesday, the House voted 217 to 205 not to rein in the NSA’s phone-spying dragnet. It turns out that those 217 “no” voters received twice as much campaign financing from the defense and intelligence industry as the 205 “yes” voters.

That’s the upshot of a new analysis by MapLight, a Berkeley-based non-profit that performed the inquiry at WIRED’s request. The investigation shows that defense cash was a better predictor of a member’s vote on the Amash amendment than party affiliation. House members who voted to continue the massive phone-call-metadata spy program, on average, raked in 122 percent more money from defense contractors than those who voted to dismantle it.

Overall, political action committees and employees from defense and intelligence firms such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies, Honeywell International, and others ponied up $12.97 million in donations for a two-year period ending December 31, 2012, according to the analysis, which MapLight performed with financing data from OpenSecrets. Lawmakers who voted to continue the NSA dragnet-surveillance program averaged $41,635 from the pot, whereas House members who voted to repeal authority averaged $18,765.

Of the top 10 money getters, only one House member — Rep. Jim Moran (D-Virginia) — voted to end the program.

defense-contributions-chart“How can we trust legislators to vote in the public interest when they are dependent on industry campaign funding to get elected? Our broken money and politics system forces lawmakers into a conflict of interest between lawmakers’ voters and their donors,” said Daniel G. Newman, MapLight’s president and co-founder. . .

Continue reading.

The article includes a list or Representatives, sorted in descending order on size of take, along with the vote. Scanning the list you can see that those getting the most money strongly tended to vote against the amendment, those with a smaller take against the amendment. But they’re all on the take. We really do need public financing of election campaigns with a ukase against campaign contributions. But that will have to await a different Supreme Court. The Roberts Court serves the cause of Big Money.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2013 at 9:18 am

Posted in Business, Congress, NSA

As if this would help…

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Apparently the companies don’t understand that criminal hackers worldwide are quite good at hacking into systems—not to mention governments. Duncan Greene writes in Ars Technica:

A high court judge has ruled that a computer scientist cannot publish an academic paper over fears that it could lead to vehicle theft.

Flavio Garcia, from the University of Birmingham, has cracked the algorithm behind Megamos Crypto—a system used by several luxury car brands to verify the identity of keys used to start the ignition. He was intending to present his results at the Usenix Security Symposium.

But Volkswagen’s parent company, which owns the Porsche, Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini brands, asked the court to prevent the scientist from publishing his paper. It said that the information could “allow someone, especially a sophisticated criminal gang with the right tools, to break the security and steal a car.”

The company asked the scientists to publish a redacted version of the paper without the crucial codes, but the researchers declined, claiming that the information is publicly available online.

Instead, they protested that “the public have a right to see weaknesses in security on which they rely exposed,” adding that otherwise, “industry and criminals know security is weak but the public do not.”

The judge, Colin Birss, ultimately sided with the car companies, despite saying he “recognized the importance of the right for academics to publish.”

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2013 at 9:08 am

Posted in Business, Law, Technology

Pot vs. Booze: The Battle Begins

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The video above is from a very good article by Paul Waldman in The American Prospect. From the article, some background on the ad:

… The Brickyard 400, a NASCAR race, was this weekend in Indianapolis, and the Marijuana Policy Project, a legalization advocacy group, thought it would be interesting to buy space on an electronic billboard outside the entrance to the event to show this ad:Once people started complaining, the company that owns the billboard pulled the ad, which naturally led to many more people seeing it and talking about it than otherwise would have been the case (good work, PR folks!). As the legalization debate spreads—there could be a half-dozen states with decriminalization or medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot in 2014, with more to come in 2016—we’re likely to hear this argument a lot.

The article is brief, and it makes some good points.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2013 at 8:59 am

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

Moral Mondays and the South’s New Liberal Gospel

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The American Prospect has a very interesting article on the Moral Monday protest against the draconian and repressive actions of the North Carolina legislature. One interesting point:

By the end of session, only 20 percent of North Carolinians approved of the legislature’s performance. The GOP’s marquee legislation—including its assaults on voting rights, reproductive rights, and unemployment benefits—was broadly unpopular. Governor McCrory’s approval ratings, as he signed one extreme bill into law after another, fell by 15 percent in just the last month.

It looks as though the next few elections in North Carolina will be quite interesting.

The article is particularly valuable in providing a context and historical background for the Moral Monday movement—as as noted in the article, It’s “a movement, not a moment.”

It makes me feel more hopeful: egregious overreach may be punished at the polls.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2013 at 8:55 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Government

BBS with the iKon Slant

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SOTD 29 July 2013

An extremely good shave today. After discussing the Omega 11047 mixed boar/badger brush, I decided to use the little guy. The soap is new to me but the ingredients look good:

Made with Avocado Oil, and Pure Kokum, Cocoa, and Mango Seed Butters.

I prepped with Jlocke98 solution using emu oil, then took the puck and was astonished to find that it generated no lather whatsoever. None. It was as if…  oh. The puck is wrapped in paper. I am not at my most alert on first rising.

Paper removed and I got a very fine lather indeed: the rolled-snow type, where the lather collects nicely on the razor. The fragrance is noticeable and though it’s coconut, to me it smelled exactly like an Almond Joy—which, come to think of it, smells only of the coconut. But that’s the hit I got.

The iKon Slant demonstrates one reason I like the three-piece design more than Merkur’s two-piece slants: I can swap out handles. Today’s handle is red jasper and comes from The heft of the stone works well with the heft of the head.

The handle is, as you observe, smooth rather than rough, but I have never found that to be a problem with any of my smooth-handled razors (stone, horn, ceramic, or resin). If it gets soapy, it does get slippery, but soap is easily rinsed away. And if I brush my fingers over the alum block, I get a secure grip even on a soapy handle (or soapy skin).

Three passes, still with the Personna Lab Blue, and I get a BBS result. A few sprays of Annik Goutal Eau de Sud into my palm and rub that across my beard: the week begins!

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2013 at 8:37 am

Posted in Shaving

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