Later On

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

Archive for November 18th, 2013

Wow! Netflix really upgraded their streaming UI

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Really looks amazing. Very nice facelift.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2013 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

For the First Time Ever, a Prosecutor Will Go to Jail for Wrongfully Convicting an Innocent Man

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Even though the sentence is merely a slap on the wrist (if that) for putting an innocent man in prison for 25 years, at least it’s a step. Mark Godsey has the story at the Huffington Post:

Today in Texas, former prosecutor and judge Ken Anderson pled guilty to intentionally failing to disclose evidence in a case that sent an innocent man, Michael Morton, to prison for the murder of his wife. When trying the case as a prosecutor, Anderson possessed evidence that may have cleared Morton, including statements from the crime’s only eyewitness that Morton wasn’t the culprit. Anderson sat on this evidence, and then watched Morton get convicted. While Morton remained in prison for the next 25 years, Anderson’s career flourished, and he eventually became a judge.

In today’s deal, Anderson pled to criminal contempt, and will have to give up his law license, perform 500 hours of community service, and spend 10 days in jail. Anderson had already resigned in September from his position on the Texas bench.

What makes today’s plea newsworthy is not that Anderson engaged in misconduct that sent an innocent man to prison. Indeed, while most prosecutors and police officers are ethical and take their constitutional obligations seriously, government misconduct–including disclosure breaches known as Brady violations–occurs so frequently that it has become one of the chief causes of wrongful conviction.

What’s newsworthy and novel about today’s plea is that a prosecutor was actually punished in a meaningful way for his transgressions.

I give speeches about the Innocence Movement, and tell stories from real cases, all around the world. No matter where I am, when I finish speaking the first question usually is, “What happened to the police/prosecutors who did this to the poor guy?” The answer is almost always, “Nothing,” or worse, “The police officer was promoted and now is the chief of his department.” The adage that the powerful go unpunished is no truer or more visible than with police officers and prosecutors in America–even when they send innocent people to prison from their misconduct.

My client Roger Dean Gillispie of Dayton, Ohio, for example, spent 20 years in prison as a result of police misconduct. In 2007, we presented overwhelming evidence that the police officers, like Anderson in the Morton case, failed to turn over evidence to the defense before trial that would have cleared Gillispie. We also supplied the court with evidence that the police officer in charge had harassed and intimidated witnesses helpful to the defense, and had manipulated the evidence. Before going to court to clear Gillispie, we met with the local prosecutors, hopeful that they wouldn’t tolerate such misconduct and would do a thorough (and neutral) investigation to get to the truth. Instead, they simply denied everything in knee-jerk fashion, and fought to keep Gillispie in prison until a federal court finally found government misconduct and threw out his charges in December 2011. To this day, the police officer in the case has not been investigated by a neutral, independent body. The only thing he has received is promotions.

Rogue cops and prosecutors going unpunished is the rule rather than the exception. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2013 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Government, Law

Gut Bacteria Might Guide The Workings Of Our Minds

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Rob Stein of NPR has a podcast and an article that seemed of interest:

Could the microbes that inhabit our guts help explain that old idea of “gut feelings?” There’s growing evidence that gut bacteria really might influence our minds.

“I’m always by profession a skeptic,” says Dr. Emeran Mayer, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles. “But I do believe that our gut microbes affect what goes on in our brains.”

Mayer thinks the bacteria in our digestive systems may help mold brain structure as we’re growing up, and possibly influence our moods, behavior and feelings when we’re adults. “It opens up a completely new way of looking at brain function and health and disease,” he says.

So Mayer is working on just that, doing MRI scans to look at the brains of thousands of volunteers and then comparing brain structure to the types of bacteria in their guts. He thinks he already has the first clues of a connection, from an analysis of about 60 volunteers.

Mayer found that the connections between brain regions differed depending on which species of bacteria dominated a person’s gut. That suggests that the specific mix of microbes in our guts might help determine what kinds of brains we have — how our brain circuits develop and how they’re wired. . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more, including a video, and much is surprising. For example:

But other researchers have been trying to figure out a possible connection by looking at gut microbes in mice. There they’ve found changes in both brain chemistry and behavior. One experiment involved replacing the gut bacteria of anxious mice with bacteria from fearless mice.

“The mice became less anxious, more gregarious,” says Stephen Collins of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, who led a team that conducted the research.

It worked the other way around, too — bold mice became timid when they got the microbes of anxious ones. And aggressive mice calmed down when the scientists altered their microbes by changing their diet, feeding them probiotics or dosing them with antibiotics.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2013 at 1:34 pm

Posted in Food, Mental Health, Science

More bibimbap!

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I’m liking bibimbap a lot. Tara Parker-Pope has a column in the NY Times with some recipe links:

The classic Korean dish known as bibimbap starts with a large serving of rice placed in the center of a hot bowl. The rice is surrounded with hot and cold seasoned vegetables, small amounts of meat and sauce and topped with an egg, and the entire thing is eventually stirred together by eager diners.

It’s a delicious dish and eminently versatile, as Martha Rose Shulman demonstrates in the latest Recipes for Health:

Bibimbap can also provide a palette for leftovers. The Korean cookbook author Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall writes, in “Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen,” of how her family enjoyed the dish for days after family celebrations, when there would be many delectable leftovers on hand.

The concept of bibimbap is perfect for Recipes for Health. I’ve broken with tradition and have chosen to make this week’s recipes with brown rice and other grains. You can use the recipes as templates and choose whatever vegetables you like. The recipes call for 2 to 3 ounces of protein per serving, as this dish is really about the grains and vegetables. But if you are feeding hungry teenage boys, as I am, you may want to increase those quantities.

Here are five new ways to make bibimbap.

Bibimbap With Tuna, Sweet Potato, Broccoli Rabe or Kale, and Lettuce:Tuna steaks, sliced thinly after cooking, are a vehicle for a traditional Korean marinade.

Bibimbap With Tofu, Cucumbers, Spinach, Shiitakes and Carrots: This cross-cultural dish borrows from Japanese tradition for the tofu marinade.

Bibimbap With Clams, Kale, Daikon and Carrots: The clams’ briny broth seasons the rice in this light and flavorful dish.

Bibimbap With Chicken, Broccoli Rabe, Mushrooms and Turnip: This dish focuses on hearty grains and assertive vegetables, so one chicken breast is all it takes to feed a family.

Bibimbap With Beef, Winter Squash, Spinach and Cucumber: Beef is the most typical meat served with bibimbap. It’s marinated and quickly seared in a hot wok or frying pan.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2013 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Fitjar Såpekokeri summary

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SOTD 13 Nov 2013 2

The soap and shaving cream are both sample size, quite understandable since they were shipped to the US from Norway. I used the soap, simply holding it in my left hand while loading the brush. Lather was quick and good, though I had to return to the soap in the third pass, possibly operator error.

I didn’t this morning get much of a rose hit from the soap—nor much menthol, for that matter. The fragrance was faint to my nose, but I’ll get another go tomorrow, with a horsehair brush.

The lather supported a good shave. I’m interested to see how the lather lasts with a better loading.

SOTD 14 Nov 2013

I loaded the brush longer and got a better lather, with no signs of fading. A fair number of lather problems—the majority?—are operator error. Still, hard water is abundant, and there is a surfeit of shaving soaps that do not work (Burt’s Bees, for example).

The lather today was rich and creamy, but the fragrance is very hard for me to detect. (Problem may be my nose.) I tried making a batch of lather from the shaving cream sample that was included, but though the lather was good, the fragrance was still undetectable to me.

SOTD 15 Nov 2013

The third test shave, this time with my Simpsons Emperor 2 brush. Once again I got a good lather: no fading at all, so that first day was definitely operator error. The fragrance is still so faint to me that I cannot really smell it, though what I pick up smells good, and so far as glide and cushion: it was a BBS result with no nicks at all. That’s good enough for me. 🙂

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2013 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Subtle difference: Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,800. Obamacare’s Web site doesn’t work yet.

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Ezra Klein has a good column in the Washington Post:

Hurricane Katrina killed at least 1,833 people and damaged more than $80 billion worth of property. It was one of the deadliest, costliest storms ever to hit the United States.

Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act’s Web site isn’t working very well yet. So of course the media is asking whether “this is Obama’s Hurricane Katrina.” I look forward to future coverage in this vein: “Is the failure of immigration reform Obama’s 1906 San Francisco Earthquake?” “Are the 2014 sequestration cuts Obama’s 1918 Influenza?”

The interest in comparing HealthCare.Gov to a lethal natural disaster is all the odder because the Bush years actually offer a ready analogue to Obamacare: Medicare Part D.Like Obamacare, Medicare Part D was a massive health-care expansion. Like Obamacare, it was administratively complex. Like Obamacare, the Web site didn’t work on launch. Like Obamacare, people who were supposed to be benefitting from the law found their plans upended and the supposedly superior alternatives inaccessible. Like Obamacare, the early months were, in the words of then-Majority Leader John Boehner, “horrendous.”

Obamacare has been live for about six weeks. At this point in Medicare Part D’s life, here’s what the coverage looked like. Let’s start with NPR:

Many health care professional and policy experts have complained about how complicated the Medicare Part D maze is for millions of elderly and disabled people. That may explain why many people still haven’t signed up for the benefits. Out of the 43 million people in Medicare, only about 10 percent have signed up on their own. About 10 million people were automatically enrolled. They could be dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare, and may even be receiving coverage from a former employer. Still the latest report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, says enrollment numbers are 15 million people below government predictions.

The Washington Post also focused on the mounting enrollment disaster:

A $400 million campaign by the Bush administration to enroll low-income seniors in prescription drug coverage that would cost them just a few dollars per prescription has signed up 1.4 million people, a fraction of the 8 million eligible for the new coverage.

At this rate, by some calculations, the government is on track to spend about $250 for each person it enrolls, and even then it would have only 2 million poor senior citizens taking advantage of what is perhaps the most generous government benefit available today.

The New York Times reported that the new law might cost the GOP support among the elderly:

Older voters, a critical component of Republican Congressional victories for more than a decade, could end up being a major vulnerability for the party in this year’s midterm elections, according to strategists in both parties. Paradoxically, one reason is the new Medicare drug benefit, which was intended to cement their loyalty.

During next week’s Congressional recess, Democrats are set to begin a major new campaign to highlight what Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, describes as “this disastrous Republican Medicare prescription drug plan.”

This zoom-out from the NYT will sound familiar to anyone following the coverage around Obamacare:

The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act … was an effort to blend a classic big government program from the Great Society with the conservative, market-oriented philosophy of the Republicans in power.

It was supposed to be one of the great domestic policy achievements of the Bush presidency.

But today, as state and federal officials struggle to carry out the program, they face widespread complaints from beneficiaries, advocates, pharmacists, lawmakers and others that it is too complex, too cumbersome, too hard to navigate. Congressional committees are holding hearings on problems in the rollout of the plan, which began Jan. 1, and debate has already begun over how to change it.

Michael Kinsley was unsparing in The Washington Post: . . .

Continue reading. It’s pretty entertaining and shows how overblown are the current difficulties with Healthcare.gov. What is happening is undesirable, but anyone who’s worked in software development has seen this very familiar movie many times.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2013 at 11:16 am

Reach through your screen and touch things

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My North Carolina friend Mr. Beetner passes along this interesting article. Video is from the article.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2013 at 9:01 am

Posted in Technology

The shame of American health care

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The NY Times has a strong editorial on the terrible state of US health care in general:

Even as Americans struggle with the changes required by health care reform, an international survey released last week by the Commonwealth Fund, a research organization, shows why change is so necessary.

The report found that by virtually all measures of cost, access to care and ease of dealing with insurance problems, Americans fared poorly compared with people in other advanced countries. The survey covered 20,000 adults in the United States and 10 other industrial nations — Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Britain, all of which put in place universal or near-universal health coverage decades ago. The United States spends far more than any of these countries on a per capita basis and as a percent of the national economy.

For that, it gets meager results. Some 37 percent of American adults went without recommended care, did not see a doctor when sick or failed to fill prescriptions in the past year because of costs, compared with 4 percent in Britain and 6 percent in Sweden. Nearly a quarter of American adults could not pay medical bills or had serious problems paying them compared with less than 13 percent in France and 7 percent or less in five other countries. Even Americans who were insured for the entire year were more likely than adults abroad to forgo care because of costs, an indication of how skimpy some insurance policies are.

When Americans got sick, they had to wait longer than people in most of the other countries to get help. Fewer than half were able to get same-day or next-day appointments with a doctor or nurse; one in four had to wait six days or longer. (Only Canada fared worse on both counts.) But Americans got quicker access to specialists than adults in all but two other countries.

The complexity of the American insurance system is also an issue. Some 32 percent of consumers spent a lot of time on insurance paperwork or in disputes with their insurer over denials of payment for services they thought were covered. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2013 at 8:59 am

Posted in Healthcare

Will we see mass demonstrations regarding climate change?

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Michael Klare writes:

A week after the most powerful “super typhoon” ever recorded pummeled the Philippines, killing thousands in a single province, and three weeks after the northern Chinese city of Harbin suffered a devastating “airpocalypse,” suffocating the city with coal-plant pollution, government leaders beware!  Although individual events like these cannot be attributed with absolute certainty to increased fossil fuel use and climate change, they are the type of disasters that, scientists tell us, will become a pervasive part of life on a planet being transformed by the massive consumption of carbon-based fuels.  If, as is now the case, governments across the planet back an extension of the carbon age and ever increasing reliance on“unconventional” fossil fuels like tar sands and shale gas, we should all expect trouble.  In fact, we should expect mass upheavals leading to a green energy revolution.

None of us can predict the future, but when it comes to a mass rebellion against the perpetrators of global destruction, we can see a glimmer of the coming upheaval in events of the present moment.  Take a look and you will see that the assorted environmental protests that have long bedeviled politicians are gaining in strength and support.  With an awareness of climate change growing and as intensifying floodsfiresdroughts, andstorms become an inescapable feature of daily life across the planet, more people are joining environmental groups and engaging in increasingly bold protest actions.  Sooner or later, government leaders are likely to face multiple eruptions of mass public anger and may, in the end, be forced to make radical adjustments in energy policy or risk being swept aside.

In fact, it is possible to imagine such a green energy revolution erupting in one part of the world and spreading like wildfire to others.  Because climate change is going to inflict increasingly severe harm on human populations, the impulse to rebel is only likely to gain in strength across the planet.  While circumstances may vary, the ultimate goal of these uprisings will be to terminate the reign of fossil fuels while emphasizing investment in and reliance upon renewable forms of energy.  And a success in any one location is bound to invite imitation in others.

A wave of serial eruptions of this sort would not be without precedent.  In the early years of twentieth-first century, for example, one government after another in disparate parts of the former Soviet Union was swept away in what were called the “color revolutions” — populist upheavals against old-style authoritarian regimes.  These included the “Rose Revolution” in Georgia (2003), the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine (2004), and the “Pink” or “Tulip Revolution” in Kyrgyzstan (2005).  In 2011, a similar wave of protests erupted in North Africa, culminating in what we call the Arab Spring.

Like these earlier upheavals, a “green revolution” is unlikely to arise from a highly structured political campaign with clearly identified leaders.   In all likelihood, it will erupt spontaneously, after a cascade of climate-change induced disasters provokes an outpouring of public fury.  Once ignited, however, it will undoubtedly ratchet up the pressure for governments to seek broad-ranging, systemic transformations of their energy and climate policies.  In this sense, any such upheaval — whatever form it takes — will prove “revolutionary” by seeking policy shifts of such magnitude as to challenge the survival of incumbent governments or force them to enact measures with transformative implications.

Foreshadowings of such a process can already be found around the globe.  Take the mass environmental protests that erupted in Turkey this June.  Though sparked by a far smaller concern than planetary devastation via climate change, for a time they actually posed a significant threat to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his governing party.  Although his forces eventually succeeded in crushing the protests — leaving four dead, 8,000 injured, and 11 blinded by tear-gas canisters — his reputation as a moderate Islamist was badly damaged by the episode.

Like so many surprising upheavals on this planet, the Turkish uprising had the most modest of beginnings: on May 27th, a handful of environmental activists blocked bulldozers sent by the government to level Gezi Park, a tiny oasis of greenery in the heart of Istanbul, and prepare the way for the construction of an upscale mall.  The government responded to this small-scale, non-violent action by sending in riot police and clearing the area, a move that enraged many Turks and prompted tens of thousands of them to occupy nearby Taksim Square.  This move, in turn, led to an even more brutal police crackdown and then to huge demonstrations in Istanbul and around the country.  In the end, mass protests erupted in 70 cities, the largest display of anti-government sentiment since Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party came to power in 2002.

This was, in the most literal sense possible, a “green” revolution, ignited by the government’s assault on the last piece of greenery in central Istanbul.  But once the police intervened in full strength, it became a wide-ranging rebuke to Erdogan’s authoritarian impulses and his drive to remake the city as a neo-Ottoman showplace — replete with fancy malls and high-priced condominiums — while eliminating poor neighborhoods and freewheeling public spaces like Taksim Square.  “It’s all about superiority, and ruling over the people like sultans,” declared one protestor.  It’s not just about the trees in Gezi Park, said another: “We are here to stand up against those who are trying to make a profit from our land.”

The Ningbo Rebellion

The same trajectory of events — a small-scale environmental protest evolving into a full-scale challenge to governmental authority — can be seen in other mass protests of recent years. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2013 at 8:52 am

Israel’s policies toward Gaza need some re-examination

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Just read this post by Juan Cole at Informed Comment. It begins:

The health minister in the Gaza Strip has warned that the territory is on the verge of a major health catastrophe.

Children are risking cholera and worse because they have to walk through raw sewage to get to school. The sewage has flooded the streets in Gaza City because the sewage treatment plant has no electricity. It has no electricity because the Israelis are blockading the strip, including its children (50% of the population). The Israelis are not letting cheap fuel in. Some inexpensive fuel used to come in from Egypt, but the military there has blocked smuggling tunnels leading into the strip from the Sinai Peninsula.

The Israeli military has since 2007 punished the whole Palestinian population because the Hamas Party won the 2006 elections. It actually produced figures on how much nutrition could be let in while keeping both children and adults among the Palestinians “on a diet.” US State Department cables revealed by Wikileaks show that the Israelis are deliberately keeping the Palestinians of Gaza just on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe. As a result, 56 percent of residents are “food insecure.” They aren’t starving but they are just one or two lost paychecks away from starving. This kind of social engineering experiment on human beings (i.e. keeping Palestinians “on a diet”) is unconscionable to anyone in their right mind. It is also illegal in international law to impose collective punishment on an Occupied politician. Some 70% of the 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza are from families expelled from what is now southern Israel by the 1948 ethnic cleansing campaign of Jewish settlers. Many could walk home in an hour or two but they are kept in refugee camps by the Israeli military. They are besieged on three sides by Israel and on one by Egypt, whose officers are cooperating with the Israeli-imposed blockade.

Here is a paraphrase of a report on the situation in the Palestinian Gaza Strip from AP: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2013 at 8:48 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

The Insanity of US Food Policy

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Joseph Stiglitz is a Nobel-prize-winning economist. He writes in the NY Times:

American food policy has long been rife with head-scratching illogic. We spend billions every year on farm subsidies, many of which help wealthy commercial operations to plant more crops than we need. The glut depresses world crop prices, harming farmers in developing countries. Meanwhile, millions of Americans live tenuously close to hunger, which is barely kept at bay by a food stamp program that gives most beneficiaries just a little more than $4 a day.

So it’s almost too absurd to believe that House Republicans are asking for a farm bill that would make all of these problems worse. For the putative purpose of balancing the country’s books, the measures that the House Republican caucus is pushing for in negotiations with the Senate, as Congress attempts to pass a long-stalled extension of the farm bill, would cut back the meager aid to our country’s most vulnerable and use the proceeds to continue fattening up a small number of wealthy American farmers.

The House has proposed cutting food stamp benefits by $40 billion over 10 years — that’s on top of $5 billion in cuts that already came into effect this month with the expiration of increases to the food stamp program that were included in the 2009 stimulus law. Meanwhile, House Republicans appear satisfied to allow farm subsidies, which totaled some $14.9 billion last year, to continue apace. Republican proposals would shift government assistance from direct payments — paid at a set rate to farmers every year to encourage them to keep growing particular crops, regardless of market fluctuations — to crop insurance premium subsidies. But this is unlikely to be any cheaper. Worse, unlike direct payments, the insurance premium subsidies carry no income limit for the farmers who would receive this form of largess.

The proposal is a perfect example of how growing inequality has been fed by what economists call rent-seeking. As small numbers of Americans have grown extremely wealthy, their political power has also ballooned to a disproportionate size. Small, powerful interests — in this case, wealthy commercial farmers — help create market-skewing public policies that benefit only themselves, appropriating a larger slice of the nation’s economic pie. Their larger slice means everyone else gets a smaller one — the pie doesn’t get any bigger — though the rent-seekers are usually adept at taking little enough from individual Americans that they are hardly aware of the loss. While the money that they’ve picked from each individual American’s pocket is small, the aggregate is huge for the rent-seeker. And this in turn deepens inequality.

The nonsensical arrangement being proposed in the House Republicans’ farm bill is an especially egregious version of this process. It takes real money, money that is necessary for bare survival, from the poorest Americans, and gives it to a small group of the undeserving rich, in return for their campaign contributions and political support. There is no economic justification: The bill actually distorts our economy by promoting the kind of production we don’t need and shrinking the consumption of those with the smallest incomes. There is no moral justification either: It actually increases misery and precariousness of daily life for millions of Americans.FARM subsidies were much more sensible when they began eight decades ago, in 1933, at a time when more than 40 percent of Americans lived in rural areas. Farm incomes had fallen by about a half in the first three years of the Great Depression. In that context, the subsidies were an anti-poverty program.

Now, though, the farm subsidies serve a quite different purpose. . .

Continue reading. It’s lengthy, and as you read, the facts of our food policy become ever more shocking, senseless, and immoral.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2013 at 8:33 am

BBS to start the week

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SOTD 18 Nov 2013

I don’t like to accept freebies because of the obvious distortion of perspective, but in this case the maker convinced to try a sample to see what I thought. So today I’m using a Hardy Shave shaving soap, the Cedar Sage. For the test, I used a Vie-Long badger+horsehair shaving brush.

The lather was good and I do like this fragrance. A shaving soap worth a try. I did 3 passes with the Eros Slant and got a BBS result—no surprise: the slant does an especially good job with a multiday stubble.

I also used the Cedar Sage aftershave balm. It struck me as quite a good balm, though I’m more of a splash guy. Still, a very tiny dab spreads well, feels good, and smells nice. Before I was finished dressing, the balm had dried/been absorbed so my skin felt normal—well, a bit smoother and softer than normal, but no residue from the balm.

Good shave.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2013 at 8:05 am

Posted in Shaving

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