Later On

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

Archive for May 2014

Definitely worth a click and a read: “Your Newfangled Media Algorithms are Bullshit”

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Read it here.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 May 2014 at 2:06 pm

Posted in Media, Writing

It’s very premature to call US a “post-racist” society

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Take a look. South Carolina’s governor believes it’s important not to have large numbers of African-Americans on the beach. She did not mention any similar concern for large numbers of whites on the beach.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 May 2014 at 1:24 pm

That Old-Time Inequality Denial

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Paul Krugman has a good blog post:

Brad DeLong links to the now extensive list of pieces debunking the FT’s attempted debunking of Thomas Piketty, and pronounces himself puzzled:

I still do not understand what Chris Giles of the Financial Times thinks he is doing here…

OK, I don’t know what Giles thought he was doing — but I do know what he was actually doing, and it’s the same old same old. Ever since it became obvious that inequality was rising — way back in the 1980s — there has been a fairly substantial industry on the right of inequality denial. This denial didn’t rely on any one argument, nor did it involve consistent objections. Instead, it involved throwing many different arguments against the wall, hoping that something would stick. Inequality isn’t rising; it is rising, but it’s offset by social mobility; it’s cancelled by greater aid to the poor (which we’re trying to destroy, but never mind that); anyway, inequality is good. All these arguments have been made at the same time; none of them ever gets abandoned in the face of evidence — they just keep coming back.

Look at my old article from 1992: every single bogus argument I identified there is still being made today. And we know perfectly well why: it’s all about defending the 1 percent from the threat of higher taxes and other actions that might limit top incomes.

What’s new in the latest round is the venue. Traditionally, inequality denial has been carried out on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal and like-minded venues. Seeing it expand to the Financial Times is something new, and is a sign that the FT may be suffering from creeping Murdochization.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

31 May 2014 at 11:06 am

Liquidating the US

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The GOP seems to be involved in an effort to liquidate the US. Rather than support the institutions and services that made the US what it is, the effort seems to be to cut government services to the bone so that the wealthy will not have to pay taxes—and the wealthy already pay very little in tax compared to the recent past.

Even the liquidation makes no sense: cutting postal services for a decade to pay for one year of highway maintenance. So next year the postal service be be cut for another ten years?

I am dismayed to see all the support our country once offered its citizens decimated simply to provide more support to the wealthy. The GOP does not have a problem with this—the GOP is the party of the wealthy—but it shows how quickly a country can decline.

Curtis Tate reports in McClatchy:

With the federal highway trust fund set to run out of cash in August, House Republicans are circulating a proposal to pay for a one-year extension by cutting back most U.S. mail delivery to five days a week.

The highway fund, which pays for highway and transit projects in all 50 states, is supported by a federal motor fuels tax that Congress hasn’t increased in more than 20 years and never indexed to inflation. Increased construction costs as well as higher fuel efficiency have eroded its buying power.

Rather than raise the tax or find some other stable source of revenue, Congress has borrowed $54 billion in general funds since 2008. The House Transportation Committee projects that as much as $15 billion would be needed to extend the highway fund for just one year.

The Republican proposal would eliminate the delivery of first class and bulk mail on Saturdays. Packages, priority and express mail deliveries would continue, and post offices would stay open on Saturdays. The plan would save $10 billion over 10 years _ funds that would help offset a one-year extension of surface transportation programs. . .

Continue reading.

Obama also supports cutting postal services, but Obama has been in thrall to Wall Street and Big Business from the start.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 May 2014 at 9:34 am

Diet notes

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The Wife has joined me in the low-carb diet. I have been having sort of a plateau, and in looking at total daily calories, I can see why. The low-carb menu includes many foods I had more or less avoided because of their fat content—but those foods contain zero (or very few) carbs, so are appropriate to my current diet. But I had become accustomed to eating such foods on at feasts of one sort or another, so I lapsed into the “feast” attitude when they appeared on my daily menu.

Not good. Keeping carbs low is well and good (yesterday’s net carbs was 12g), but it’s also important to keep total daily calories at a reasonable level. (Yesterday’s totaled 2175—I should be keeping total daily calories below 1500 to meet my goal of 175 lbs on Dec 23).

So I’m doing a little reset and checking amounts more carefully. My goal is to do a week where each day is less than 20g net carbs and less than 1500 calories.

In spite of setbacks, I am still no longer obese, merely overweight: BMI this morning of 29.7.

UPDATE: I just checked. The meals following the gap are my meals since I returned from Phoenix. The line is the upper limit on daily calories to achieve goal (the right-most data point is today, and I’ve entered what I ate for breakfast along with what I plan to eat the rest of the day):

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 11.08.23 AM

I find it interesting to look at how the initial efforts are erratic and then it smooths out—I’ve seen that pattern repeatedly, which is the pattern of learning. The upsurge on the 12, 13, and 14 of May was due to some chocolate truffles I shared with The Wife. I had trouble pacing the consumption. The gap is when I was away, and I kept no track of meals then.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

31 May 2014 at 9:11 am

Another try at Stirling Soap

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SOTD 31 May 2014

I have not been able to get a good lather from Stirling Soap, but I know it’s possible because of the frequent praise for the soap I see posted on Wicked Edge. It occurred to me that perhaps the praise was coming from those who use a lathering bowl, which I no longer do, and that my attempts at face lathering were the source of the problem. I recall the problems I initially had with Mike’s Natural, an excellent shaving soap that simply requires a lot more water than what I was using.

So this morning I brought forth my old lathering bowl—made of soapstone (naturally)—and with the Omega brush shown made another attempt. No success. I loaded the brush at length—longer than I do with other soaps—then moved to the lathering bowl and tried to produce a good lather. No matter what I did, the lather remained looser and foamier than a good shaving lather. I was able to get one pass, but that was it. I reloaded the brush with another soap and finished the shave.

I used the Stealth so I did get a BBS result, and Coachman is a very pleasant and manly aftershave.

I think that, for whatever reason, I simply cannot get a good lather from Stirling shaving soap. I am mystified, but the experience speaks for itself. I think at this point I should give it a rest and recognize that it seems to work well for some, but not for me. (Nothing in shaving works for everyone.)

Written by LeisureGuy

31 May 2014 at 8:51 am

Posted in Shaving

Like it or not, back to the one-income family

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The headline at the Pacific Standard is “Stay-at-Home Parenting Is on the Rise Because Mothers Can’t Find Work”. What is available is “Homemaker,” but with crap wages. It makes one wonder whether the 50’s sitcom families had but one breadwinner each whether that was also a result of women being unable to find jobs, rather than a choice to stay at home. Erin Hoekstra provides the details.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 May 2014 at 5:44 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Interesting developments at US Border Patrol

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I wonder if this will go anywhere. I had high hopes for Gil Kerlikowske as head of the DEA because he seemed to have progressive ideas on dealing with drug problems—but in office he totally toed the party line. To a fault. But I, of course, have no idea of the constraints he was under, the conditions he accepted when he took the position, and so on. But certainly nothing seems to hold back Michelle Leonhart. She does pretty much as she pleases, so I think Gil could have done more.

Still: again we don’t know the marching orders. It could have been, “Go in there and clean up that thing. Do what it takes.” Who knows? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 May 2014 at 5:38 pm

Smart rifle: Dystopian SF novel just around the corner.

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Hendrik Hertzberg has a good column in the New Yorker:

Soon after the Isla Vista mass shooting, an e-mail from Breitbart News, one of the slicker right-wing Web sites, popped into my inbox. Considering the source, the breathless subject line was startling: THE WORLD’S FIRST SMART RIFLE – NOW IN SEMI-AUTO

A smart gun, as you probably know, is one that can be fired only by an authorized person, such as the weapon’s legal owner. Anyway, that’s the usual meaning. The way a smart gun works, smartplanet.com explains, “is that the gun’s biometric system is set up to recognize the rightful user through a unique identity marker such as a person’s fingerprint, magnetic rings, RFID chips or other proximity devices.”

A smart gun is a technological fix. If guns were smart, we wouldn’t need to worry so much about their falling into the wrong hands—such as the hands of a toddler who might playfully point one at his sister and pull the trigger, the hands of a troubled teen-ager who might borrow Dad’s hunting rifle to commit suicide, or the hands of a thug who has just wrested away a cop’s pistol.

Does it surprise you that the National Rifle Association opposes any attempt to mandate or encourage the use of smart guns, or even study their potential? Or that, earlier this month, when a couple of gun-shop owners decided to stock a few, they changed their minds after being smeared online as traitors and Communists, and threatened with arson and death?

Me neither. That’s why I did a double take at that enthusiastic-sounding subject line. After all, Breitbart, like every other site that caters to the populist Republican base, is a faithful lapdog of the N.R.A.

The mystery cleared up when I opened the e-mail. It wasn’t a news story but a “special message”—that is, an advertisement. And the rifle being hawked to the Breitbart readership is indeed “smart,” but in an altogether more sinister way:

TrackingPoint smart rifles, developed by military experts and a team of over forty engineers, have virtually eliminated shooter error and adverse conditions from the firing equation. Our Tag-Track-Xact system can more than double the proficiency of a skilled shooter and let them take shots they’d never before even attempt, while capturing it all on video. TrackingPoint smart rifles increase effective range, maximize accuracy, and almost entirely eliminate the possibility of errant shots. We’ve combined our technological innovations with the best hardware in the American gun industry has to offer, fusing our integrated trigger and groundbreaking scope system with 7.62, 300 BLK & 5.56 Semi Auto Platforms along with .338 Lapua and .300 Win Mag bolt action rifles to create a firing system unparalleled in the world today.

For the full effect, I clicked through to a Web site, whence I was taken to a video, which I present here for your convenience. It’s a must-see, believe me.

The gun is expensive, from around ten thousand to more than twenty thousand dollars. But price is no object if you’re a wealthy but myopic, arthritic, or just unskilled “sportsman,” or an enforcer for a Mexican drug gang, or a roving troubleshooter (as it were) for a moderately well-heeled jihadist network or an excessively pro-Second Amendment nongovernmental militia.

Continue reading.

And you really must watch this video:

Very slick technology, and the automatic firing mode—where the computer fires the gun the instant the gun acquires the target (with the proper lead computed for moving targetss): the human’s job is just to keep aiming at the target.

I don’t think this will end well. Put those guns on autonomous robots who have some half-assed algorithm to figure out who’s a valid target?

Written by LeisureGuy

30 May 2014 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Business, Guns, Technology

Slipshod police work let Santa Barbara massacre happen

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One’s jaw drops on reading this story. They did not even make a simple check to see whether he had guns. Those two officers should face some accountability, including an in-person apology to each family with a loss from their dereliction of duty.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 May 2014 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Guns, Law Enforcement

Why does government fail so often?

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A very interesting interview with the author of a book on the subject—and highly relevant given the posts today: failure of Congress to fund the VA (and then surprise and anger when the VA turns out not to work if it lacks money), failure of Michelle Leonhart to understand the failure of the DEA and her insistence on failing more and bigger, the lack of maternity leave in the US, and so on.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 May 2014 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Books, Government

Would it be okay to have autonomous robots kill people?

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I think we should by now have learned the lessons of Terminator: five movies and a TV series. But there is money to be made—defense contractors are doubtless already counting the profits to be had—so we will probably push ahead with it. Here’s a story on a conference to take a look at the idea.

If the title question seems difficult, try this: Would it be okay to have autonomous robots kill you and/or members of your family?

Written by LeisureGuy

30 May 2014 at 2:58 pm

Posted in Law, Technology

GOP-Controlled House Votes to Block Feds from Interfering in States with Legal Medical Pot

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The DEA is finally getting the close scrutiny their actions and attitude deserve. Janet Allon reports at AlterNet:

The GOP-controlled House showed signs of sanity when it voted early Friday in favor of blocking the federal government from interfering with states that permit the use of medical marijuana.

The 219-189 vote came about as the House debated a bill funding the Justice Department’s budget, AP reported.

Conservative GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, the first state in the country to legalize medical marijuana, was among those behind the amendment, pointing out that, “Public opinion is shifting.” This is true even among Republicans. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 61 percent of Republicans support the legalization of medical marijuana. And in general, Pew found nearly three-in-four Americans (72%) believe that efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth. But the federal government, and the DEA, have lagged far behind the rest of the public and continued their hard line of oppression and enforcement against the industry, medical marijuana users and legal pot in general.

A few other related landmark votes were taken as well Friday. An amendment prohibiting the DEA from interfering with state hemp production laws passed with 237 yes votes. An amendment prohibiting the DEA from interfering with state hemp research programs passed with 246 yes votes.

“Each of these votes represents a major victory for those seeking more sensible marijuana policies,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Taken together, they represent an unprecedented change in course in the war on drugs. For years state after state has reformed their drug laws; now there’s a bipartisan consensus in Congress in favor of letting states set their own marijuana policies.”

According to the Drug Policy Alliance:

The votes are an embarrassment for the DEA and DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart who is under increasing pressure to step down. Earlier this month the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General launched investigations into numerous DEA scandals, including the massacre of civilians in Honduras, the use of NSA data both to spy on virtually all Americans and to systematically fabricate evidence, controversial uses of confidential informants, airline passenger searches, and sexual misconduct. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart herself has been at the center of several scandals, including the House of Death scandal in which the DEA may have turned a blind eye to torture and murder, and the Andrew Chambers scandal, in which the DEA rehired a confidential informant with a history of lying.

“DEA Administrator Leonhart is virtually the only person left who still zealously supports the failed war on drugs,” said Piper. “These votes are her wake up call. It is time for her to go.”

Leonhart contradicts drug policy reforms being pursued by her bosses, Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, and both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. She publicly rebuked President Obama for admitting that marijuana is as safe as alcohol, told members of Congress that the DEA will continue to go after marijuana even in states where it is legal despite DOJ guidance stating otherwise, and has spoken out against bipartisan drug sentencing reform in Congress that the Obama Administration is supporting. Attorney General Eric Holder recently scolded her. Criminal justice reformers have said Leonhart lacks the ability to lead and should resign. Activists are using the Twitter hashtag #FireLeonhart.

The measure now heads to the Democratic Senate.

Michelle Leonhart is a dangerous zealot. She is unsuited for a position of responsibility. Obama appointed her.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 May 2014 at 2:41 pm

More on the VA mess

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The primary problem, as I noted in the previous post, is an incompetent, uncaring, corrupt, and cowardly Congress in which greed has replaced principles. Here’s an excellent collection of reports on how shabbily the US treats its veterans, from underfunding the VA to failing to provide necessary services.

Just click the link and scan the page. The US has failed its troops, and Congress is primarily to blame—specifically, the GOP, which cuts funding for everything so that taxes for the wealthy can be further reduced.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 May 2014 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Government, Military

U.S. alone among Western countries on lack of paid maternity leave

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The US is “special” (in the pejorative sense) in many ways: one of 3 nations in the world that refuse to use the metric system (the other two are Liberia and Myanmar), the nation that imprisons the highest proportion of its citizens (we really lead here: no other nation is even close), the only advanced nation that witnesses mass killings of its citizens as a part of daily life, and so on. Our healthcare system, though recently improved, lags far behind that of other advanced nations. And the US does not provide paid maternity leave. John Zarocostas reports in McClatchy:

The United States is the only Western country—and one of only three in the world—that does not provide some kind of monetary payment to new mothers who’ve taken maternity leave from their jobs, a new U.N. study reports.

Two other countries share the U.S. position of providing “no cash benefits during maternity leave,” according to the report, which was released Tuesday by the International Labor Organization: Oman, an absolute monarchy in the Persian Gulf; and Papua New Guinea, a South Pacific nation where the U.S. State Department says violence against women is so common that 60 percent of men in a U.N. study acknowledged having committed a rape.

The other 182 countries surveyed provide either a Social Security-like government payment to women who’ve recently given birth or adopted a child or require employers to continue at least a percentage of the worker’s pay. In 70 countries, paid leave is also provided for fathers, the report said, including Australia, which introduced 14 days of paid paternity leave last year, and Norway, which expanded its paternity leave from 12 to 14 weeks.

The United States also provides for fewer weeks of maternity leave than what other Western countries mandate, the report said. . .

Continue reading. It’s too bad that the US simply cannot get its act together. The problem in part is due to an antiquated Congressional structure that doesn’t allow effective operation. In additional to structural problems, it seems that most in Congress operate in fear (of the next election) and greed and don’t have any sense of responsibility to the nation and its citizens. For example, those making the most noise about the breakdown of the VA healthcare system are the very same people who voted against providing the funding so the VA could do its work. They eagerly blame Shinseki and ignore the damage that they themselves have done by underfunding the agency—an attitude typical of Congress, and an attitude that results in the continuing decline of the US.

UPDATE: More on how Congress shafted the VA.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 May 2014 at 1:37 pm

A perfect three-brush shave

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SOTD 30 May 2014

A terrific shave. The three-brush thing came about in one of the many discussions that begin with a statement that soft brushes don’t work on hard soaps—for those one needs a stiff, dense, scrubby brush. This idea is, based on my own experience, completely false. The softest brush I own can quickly make a lather from a hard soap—in this case Geo. F. Trumper’s Rose shaving soap. The same discussion mentioned specifically the Ecotools brush as not making lather well and lacking in lather capacity: my experience contradicts that.

So I used a different brush on each pass:

Pass 1: The Ecotools. Loaded for 10 seconds, which was ample. Moved to beard and worked up the lather for 25-30 seconds. I know the Ecotools has ample capacity—I’ve used it for many three-pass shaves—but this time I was merely verifying, yet again, that makes an excellent lather quickly and easily. I quite understand that some may prefer the feel a stiff, dense, scrubby brush, so I am merely discussing performance. The Ecotools quite obviously performs well, based on my continuing use.

Pass 2: An Omega silvertip. This and another Omega brush very much like it have the softest, fluffiest knots of any brush I have. It has enormous capacity, which of course was not brought into play today. Again, I loaded the brush for 10 seconds, worked the lather up on my face for 25-30 seconds. Absolutely no trouble in creating lather with a soft, fluffy brush. Again, some may prefer a different feel for their shaving brush, but in terms of performance a soft, fluffy knot works just fine on hard soap.

Pass 3: The Simpson Chubby 1 in Best. This was my comparison brush, and it, too, did a fine job: again, loading for 10 seconds and working up the lather for 25-30 seconds. The Chubby did no better and no worse than the other two brushes. It does have a difference feel, but in terms of performance, I would say that the brushes are equal.

The razor was my new Axwell, and it did a fine job. Because of its red handle, I went with Rose as the shave theme, so finished the shave with Saint Charles Shave’s Savory Rose.

An excellent, BBS shave, and loads of lather.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 May 2014 at 8:26 am

Posted in Shaving

Paul Krugman makes perfect sense on global warming, agreeing with the Chamber of Commerce figures

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Well worth reading—and worth asking, given their own figures, why the Chamber of Commerce is opposed to efforts to fight global warming—especially since the costs involved with it happening are horrendous. Answer: the Koch brothers.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 May 2014 at 7:15 pm

Kentucky Will Get Its Hemp Seeds

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The DEA is trying to go rogue. Although legislation was passed and signed into law to allow states that had authorized it to grow industrial hemp experimentally, that cuts no ice with the DEA, who—although industrial hemp is not a drug—believes that it can decide on such matters without regard to laws or evidence. So the DEA stopped shipment of 250 lbs of industrial hemp seed being sent from Italy (many nations, including Canada, grow industrial hemp, which is perfectly legal to import to the US—the DEA just refuses to allow industrial hemp to be grown in the US). The DEA did not have any legal basis for the action, but that doesn’t stop determined drug warriors.

The DEA really should be disbanded at this point.

Phillip Smith reports on this incident in Drug War Chronicles:

Kentucky agricultural officials told the Associated Press Thursday evening that the DEA had approved a permit allowing the state to import a 250-lb shipment of hemp seed to be used for research purposes. The DEA had originally balked at issuing the permit, only to be hit with a firestorm of criticism, including sharp words from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who just happens to be from Kentucky.

Although the omnibus farm bill passed earlier this year included an amendment allowing for research into hemp in states that had authorized it, which Kentucky has, the seeds imported from Italy were held up at a US Customs warehouse in Louisville. Kentucky sued the DEA last week over the issue after the agency refused to issue a permit.

But state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said late Thursday that the seeds would be released Friday and that the hemp could be in the ground as early as this weekend. Officials had worried that the DEA’s obstructionism would stall planting until it was too late in the season, a date they pegged at around June 1.

“There was no sense to this,” Comer said.

“This is a historic day,” he continued. “We’ve done something that no one thought we could do a year-and-a-half ago. We legalized industrial hemp and we’ve proven that it’s an agricultural crop and not a drug.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman told the AP that the DEA had indeed issued the permit Thursday. Justice, the DEA, and Customs were all named in the suit filed by the Kentucky Agriculture Department. Attorneys for the federal government and the state met with a federal judge Wednesday.

But that wasn’t the only meeting going on. Sen. McConnell sat down with DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart Wednesday to urge her to reconsider.

“It was the intent of my provision in the farm bill to allow states’ departments of agriculture and universities to explore the commercial use of industrial hemp as a means for job creation and economic development,” McConnell said. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 May 2014 at 10:44 am

Miss Megs tests the recovered seat cushion

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It seems to be okay:

Megs on new seat cushion

Written by LeisureGuy

29 May 2014 at 9:03 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Terrific shave with Wilkinson Sword blade

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SOTD 29 May 2014

 

Great shave today. I brought out the Wilkinson Sword blades because of a comment on Wicked_Edge: “If you see anything with wilkinson sword written on it, save your face the bleeding/chance of scars and just put it in the trash now.” As it happens, Wilkinson Sword blades work extremely well for me. Despite how often one proclaims that blade performance is very much a matter of YMMV, that every single brand of blade has people who hate it and people who love it, that one should approach a blade sampler with no expectations and go by actual experience, and link to this post, some simply cannot believe that someone else’s experience can possibly differ from their own.

When the person quoted was told that Wilkinson blades were quite good for some and how a brand of blade is perceived varies from person to person, he responded, “You know, that is what people here on this sub like to perpetuate….. and I think it is utter bullshit.” Not very open to learning, you see. In his view, his experience must be a universal true guide.

And yet the evidence is quite clear. But evidence only works with those willing to consider it and open to changing their opinion. It’s an uphill battle, and not just on brands of blades: I give you climate change.

At any rate, the asses’ milk shaving soap continues to be excellent—and I’m always careful to replace the lid after use, something that this particular soap seems to require. I immediately got a wonderful lather, using the Wet Shaving Products Monarch brush.

The Wilkinson Sword blade in my Standard razor did a fine job, leaving my face BBS after three easy passes. A splash of Creed’s Aventus—well, enough sprays into the palm of my cupped hand until I had a splash’s worth—and I’m ready for the day, which begins with Miss Megs getting a pedicure.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 May 2014 at 9:02 am

Posted in Shaving

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