Later On

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

Archive for August 22nd, 2015

Chinese Smashed Cucumbers With Sesame Oil and Garlic

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I made this recipe, using two of the plastic-wrapped English hothouse cucumbers.

I used a Chinese (cleaver-shaped) knife, and in smashing the cucumbers (which is actually sort of fun), I found the best technique was to lay the knife on its side on the cucumber half and then strike the blade lightly with the other hand. This worked better than simply pressing on the blade: a smash, not a press.

Wear an apron. The seeds squirt out as you smash.

In tossing the cucumbers with oil before adding the dressing, the recipe suggests olive oil, but I used a mix of olive and sesame oil, and mostly sesame oil. I use toasted-sesame oil, which has more flavor.

Very tasty.

Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2015 at 6:27 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Soap surprise boxes: Instant soap collections

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Okay, I’ve simply got to cut back. I buy many soaps to test, so almost all of these have had very little use. These are good soaps that I enjoyed using, but I just have too many for the space I have. I’m cutting back to what my soap shelf will hold. Since some of these are relatively old, they were made prior to the reformulations that disimproved some notable soaps: the Geo. F. Trumper soaps in the boxes were made prior to their reformulation, the Floris soaps were made prior both to the reformulation that ruined them and the subsequent reformulation that attempted to fix the problem.

Brands include Floris, Shaver Heaven, Strop Shoppe, Mickey Lee Soapworks, Wholly Kaw, Stirling Soap Company, RazoRock, Honeybee Soaps, and quite a few others.

Each box will have 10 soaps. I’m selling them for $40 per box plus shipping ($10). I don’t have lists of specific content, so to some extent the box will be a surprise collection.

I have only a relatively small number, so if you’re interested, email me (leisureguy dot wordpress [at] gmail dot com) to see if a box is still available. We can work out the details from there.

Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2015 at 6:23 pm

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

More on the workplace culture exemplified by Amazon

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The Onion has a good headline: “Jeff Bezos Assures Amazon Employees That HR Working 100 Hours A Week To Address Their Complaints.”

But the problem of excessive demands—i.e., exploitation of the workforce—is serious. And, as Tim Wu points out in an interesting piece in the New Yorker, it is not necessarily due to individuals in charge. The entire article is worth reading, but let me quote just his conclusions:

. . . What all of these explanations [for the excessive demands of the modern workplace] have in common is the idea that the answer comes from examining workers’ decisions and incentives. There’s something missing: the question of whether the American system, by its nature, resists the possibility of too much leisure, even if that’s what people actually want, and even if they have the means to achieve it. In other words, the long hours may be neither the product of what we really want nor the oppression of workers by the ruling class, the old Marxist theory. They may be the byproduct of systems and institutions that have taken on lives of their own and serve no one’s interests. That can happen if some industries have simply become giant make-work projects that trap everyone within them.

What counts as work, in the skilled trades, has some intrinsic limits; once a house or bridge is built, that’s the end of it. But in white-collar jobs, the amount of work can expand infinitely through the generation of false necessities—that is, reasons for driving people as hard as possible that have nothing to do with real social or economic needs. Consider the litigation system, in which the hours worked by lawyers at large law firms are a common complaint. If dispute resolution is the social function of the law, what we have is far from the most efficient way to reach fair or reasonable resolutions. Instead, modern litigation can be understood as a massive, socially unnecessary arms race, wherein lawyers subject each other to torturous amounts of labor just because they can. In older times, the limits of technology and a kind of professionalism created a natural limit to such arms races, but today neither side can stand down, lest it put itself at a competitive disadvantage.

A typical analysis blames greedy partners for crazy hours, but the irony is that the people at the top are often as unhappy and overworked as those at the bottom: it is a system that serves almost no one. Moreover, our many improvements in the technologies of productivity make the arms-race problem worse. The fact that employees are now always reachable eliminates what was once a natural barrier of sorts, the idea that work was something that happened during office hours or at the physical office. With no limits, work becomes like a football game where the whistle is never blown.

Litigation may be an extreme example, but I do not doubt that many other industries have their own arms races that create work that is of dubious necessity. The antidote is simple to prescribe but hard to achieve: it is a return to the goal of efficiency in work—fulfilling whatever needs we have, as a society, with the minimal effort required, while leaving the option of more work as a hobby for those who happen to love it. In this respect, it seems like no little irony that Amazon should be a brutal workplace when its ostensible guiding principle is making people’s lives better. There must be a better way.

In a situation such as this, a government that is by, for, and of the people and is focused on the general welfare can play a role. While no single company can afford to slack up because of competitive pressure, the government can set (and enforce—important aspect) ground rules that protect workers and level the playing field for all companies. For example, enforcing a 40-hour work week for all employees would enable companies to give their workforce time for family, rest, and activities other than work.

As an example of how this works, automobile manufacturers are required to meet certain safety standards by law. Without such laws, there would be a race to the bottom as companies cut costs by jettisoning the safety measures built into their cars. (You can see that they would by noting how strenuously and vigorously the automobile industry has fought the introduction of each safety requirement: if it were left up to them, they would never incorporate such measures for fear that their competitors would undercut them on price by having lower costs. But a law requiring the observance of such safety standards takes off the table the option of ignoring the standards, so no one can get a competitive advantage by ignoring safety.

Because of the nature of the system, however, the change probably must be imposed from without, since the companies have entered a trap from which they cannot otherwise escape.

Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2015 at 12:08 pm

Cold-brewed coffee note

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I’ve been making cold-brewed coffee for a while now and have my routine perfected.

I have found that a 1-qt Mason canning jar works extremely well. The jar has measurement markings on the side, so I can easily fill it to the 3-cup mark. And since a canning funnel (which has a large opening) fits nicely inside the mouth of the jar (because the funnel is in fact made to fit canning jars), it’s easy to add 2/3 cup coffee grounds with no spills. Then 12 hours later, I strain, filter, and add water equal to the amount of coffee, which (after straining and filtering) is 2.5 cups. I pour the coffee concentrate into a pitcher and add 2.5 cups water, so I get 5 cups cold-brewed coffee.

The Younger Daughter passed along this interesting tip: add a few springs of mint leaves when you add the coffee grounds. I can’t wait to try it.

Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2015 at 11:04 am

Williams Redux

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SOTD 22 Aug 2015

Williams Mug Soap, as it is known nowadays, a faded shell of its former self, began as Genuine Yankee Soap, introduced in 1840 and made by Williams & Brothers of Manchester, Connecticut. The poster above shows the later name of the company, J.B. Williams & Co., located in Glastonbury, Connecticut.

Williams Mug Soap, I’ve read, has now been discontinued, stubbornly resistant to lathering by the end of its life, due to a few reformulations too many, but we are told that it once was a great tallow-based soap.

Razor Emporium did some research, and says that they have found the original formula and resurrected it under the name Connecticut Yankee, in recognition of the original name and location (and, I think, in appreciation of the time-traveling aspect—if you’ve not read Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, I recommend it highly).

I had to purchase a tin, and this morning I used it for the first time. (I got it yesterday.) If this was what Williams Mug Soap once was, its decline and fall are even more sobering, for this soap easily produces a fine lather indeed. Razor Emporium said that they wanted to be fully authentic and kept the original citronella scent, which is not off-putting but more ascetic than the lush fragrances of some modern soaps: a no-folderol sort of fragrance.

I used my Simpson Persian Jar and easily loaded it, working up a fine thick lather, even having to add a driblet of water as I worked it up on my beard. Not merely a curiosity, Connecticut Yankee is a very good shaving soap.

The RazoRock Baby Smooth, which made a brief reappearance for $100 and now seems to be sold out again, is a wonderful razor, extremely comfortable, markedly reluctant to nick, and highly efficient, easily producing a BBS result. It did a fine job this morning and indeed once again left my face BBS.

A splash of Ginger’s Garden Havana Cognac, and the weekend opens before me.

Written by Leisureguy

22 August 2015 at 9:15 am

Posted in Shaving

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