Repeating Out

I really thought the cotton ball had a chance today. After taking the WTG reduction at an angle, lightly, there was enough hair left to give good traction for repeating with square strokes. I didn't re-lather for this, just mopped around the lather that was on the back of the razor, wherever I found the residues had dried. As usual, I briefly considered leaving it a one-pass shave, because it looked good and even.

Then I repeated the process ATG, and buried the blade as deep as it could reach on the square strokes. It seldom works out this way for me, letting the razor make the decision to stop. I usually need to attack indirectly when shaving by ear. Here, the ideal two passes expanded to something like four, a recursion asymptotically approaching the hair root like the inner, seemingly infinite limit of a rainbow.

Perhaps it is more like a cosmic alignment, a tidal phenomenon, when skewing contributes to cut initiation, tension alignment, AND traction control to balance elements of hair toughness, difficult grain, and skin vulnerability. My animal impulse might be to howl and throw my hands to heaven -- Parker is Great! All praise Personna -- like the ape-men in the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey. (You know I'm already starting a pumpkin cult.)

These are the good times. And that makes it a good day to relinquish my dream of everyday BBS. Its definition excludes my experience, and even if a pontiff of shaving reinterpreted his cotton ball to exonerate me, it would still be wrong. I know firsthand that this is the ultimate shave for me. The innermost rainbow is neither inside-out nor outside-in, but a white band of light, where hair ceases to be cut AND skin ceases to be comfortable.

The limit approaches. I think the gleam may actually be increasing on this edge, but there are beat spots that don't line up with it, despite palm stropping. I wonder if I'll soon be shaving in six passes, or was this the last good one.

Mindful Inactivity?

I've been procrastinating so many things lately, I'd better get them organized. First, there was the plan to make a YouTube video. A nick on my chin has embarrassed me into delaying that project. I'm afraid it's the worst kind of red scar, like an acne mark, though I wouldn't have even described it as a divot initially. There's also a nasty, bruise-like thing on one of my shins, and I'm thinking I may have used the pumpkin juice on that. So to reiterate the warnings I've strewn throughout the blog here is another reason why: pumpkin juice is not good on injured skin. I think it's fine on razor burn, but not cuts or abrasions that bleed.

Maybe the oxalic acid research program will help me out, since it is basically an organic bleach. Wood bleach, to be exact, but it appears in skin lightening products, too. Lemon juice is the usual suggestion, and I notice the blood retreating from a dab of vinegar. Well, I think one site said oxalic acid is 10,000 times as strong as vinegar, so I'll be approaching this with some caution. On the other hand, I found out that "oxalis," the plant that gives it its name, is what I incorrectly call "sweet William," wood sorrel. A sour, clover-looking weed that grows in the shadows next to houses, also so rich in vitamin C that it can be used to make an alternative lemonade. I used to eat that stuff like candy when I was a wee lad, so perhaps any possible damage has already been done. Developmental damage. Could oxalic acid be my hero's flaw, my kryptonite? I made a summer alfredo-like sauce with some of the weeds from my garden and driveway, and I do feel pretty super. Like I got something I really needed... a feeling I get from beans, sometimes. I think it's my liver, or gallbladder, puking out some of the hereditary cholesterol.

We're in the fifth week of shaves on the same Personna (blue) blade now, which I think is a personal record, even before considering how much higher my standards have become lately. "Ruby," my new Parker 87R, sounds and feels like a much cheaper TTO razor, but keeps churning out BBS... or, as close as an incorrigible cotton ball killer can get to that, in my case. One time, I omitted the pumpkin juice and shaved with just (naked!) Williams. The shave was as close and smooth as using croap would have been, with a sharper blade. But it did stress the skin noticeably. Today I sliced off the blossom end of one of those shrink-wrapped cucumbers, and rubbed it over my beard in place of the juice. With a (great) Arko lather, the result was maybe 65% as good as pumpkin juice. So, if you don't want to go through the whole juice collection hassle, that's a good option. Travelers, even, could visit a salad bar somewhere.

I gave up flea marketing after Father's Day this year. Maybe the educational business plan can be developed at a later date. Even by non-economic standards, selling became a waste of time.

Everything's Coming Up Spinach

I might actually be losing my mind, despite adequate vitamin D intake. Having recently found myself omnipotent in the virtual world of my beard, I now look upon the garden, too, as a matrix of calcium and carboxylic acids. Last year, I let the wild spinach grow, well, wild, so that I would have a good supply of the ideal pizza topping. As weeds go, I figured I'd rather have that than the usual duck grass, and I let it go to seed... unfortunately, I now have both coming up in spades. Or rather, coming up under my garden hoe. But before yesterday's futile scraping between the rows, I plucked almost a gallon-bag full of whole, young plants.

Previously aware of "oxalic acid" because of a kidney stone, coincidental to my recovery from alcoholism, years ago, I looked it up... to find a surprise.

Not only is it a carboxylic acid, it is "dicarboxylic," and as pure an expression of the functional group as one could imagine, consisting of two "COOH" forks attached back-to-back -- and nothing else! This concentration of chemical power is obviously dangerous to kidneys, when calcium oxalate crystalizes there... but it is a natural food substance, and can usually be metabolized by humans without difficulty, especially in the company of dairy (thus, the pizza). Free oxalate can be extracted by boiling water -- "blanching" -- and the leaves consumed as pizza. It doesn't get any more socially responsible than that! So I expect to have a new popsicle in my shave soon... stay tuned.

(If I lived in the southwest... I'd look for amaranth. Also allowed to grow freely in my garden, and good on pizza.)

The Graduates: Summer School

If, after struggling for four, long years to harden one's skin through pogonotomical scholarship... after doggedly exploring every feasible cosmetic, kitchen and garden resource to find consistent hair softening... after dedicating countless morning hours of half-conscious, organic learning to physical mastery of the blade. If, after all this, one still misses the crude sensation of the stratum corneum being shorn along with the hair, the way one's expensive multiblade cartridges used to do... one might, against better judgement, streak through the library with one of the following.

Razorock JAWS

In side-by-side comparison with the Gillette NEW long-comb, the modern razor wins (on my face, anyway), providing enough traction control to advance the razor smoothly. Whereas the other, aiming to excavate to the depth of its gap, requires short strokes. Arko and pumpkin juice were used for this test.

If one-pass WTG shaves are your thing, or you just don't have enough hair to generate traction, maybe you'd want to go the old (NEW) way. Both razors do allow full angular control, unlike the previously discussed anchor heads, and encourage -- nay, require -- draw strokes. So I'll admit that I'm expressing a bit of unfair bias against exfoliation. Perhaps the mark of "Incomplete" better applies to those other razors.

In the spirit of diversity, it is a good thing that even self abusers need not resort to cartridges, with the variety of aggressive open comb razors that are available. Again, a lack of comprehension in design requires the buyer to experiment. Bottom line, for me: I'm retiring the NEW.

Schone Travel Razor

A couple of what I now refer to as "crazy flex razors" were granted a final opportunity to get with the program. But there's a big difference between getting wasted and naked, in a sheltered environment, and being the drug dealer on campus.

Most respectable of this bad lot is the Schone travel razor, which I believe originates in the same Indian factory as the JAWS, maker of Cadet and Pearl razors. This is their anchor-style head. It came with a nice, brass handle, lines up the blade fairly easily, and plows the blade through my face smoothly. (After what Procter and Gamble have tried to do in their country, I probably deserve it.) My new Atomic Razor, said to resemble Maggard V3A, was relatively hopeless. Couldn't get the blade centered; weepers were raised immediately; and progress was halting, on the final ATG. Every stroke with either razor felt hazardous, even with the proven Williams and pumpkin juice prep. They just weren't made for prolonged blade use.

This trend isn't going away, and it probably doesn't matter what I say about it. If you have fine hair and thick skin, letting a sharp blade pitch automatically to catch hair is the easy way out. College doesn't pay, they say, and it's hard to argue against that logic in a corrupt, corporatist society. But that isn't the reality of the world. Our beings are actually becoming, on a life cycle. Only the good die young. You, on the other hand, will probably live to regret these choices, when your beard gets tough and the skin thinner with age. ;-)

The Graduates: In Good Standing

Certain razors are just so popular, everybody wants one. I'm not immune to the influence, just cheap. (I signed up for the $20 slant at Italian Barber, too.)

Stirling 3P1

The best anchor-style head in my arsenal, ironically, turns out to be one of the Pakistani-made Merkur clones I acquired fairly early on, and have been badmouthing ever since. Now that I've entered the twilight zone of blade longevity, with a prep of PdP and pumpkin juice only, it cranks out BBS in three passes and some extra touch-ups. It could be any YouTuber looking back at me in the mirror, with the fast, repeated strokes. The only thing a little different is my skewing. The ability to slide strokes is how this razor earned its diploma, in fact. A razor nearly indistinguishable in its geometry, the Schmidt R10, failed the final exam, seeming to nibble a bit too hard on the skin before executing its cut on the hair WTG. The only difference I can see is that the lip of the top cap is thicker or more square on the Stirling -- a sign of poor quality in finishing, but protective of skin.

If the 41C is a BiC substitute, this would seem to be the Good News. Doug Hansford and Mr. Gatza like these kind of razors a lot.  I can't control the blade well enough to take down hair at the jaw corners with precision, but I can control the traction, and with careful pressure, a few extra strokes, that's close enough to BBS for government work. I see slight abrasion warning me not to use alum, but dilute Lime Sec doesn't burn very much.

No blood or bumps, like I had in beginner days. The flawed "plane" design will continue to be a hazard to newbie necks everywhere, but I officially release it from my personal grudge. Unfortunately, none of the preceding can inform you which one is best to buy.

Gillette Slim

As the over-designed counterpart to the under-designed anchor style razor, the very popular Gillette adjustable deserves equal reconsideration. Probably half the Slims out in the wild (and 95 percent of the ones seen online) are "overclocked" to the second register of 1-9 settings. That's because the "9" of the lower register is only as gappy as a Travel Tech. Why would anyone want to turn down the aggression of one of the mildest razors in existence?

Well, I think I can finally provide an answer to this little anthropological mystery. With the factory-fresh keen edge worn off a blade, higher traction pulls more skin into the gap. A smaller gap therefore means less angular error and risk of cuts. Even though the blade is still free to flex a little more than it would in an open-comb design, it's far preferable to the cartridge combo of super sharpness and fixed pitch. Looking at the "1" setting, I wasn't sure I'd any catch hair, with the edge basically just laying on the guard bar. But it did, zipping through WTG without any skin contact. I still don't have the ideal numbers for me; going 1-5-9, I ended with SAS and a weeper. I'm definitely coming back to this, though. The spirit of moonshots and civil rights embodied by this razor inspires me... it's like a razor from the alternate universe in the TV series, "Fringe."

Not that the second register isn't useful, in the way shims are useful, to square-stroking beginners.

The Graduates: With Distinction

Plastics, my boy... lol, no. I'm reexamining my collection of DE razors to see who can hang with the Parker now, using the same Personna blade, in its third and fourth week of consecutive daily shaves. Kind of like how I reevaluated my soaps in light of the breakthrough in hair softening. First, the honors group.

Merkur 41C

The way Parker imitates Merkur as a business, I'm sure someone, somewhere in India will be delighted to see me evaluating the 1904 open comb in their light for a change. It did a fantastic job WTG, smoother and more efficient, actually. (Witch hazel, Williams and pumpkin juice prep.) Under high traction conditions, it's the new Rimei, as the Parker is the new Super Speed. To make it finish ATG with acceptable closeness, I pushed cheek skin toward the blade. Still nowhere near as close as the Parker, BUT -- no sensation at all under alum. I will certainly have need of that capability in the future. BiC Sensitive also comes to mind, once again, but here at least I get a couple of hours before feeling the stubble.

Weishi 9306-H

As seen at Wal-mart, but at half the price, uncased, chrome over alloy (brass). This Chinese razor deserves respect for leading the market, but is it just a beginner's razor? Certainly not. Often criticized for being too gentle, it becomes quite efficient when loaded with a broken-in blade, and still smooth enough to take the tension-alignment approach. I have no choice but to relegate it to the unused bin of razors, however, since it leaves hair on my neck (some extreme skin-pushing effort would probably do it), and the Parker suits me better. Congratulations, and good luck.

Travel Tech

I suspect this is the most accessible razor on the antiques market, and cheaper than even the Weishi. You will want a proper handle, but it doesn't take long, in this hobby, to acquire an abundance of those. I previously thought of it as the less edgy Rimei. It can handle fresh blades, shims, and dull blades, too. In the present test (and a prep of just Arko and pumpkin juice) I found myself limited to the traction-minimizing approach, unable to go ATG on second pass. But I got there eventually. Side-by-side with the Weishi, I end with equivalent alum pricks and a closer neck shave, with a bit more length left on the cheek. I deem it the Weishi's counterpart in a low-angle/steep angle dyadic hierarchy, and a legitimate razor to grow with, especially if your hair stands up well. That's a fairly slight distinction, though: even though mine does not, the stubs are nice and velvety.

For Number One: Parker 87R

Arko and pumpkin juice, my Rimei and the worn Personna blade set the stage for a big Father's Day shave, leaving plenty of SAS stubble and a skin free of injury. An oil cleanse was still missed, as every old scar in the shaving area shone brightly. But around my mouth, the chin, and my neck crease -- all areas critical to comfort remained satisfactorily smooth at bedtime, reward for having stood up to the Rimei's low natural pitch.

I still love the razor, but we grew apart as I unwittingly conformed to a more modern, high-traction technique. (Not multi-blade high traction, but higher than before.) Assisted by bathroom experimental dermatology, tougher skin and softer hair made the Super Speed, with a steep natural pitch, decidedly preferable. I like the old school, but have never been enamored with things that are simply old. If I'm ever going to settle down with just one razor, it will have to be shiny.

So now, to the spotlight I bring the Parker 87R, already invested with more hope than any razor I have previously owned, despite having never been used. You probably shouldn't take the following as a product review... more like a violation of privacy, a peep on a new relationship.

Her Name Is "Ruby"

Right into the fray with the same, worn Personna blade. Oil cleanse followed by witch hazel, Williams and pumpkin juice. Unbelievable: the high-traction attitude of the Super Speed, with the edge-exposed bite of the Rimei... I'm thinking, this is pretty near perfect. A little rough, ample room to learn... but then I remember -- the condition of the blade! The only possible explanation for this performance is that this razor is perfectly calibrated to my face, my hand, and my favorite blade. A natural.

What about the apparent overclamping at the blade corners? I don't know. Indeed, I see little flaws throughout this gem. The doors align close enough, but don't form a perfectly continuous arc on one end. The center bar isn't perfectly straight in profile, judging it like the roof of a house; like the blade, a little down on the ends. The gap isn't quite even across one edge. The razor's beauty and function are practically undiminished.

I have some passing acquaintance with Indian pride. To recreate a razor named "Aristocrat," even from another escapee of the British Empire, and the national origin of the safety razor, was no small condescension. Anyone can see that the 87R stands out of the Parker line like a Roman pillar. I'd like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the manufacturer, and to my loving family on Father's Day.


Kiss My Face moisture shave didn't soften the wire of my curly beard, but Barbasol did, suggesting that its triethanolamine was sequestering the calcium away from my hair, in my stratum corneum, so pumpkin juice could do its magic. Triethanolamine is also the last listed ingredient in Van der Hagen Select, which I use as the microwave melting base for KMF-VDH croap.

I know I've equated VDH and Barbasol before, but there's a huge difference, in that triethanolamine seems to be the major moisturizing ingredient in Barbasol, whereas VDH features propylene glycol. (Both more tolerable to my skin than glycerin.) Might this extreme dilution be sufficient for the juice treatment?

In terms of tactile sensations during the shave, I'd have to say no. There was plenty of loud resistance from the hair.  And yet... what a nice shave! When I finished, I knew the blade was about done (after two weeks, five days). I could feel missed stubble spaced evenly around my face. But after alum, dilute Skin Bracer, and a couple hours, I don't notice that unless I press pretty firmly. My skin, liking these moisturizers, rebounded so nicely that it could pass for BBS. I take this to mean that the differential between closeness and exfoliation is at its maximum. I should add, my preshave was simply a cleanse with witch hazel solution, no extra oil.

This is exactly how you would want to finish a blade, but you know I can't leave well enough alone. We'll see how this dying blade performs with a proven softening set-up, a soap that employs glycerin to the max and compromises nothing, Pre de Provence No. 62.

New Trick of the Week 

Aiming for BBS, I didn't want anything on the skin surface. But I still felt I needed oil to protect me from glycerin. Solution: oil cleanse first, THEN witch hazel. Witch hazel alone is powerful, but this seemed to suck the shaving oil residue deep into my skin. I lathered an extra time unnecessarily, because I forgot the pumpkin juice at first, and the glycerin still couldn't touch me.

Hair was softened to the extra degree, but with the old Personna blade tracking to the max, I was still able to take it down to the root, with no misses this time. I knew the third pass was too much for my skin as I was doing it, and alum's prickles congealed lightly into a burn in confirmation. That's okay, because I think the first pass would have been good enough. I'll have to see what a two-pass shave looks like in the morning to be sure, but...

The blade lives! I don't have to look to tell you, there ain't no gleam left on that edge: it's just the one bevel now. When I hit skin, I feel the back of the blade like an ice scraper at my SC. New territory, opened to exploration by attention to prep.

The back of my neck was due for a shave, too. Rough going, but I still had a Racer loaded in the Weishi to take care of that.

Progressivism for Eight-year Olds

Conventional wisdom says that one should write so an 8th grader can understand you. I know that I fail to hit that mark, over and over again, coming across like some kind of ESL science journal. But with the kids out of school, I find that I really must communicate so that an 8-year old can understand, and it's yielding some interesting lessons for us all.

The problem I'm now facing is that, during the school year, the children are under too much supervision, in a way. Not that there aren't brats throwing rocks, using foul language, and even making inappropriate sexual contact at the first, split-second opportunity. They're like little animals. My kids are relatively okay, I think, but still only seem to respond to behavioral intervention. I grow tired of hearing about how many stickers they have, and reward time with the authority figures (and I'm sure I still don't know the right terminology). I've never taken a shine to incentivizing routine at home. You eat at suppertime, go to bed at bedtime, or there's hell to pay. So who gets to be the big downer, the week after school's out? That's right: Daddy.

They have this slogan posted at the elementary school:

We Are Respectful
We Are Responsible
We Are Safe
We Are Learners

It used to say "Be Respectful," etc., with a picture of bees, but then they ditched the hive concept.  Too innocent for this community, I guess. The Principal tells me some 60 percent of the children have experienced some kind of trauma. "Blue Devil Time" is the collective time of acknowledgement now, instead of "Hive Time"...

Anyway, my kids didn't seem to have any idea what the first two parts of their little mission statement meant, when I caught one of them mouthing off to other members of the family, and another one lying. So I composed a little exercise for them to copy repeatedly and hang on their wall. Milly, after calling her brother a "stupid fat-ass," was assigned this passage:

Respect means looking out for someone, even if you don't like them and they aren't as strong as you. Or, they made you mad. Swearing is not respectful. It makes you sound stupid and ugly. If everybody did that, the whole world would be ugly and stupid.

I had tried to get an exposition written in her own words, but her twin sister Clara wrote it for her, some nonsense about getting in trouble. So, she was set to writing the following:

Responsibility means trying to be good, even when nobody else is being good, or no one is watching you. Lying is irresponsible. Making mistakes is the best way to learn, but if you aren't responsible, you won't learn anything.

I think I made a mistake in this last one, and it's interesting to me. Shouldn't it have read, "trying to be better," or "trying to improve," instead of "trying to be good"? This very issue seems to have divided communities and nations throughout history, with conservatives opting for good enough, and progressives pressing for change.

I think it hinges on the prior concept of respect. If you don't account for human development, either your own or other people's, then it makes perfect sense to be a passive-aggressive deadbeat. Conversely, if progress is merely economic expansion, and no one is held personally responsible... oh, yes, that has happened, too. In either case, are we learning? Indeed, are we even safe?


When I used Arko instead of Stirling with the witch-hazel, oil cleanse, lather pre-shave AND pumpkin prep, the hair was reliably softened yet again... but I failed to shave as close. So I cheated, and dry shaved under the ipsilateral jaw corner. No way I'm getting 12 hours out of this shady DFS, but it passes an alum test.

I want it both ways. I will have it both ways!

Skin Compaction

I got a shave that stayed smooth for more than twelve hours yesterday. I didn't succeed in softening the hair fully, giving pumpkin juice a third try with Stirling. Yet I got to the root, BBS all the way -- flawless, except for an odd abrasion in the soft triangle of the underjaw. How? I doubled down on the oil cleanse, following witch hazel solution (low alcohol) with a second cleanse with my homemade oil.

I believe that witch hazel acted primarily on the deeper, living epidermis, with its cell-shrinking astringent activity. Whereas shaving oil stripped the extra oil from between the non-living corneocytes, shrinking the stratum corneum. Pumpkin juice may have acted on my tissues as well, limited by the preceding oil, but let back in by a third preshave treatment, a wasted lather. I made absolutely certain osmotic pressure due to glycerin was equalized before applying the juice, this time, thinking that might have been a deactivating factor in hair softening.

Nope. But it wasn't terrible, either. If I hadn't cut myself, I would have believed the hair was soft enough. And the way some stubble seemed to re-emerge on third pass, but only on the side I start shaving, I think maybe the hair was softening, only slower than usual. My pumpkin juice actives seem to want to stick with the glycerin in solution (and skin).

Good amount of burn from Florida Water, but I think a normal degree for this severe closeness. Bottom line, I think witch hazel may have a place in the perfect shave, and Noxzema's days are numbered. It felt like operator error this time, and we're still waiting for the "good stuff" from Amazon.

Error in post leads to Hypochondria

I accidentally typed "nitrosamine" instead of "chloramine" in reference to smelly chlorine pool residues. Google revealed that the common tertiary amine in certain shaving creams AND my orange glycerin cleansing bar, triethanolamine, reacts with dichloramine to produce a suspected cancer-causing chemical of the type I had originally keyed.

I can't figure out if what I was doing was safe, based on what was written about wastewater treatment. I am hopeful, but I think my unused shaving soap is going to take that place in the gym bag from now on.

Don't Forget The Oil

As the summer seemed to be starting in earnest, I tried directly sowing some pepper seeds that need 85-degree Fahrenheit soil temperature to germinate. Ha ha, joke's on me -- back in the 40's at night this week! But it was enough of a taste to get me interested in Stirling Coconut again, as I used it to wash my armpits in the heat.

And then I realized, with all the pumpkin juice experimenting, it's been awhile since I used shaving oil. The evening after using Barbasol, I did an oil cleanse, and it was quite dramatic, like the first time I tried an oil cleanse. Like a facelift. If you think of oil as a primitive moisturizer, it's a bit counterintuitive to apply in the summer. But really, it's the best way to get that dry winter feel back.

This morning I changed gears and put together a less hair-softening, more neotraditional shave, with oil -- wouldn't use glycerin soap without it -- AND a bit of lather as preshave. I was going to try the pumpkin juice with that, but forgot. It made for a higher-traction reduction. Luckily, I haven't forgotten how to shave entirely.

I added the pumpkin for pass 2, and it didn't seem to do much. It was a nice, smooth shave, though. I imagine it was like a normal person using a cartridge, after a week of DE shaving: a bit of a face planing. Maybe that's what glycerin's all about.

Since I had the pumpkin juice out, and it was a rainy day, I used that as aftershave, too.

Not so often, maybe

When I took my son swimming indoors, that oiled patch on my face was still noticeably hardened against the chlorine, and the just-like-Neutrogena soap that I use to pre-hydrate as a chlorine defense. Noxzema at night seemed to be the right answer to lingering chloramines.

In the morning, I felt oily enough already, and so gave Stirling a fair shot at the latest pumpkin method, without oil. It might have been a bit softer, but still high-traction at the midline, noticeably moreso than with the Dove Expert Shave.

My response was simple -- instead of going two passes with tension alignment, I used the traction minimizing, XTG/barber's approach for three, and a DFS. Skin was much less damaged than previously: alum picked up a couple prickles on my neck.

Commercial Superiority


Arko checked out okay on pumpkin compatibility for wiry beard softening. With its somewhat more extensive ingredients list, especially mineral oil, I was concerned the fruit acid would be occluded. I mixed up a piss-poor lather, and the Super Speed was skipping occasionally. Didn't matter (except for some missed hairs): beard like butter.

Some parts were still smooth in the morning, the first tangible improvement in objective terms, and a hopeful affirmation of my investment in the TTO design.

Dove Expert Shave

Commercial creams continued to bat .000 on hair restructuring, though the shave was kind of ambiguous until I got to the middle of my face, where the blade was clearly stopped by hair. I don't know... how do they count a sacrifice bunt? Something was definitely off. The ingredients do include chelating agents, they just seem a bit overpowered by the rest.

I remember how much this clearance bargain impressed me at first. Turns out, its "special surfactants" (my impression at the time) were none other than sodium laureth sulfate, a cleanser most experts scorn, and the probably related sodium lauroyl isoethionate, actually higher in the list. Some people do shave with shampoo. Subsequent shaves have been increasingly caustic, burning in a way Suave certainly never would. Glycerin is the second ingredient. This could wind up as another nicely-scented pit-cleaner for my collection.

As I finished with a skim on the cream's residual slickness, I could clearly feel how every pickup was a trade in flesh, so at least it didn't take much discipline to stop. I still got a great shave, but my standards have clearly risen since last October.

Father's Day Sneak Peek

Amazon delivered early, and while the kids were at their after school program (each will present me with one of the items I ordered, according to my plan), I inspected the razors. The Parker 87R was a "good one," thankfully. I was a little concerned with a chrome blem along a lather channel on the baseplate, which looked like it could deform the edge, but it did not. Blade tightens down very well and even. If there is any flaw, it will be the slight overclamping at the corners, corresponding to the shape in which the doors were ground smooth at the lip. Looks like a big fat pussycat to me, and the parts that show are quite beautiful.

The Atomic Razor, aggressive variant looks like just another crazy flex razor, but I have to say, having received the two together, the presentation matches Parker in every way, and the packaging was significantly better. The drawback to all that flash is an ugly logo on the top cap, but at least it isn't stamped or embossed, just an etch. Like your typical middle eastern razor, it leaves too much play in the blade, and you have to even it out yourself. But in this case, it only accrues to gap, not alignment, so you could just wing it and use the difference to tackle the whiskers under your chin, for example.


You know it! Using a pea-sized squirt as preshave seemed like it couldn't possibly have affected water activity in any way. And yet, with just ten minutes until the beginning of the kids' summer vacation, I pulled off a damn fine shave in two passes, assisted by the pumpkin juice. No hair resistance.

I would subtract a point for lack of hair erection, however, which is reflected in a less velvety feel over what remains. I don't understand why the hair cross-section would round out without hydration sufficient to erect hair, so I'm attributing this to a carbamide effect on the skin. (I'm pretty sure it wasn't the "aloe"!)

Subtleties of a Soft Beard

Going back to Williams softened the hair, as expected. Meanwhile, the blade has turned the corner, too, no longer allowing hair to self-implode under tension generated seemingly by itself, as it flexes against the edge. The net result was also distinctly different from either: a sharp blade against the wiry beard, or a broken-in blade against a wiry beard (my usual milieu).

I would characterize the shave as emphasizing skin avoidance, since pitching too high resulted in sudden blade feel, or drag, while keeping to a low angle was not super efficient, but still noticeably easy progress. (Sounds like the world of a record blade longevity runner to me... as I recall.) But gosh, I didn't think the Merkur OC was even capable of causing the blade to drag! It's the absence of the "hair shield," where the blade would rest in the hair after initiating the cut, and wait for additional tension to be generated before completing the cut.

This hair still "pops," but only under properly aligned tension. It made for a very nice blade song on WTG, reminiscent of the BiC disposable train whistle, but higher pitched. I got a good, even shave, but not closer than usual for the Merkur, and I'm still a little closer on my neck than my cheeks.

Wow. I gotta say that today, as a writer, I see a little more clearly what I'm up against, and it's not encouraging. Could someone without a wiry beard even conceive of such things as I have? I don't think so. I feel like I've ridden the proverbial camel through a keyhole.

Pogonotomer's Cardio Diet

I stayed up late watching a good documentary movie, The Widowmaker. It describes how medicine and finance colluded for two decades to suppress a great diagnostic advance in the treatment of heart disease -- a scan for calcium deposits -- in favor of more lucrative stent surgery. I could easily have been one of the unwitting victims, and it's inspired me to make an appointment, because I've only had an echocardiogram. Which looked good, but that's kinda the point of the movie -- this other scan screens for the perfectly healthy people that are about to suddenly drop dead. (Not that I'm particularly healthy, either.)

One of the excuses used by the powerful, to exclude this screening as a reasonable medical expense, is that even if you see deposits, it doesn't point to a specific treatment. And in documented fact, one case was depicted celebrating that his score did not worsen, which I guess is the typical expectation until you actually get bypass surgery.

Now, I don't believe it's any mistake that the hair-softening effect I'm currently investigating correlates with the presence or absence of chelators (things that bind calcium) in shaving soap. Remember, also, that the crucial proteins involved in exfoliation, cadherins, are calcium-dependent adhesion proteins. In short: that damned calcium has been screwing up my shaves for years! And just as the stent inventor got his idea from a piece of metallic mesh wall patch, I can re-imagine arteries as skin turned inside out and shaped into a tube.

So here is how I would attack the plaque, based on what I've learned from shaving. What the hell, might as well throw in my opinions on alternative dental care, too.

Rainy Day, Mental Work and Aerobic Exercise -- Sex If You're Lucky

   Beans, tea -- solubilize cholesterol
   Carbohydrates: indulge in your refined food now, if you must
   Niacin supplement
   Clay for evening toothbrushing -- swallow some of the leftover slurry

   Like preshave, I would reinforce the endothelial tissues with deliberate hydration in lieu of lipids.

Sunny Day, Hard Work

   OJ, Vinegar  -- solubilize calcium
   Eat higher organisms: meat and eggs, greens
   Vitamin K
   Baking soda for tooth brushing

   The aim, as in shaving, should be to minimize exfoliation. Inadequately lubricated endothelium could split and become irritated, or worse, come off in chunks. My feeling is that alot of the sudden-death crowd are like our "I'd rather be epilating" types, where daily running is like everyday BBS.

Aspirin and fish oil as needed immediately for inflammatory response

   Of course we know to pop aspirin at the first sign of a heart attack. I think it should also soothe the "burn" of cardiovascular stress, as aftershave soothes the skin.

Day of Rest

   Vegetable Juice -- tissue reorganization
   Squash and dairy
   Coffee, nuts, chocolate
   Oil for tooth brushing

   Toning or chemically "exfoliating" skin in the evening helps bristle stand up in the morning. If we can get our blood vessels in order, they too should operate more efficiently. Potassium and phosphorus are like our post-shave moisturizer, best gotten naturally, but I do like to pop a potassium supplement when stiff muscles just don't let up.

Looking Forward to Father's Day

For myself, I'm going out on a limb by ordering the Parker 87R. I'm already quite sure that Parker hasn't improved their famous quality control, and will try not to hold my breath -- but maybe I'll get lucky, this time. To get a Gillette as nice-looking as that would cost over a hundred (and I unfortunately do find Super Speeds relatively unattractive).

Humphrey's cucumber-melon witch hazel was being offered as a $5 add-on item by Amazon. I also had them throw in the $8 Atomic razor recommended by Frugal Shave (YouTube), with the "aggressive" style cutting head. I've been curious how that might work, replacing the flatly beveled safety bar of an anchor-style with a more Tech-like curve... if it comes into play.

Other Dads wouldn't do badly to receive the stuff I shaved with this morning: the Merkur 1904 Classic Open Comb and Kiss My Face moisture shave, lavender scent. I mixed up my lather in a bowl with a synthetic brush, applied some as a preshave, rinsed, and added pumpkin juice to see if it would work the same to soften the hair.

No luck this time. It surprised me, because KMF was definitely involved on other random occasions (when I failed to reproduce the effect, before pumpkin juice). And it is already highly aqueous and botanical. But, it doesn't contain those chemical chelators I had pointed out. I will eventually experiment with baking soda or vinegar to try to get it going with KMF. But before this blade gets too dull, I'd better go back to Williams, for the sake of replication.

I can't say I was too disappointed, though, because the luxuriously scented lather coordinated familiar tug-and-cut sensations with perfect safety and no skin insult. I just shaved until I couldn't get any more hair. That's not always a good idea, and may set sort of a bad precedent for beginners, but I can think of worse ways to start wet shaving! This was one of the better shaves I've gotten out of the Merkur, though cotton balls still need to beware.

When I tried PdP and pumpkin juice with the Super Speed, I got a good neck shave, but missed on the cheeks. This reversal was so unusual that I almost shaved again last night, but the stubble wasn't really that bad. Maybe there's just a new crop of hair coming in, or something random like that, but I do think my angles were being severely screwed up by the softening effect.

Easing Up for a New Reason

Sure enough, Pre de Provence No. 63 took very well to the Ivory/pumpkin juice method, solving the puzzle of that soap once and for all. I don't think it was ever hardening my hair, just making my hard hair stand up. Taking responsibility for that aspect myself completely changes my perspective.

I no longer see it as a particularly refined artisan soap, but rather as a supremely adulterated commercial soap. Like Kiss My Face moisture shave, it CAN be whipped up fairly dry, but offers huge latitude in the amount of water it can take. Treated wet (like Williams should be always) the cushion is unbelievable. With my synthetic brush, I can't feel the bristles, just a weight-like pressure, like liquid mercury on teflon.

Recently I mentioned the hair shielding skin on WTG, and with that shield now turning to jell-o, shaving is a bit different. I have to scale back all forces and impacts. I can see why weaker-bearded men could reject ideas like traction control and tension alignment. Though I still feel them to be true, they are scarcely perceptible and much more subtle. I went right back to my Tech and Rimei, kept my angles low, and they vindicated their lack of traction control with efficient, comfortable shaves.

But there's no doubt the juice is also facilitating declamation under the blade. I'll assert a distinction between that and the usual planing of the skin surface, where the blade takes off the stratum corneum like a slice of cheese, though I know both would technically be regarded as exfoliation. My skin texture is good, and doesn't reflect light unnaturally after the shave. But it's still very thin.

I can't stand more than three passes with the Tech or Rimei. I have to think there's a lighter, shallower option that will be more satisfying with the Super Speed now, if I drop the barber's minimal traction approach and get back to just two, tension-aligned passes.

Wiry Hair Softened: Not a Fluke!

I jumped the gun a bit with the Personna blade and moved it up to the Super Speed, even though it is still quite sharp. The way the hair was softened yesterday, with Williams pre-shave and straight pumpkin juice, made it a little hard for the Rimei to catch hair at its lower natural pitch angle. Predicting less resistance from the hair again today, I anticipated the skin would be less at risk.

Half right, as usual. The burn from a splash of Florida Water was pretty significant on my neck. But what a shave! I've never before been able to repeat this hairy-kari: the hair just killing itself on the edge, cutting clean through without a tug. It happens often enough for me to understand that this is what people are talking about when they say, "Let the blade do the work." I wish they understood that shaving is quite a bit more work for some of us. (Besides the colloquialism being physically impossible.)

Today, however, I coulda (shoulda, woulda) stopped at one pass, as the hair was completely reduced by WTG. A little tip-blunting, ATG skim would have finished it, but I stuck with the three passes I've been using lately, and wound up over-exfoliated, with a weeper on my Adam's apple making a cameo appearance during the shave.

Right now, though, I couldn't care less about BBS or exfoliation. The hair, the hair! I must have the hair! The third, forgotten Stygian witch is grasping around desperately in my head for answers.

Does Williams have special cuticle-deforming power, like baking soda, in its limited array of chemical additives? Pentasodium pentetate, tetrasodium etidronate. That's the simplest explanation. I'd have to review all the other soaps' ingredients. Well, rest assured, I'll be testing this with all other soaps going forward. (PdP, here I come!)

Or is it the dehydration effect, the same that makes it challenging for beginners to lather? Recollect the "Shave With Ivory" trick: face lather, rinse, re-apply lather. If you don't replenish the water content of the skin before you shave, simple soap lathers tend to dry out on your face. But I've taken care of that before the pumpkin juice arrives, in this routine: it's not like the hair would suck in the pumpkin juice due to dehydration.

Could the oil-less preparation be leaving the hair particularly receptive to juice? There would seem to be plenty of sebum present, still. It may be noteworthy that I've shifted the witch hazel to nighttime use, as the pumpkin came to the day. By chance, I jumped in the tub after one of my kids yesterday, and put Ivory to my head in wild west fashion, knowing I could rely on the pumpkin juice to fix me up afterward. It didn't seem to make pumpkin juice particularly effective, by any means.

Probably it's the combination of chelation, osmosis, and cleansing that allows Williams to unlock stubble to the pumpkin's magic.

Beat The Heat

I sort of expected the summer to bring some higher tolerance to my skin. I have previously noted how high-glycerin soap is excellent on perpetually moist body areas; I'd expect those areas to congeal into one, all-encompassing mass of summer sweat. But it's been quite the opposite. Since the week before Memorial Day, my fully activated skin seems more delicate than ever.

I wouldn't call it sunburned, though I've had a touch of color high on my forehead (Where the hair has abandoned ship?) Yet the solar-powered metabolism is colluding with exfoliation to make me a particularly thin-skinned individual. I'm finding it difficult to stay safe with the Rimei, as it baits me into a third pass that I don't really need, but it wants to compete with the Super Speed. And if I push any product, the skin seems to push back with a vigorous reaction of ooze or swelling. I tried leaving alum on the skin, and that seemed to set up a couple of bad shaves. Even dabbing jojoba oil postshave seems distressing.

For Hot Meat, Call Williams

Williams (or, more extremely, Ivory) is the known cure for metabolically overactive skin. If you need some tight and dry in your life, get thee to the drugstore. My puck is now just a thin wafer at the bottom of a Big Lots ceramic bowl. I use it a lot, but I can't seem to kill it. It really is a great value, even though it starts out smaller than most other pucks, because it's the closest to being pure soap.

Palm lathering is really ideal for me at this time, because whatever lather remains in my hand after loading the brush becomes the pre-shave. But there is one more thing you can add after rinsing.

Plant Pumpkins Now

Curcurbits don't transplant well, but the soil's nice and warm, so now's the time! Even if you're not a gardener, just take a hand spade, dig a circle in a sunny corner, mound it up a little with a cheap bag of potting soil, and put a few seeds in the middle. You didn't want to weed-whack that spot anyway, did you? I'd throw some leaf mulch down, let the vines run along a fence (if I had one).

I didn't even want to mess with baking soda today, and just applied the juice direct from the freezer before putting the lather on. Rarely do I notice my hair yielding easily to the edge, but it prompted me to slow my strokes and just let the hairs "pop."

Pumpkin juice shouldn't be worn into the sun, because it's loaded with vitamin A, but it's great aftercare in the evening. It can even cure a bad hair day!

Duru have any REAL cologne?

We think of cologne and even aftershave as primarily scent nowadays, but certain citrus waters make a distinctly soothing and refreshing rinse when it's hot and sticky. I like Florida Water, but you can't beat Duru limon for value. Pour it like champagne into a wet washcloth, and luxuriate in the equivalent of a full-body KFC wet-wipe!