Improvement

/Improvement

Shaving – Double Edge Safety Razors

Shaving Essentials

Aside from a short lived bloody stint using a straight razor 15 years ago, I’ve always been a Gillette multi-blade vibrating light-up twitter-enabled razor kind of guy when it comes to preventing myself being mistaken for a rabid bear.  In a recent effort to look like less of a mess I started researching how to deal with razor burn, a constant issue for me.  My facial fur is thick, grows fast, and I pretty much always had some minor razor burn on my neck (mostly where the hair decides to grow in the opposite direction from it’s facial brethren).  One of the big recommendations was to switch to an old-fashion double edge safety razor (DE).  The thought is that the 5+ blades on the modern Gillettes are overkill and scrape up your skin 5 times as much and hence are more prone to causing razor burn and skin irritation.

Thanks to Amazon a couple of days later I had a Merkum long handled safety razor, a pack of Merkum platinum double edge blades, a nice badger fur brush, a stand for the razor and brush, and a container of Taylor of Old Bond Street sandalwood shaving soap.  It’s been a couple of weeks with the new setup, and I love it.  Here’s why:

The Ritual.  Shaving is no longer something I rush through in the shower, whipping the Gillette across my face as quickly as possible while squinting into a foggy mirror trying to see what I’m doing.  Shaving is a 5 minute exercise, with the goal being quality not speed.  The warm washcloth to re-wet my beard post-toweling off after the shower feels relaxing and luxurious.  Some people use essential oils on their towel for further indigence.  I haven’t tried that yet, but I will.  Wetting the badger fur brush, and using it to whip the shaving soap into a light foam.  The scent of the sandalwood.  The application of the shaving soap to my face, using the badger brush to lift my stubble and apply a full coat of the scented soap.  The warm water heating the razor.  Smooth deliberate shaving strokes.  One per blade side, then another rinse in the warm water.  Repeat as needed.  The feeling of the heavy well manufactured razor, the impossibly sharp blades.  The fact that you don’t put any pressure on the razor, you just let it’s own tiny weight, and the samurai sword-like blades do exactly what they’re designed to do.  Washing off the remainders of the soap with the towel.  Then doing another face wipe with the washcloth, this time soaked in cold water to close the pores and seal everything back up.  It’s 5 minutes spent alone, indulging myself, focusing on myself, using well made tools, to do something so essentially male.  I look forward to it every morning when I wake up.

The Shave.  Once you get the hang of the safety razor, the shave is fantastic.  Close, smooth, no razor burn, clean looking.  The scent of the sandalwood sticks with you.  It’s by far a better shave than what I was getting previously.  If you really want the best possible shave, then do it twice.  Also, figure out which direction your hair grows and make sure you take any directional changes into consideration as you shave.  For me, I have a strip on my neck that grows upward, whereas everywhere else things grown down.

The Cost.  This is just icing on the cake, but you can get extremely high quality blades for $0.25-$0.50 per blade.  That means you can swap blades once or twice a week (depending on your beard’s steel-dulling abilities), getting a great shave and spending much less than you would on the 5 blade cartridges which can easily run over $5 each.

I would recommend the switch to anyone!  Also it’s worth asking your father or grandfather if he has his old safety razor, as many of them are the sort of equipment you could easily pass down through the generations.

Worth Reading:

What Should You Bring To A Track Day?

Loudon July 8th Track Day Photos

I’ve been riding motorcycles for 23+ years.  My first bike was a Yamaha RT100 dirt bike when I was 10.  I love the freedom, the sound, the feeling of leaning a bike through a curve, all of it.  I’m lucky enough to live less than an hour and a half from the New Hampshire Motor Speedway (formerly NHIS), which allows me to do track days.  You can read some previous posts about my track days here and here and here and here

I did my first track day of the 2013 season last Monday and wanted to do a quick write-up of what you should bring to a track day.

First of all, each track day organizer/school will have slightly different rules, requirements, schedules, and will provide different things, so read all the info from your track day provider you can.

Here is my list:

  • Motorcycle
  • Trailer + tie downs
  • Painters tape, zip ties, basic tools, oil
  • Helmet (less than 5 years old, full face, DOT and ANSI certified)
  • Full Leather Armored Race Suit (or if you don’t have one :
    • Leather Armored Jacket (which ZIPS INTO..)
    • Leather Armored Pants
  • Gloves (leather, over wrist gauntlet style is recommended, as is armor)
  • Boots (armored riding boots are best.  Leather over ankle boots will work in a pinch)
  • Under layer (highly recommend getting some thin cooling/wicking under layer top and bottom to go under your leathers)
  • Socks (riding boots are pretty tall, so you’ll often want extra long socks and cooling/wicking is good too)
  • Earplugs
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat (for when you’re walking around in the sun)
  • Tire Warmers (you don’t need them when you’re just starting out, but when you start to really dial up the speed you’ll want them!!!)
  • Bike stands (if you’re using tire warmed you need these)
  • Bike trickle charger (if your bike was cold on the trailer all night it may be hesitant to start)
  • Jump box (You’ll be AMAZED at how many people’s bikes wont start, especially early in the season.  Bring a Jump Box and you’ll make a lot of new friends!)
  • Extension cord to plug in your tire warmers and charger
  • Helmet Fan (you can get a cheap small rotating like this fan which you’ll turn facing upward and put your helmet on it with the visor open when you get off the track.  Otherwise your helmet will be sweaty and wet and gross all day)
  • Water
  • Energy drinks/Gatorade/etc… (you need to be REALLY on top of dehydration as it happens quickly when you’re in the sun in full leathers and it impacts your judgement and reaction times first)
  • Power bars
  • Fruit/snacks
  • Advil
  • Gasoline!!! (bring a 5 gallon can of nice fresh gas)
  • Folding Camp Chair
  • GoPro

A note about hydration – some track day schools will provide water, some wont.  Bring your own just in case.  I also like drinks with electrolytes, etc… like Vitamin Waters, Gatorade, etc..  I generally will do a small amount of caffeine (as track days start early) but not a ton (no redbull here).  Most track days will have you spending 15-20 minutes on the track every hour, with the remainder spend un-gearing, learning things in the classroom, and re-gearing up.  My plan is to consume 12-16 oz of fluids during every ~40 minutes that I’m not on the bike.  Also to urinate about once every break as well.  If you’re smaller, you may need less fluids, but if you get to lunch time and you haven’t hit the bathroom more than once since you arrived at 8 AM, then you need to be drinking more.  I also like to eat a small bag of salty chips (not something I usually eat) in order to help retain more water during the day.  Also chips are tasty:)

A note about trailers and tie downs.   You can rent a trailer from U-Haul for about $20/day.  You can even rent a pickup to tow it with for cheap too.  You don’t need to buy a $3,000 trailer for your first track day.  U-Haul even has motorcycle specific trailers with a chock for the front wheel built into the trailer.  You will need 3-4 tie down straps for the bike.  Do NOT get the ones with the built-in ratchets for tightening the straps.  They SEEM like a good idea, but they make it way too easy to over compress your suspension and damage your shocks.  Get the simple ones where you pull to tighten.  You’ll want to two in the front, one on each handle bar, and 1 or 2 in the back to hold the rear of the bike from bouncing all over.  I highly recommend getting a handlebar harness or something similar.  If you load the bike up the night before, leave the ties loose, and tighten them up, with a little bit of suspension compression, before you hit the road.  You’ll worry about the bike the whole ride up, but I’ve NEVER had a bike fall or get damaged in 20+ trailerings.

If you’re just getting into track days, stay calm and go slow.  Don’t worry about how far you’re going, or who’s passing you.  I always forget, but just focus on your line, your body position, being consistent, learning your braking and turn in points, etc…  Do that, and you’ll end up being fast.  If you push yourself to be fast first, you’ll end up slow or crashed or both.  Slow and smooth.  And have fun!

You can download a printable packing checklist here: Track Day Checklist

Super Tea


I was at the grocery store yesterday, and stopped by the medicinal tea aisle as I’d depleted our Cold Season supply with my cold last week. In addition to the “normal” medicinal teas which help with things like sore throats, coughs, aches, difficulty falling asleep, and digestive issues, they now have two whole shelves for what I can only describe as “improvement” teas. There was a tea to increase your metabolism, a tea to reduce your hunger, a tea to make you happier, a tea to increase your memory and focus, a tea to improve your libido, a tea to give you clearer skin, a tea to make you more flexible, etc…

But really, wouldn’t we all want ALL OF THOSE THINGS? I’d love to be thinner, happier, smarter, more limber, sexier, eating less, with great skin, wouldn’t you? Can’t they make a Super Tea that does it all? 🙂

New Years Eve 2011

Here is my cliche 2011 wrap up and hopes for 2012:

2011 was a great year in many areas of my life.

My company Spark::red enjoyed strong growth and I feel like its been an amazing success. You can read a bit about our growth this year here: Spark::red Year in Review.

I travelled to South Africa, Montreal (twice), Aruba, Maine, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Seattle, and more. I rode my motorcycle up Mount Washington. I ran a 5k. I did winter driving school at the Team O’Neil rally school. I drove at Loudon race track in both my S4 and my Ducati. I went to a ton of concerts. I ate at some amazing restaurants. I cooked some great food. I read some great books. I had an amazing set of new experiences with my wife.

It has been a great year. My best memories have been time spent with my wife, travel, motorsports, and building my company.

This coming year I want to do more of the stuff that sticks in my mind. I want to scuba dive, snowboard, travel, spend time on the track in my car and bikes, go shooting, take photos, cook, write code, triple Spark::red revenue, read, write, run another 5k. it’s going to be a big year and I can’t wait!!!

Snowboarding at Loon Mountain

I went up to Loon Mountain yesterday and did my first snowboarding of the season. I’d never been to Loon, but it seemed nice. It’s early enough in the season that only a small fraction of the runs were open, and the conditions weren’t perfect, but it was a cold crisp day, with some light snow falling, and I had a great time.

Most of my snowboard gear is from about 10-11 years ago, so this season I’m updating a few elements. I picked up a new jacket and gloves last week and Saturday was my trial run for both. I used to ride with a thicker warm jacket that I’d just wear over a t-shirt, but I’m trying some layering with my new Rome DSK jacket.

It worked great, I was warm, and I LOVE the jacket! Having a snow skirt that hooks up with your snow pants means you keep warm and dry regardless of the wind or any butt sliding wipeouts you may have. Likewise my Burton gloves were Goretex, warm and dry. They have inner liner gloves that stay on your hands when take off the gloves, which is great, because if you need to fiddle with your bindings, headphones, sunglasses, etc… you can do it with optimal dexterity, but still keeping your fingers warm. Big fan. I need new boots through, after 11 years most of the padding and insulation are packed down to the point of uselessness.

Loon is only about 1:45 minutes away so it’s an easy day trip, especially if, like me, you’re only good for 3-4 hours on the slopes (although I assume that will get better as I get back into snowboarding shape). I’m planning on going a LOT this winter. Last year I only made it twice, right at the end of the season, and I regretted it. So this year I hope to hit the slopes a couple times a month at least. Wish me luck!