I don’t wish you a safe trip

I drove my girl­friend to the air­port this morn­ing. After I took her bag out of the car and put it on the curb, we stood there and ex­changed good­byes, and every­thing you can imag­ine comes with those.

But I didn’t tell her to “have a safe trip.” Why not?

Because I don’t hate her.

If you re­al­ly care for someone’s hap­pi­ness, is “a safe trip” re­al­ly what you want for them? I mean, they al­ready know you hope they don’t get harmed… be­cause they know you don’t hate them. Every time you as­pire to safe­ty on some­one else’s be­half — wish­ing them a safe trip, or flight, or hol­i­day week­end, or what­ev­er they’re about to em­bark on — ”the ter­ror­ists” (or whomev­er) have won.

So if I like you, in­stead of a safe trip…

  • I hope you’ll have an amaz­ing trip.
  • I hope your trip is unforgettable.
  • I hope you ex­pe­ri­ence new things on your trip.
  • I hope your trip changes your perspective.
  • I hope your trip makes you smile many times.
  • I hope there are nu­mer­ous pho­to op­por­tu­ni­ties on your trip.
  • I hope that, if you’re in­to that sort of thing, your trip takes you out of your com­fort zone just enough to be remarkable.

And so on.

(Important ex­cep­tion: I’m think­ing that if you’re someone’s moth­er, you get a free pass, be­cause your wish is more than just words — it’s a re­minder to not do any­thing stu­pid. And you’re hard­wired to be­lieve that, when our of your sight, your kid is con­stant­ly do­ing stu­pid things. But you should re­al­ly con­sid­er try­ing some­thing from the list above.)

So what did I wish my girl­friend this morning?

Um… I can’t re­mem­ber. It was re­al­ly early.

Interchangeable Parts: Double-edge safety razors

This is the first in a se­ries of posts about cool things with in­ter­change­able parts. What?

The first time I shaved, I used a cheap dis­pos­able ra­zor that I hap­pened to find in the bath­room. I was 15.

These were dread­ful, by the way.

I didn’t know any bet­ter at the time, and I didn’t learn any bet­ter for a while. It was easy to just keep us­ing pro­gres­sive­ly bladier multi-blade car­tridge mod­els. Two blades to start, then four af­ter a cou­ple of years. I stuck with four long af­ter the world had moved ahead, but I soon caught up with the whole five blade deal.

Clearly my ra­zor wasn’t the on­ly tool in the bathroom.

I’d hear mum­blings from oth­er men about bet­ter ways to shave, but the thought of my moth­er scold­ing me be­cause I cut my throat open be­cause I was us­ing a dan­ger­ous ra­zor still loomed large in my otherwise-independent adult brain. I was in my mid-20s by that point, but I’ll nev­er out­grow that sort of thing be­cause she’ll nev­er out­grow not let­ting me hear the end of it if some­thing goes wrong.

It’s a good thing I didn’t lis­ten to hypothetical-her (sor­ry, mom) be­cause if I had, I wouldn’t have picked up my first double-edge ra­zor a cou­ple of years ago.

My what?

Double-edge ra­zors are al­so known as “safe­ty ra­zors” be­cause they were a heck of a lot safer than those big, scary straight ra­zors that were com­mon be­fore them.

It may seem iron­ic to­day, be­cause it’s def­i­nite­ly eas­i­er to cut your­self with a double-edge than with a car­tridge ra­zor, but you know what else is eas­i­er to cut with a double-edge? The hair on your face. Which is what matters.

Shaving with one of these sharp thin­gies re­quires you to take it slow, but that’s alright.

Seriously though, they’re actually good

I use a double-edge ra­zor be­cause1 I find them to be more ef­fec­tive, lead to less skin ir­ri­ta­tion and few­er in­grown hairs, and over the long run, ac­tu­al­ly be cheap­er. It’s al­so nice that shav­ing this way leads to a lot less waste to be thrown away.

It was on­ly af­ter I be­gan shav­ing with one for the rea­sons above, that I re­al­ized an­oth­er ben­e­fit: I’m shav­ing with an open sys­tem of in­ter­change­able parts.

Fuck yeah, interchangeable parts

Since safe­ty ra­zors have been around since the very ear­ly 1900s, any patents on the sys­tem have long-since ex­pired. That means that any­one can cre­ate han­dles or blades that are com­pat­i­ble with every­thing else avail­able for the sys­tem, which leads to a wealth of choice for both han­dles and blades… which of course means low prices.

What ex­cites me much more than the po­ten­tial for sav­ing mon­ey (sor­ry again, mom) is the po­ten­tial for cus­tomiza­tion that such an open sys­tem al­lows. Basically, I can pair any ra­zor de­signed for this stan­dard—fat han­dles, skin­ny han­dles, short han­dles, shiny onesdouchebag ones, ones from the fu­ture, uh, this one—with any blade that I want. This means I can sep­a­rate the style from the sub­stance; I can pair my fa­vorite han­dle with my fa­vorite blade and have what is, to me, the ul­ti­mate shav­ing machine.

Also, cheap

Ever heard some­one com­plain about how ex­pen­sive it is to shave, or more specif­i­cal­ly, to buy re­fills for a car­tridge ra­zor? I prob­a­bly don’t need to ex­plain the ra­zor and blades busi­ness mod­el that car­tridge ra­zors fol­low. (If you like pay­ing a lot of mon­ey for the rest of for­ev­er, you’ll love it.)

If you pe­rused those Amazon links above, you’re prob­a­bly won­der­ing what’s wrong with my idea of “cheap.” Well, the double-edge ra­zor turns the ra­zor and blades mod­el on its head; in this world, the han­dle is the more ex­pen­sive item, with $30 US not be­ing un­usu­al for the more com­mon brands. However, this buys a qual­i­ty met­al in­stru­ment that will like­ly out­live you… and you def­i­nite­ly make up for it with the blades — 10¢ or 20¢ blades are common!

The future

The double-edge shav­ing sys­tem isn’t go­ing anywhere.

While it’s ob­vi­ous­ly less pop­u­lar now than it was in its hey­day (but so were fe­do­ras, and cool guys still wear those), we know how the Internet changes things; re­tail­ers can use it to sell ob­scure prod­ucts to weirdos every­where, the kind of things mass-market brick-and-mortar lo­ca­tions would nev­er both­er stock­ing on their shelves. I don’t mind buy­ing on­line and wait­ing a few days, so I can have any blade I want de­liv­ered to my door.

Cheaper, bet­ter and ul­ti­mate­ly, more in­ter­change­able. That’s why I shave like this.

  1. I don’t use them for the same rea­sons these strange shav­ing gear fetishists do.

An introduction to Interchangeable Parts

I have lots of things in my life. Some of these ob­jects are for fun, some a spend most of their time just tak­ing up space, some are ac­tu­al­ly use­ful, some are a bur­den but must be kept around anyway.

Many of the bet­ter ob­jects in my life share a few com­mon traits. These ob­jects tend to be:

  • less main­stream1
  • more ef­fec­tive
  • more dif­fi­cult to use
  • def­i­nite­ly more customizable

Most im­por­tant­ly these items all:

  • fea­ture in­ter­change­able parts

I’ve re­cent­ly no­ticed that I’ve been ac­cept­ing more ob­jects like these — ones that are a part of an open sys­tem — in­to my life. Why? This wasn’t a con­cert­ed ef­fort but an un­con­scious de­sire for bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ences… I guess. On a micro-level, each time I chose one of these items, I ob­vi­ous­ly be­lieved that it would im­prove a facet of my life that I care about, and do its job bet­ter than its more main­stream, more avail­able, and (pos­si­bly) more con­ve­nient coun­ter­part. I al­so un­der­stand why not every­one us­es these ob­jects, even though I know their ben­e­fits and find them more ef­fec­tive at their jobs.

So in the com­ing days (weeks, months, what­ev­er) I’m go­ing to be high­light­ing these ob­jects and what they mean to me, how they earned their place in my life, and why I ul­ti­mate­ly put up with them.

So stay tuned, or what­ev­er you do on the Internet.

  1. Yeah, I know… but it’s true. So not a hip­ster. But isn’t that some­thing a hip­ster would say?

On wishing for boredom

This is not a post about Steve Jobs. I read enough of them in the days and weeks af­ter his death. I read in these a lot of what I al­ready knew and learned some new stuff for sure, but one Steve quote stood out to me in Wired’s obit­u­ary:

I’m a big be­liev­er in bore­dom,” he told me. Boredom al­lows one to in­dulge in cu­rios­i­ty, he ex­plained, and “out of cu­rios­i­ty comes everything.”

I’m not sure if I’d head this quote from him be­fore, but it put in­to words some­thing that has been trou­bling me for some time: I haven’t been bored in years.

The first time I no­ticed this was in the mid-2000s, and  I on­ly re­al­ized part of it, and I saw it through the lens of my Internet us­age, par­tic­u­lar­ly RSS. Even to­day, as the cool kids have moved on to fol­low­ing Twitter feeds (re­al­ly, talk about a step back­wards) of web­sites and blogs they find in­ter­est­ing, I’m still a huge fan of the no-bullshit, user-in-control, de­cen­tral­ized pow­er of RSS.1

What oc­curred to me back then was that hav­ing posts pushed to me dai­ly gave me more read­ing ma­te­r­i­al than I need­ed. And since I could nev­er get all the way through the un­read glut of posts from blogs I’d sub­scribed to, my need to ever go for­ag­ing for in­ter­est­ing things to read ba­si­cal­ly dis­ap­peared. RSS gave me tons of serendip­i­ty (thank you, linkblogs!)… and at the same time, prac­ti­cal­ly none at all. I miss the old days — some would say the bad old days — when I’d get my on­line en­ter­tain­ment and ran­dom bits of en­light­en­ment by brows­ing aim­less­ly from link to link, be­ing per­son­al­ly point­ed to in­ter­est­ing things by friends on AIM, fol­low­ing lat­est links post­ed to proto-blogs like Pixelsurgeon, and… I don’t know, how­ev­er else we found cool shit back then.

The sec­ond time I felt this ef­fect of this was at some point over the last few years, but this time in a more gen­er­al sense. This time it was big­ger than RSS; this time it was about every­thing in my life.

I re­al­ized I have far too many op­tions for en­ter­tain­ment. There are two rea­sons for this: mas­sive dig­i­tal stor­age de­vices and the fact that, be­ing em­ployed gives me an ac­tu­al en­ter­tain­ment bud­get for pur­chas­ing paid me­dia and fan­cy de­vices on which to ex­pe­ri­ence it. Between a pile of un­read books and bunch of e-books; more un­watched movies, sea­sons of old TV shows and ani­me se­ries than I can name; and games ga­lore that I’ll nev­er fin­ish (thank you Nintendo Wii and DS, Android phone and a still-kickin’ Atari 2600), I’m pret­ty much set for… for­ev­er.2 Even if I don’t seek out any­thing new, it’ll be years and years be­fore I get through all of this. And it’s not like I can just ig­nore new re­leas­es and stuff I be­come aware of in the meantime!

I might be able to en­joy this world o’ plen­ty, if I could for­get about what life was like when I was grow­ing up, be­fore we had the com­put­ing pow­er, stor­age and net­work ca­pac­i­ty to ex­pe­ri­ence all the dig­i­tal rich­es of more en­ter­tain­ment than we’ll ever need. I spent so much time be­ing bored grow­ing up, aim­less­ly think­ing and day­dream­ing and such. This was be­fore my first com­put­er; I had tons of books and had prob­a­bly read al­most all of them, made good use of the pub­lic li­brary, played with toys, ac­tion fig­ures and stuff a whole lot and still found time to be bored and day­dream be­cause it seemed like I had run out of things to do.

If you live a sim­i­lar­ly full, media-rich and em­ployed first-world life, and can still ever find your­self so lux­u­ri­ous­ly bored, how do you man­age? And can you teach me?

  1. Google Reader, please don’t die.
  2. I didn’t men­tion mu­sic here, be­cause the way I con­sume mu­sic is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. I still clear­ly have more than I “need,” but I don’t feel the same sort of pres­sure to get through it all, thanks to shuf­fle mode.