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.

Deliciously clever dessert marketing

dessert

I went to a restau­rant recent­ly, one that could be placed com­fort­ably in the same genre as Cheese­cake Fac­to­ry. Nice atmos­phere, food’s great. But what stood out most to me was the way they mar­ket­ed desserts.

What would you think the top rea­son is that peo­ple don’t order dessert? I’d guess that the first or sec­ond (the oth­er being health/weight con­cerns) is that their entrée leaves them too full to eat more. How do you sell a dessert to some­one who’s too stuffed to eat one? Get them to order it before they’re stuffed.

Our serv­er ini­tial­ly men­tioned, then remind­ed us on almost every appear­ance she made at our table, that all of their desserts are deli­cious, made‐to‐order and take up to 30 min­utes to pre­pare, so my din­ing com­pan­ion and I should get our dessert order in ear­ly if we don’t want to wait.

This might not give a non‐critical thinker pause, but — you know — I tend to notice when someone’s reach­ing for my wal­let. I also under­stand that restau­rants tend to run at pret­ty slim prof­it mar­gins, and how impor­tant attach rates of desserts, drinks and appe­tiz­ers are to their busi­ness.

They real­ly want you to have that slice of cheese­cake, even if they’re prob­a­bly going to be box­ing it up to‐go. Clever, huh?

It’s fear, mostly.

Inc. Mag­a­zine: Why Is Busi­ness Writ­ing So Awful?

When you write like every­one else and sound like every­one else and act like every­one else, you’re say­ing, “Our prod­ucts are like every­one else’s, too.” Or think of it this way: Would you go to a din­ner par­ty and just repeat what the per­son to the right of you is say­ing all night long? Would that be inter­est­ing to any­body? So why are so many busi­ness­es say­ing the same things at the biggest par­ty on the plan­et —  the mar­ket­place?

Fear, most­ly.

(via Ryan)

Impressed, perplexed by Howard Johnson

I’m present­ly at a hotel, and I’ve found myself impressed with the Wi‐Fi here. The sig­nal strength is okay and the speed is ade­quate, but that’s not what’s stand­ing out. It’s the brand­ing.

I’ve seen all man­ners of SSIDs since Wi‐Fi became com­mon­place in hotels, from “Free Wifi” to “[hotel name here],” but in my expe­ri­ence, this Howard John­son loca­tion is tru­ly sin­gu­lar… and per­plex­ing to me.

The hotel offers mul­ti­ple wire­less access points. I’m guess­ing this is for bet­ter cov­er­age, but they decid­ed to give each one a dif­fer­ent name. The names aren’t any­thing pre­dictable, like hojo1, hojo2, either.

I’m impressed that the man­age­ment actu­al­ly took the time to inte­grate feel‐good cor­po­rate mes­sages into each access point’s SSID. Using tech to com­mu­ni­cate thoughts in non­tra­di­tion­al ways is cer­tain­ly rel­e­vant to my inter­ests. How­ev­er, pick­ing a dif­fer­ent slo­gan for each AP not only seems tech­ni­cal­ly slop­py, but makes for an awk­ward mish‐mash of old and new com­pa­ny taglines. Also, how am I sup­posed to know the AP I’m con­nect­ing to isn’t an evil twin? It’d be pret­ty triv­ial for some­one to throw togeth­er some­thing like hojolovesy­ou and have its poten­tial for mal­ice be imper­cep­ti­ble next to the oth­er goofy net­works.

My con­cerns over the wire­less ameni­ties are most­ly the­o­ret­i­cal, since my teth­ered Android phone has me ade­quate­ly cov­ered when it comes to Inter­net access. My use of the free Wi‐Fi is lim­it­ed to con­sum­ing to high‐bandwidth con­tent that would make my currently‐EDGE con­nec­tion choke. (What’s more, as a Lin­ux user — varoom! —much of what a the­o­ret­i­cal attack­er could do, out­side of MITM, isn’t real­ly a con­cern to me.)

Quiet Loudly and the awesome customer experience

Today I bring you an exam­ple of an inde­pen­dent band that seems to be Doing Things Right.™

The band is Brooklyn’s Qui­et Loud­ly.

I first became aware of the band from the mostly‐excellent, but not often released, Cac­tus Killer Radio pod­cast. While the stuff CKR plays is var­ied, the com­mon thread that ties it all togeth­er is that, for the most part, it makes an excel­lent driving‐at‐night sound­track. I would often wait months to lis­ten to an episode, until find­ing myself alone in the car at night with a long dri­ve ahead of me.

When I lis­ten to an episode of CKR, I almost with­out fail need to make one or two men­tal notes to find out more about a band, or at the very least, find an MP3 of the song that caught my ear. (Oth­er bands I’ve found this way include My Teenage Stride, Spike, and Sing‐Sing.) Episode 52, which fea­tured Qui­et Loudly’s “Over the Bal­cony,” had me rewind­ing to hear it again, mul­ti­ple times. I ulti­mate­ly shut off my MP3 play­er at the point in the pod­cast where the song began, so I could hear it again the next day.

I tracked the band down to their MySpace page, where I came across a blog entry promis­ing a copy of their never‐to‐be‐released debut album Destroy All Mon­sters to “any­one that asks nice enough.” I went ahead and did that, and before long found a CD‐R and nice hand­writ­ten note in my mail­box. The disc had unfor­tu­nate­ly cracked in tran­sit, but on the strength of “Over the Bal­cony” and the kind ges­ture, I made a men­tal note to buy their soon‐to‐be‐released (sec­ond) debut album, Soul­gaz­er.

The release date must have slipped a bit, because I checked their MySpace a few times in mid‐2009 and found no sign of the album. Then it slipped my mind for a num­ber of months before, lo and behold, I checked in and found Soul­gaz­er had been released!

I knew I want­ed it on CD (I like mak­ing my own MP3s, and when disk space gets even cheap­er, FLACs), but the disc was only avail­able from this not‐very‐reassuring page. I bought it there any­way. I didn’t get any e‐mails acknowl­edg­ing my pur­chase (aside from the usu­al Pay­Pal receipt), so I was a lit­tle wor­ried, and made a men­tal note to try to find some­one to con­tact if a few days passed with­out word.

What I end­ed up get­ting instead, seem­ing­ly out of the blue, was a ‘fol­low’ noti­fi­ca­tion from qui­et­loud­ly on Twit­ter! I didn’t real­ize that I had pur­chased the album direct­ly from them. That they take the time to stalk track down their fans online is, well, com­plete­ly fuck­ing awe­some. While it’s typ­i­cal­ly my pol­i­cy to use social net­work­ing ser­vices for only keep­ing up with peo­ple I know, I was glad to make an excep­tion for them (even if most every tweet they tweet is about shows they’re play­ing in New York).

I took the ‘fol­low’ as my receipt and eager­ly await­ed the album’s arrival. It came a week lat­er, but I hadn’t tak­en into account that my only CD play­er was the one in my car, so I spun the disc for the next few dri­ves, wait­ing until I found a com­put­er with an opti­cal dri­ve, on which I could LAME up some MP3s.

I guess I didn’t give the enve­lope a thor­ough enough look‐through at first — and it’s a good thing I didn’t throw it out — because I had missed some­thing else inside.

See right.

Seri­ous­ly. How awe­some are these guys?

I hope there’s some New York in my future, because I must see Qui­et Loud­ly live, per­haps many times.

Corporate logos, visual puns and the juvenile brain that just didn’t get it

When I was young, I just didn’t get it.

See, I was locat­ed square­ly in Piaget’s pre‐operational stage of devel­op­ment, and some­thing fun­ny seems to hap­pen there: you’re only able to take things at face val­ue, miss­ing out on sub­tle­ty, double‐meanings, sar­casm… and all that good stuff that isn’t stat­ed blunt­ly. Once you’re a ful­ly cog­nizant indi­vid­ual, you can appre­ci­ate all of that.

As a teen, or per­haps slight­ly ear­li­er, I was sud­den­ly able to see these sorts of things for what they real­ly were. Well, most things. But for a cer­tain class of things that I first expe­ri­enced dur­ing my pre‐op stage, I con­tin­ued hav­ing trou­ble see­ing them for what they tru­ly rep­re­sent­ed. Here’s an exam­ple:

the classic Burger King logoWhen I was grow­ing up, this was the Burg­er King logo. (I also walked uphill to school in the South Flori­da snow, both ways. Kids these days.) It’s pret­ty sim­ple, right? The words rep­re­sent­ed the meat, between a cou­ple of buns. To whom was that not abun­dant­ly clear that the logo is a burg­er?

To me.

I didn’t real­ize that until I was a bit old­er (high school, maybe), at which point it just hit me. It was not for lack of expo­sure; I had been eat­ing at Burg­er King prac­ti­cal­ly since birth. I had a birth­day par­ty there in ele­men­tary school. I was in the god­damn Burg­er King Kids Club!

The fact that I was exposed to this logo so ear­ly in life is pre­cise­ly why I took it for grant­ed. I missed the visu­al pun; as far as I was con­cerned, the logo looked the way it did because that was just what the Burg­er King logo looked like. I sim­ply couldn’t imag­ine it any oth­er way, or hav­ing any oth­er pur­pose than telling peo­ple who see it on the side of a build­ing that they’re look­ing at a Burg­er King loca­tion.

I had no such dif­fi­cul­ty with the stupid‐simple McDonald’s arch­es. It’s just a big “M.”

old-school Milwaukee Brewers logoHere’s anoth­er exam­ple of a logo I didn’t ful­ly under­stand or appre­ci­ate. For the record, I wasn’t a Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers fan, but at the age of four or five (and thanks to a friend’s father) I found myself with a huge col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary base­ball cards. Again, until I was much old­er, all I saw in this logo was a styl­ized base­ball and glove… which to a child, seems a per­fect­ly appro­pri­ate logo for a base­ball team. And your aver­age sports‐team logo is on the lit­er­al side.

I believe it was at some point in col­lege that I noticed the sub­tle let­ter­ing in the Brew­ers’ logo. What a bril­liant design!

There’s a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent class of logos that are more sub­tle, with some­thing inten­tion­al­ly hid­den with­in. You don’t need to be a young­ster to miss it.

These tend to be great:

the Goodwill logothe FedEx logoAmazon.com logo

The FedEx logo is wide­ly cel­e­brat­ed, its pun mas­ter­ful­ly sub­tle. It only occurred to me it a few years ago, while dri­ving to work one day. I was behind a FedEx truck. Then it hit me. (Thank you, I will be here all week.)

As for the Good­will logo, this blog com­ment made me see the light, or rather, the huge “g” in neg­a­tive space. I had always just seen it as a face.

The day I real­ized that the Ama­zon logo wasn’t mean to be a smirk was the day I saw the A -> Z.

Can you think of any oth­er good exam­ples?