Shave and a Haircut

  • Merkur Classic (daily) / Merkur Progress (weekly), razor: ~$60
  • Tinkle Hair Cutter, a razor comb: ~$6
  • Personna Israeli Platinum Reds, Double Edge Razors, blades: 100 for ~$20

For over a decade, I’ve used a Merkur Classic Razor with Personna blades for shaving. It takes me a few years to use a 100 blades. Before, I used to use a Gillette Mach 3. But, I’d spend about $60 dollars a year using Gillette. With a Merkur, the cost of shaving goes down to less than $20.

With the pandemic and the closing of barber shops, I started using a Tinkle razor comb. It uses the same blades as a Merkur. Like the transition to Merkur, there is a bit of a learning curve. I learned the basics from this YouTube video:

But, if you have short hair and aren’t too particular, a razor comb does a decent job. Considering a haircut and tip can cost $25 and if you get one once a month, that’s a $300 annual expense. It more than paid for itself on the first cut, although it took me three days to get it looking the way I wanted. I probably will continue using it, even once the pandemic is over. Recommended.

The Gardner by Rudyard Kipling

“A month later, and just after Michael had written Helen that there was noting special doing and therefore no need to worry, a shell-splinter dropping out of a wet dawn killed him at once. The next shell uprooted and laid down over the body what had been the foundation of a barn wall, so neatly that none but an expert would have guessed that anything unpleasant had happened.”

-Rudyard Kipling, “The Gardner“.

Such a great little story.

Moby-Dick: Illustrated by Gilbert Wilson

“‘Wilson was an extraordinary artist, but his paintings were never published in a book during his lifetime,’ Elder said. ‘I want to bring more people to Wilson’s work, to introduce him on the world stage.'”

-Staff writer, “Terre Haute artist Gilbert Wilson’s work to illustrate new ‘Moby-Dick’ edition.” Tribune-Star. July 26, 2018.

Available for purchase from Hat & Beard Press.

What Kind of Country Do We Want?

“The cult of cost/benefit—of the profit motive made granular, cellular—not only trivializes but also attacks whatever resists its terms. Classic American education is ill-suited to its purposes and is constantly under pressure to reform—that is, to embrace as its purpose the training of workers who will be competitive in the future global economy. What this means, of course, is that universities and students themselves should absorb the cost to industry of training its workforce. Since no one knows what the industries of the future will be, a wrong guess about appropriate training could be costly, which means it would be all the smarter, from a certain point of view, to make colleges and students bear the risk. If this training produces skills that are relevant to future needs, their cost to the employer will be lowered by the fact that such skills will be widely available. In any case, the relative suitability of workers will be apparent in their school history, so industry will be spared the culling of ineffective employees. Those who fail to make the cut will be left with the pleasures of a technical education that is always less useful to them, skills that will be subject to obsolescence as industries change. Certain facts go unnoticed in all this. The great wealth that is presented as endorsing an American way of doing things was amassed over a very long period of time.”

Marilynne Robinson, “What Kind of Country Do We Want?The New York Review of Books. June 11, 2020.

There is so much to like about this essay. The writing is crisp and sharp. The cultural criticism is on point. A bit difficult, but I think worth the effort. I need to read more of her work post haste. Recommended.

Everything Is Fine Podcast

“As Gen-X women cross the Rubicon of perimenopause, they’re hungry for stories that reflect their experiences. Most OB-GYNs seem mystified by the particulars of menopause. Gwyneth Paltrow would like to Goop-ify it. Even Michelle Obama seems flummoxed by the contradictions of aging.

Enter Everything Is Fine, a new podcast co-hosted by Kim France and Tally Abecassis that nails the experience in all its highs and lows.

France, 56, has a long-running fashion and lifestyle blog called Girls of a Certain Age, and the sort of hip bona fides that only a career launched at Sassy can offer. Abecassis, 46, is a documentary filmmaker who produced the podcast First Day Back (which was featured here in 2017) and was the subject of its first season; she emailed France after reading the latter’s writing on the Cut about her time at Condé Nast (where she was the founding editor of Lucky), vanity, and dressing your age. The two women’s formidable skills as interviewers and journalists create a dynamic discussion boosted by guests like Darcey Steinke, Soraya Chemaly, Ada Calhoun, and Jane Larkworthy.

They have found themselves at the forefront of a new wave of media focused on the topic. “Somebody said to me, ‘It’s a trend,’ and I was like, ‘How could that be a trend?’ We’re here to stay,” Abecassis said. I talked to them about their podcast, ageism, women’s media, and more.

-Jenni Miller, “Everything Is Fine Wants to Change How We Talk About Aging.” Vulture.com. April 17, 2020.

The Everything is Fine website has all the usual suspects to subscribe.

Chances of a COVID-19 Vaccine

“The objective is to calculate risk profiles for vaccines targeting human infectious diseases. A database was actively compiled to include all vaccine projects in development from 1998 to 2009 in the pre-clinical development phase, clinical trials phase I, II and III up to Market Registration. The average vaccine, taken from the preclinical phase, requires a development timeline of 10.71 years and has a market entry probability of 6%.”

-Pronker ES, Weenen TC, Commandeur H, Claassen EHJHM, Osterhaus ADME (2013) Risk in Vaccine Research and Development Quantified. PLoS ONE 8(3): e57755. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0057755

A pandemic changes the risk profile in the sense that figuring out whether a vaccine is profitable is no longer the key consideration. However, it is worth noting that the current record for vaccine development is for Ebola, which took five years. And what about the original SARS? We still don’t have a vaccine for it, or for any coronavirus.

But, what about the recent news about Moderna’s vaccine? It’s based on mRNA. Let’s see what the CEO of one of the largest vaccine manufacturers in the world had to say on the topic, over a month ago:

“[GSK CEO Emma Walmsley] noted that mRNA vaccine candidates, such as the vaccine Moderna Inc. (NASDAQ:MRNA) is developing, have gotten into clinical trials more rapidly than those based on more conventional approaches, but there is some uncertainty about mRNA technologies.

“We are seeing several mRNA candidates coming forward,” Walmsley noted. “They may get earlier visibility of results. These are new technologies that haven’t been manufactured at scale.”

“Messenger RNA is a promising technology; it’s very versatile and it can produce candidates relatively quickly,” Loew said. “It has, however, never been tested in large Phase III trials and there is also no registered vaccine available today using that technology. It remains to be seen what this technology can really deliver.”

-Steve Usdin, “As COVID-19 vaccines progress, science and policy questions become more urgent.” BioCentury. April 15, 2020.

There are many coronavirus vaccine prospects, with frontrunners and others. Many different approaches are being tried to develop a vaccine. But, the target of getting one that works, is safe, can be manufactured and distributed at scale, and is available before the pandemic has run its course is not something that is likely to happen. Even if it were, it won’t be this year. Odds aren’t good for next year either.

Let’s hope a vaccine can be developed in time. But, let’s also be clear-eyed about the chances of that happening. They aren’t good.

Farewell to Beyond the Beyond

“It’s the writerly act of organizing and assembling inchoate thought that seems to helps me. That’s what I did with this blog; if I blogged something for “Beyond the Beyond,” then I had tightened it, I had brightened it. I had summarized it in some medium outside my own head. Posting on the blog was a form of psychic relief, a stream of consciousness that had moved from my eyes to my fingertips; by blogging, I removed things from the fog of vague interest and I oriented them toward possible creative use.

Also, the ideal “Beyond the Beyond” reader was never any fan of mine, or even a steady reader of the blog itself. I envisioned him or her as some nameless, unlikely character who darted in orthogonally, saw a link to some odd phenomenon unheard-of to him or her, and then careened off at a new angle, having made that novelty part of his life. They didn’t have to read the byline, or admire the writer’s literary skill, or pony up any money for enlightenment or entertainment. Maybe they would discover some small yet glimmering birthday-candle to set their life alight.

Blogging is akin to stand-up comedy — it’s not coherent drama, it’s a stream of wisecracks. It’s also like street art — just sort of there, stuck in the by-way, begging attention, then crumbling rapidly.”

-Bruce Sterling, “Farewell to Beyond the Beyond.” Wired.com. May 17, 2020.

Bruce Sterling really nails the value of a blog, or at least my conception of it. It also makes me realize that I should be writing more for it. Perhaps it is time to start doing that.