Once a year? Let’s double that.

Almost 2018. It’s crazy how that went. And how fast it went, but more importantly how it just went.

I noticed that I was posting once a year, so in an effort to make giant strides I immediately decided that I would double that output for 2017. Perhaps I’ll double the output yet again for 2018? Time will tell.

So I finally decided to post again… and the Dollar Shaving Club

Due to the enormous pressure by all the people who visit my site and wondered if I yet live, here I am, posting once again, to prove that I am, indeed, alive.

First things first.  Wordpress keeps going through updates, and that’s just great.  Just… great.  Except it keeps getting slower.  ZOMG it’s driving me crazy – I’m going to need dedicated hosting just to run WordPress.  But whatever, it works and I’m not going to go through yet another migration for the sake of eking out a smidgen of speed.  Meh!

Anyway, I ran into something rather interesting tonight.  Here we go.

I hate shaving.  That’s not true, I don’t really hate shaving – it’s not terrible.  I do it in the shower and it works out pretty good.  What I hate… what I hate… is paying $22 (or more) for a pack of razors for my Gillette Super Mega Spaceship Lasersword Razor Extreme Fusion 12.  To whit – I use my razors way, way longer than I probably should.  This causes discomfort while shaving, which in turn means I am less likely to shave, which in turn means I get to sport a sweet beard.  This is a win-win-win situation.

But sometimes I dig the shaved look.  Takes a few years off (especially now that my chin has gone grey) and it just feels good.  But man, those blades… those blades… they’re just so damned expensive.

My recent obsession with economics and efficiency has led me to many, many cool places as I search for more economical methods to do things (read: efficient in cost of resources, both financial and in pure effort).  I’m keenly interested in taking a step back and away from this unbelievably ‘disposable’ mentality that we seem to have evolved into.  Not really looking at going full survivalist here, but definitely trying to keep my eyes open for opportunities to explore increased self-sufficiency, or at least reduce waste.

So, during one of my weekly forays into the nest of ridiculous memes and self-indulgent status updates that is Facebook, I noted a curious ad for something called the Dollar Shave Club.  Instantly my ear (just one) perked up and I made a fox noise (if you don’t know what that sounds like, you need to hear a song…)  I clicked on the link and was led to a hilariously hipster website featuring a promo video filled to brimming with irreverent humor and cool retro fonts.  I can dig it.  Here, take a moment and check it out.

The message?  Stop paying all that money for razor blades!  For a few dollars a month (as few as 2, and as many as 9) you can have razor blades delivered to your door!  What!?  That’s just crazy.  I pay more than that for Netflix (I think?) and that’s nowhere near as entertaining!  Well, whatever, I clearly needed to investigate this, as I’m also a huge believer in the old adage: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Well, it is.  But not for the reasons you think.

The products they offer are, apparently, quite good.  From what “the interweb people” say, as good as (or maybe even better than!) those name-brand razors.  Cool, right?  And cheap – way cheaper than spending $22 (or more!) every month on razors.  I thought so too.  $9 every month versus $22 (or more!)  Great deal.  But just like everyone who runs across a great deal, I started doing research.  That’s when I ran across a couple of super interesting articles about the Dollar Shave Club… articles that exposed the one thing those guys probably didn’t want everyone to know:  Who their supplier is.

Enter Dorco.  Aside from having a terrible company name (dork-co? Really?), they provide the exact same product as Dollar Shave Club, and for a fraction of the price.  Profit margin?  Yup.  Check this article out. Now, I checked the math in the article (more or less) and my total came up a little higher than $29 (to the tune of $35) but it’s close enough for government work, and I’m sure Dorco has started jacking up prices now that they’re getting more exposure.  Point is, even if you’re not getting ‘wholesale’ or bulk pricing from Dorco (God, I really hate that name) you’re still saving a nice little chunk of change by going straight to the supplier and skipping the profiteering middle-man.

Sorry Dollar Shave Club guy.  It’s nothing personal.  It’s just that your competitive advantage is that you’ll be sending me blades every month, instead of me having to keep them conveniently located in a box.  Hm.  And for this I’m paying you more?  Nah.  A man’s gotta have his lattes, and those things are expensive!

Even Lifehacker mentions the Dollar Shave Club (and Dorco!).  Doh!  I kinda feel a little bad for the CEO of Dollar Shave Club.  He was gonna make millions.  I mean, everbody has to shave, right?  And soon he’d even offer a ladies’ razor for, you know, the ladies!  Man, it was gonna be so awesome.

So that’s cool.  Now you can really save on razors an’ stuff, and shave for cheap, and stay all clean-shaven year-round if that’s your thing.  Yes!  You’re so welcome…

But that’s not all… mwaaahahahahahah!  Because then I remembered the straight-razor I bought like, 15 years ago with the intention of shaving my face with it.  What’s more economical than using a sweet straight razor to shear the beard?  Actually, nothing.  But for a tiny, tiny bit more money one can use a double-edge (DE) safety razor to get an equally close shave, and it’s easier to use (i.e. less actual effort and learning, which probably translates to not having to visit the emergency room with a slit throat).  Plus it has old-school appeal which, as we all know, is pretty much the reason I do everything.  So what’s the deal behind all that?  Oh, well, you’ll just have to read all about it when next I post… and hopefully that won’t be in another six months. 😉

Kirk out.

Osprey packs pack a lotta features, and great support

I was given an Osprey Raptor 10 for Christmas – a small, light pack that is nearly perfect for cycling.  It’s a well built unit that does exactly what it’s supposed to.  Even better, Osprey has unparalleled support.  While maintaining the bite valve on the Raptor 10, I noticed that one of the internal parts had broken.  A quick visit to the Osprey website led me to this page: http://www.ospreypacks.com/en/forms/parts_request

Osprey will replace broken parts, fo’ free!  That’s just awesome.  I’m impressed, and while I’ve always recommended Osprey packs to friends and family, this is just one more great point I can add to an already superior product.

Photos printed on a big ol’ canvas? Yes, please.

I’m a big fan of getting photos printed up on big ol’ canvases.  They look really cool and you can have some of your best photography on display – classy display – at your crib/house/cave/whatever.  It’s really good stuff, especially if your photo is pure win (as mine inevitably are).  Thing is, that service is usually pretty expensive unless you do it yourself and even then, it’s still too expensive for the average joker.

At $80, CanvasPop is pretty reasonably priced for the service.  I mean, it’s still a touch on the pricey side, but you are getting a framed piece (and that ain’t cheap.  I used to be a framer, trust me, I know.)  But wait, there’s good news.  Living Social (which I usually ignore, though there are some interesting deals to be had once in a while) is offering $80 credit for $40.  So, half off.  On a 16×20 framed print of your photo (or your favorite photographer’s photo, wink-wink), on canvas.  That is a really reasonable price to get some artwork on the wall.  Plus, they’ll give you a $30 credit towards the next one you do.  Very, very awesome.

Take advantage of it by clicking on the Living Social photo canvas deal here.  It’s only good for another 18 hours, so I recommend hopping on it quick.  This is really a super cool deal, I hope some people take advantage of it.

Rotting my brain, one pixel at a time.

Benq laptop

Image via Wikipedia

Check out this article in the online version of the NY Times: Hooked on gadgets, and paying a mental price.  

It’s totally true.  I mean, it’s an extreme case of one guy’s complete and utter obsession, a direct result of his reliance on IT to work and entertain himself… but it’s relevant to all of us.  Look at iPhone users (and yes, even Android people too, lol).  How often have you seen two people sitting across from each other, enjoying some hot beverage, and staring at their phones?
Every once in a while someone pipes up and starts with the whole “computers are turning us into antisocial drones” or “our ability to interact socially is being destroyed by technology.”  It’s unfortunately true.  I know plenty of people who are incapable of the most basic levels of successful social interaction simply because they’re spending way too much time sitting in front of a glowing screen… yet they’re super active on Facebook.  Nice.
Keyboard cowboys are familiar to anyone who spends any time on a forum.  People who are ‘brave’ and will say nearly anything, express opinions, and just be social while logged in, but at the end of the day – when confronted – will always balk.  It’s a sad (though sometimes entertaining) phenomenon.  
It even happens to me, and I go out of my way to make sure I interact, to make absolutely sure that I’m attempting to expose myself as much as possible to social stimuli that goes beyond staring at a screen.  I get upset when I’m too disconnected – when I don’t even have my phone to keep my dopamine squirts going.  There’s nothing we can do.  We’ve made this bed, perpetuated this reliance on technology for our stimuli.  Now we gotta lie in it.  Although there is something to going full lo-fi and disappearing into the woods.
An interesting point that this article brings up is the whole angle on multi-tasking and how it’s actually not a good thing.  After years and years (heck, maybe even decades) of having people pound the concept of multi-tasking being a good thing, this is just a breath of fresh air and a reflection on what I’ve been saying for the last 8 years – basically since I started managing teams and really reflecting on the effectiveness of my teams.  Task-switching is the biggest killer of time, right up there with micro-managing pricks.  Multi-tasking is, in essence, its own worst enemy, and it is a concept fully capable of rendering any team completely immobilized by its own ability to handle multiple projects.  
It’s a concept that requires some reflection to really absorb, and should also require some experience (either on the line or more importantly managing the line) in order to really appreciate.  Minimal research into the matter (a la Google) will give you no shortage of interesting information for you to assimilate, and just thinking about it will be, I think, beneficial.  

Polyphasic sleep… naptime is back, baby!

Sleeping

Okay, so anybody who knows me knows that I’m a fan of Sleep.  Anybody who knows me also knows that while I am Sleep’s biggest fan, I never get any.

Enter Polyphasic Sleep! (Cue horns and cymbals…)
So basically polyphasic sleep is an organized system of what I already do: napping in order to break up regular sleep rhythms into smaller periods, which then (potentially) results in longer periods of awakedness.  Sweet!
By regularizing the periods of sleep, the theory is that we can stay awake longer.  I’ve been testing this theory (inadvertently) for decades, and it’s really interesting to read about what military testing and NASA have uncovered about the efficacy of this method.
Basically, government agencies say that it doesn’t work.
It goes against the body’s natural circadian rhythms and, while it can be induced, there is a significant degradation in performance.  Studies show that we can operate on an induced polyphasic schedule and maintain a minimal performance for a time before our bodies start to manifest the signs of severe sleep deprivation.
Uberman Polyphasic Sleep Pie Chart
The very extreme “Uberman” polyphasic sleep chart.
Whoa, well, that’s really great and all, but I know that I’ve been practicing the fine art of polyphasic sleep for ages.  I find it very useful for those bursts of productivity where you absolutely, positively, indubitably must get that project done by such-and-such date.
Afterwards, sure, there’s a crash, but it’s not as bad as you’d think… a full nights’ sleep and it’s back to business as usual.  This method has served me well and, combined with judicious use of caffeine, can result in about a solid week of pretty high levels of performance and focus, followed by a full night of sleep, maybe the following day to ‘rest’ by doing unfocused tasks (what I like to call “leisure activities” or “hobbies”), and that ‘resets’ the clock.  I’ve personally gone through two months of this cycle, back-to-back, before noticing some emotional breakdown and other signs of extended fatigue.
The other thing I noticed is that this only works for focused tasks and projects.  In my experience, the time lost in task-switching is exponentially increased during these periods.  This results in a decreased ability to multi-task “out of project” (though not necessarily within a project, if the tasks are related and can find a tie to other tasks), so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re trying to close out, say, two or three separate projects at a time unless you take into consideration those potential gaps and keep them to a minimum.
I don’t think it’s something that can be kept up to the extreme degrees that many of the proponents claim, for extended periods, but I do think it’s very doable in bursts and can be very effective in adding those ‘extra hours’ to the day that everyone wishes they had.  I am, however, going to take a methodical approach to this and staging my own study.  I mean, it’s not like it’ll require a huge lifestyle change, lol! 🙂

Camp KoralKids, a great summer experience for children with diabetes

Camp KoralKids came out to the Tigertail ropes course and apparently had a great time!  Check out this video about KoralKids… notice anyone running around there in his obnoxiously green shirt?  Yep.  That’s me.

Great group of kids, lots of fun and very enthusiastic!
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Nerdy t-shirts that are funny too!

There’s a place on the web where us nerdy types can find nerdy t-shirts that are both nerdy and awesomely hilarious (if you’re a nerd, of course.)  No, not Threadless Dot Com.  That’s funnywear for ‘cool people’.  There’s some semi-nerdy stuff, but by and large what you see there is trendy and associated with pop culture.   There’s also ThinkGeek Dot Com, but no, that’s mostly gadgets and other crap.  Their t-shirts are so overpriced it’s really, really not funny.

I’m talking about this site right here.  Check it out… but only if you’re nerdy.  Or aspire towards nerdiness, I suppose that’s okay too. 

Been a long time since I’ve rock n’ rolled…

Months and months even.  What’s new? 

Well, my time with Motorola is over and done with.  The economy worsened, times got tougher, Motorola’s management got more and more convoluted, and finally this last man standing did indeed fall.  Such is life, I’m glad I had that opportunity.  Good times, good friends, and lots of experience.  Big corporate has its charm, without a doubt.

Since then, been working on getting another business venture off the ground: Standard Bamboo.  We design and build Green construction.  Standard Bamboo has several pre-engineered and pre-designed lower-cost structures for sale (i.e. the Karma Shade), as well as plenty of neat Green materials, like bamboo fencing and panels.  It’s surprising, once you get into it, how much there is out there that is made from bamboo and sustainable materials.  In general, they may have a slightly higher initial cost, but they’re very durable and they’re all-natural.

I’m into the Green thing, not gonna lie, and this looked like a great opportunity to join the Green community with grace and aplomb.  We’re having fun, we’re designing really interesting stuff, and so far, so good. 

Whatever happened to epic euro house music?

I hate to say it, but I think real, truly epic euro-style house music is… gone.  Replaced by the likes of Basshunter. 

That’s not a bad thing, per se, but man do I miss the full-on epic anthems of yesteryear.  Or maybe it’s just been redefined and I, like my parents and the generation before them, have been left behind to wallow around in ‘classic rock’. 

But I don’t think that’s true – the fact is that I still recognize their ‘anthems’ as anthems.  And I think the era of anthemic rock-n-roll music, the epic power ballad, the timeless rock tune, is pretty much over.  Once and a while you get one that comes up but what happened to The Beatles?  The Rolling Stones?  Led Zeppelin?  Black Sabbath?  Who stepped up and replaced them?  To some extent, I suppose, Metallica (although when I was growing up I would never have imagined that happening), and I just can’t think of any band of epic enough proportions to match the “classics”.  Nirvana?  Maybe they could’ve achieved that status – who knows? 

But the epic techno-anthem used to be so prevalent.  I mean, who doesn’t remember “Firestarter”, or “Get Busy Child”, or pretty much *any* Chemical Brothers song?  And that goes way, way, way back.  How about Orbital?  Actually, I think nobody would recognize the name, but if you heard the song you’d nod your head and smile.  Fatboy Slim was responsible for a whole slew of timeless songs – tunes that I can literally listen to at any given time, any given place, and always love. 

Fast forward a bit, there’s a few that were produced in the last decade (the Chemical Brothers came out almost 15 freakin’ years ago!)  Eiffel 65, Ayla, Armin Van Buuren and “The Sound of Goodbye”, Paul Oakenfold’s entire freakin’ album (remember “Southern Sun”? Of course you do. Everyone does), pretty much any song that BT touched was epic by default, Ferry Corsten ushered in the new sound of Progressive House, Sasha & Digweed were incapable of preventing epic-ness in their music, JunkieXL just spewed epic all over crowds… I mean, once techno became more mainstream, it was nearly impossible to avoid getting swept up by the sheer waves of legendary anthems.  Goddamn that DJ made my day.  Yeah, I know you remember that one too.

Now what do we have?  Justice, Basshunter, and a handful of other flashes in the pan.  Here and there, a catchy song – and we’re so starved for the epic thunder of yesterday’s basslines that we consider these songs “modern anthems”.  They’re not bad songs – I’m a fan of Justice, for example – but you can’t possibly hope to put them side-by-side with Carl Cox, with Superstar DJ Keoki (okay, maybe not that guy – he was a big douche), with Roni Size.  Kids these days just don’t know what they missed.

So yeah, back 10 or 15 years ago, that was a golden age.  It was a time of innovation and experimentation with music.  Sometimes I miss it, and sometimes I’m glad we’ve all moved on.  Most of us, anyway.  And then I have to wonder if previous generations weren’t thinking these exact thoughts while bitching about “these kids and their crazy rock-n-roll dance music…”