Category Archives: the mindlab

Shaving

Mike wanted me to write some stuff about shaving. He needs to follow up with his side of the story.

I started this post over a year ago. I only wrote the previous paragraph before I got side-tracked.

Learning to shave

Dad had a beard. I think at some point he gave Mike and I some cursory advice on how to shave, and that was it. I think it consisted of:

  1. Make sure your skin is wet. Shave after showering.
  2. Shave with the grain before you go against the grain.

I can attest that the first point is valid. The second… it took me several years to learn that if I shave against the grain, at any point in the process, I’m asking for trouble. So I stopped. I know that by college, I had stopped that step completely.

So that was it. Everything else was trial and error. Anyone who has ever done lab experiments knows that when your output variable (your feedback) is delayed by a couple of days from your inputs, it takes a while to figure things out. Couple this with the fact that you have to keep repeating the input actions every day or so, before you get the feedback, and it becomes a very long and drawn out process. Does my face hurt because of how I shaved this morning, or from 3 days ago?

Lastly, I didn’t necessarily realize that there was something I could do about this. I figured for a long time, “This is what it is.” It wasn’t all that bad and I didn’t know any better.

So it basically took about 15-20 years of shaving before I wised up. And I eventually did. A close shave is the worst type for me. Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what the shaving industry markets. I see Mike essentially stopped shaving; that’s how he deals with it.

I blame the Mach3.

The Mach3

The Gillette Mach3 was released in 1998 according to Wikipedia. To put that in perspective, I turned 19 in 1998. I don’t remember when I started shaving (13? 14?), but I didn’t shave that long before the Mach3 came out, and I certainly didn’t have heavy facial hair before then either.

Now, for those of you who aren’t intimately familiar with my facial hair, I don’t have a lot of it. I shave every other day (something it took me a few years to realize). I most certainly don’t need 3 (or 4 or 5) blades to knock back my 5 o’clock shadow. I used this razor, or variants thereof, for the better part of 15 years. It sucks for me. Too close of a shave which led to irritation. Also, the heads on these things are huge, which makes it hard to shave certain areas, like under your nose.

Sensor Excel

For some reason, back in 2007, I bought a Sensor Excel and some blades. I think it was because I was a poor graduate student, and the thought of spending a week’s worth of food money on razors got on my nerves a little. The Sensor is a 2 blade razor. Probably all I needed. I used it once or twice and then forgot about it for some reason.

I started using it again about 2 years ago. Ingrown hairs and razor bumps are for the most part a thing of the past. I still only shave every other day, and only with the grain. The replacement blades are getting hard to find, so I order them off of Amazon.

Oddly enough, the regular Sensor blades aren’t quite as good as the Excel blades, but they do in a pinch. I just have to shave at a slightly different angle.

Wiki says the Sensor and Sensor Excel were released in 1990 and 1993 respectively and are discontinued. I think the blades I buy are imported from other parts of the world.

The future

At some point, I’m not going to be able to get these razors any more. I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do. I’m not going back to 3, 4, or 5 bladed razors.

I’m getting to that point in my life where I don’t want to dick around with this shit, so whatever the decision ends up being, hopefully I won’t have to make another after that.

Machine learning and age

I’ve been using Mathematica more for work, and finally getting better at it. It’s only been 20 years…

Anyway, Mathematica has some machine learning capabilities built in, so I started playing around with them. Maybe something would be useful for work? (Probably not.) Anyway, a few of the tools have pre-trained datasets to play with, so you can just plug stuff into them.

One is the “NameAge” dataset, which predicts the most likely age for a given name. Naturally, I put some names in. I then plotted up the difference between the predicted age and the person’s actual age. In my chart, negative numbers represent how much younger the person is predicted to be compared to their actual age, and positive numbers are older.

Buff does the worst, but with her given name, she is predicted to be much younger. Up next is Joe, Mike, Pete, Tom, and myself; according to this machine learning dataset, we should be getting ready for retirement, clocking in at more than 15 years older than our actual age.

Good Sounding Music

Who knows if I’ll ever get around to doing those twelve 2017 movie reviews… I did see Phantasm in the theatre; it may have been on Blu-ray, which was disenchanting to say the least. Thusly, I’m currently down on the notion of the theatre, so in lieu of cinema I wanted to talk about music. I hopped on Amazon music this evening and downloaded MP3s of a couple albums that I’d bought in physical formats. One album was Lana Del Ray’s Ultraviolence. I really liked her Honeymoon, but dear lord… the songs on Ultraviolence aren’t bad, but the production on the album actually hurts my ears. It doesn’t matter if I’m listening to it on CD or MP3; it sounds dreadful.

Conversely, David Bowie – my fu**ing god – I picked up two albums recently, Blackstar and Hunky Dory. The production on both is impecable. I know the former was on everyone’s best of list, but bear in mind this is coming from a respectful fan, not an avid fan (my wife is an avid fan; there’s a difference); Blackstar is like listening to the album Radiohead has been trying to record (A Moon Shaped Pool is pretty good, but it’s no Blackstar). However, where Blackstar sounds amazing, it is Hunky Dory that floors me; the album is 45 years old. Sure, it might not be Boston by Boston, but to my ears the production sounds fantastic. Point is that if you are looking to invest in some great sounding music, I can’t recommend the Bowie albums enough.

P.S. Bowie should have also done more novelty songs. This song is on neither album, just YT it.

Rogue One: The character in the baseboard heating unit.

The character, the one I liked most – and no, not one from Rogue One – but instead from the Peanuts Colorform Star Snoopy set, had slid down, too far, far too far, into the abyss of the baseboard heating unit. Swallowed and unable to be retrieved, it was – simply – gone.

There in the hall crouching on the runner rug, I can still see myself, and yet, I cannot recall who the character was. If my child fingers were pointless and dull in their rescue attempts, the character’s identity has also slipped through time and my memory’s grasp.

I certainly could not have understood the legal circumstances surrounding Star Snoopy, a product that drew on the popularity of the 1977 release of George Lucas’s Star Wars, but was not affiliated with the franchise. Snoopy & Co. had never quite managed to get around to licensing the rights to use the Star Wars name from Lucasfilm, Ltd. Even if they had, to my 2- or 3-year old mind, it was of little consequence. Star Snoopy’s starships, characters dressed like they might be at home in a galaxy far far away, and Snoopy himself brandishing a lightsaber-like sword existed in the same cosmos as any toy that was officially licensed, such as my Jawa sandcrwaler playset made by Kenner, which back in the late ‘70s, was not unlike Colorforms; it was also largely made of cardboard.

Star Snoopy Adventure Set by Colorforms
Star Snoopy Adventure Set by Colorforms

Distinctions like these would become clearer by the time I had outgrown my Boba Fett Underoos. For instance, I would graduate from the star-camp of the Cantina theme to Meco’s LP of galactic funk and their disco-spin on John Williams Star Wars score.  I had read all the Timothy Zahn books and even the Brian Daley ones. By my late teens I was, in short, more than a passing fan.  

Continue reading Rogue One: The character in the baseboard heating unit.

Max

Max is no longer with us. I am thankful for the role he played in our lives. You will be missed.

Max loved being outside.
Max loved sleeping.
Max did not love getting his nails dremeled.

More of Max on flickr and here on protozoic.

Twelve Movie Reviews for the Year in the New

In the oncoming glare of 2017’s swift approach, it is hard to believe that this blog is still going. It’s not updated as frequently as it used to be, but it is here, alive and well.

In part, the lack of posts are due to the fact that when Tim and I set up Protozoic, it was meant to be a clearing house for post-Chook projects. As the years passed, the smorgasbord video heyday became harder to do because the gang got dispersed all over the U.S. Additionally, my avocation of filmmaking slowly became my vocation. The things I’m involved in now seem to drag on for years – scripts, films, ideas, etc. This summer I am planning on shooting a short film with some colleagues here, and one day – who knows – there might even be an H.P. Thomcraft III, a Delmarva Dawn. After all, the Russians had a compound on the Eastern Shore. Times sure are weird.

Until those limbo projects materialize, I thought I’d set myself another goal of seeing 12 films in the cinema this coming year and then post about them here. Admittedly, that is not the most lofty and soaring of goals, but I don’t get to the theatre that much; I never have. Most of my watching has always been confined to home-viewership.

We have two very good theaters here in Olympia, WA. The first is the Capitol Theater, run by the Olympia Film Society, which shows international and independent films, movie retrospectives and rereleases, and hosts an assortment of other events. Over this past holiday I caught Joe Dante’s Gremlins (1984), arguably the best Christmas movie ever committed to celluloid. In January they are screening Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm (1979) in 4K, which will be incredible, and could prove to be the best thing J.J. Abrams has touched in recent memory. The other theater is the Century Olympia run by Cinemark, which would otherwise be an unassuming multiplex in a mall if for the fact it didn’t have electric reclining seats.

See you in the new year.

Games and Cards

My cousin sent me some pretty cool stuff in the mail. I wish I had some more time to dig into the games. Chitin I, Warpwar, and Starship Troopers: Man vs Monster all look great! I’ll probably have to wait until Christmas vacation to immerse myself fully. Note, there’s some Steranko cards in there as well.

Starship Troopers: Man vs Monster, Warpwar,  Chitin I, and Steranko  Cards
Starship Troopers: Man vs Monster, Warpwar, Chitin I, and Steranko Cards

Review: JBL (Harman Kardon), Cinema SB350 – Manual of Warnings

A while back my wife and I picked up a soundbar, JBL (Harman Kardon), Cinema SB350, for her dad because he wanted better audio for his TV. As he articulated, “I want to hear the voices clearer.”

Simple, right?

No, wrong, and big X stamped on your forehead. It is not that nothing is ever simple, but because the company who you bought whatever it is from happen to think you are the thing that is simple , as in a moron, who will inevitably fall into their marketing maws regardless of what they do or do not.

We went to Best Buy1 and purchased the aforementioned SB350. We did successfully hook up the device, with some missteps in the process, and no help from the instructions in the box. These instructions, a truly pointless gesture were, I imagine, born out of some murky swamp of middle management.

Why keep up appearances and print up instructions if you are only creating rubbish? Ask your Yes Men, they’ll have an answer for you. I, however, do not. While it is not the most expensive home theatre solution, it is neither the cheapest; it is also considerably more costly than the particleboard furniture units that its multitude of owners have no doubt perched it on. Yet, the fruits and joys brought about from the labors of deciphering the hieroglyphs in the literature included with particleboard furniture and the SB350 are equivalent. The attitude regarding consumer expectations about instructions, hard copy or electronic2, seem to be that they are either irrelevant or non-existent.

There were two documents in the box. The first was the quick start guide, a foldout pamphlet with flea-circus sized diagrams and 7pt type, sans a Sherlock Holmes magnifying glass to actually read it. The second piece of literature that the SB350 came with was an 80 page booklet, recalling those of Jack T. Chick, and emblazoned with an exclamation point in a traffic sign. Once again laid out in flea-man-type, this booklet outlines a series of warnings that must absolve someone from culpability in those instances where an individual decides to take a bubble bath with their woofer speaker, or try and dispose of the soundbar in their sink’s garbage disposal.

JBL Manual of Warnings
JBL Manual of Warnings

Home theatre installation is a lot less complex than it used to be. Marketed as plug and play, the SB350 soundbar has one wire that connects to the TV, either a HDMI, or an optical cable, and a woofer that it has to be wirelessly paired with. However, we still encountered difficulties. One problem manifested when the volume control on the TV remote and soundbar were paired. After doing this, when volume was increased (or decreased) both sound from the TV and soundbar were raised or lowered, causing a doubling effect in the audio. There was no clear way to override the TV’s sound or disable it. Eventually this somehow magically rectified itself. How? Ask the whimsical fairy who also decided to eventually grant my wish after five frustrating hours that my Brother Printer was worthy to be on my wireless network. A small section in the instructions on troubleshooting, even perhaps a section about speaker placement, would have been welcome. Apparently this is something that is just not done, because consumers are either technical wizards and just know how to do this, or they are idiots who are going to fuck it up anyway.

How does the JBL (Harman Kardon), Cinema SB350 sound? If you ask me, who gives a shit. If the company won’t try, neither will I.

Note: This was an older post that (for some reason) I never got around to putting up.

  1. Best Buy is becoming something of a dinosaur in these times; I wonder what will happen first, if it will finally fold, or humanity will experience the sixth great extinction brought on by consumerism. ↩︎
  2. JBL also has the quick start guide available for download on their site. ↩︎