Message Of The Day

Tue, 28 Mar 2006

09:14 [zork(~/nick/sf)] cat earthquake.txt

The Earthquake Centennial


I have of course said this elsewhere, but it bears repeating.

On the 18th of April, 1906, at 5:12AM local time, a colossal earthquake hit California, centered on San Francisco. This is one of those events that defines SF history, and so every year there's a celebration in the early morning.

Of course, since this is 2006, this year's will be enormous. People are making a big to-do about how the hundred-year anniversary is coming. But there's just one problem:

The quake happened in 1906, before Daylight Saving Time. The quake happened at 5:12AM Pacific Standard Time. The revelers this year are celebrating at 5:12AM Pacific Daylight Time. They're an hour early.

If that doesn't convince you, consider that the accounts of the quake always describe the "early dawn light" that illuminated the city when the quake hit. A sunrise calendar I just used lists morning twilight as 6:03AM PDT, and sunrise proper as 6:31AM PDT. The sky is still black at 5:12AM PDT!

Naturally, as with the whole "2000 is still the 20th Century" crowd, all this amounts to is proof that I'm a smartass.

01:59 [zork(~/nick/blosxom)] cat more-rest-stuff.txt

More reST Helpfulness

Mike Orr has this cool little howto explaining how to do various HTML markup techniques using reST:

It's unfinished, but it's full of useful advice for beginning to think of your plain-text layout as markup instead of trying to do everything with particular tags.

Sun, 26 Mar 2006

21:06 [zork(~/nick/shave)] cat pre-shave.txt

Proraso Pre-Shave Cream

Okay, so I hit the shavegeek forums every couple of months just to see if they've come up with anything interesting beyond "OMFG TEH BURBLE SOAP IS LESS SANDALWOODY THAN THE GURBLE SOAP I H8 U". And a couple weeks ago they were all abuzz about the famed Proraso brand Italian shave soap being carried in Target of all places.

Proraso Shaving Soap

I used to troll Italian import places in North Beach who laughed at me to my face for asking about this stuff: "Oh, you'll never find that around here!" It's an anomaly in shavegeek accoutrements. All the ingredients say wrong wrong wrong: it's mentholated, confabulated, and extracted and yet it is somehow a formula that wins real fans. If you thought the Nancy Boy altoid effect was strong, well Proraso's menthol and eucalyptus is like having the Halls of mentho-lyptus all over your face.

So I wrote to Pedro because there was a big fight on the forums about the US formula. Supposedly the ingredients list for the Target stuff doesn't match the imported stuff. Lots of European shaving cream manufacturers have been reformulating to meet with European Union FDA-type regulations, but we don't really know why they chose to do this. However, the rundown of all those threads is that the one change they made was: ditch Lanolin and replace it with sodium borate.

This was good news, since Uncle Pedro is allergic to lanolin. It probably also makes Proraso a vegan formula, which could be handy for lots of other folks.

So I shaved with Proraso shaving soap a few times, and it really felt as though my face were going tingly-numb. It has a strong medicated feel to it, and I think that I got a little careless as a result. The shave I ended up with was rough and overscraped, and I really couldn't tell how brutally I was working myself over with this anæsthetic stuff on.

Now, it's probably fantastic stuff for the summer. The cooling effect would be such a great thing on a hot day that I'd probably dab the stuff behind my ears and along my neck for relief from the heat. But I think I'll leave my little $4 tub of the shaving soap alone for now.

Proraso Pre-Shave Cream

However, lots of shavegeeks rambled and raved about the pre-shave cream. Some folks groused that it was no better than a "proper prep" (which I assume means seven minutes of hot towels and a deep-tissue massage), but others swore by it. So I figured what the heck and went back to Target to get a jar.

So this morning I put the stuff on under a layer of Taylor's avocado, and did a quick shave with a four-day-old blade that had already been giving me grief. It's possible that I just mixed the lather a little richer than usual, but the shave was flawless. The metholated cooling was more muted than when I used the proraso soap, but I still felt like my face was a little tingly-numb. Still, I emerged baby's arse smooth without so much as a single bump.

I'll definitely try a bottle of Nancy Boy pre-shave oil to compare, but I think this category of goo may be the next big thing for me in blowing petty cash on vanity grooming products.

06:10 [zork(~/nick/shave)] cat shaving-ads.txt

Shaving Ads 1914-1953


Someone in one of the shavegeek forums discovered an archive of advertisements on the Web, and pointed out the collection of shaving product ads.

They cover both world wars, and it seems interesting that in the earlier images they seem to really be hawking shaving sticks. In one of the earliest entries, however, The Conversion of Mister Prejudice, they show someone applying it to his face and lathering against his chin with his brush. I've never used a stick, but I always thought it was supposed to be brushless.

Lots of brushless creams show up in the post-WWII entries, and powders seemed big in the 20s. I have no idea how good any of these shaving products were, but the brands represented really are terrible nowadays. Barbasol is really the industrial foam goo of last resort.

As always, implications of getting laid by being smooth-shaven abound.

And of course, you can't have a collection of old shaving ads without a few Burma Shave rhymes.

Thu, 23 Mar 2006

12:58 [zork(~/nick/shave)] cat brush.txt

'Round and 'Round we go

Well it looks like Corey Greenberg has revised The Perfect Shave, and is now pushing the Vulfix #2233 as the best all-'rounder.

He's also updated his blog-copy to include the magic that is Nancy Boy shaving cream and rose hip oil and all sorts of other little discoveries that he's written about over the past couple years.

Wed, 22 Mar 2006

07:31 [zork(~/octal)] cat locksmithing.txt

The Lock Master

Gary, I read the lock hacking bit, and I was surprised at how simple the method was. It's so obvious once you know it, I'm a bit mad at myself that I never realized this years ago. Converting an m^n problem to an m*n problem simplifies things wonderfully.

Of course, once you come to the hack, the next question is how to prevent that exploit. The main way I can think of is to find a way to tie the pins together so that they will only open when all of the pins are set for master or all set for the lock-specific key. This solution would probably lower the number of possible keys, as well as making the locks more specialized. (One advantage of the susceptable master keys systems is that they can be made from regular single-key systems).

Of course, I'm having trouble finding key blanks which match my dorm keys online, and I don't want to walk into a hardware store comparing random key blanks with a key stamped:

U of M

Tue, 21 Mar 2006

18:26 [zork(~/nick/blosxom)] cat cleanup.txt

reST and HTML woes

Well, I went through and cleaned up my old entries, using this technique. When I was done, I decided to clean up all the entries that were generating reST errors because reST was freaking out trying to interpret raw HTML. I basically went through and cleaned up all of Nutella's entries and a bunch of Sam's.

For Nutella, he essentially wrote everything as one solid block of HTML, often with no newlines at all. So what I did was wrap most of his entries in reST's raw html directive, like so:

.. raw:: html

        <cite>blarblarblar</cite> etc etc <a
        href="">a link</a>

The outcome is as you'd expect:

blarblarblar etc etc a link

Nutella used <cite> a lot, and decimal unicode entities to print hanzi.

For Sam, he had written most of his entries in the wiki markup, using only occasional HTML for URLs and <pre> blocks and so on. I wrapped a few individual paragraphs in the .. raw:: html bit, but mostly I just fixed his bad entries to be properly reSTy.

A Few Good Tags

The switch to reST may be preventing some folks from using this, so here's a few basic tips to cut most of the noise from the quickref.

First, pre blocks are handled using a double-colon and some strict indenting:


        Note that
        there is a blank line
            between this paragraph
          and the ::.

        It won't stop being <pre> until we outdent back flush
        with the ::!


Note that
there is a blank line
    between this paragraph
  and the ::.

It won't stop being <pre> until we outdent back flush
with the ::!

Next up is hyperlinks. The finnicky bit about these is that they tend to behave more like footnotes or endnotes. Basically if you end a word (or a string enclosed in backticks) with an underscore, it becomes a link to a URL specified later on (after the paragraph, or at the end of the file, or wherever you like):

The switch to reST may be preventing some folks from using this, so
here's a few basic tips to cut most of the noise from the quickref_.

.. _quickref:

First, `pre blocks`_ are handled using a double-colon and some strict


.. _pre blocks:
Nick Moffitt

Then there's images. This is handled with the .. image:: directive, as follows:

.. image::
        :alt: Nick Moffitt
        :align: right

Finally there's Unicode. There are a few ways to do this. For example, in Ubuntu I use SCIM to input UTF8 text in any application, so I can just hit ctrl-space and start banging in 日本語. But some folks don't have that luxury, so here's a few ways to do this:

|nihongo| is |ni| (sun), |hon| (origin), and |go| (language).
Thus, |ni| |hon| |go| is "the language of the rising sun".

.. |ni|  unicode:: 0x65e5
.. |hon|  unicode:: 0x672c
.. |go|  unicode:: 0x8a9e
.. |nihongo|  unicode:: 0x65e5 0x672c 0x8a9e

日本語 is 日 (sun), 本 (origin), and 語 (language). Thus, 日 本 語 is "the language of the rising sun".

But again, you can always just go back to HTML character entities and wrap a paragraph in .. raw:: html.

The rest is uncommon enough that you can just consult the quickref or look at the .txt file for an entry you see doing what you want. Also, feel free to pop into nwall and ask for help if you're trying to do something advanced with reST.

But most of what you do will just be ordinary plain text paragraphs, separated by blank lines.

07:51 [zork(~/madness/nick)] cat once-more.txt

Come on Team

Well, maybe if they're mile-long stilts they can.

03:08 [zork(~/nick/blosxom)] cat repairing-old-entries.txt

How to Fix Old Entries

So one somewhat bothersome aspect of the blosxom system is that if you edit a file, that bumps it up to the top of the listing. This is because pyblosxom sorts all entries by the modification time of the original posting.

There are quite a few old entries in here that could do with a few repairs, but they really don't belong at the top of the page or the RSS feed. So for you folks, I give you the magic of touch!

Here is an example of how to use cp and touch to edit old entries while keeping their posting date the same:

$ cd /var/www/motd/madness/goober/
$ cp -a no-its-true.txt /tmp/old-entry
$ vi no-its-true.txt
$ touch no-its-true.txt -r /tmp/old-entry

First, the cp -a causes the file in /tmp/ to have the same exact modification time as the oirginal file. We are actually just backing up the modification time here, and don't care about the contents.

Then we edit the file as normal (I use vi, but I know that many folks like nano).

Finally, we use touch -r to make the edited entry have the same modification time as our backup in /tmp/.

So this would be helpful for folks like Nutella, who need to go in and mass-replace a lot of <br> and <p> stuff with ordinary blank lines.

If you edit an old entry, let me know and I'll give the full site build a push. Right now pyblosxom only updates files that have brand new mtimes, so this trick will sneak past that. I can force a full rebuild that will update everything.

Sun, 19 Mar 2006

21:08 [zork(~/nick/shave)] cat power-law-curve.txt

Fuck Everything, We're Doing Five Blades!

The Economist drops a little science on the diminishing returns of multi-blade cartridges:

It is simply not possible to add a new blade whenever the marketing department wants one. Every additional blade, explains Michele Szynal, a spokeswoman at Gillette, adds weight and size to a razor. Firms must therefore find ways of making both razor and blades lighter, which means thinner blades, more closely spaced, made of special materials, with new coatings.

—The Economist,

05:38 [zork(~/nick/shave)] cat dryshaving.txt

Wow, People Actually do Shave like Neanderthals

I was Spads in this conversation:


well you're going to have to set up NAT anyway




so while you're doing that, DHCP is pretty much aftershave




what is the point of aftershave, anyway?


two things


NAT doesn't look too hard though


lots of idiot men buy crap like old spice, which is alcohol

supposed to I dunno, disinfect or something


paganini does not use aftershave


I use witch hazel, which is a skin toner, and feels super fantastic


Except sometimes I use a little witch hazel if my razor was dull and I got scraped


okay, so the point is to be an idiot man?




and/or use witch hazel


I mean, you've just done a skin peel. it's sensitive. slapping alcohol on is just going to sting and do pretty much nothing for you

Lxndr: well I use an "after shave toner"

alcohol-free aftershave

I use lucky tiger

but I've heard good things about trumper's skin food

I'm actually leaning toward beginning to use pre-shave oil too

especially for when the razor gets a little old


I've never really even used, like, shaving cream. Nonetheless any of that other fancy-schmancy stuff like aftershave or pre-shave oil.


do you use an electric, or just let your beard grow?


Currently, I use disposable razors.




paganini uses shaving gel


I am also lazy, and shave only once a week or so.


without shaving cream???




like, dry?


Yes, without shaving cream.


Lx, does your face still have skin?!


holy shit


In the shower, usually, so it's damp.


I didn't believe that anyone actually did that


paganini tried that once


like I thought it was a myth that all these fru-fru "wetshaving" fanatics made up


paganini had razor-burn that lookedl ike roadrash


the notion that people somehow are shaving without any lube


well, there is the water.


Spads hands Lxndr the Bill Duke Predator Memorial Ghetto-Shaving Award

Well gosh, I guess people really do shave like that. I had no idea!

Thu, 16 Mar 2006

19:24 [zork(~/nick/blosxom)] cat rss20.txt

More Pyblosxom Magic

So we now have the latest 1.3.2 Pyblosxom, which means we have proper RSS now. I've updated the little XML box, but the long and short of it is that you should change "index.rss" to "index.rss20" for your feeds. <-- teh new url. <-- example user RSS category feed.

Wed, 15 Mar 2006

21:42 [zork(~/nick/shave)] cat bandwagon.txt

Get Onto The Bus

Six months ago, I observed the following in #tron:

CrackMonkey: <-- oh dear, I may personally be suckered in by this one...


man, count me in


It has all the elements necessary

a strong technical argument, economics, a certain historical chic, and the aura of self-confident masculinity without all that messy bravado

For the next week, I did all the usual Internet research you'd expect before going off into some goofy "lifestyle" craze. I read Corey Greenberg's The Perfect Shave (which is still required reading, even though Corey has moved on a little since then), trolled through the Shavegeek Forums, and spent hours comparing products on Classic Shaving. I made some rather nice purchases based on that.

However, I've learned a little since then, and that's the main reason why I'm posting this here: so far Sneakums, Octal, and Uncle Pedro have all joined in the fun with old-timey shaving gear, and more seem to be following. Last Autumn, I'd have just thrown those three links at them and let them read up on it like I did, but now I'd like to explain what I'd do if I were getting into this today.

The Gear

So first of all, just to avoid any confusion on this matter, this is not about straight razors. The trade nickname for those is "cutthroats", and I'm with Corey Greenberg when I say that they're just a step too far for me. What I'm babbling about is what people used to think of when you said "safety razor" before disposables and expensive cartridge-head monstrosities reached the ridiculous point in history when they said "Fuck everything, we're doing five blades!" (yeah, that used to be a joke. I know.)

So instead of a wicked blade like this one:

Dovo Mammoth cutthroat

I am talking about something more civilized like this:

Badger and Blade

The razor is a dual-edged safety razor, and you load it by unscrewing the bottom, lifting up the curved hammerhead portion, and sliding a dual-edged version of a surgical razor blade onto the spindles inside. Sweeny Todd, go home!

Why isn't it better to have five vibrating blades in a single head like Gilette says? Well, there are a number of reasons most people cite, such as the cheap factory production of the multi-blade cartridges, or the tiny gaps between blades clogging with hair and dead skin. But in general the multi-blade razors are trying to emulate someone doing multiple strokes with a single-bladed razor. The results are mixed.

The one thing that takes people by surprise is how short the handle is. It's about half the length of a disposable razor's handle, and you hold it with only your fingertips. I find that it gives me much better control, although you can buy long-handled DEs.

The particularly astute among you will notice that my razor is sitting next to a rather large brush that boasts the absurd-sounding category of Super Badger. Wind in the Willows it's not.

The brush is due to the fact that I ditched cheap aerosol cans full of shaving gel or foam in favor of luxury imported creams. And you know what? The import creams are cheaper and last longer and are so much more enjoyable than the pressurized gel I used to use. They're two parts shaving lubricant and one part skin care product.

Take a look at the jar on the left:

shaving gear with creams

That's the Taylor of Old Bond Street Avocado shaving cream. It's a widely-respected favorite due to its heavy use of avocado oil, which lubricates and moisturizes.


Many of the articles on "wetshaving", as the fad calls itself (what, were people really shaving dry before?) act as though the reader is a complete n00b who never learned how to shave at all. To hear Corey Greenberg and the Shavegeeks tell it, millions of men are grabbing cheap disposable razors and just mowing into their cheeks without even bothering to head to a sink or anything.

dry shaving

When I saw Predator for the first time, and Bill Duke pushed that blade until he bled, it was the only part of the movie that scared me. But I guess I must be in the minority, because I actually had my dad stand me by the sink and teach me to shave using a dual-bladed razor sample that was automatically sent to me around my 16th birthday (suspicious, but my mother never cared much for privacy, and signed all of us up for who knows how many sucker mailing lists).

So I learned to wet my face and work with the grain before going against it. I also had my first shave in the chair of our family barber, his expert hand scraping the weeds and peach fuzz off with a deadly cutthroat. All the same, I retreated out of fear to an electric device (derisively referred to by the fanboy shavegeeks as a "lawnmower") for many years. The acne only cleared up when I finally went back to a blade.

So there's a simple set of steps I go through to shave now, which is really all there is to the goofy term "wetshaving". Corey Greenberg acts as though it's a radical departure from the norm, although I think it's basically the same way I shaved with a Mach 3 and gel.

  1. Wet face with warm/hot water. This opens pores and softens hairs. A hot towel is ideal here, but you can just take a hot shower first and not dry your face.
  2. Build and apply lather. This is done by soaking the brush in hot water and letting it drain, then swabbing the tip with cream and whipping it in a circle in a mug or directly on my cheek.
  3. Shave along the grain, applying very little pressure.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 if needed, going against the grain if necessary.
  5. Cool down by rinsing with cold water to close the pores, and maybe add an after-shave toner (that's something gentle like witch hazel, not some stinging rubbing alcohol perfume nonsense like Old Spice).

Now the shavegeeks shout loud and clear OMFG DO NOT APPLY ANY PRESSURE WHEN SHAVING. Of course I apply pressure when I'm shaving, but I sure don't shovel away like Duke up there. The way folks like Corey Greenberg make it sound, everyone's just spraying gel onto a dry chin and then pushing against their face like they're pressing air bubbles out of wallpaper.

The one thing I will say is that if you do go against the grain, that's when you have to barely tickle the surface with a feather-touch.

My Kit

So you've seen the photos, and this is what I have, for better or worse. My first order was from Classic Shaving, and consisted of:

Since then I've picked up the following from various local shops:

I've been fortunate in that there's even a cigar shop on Market that carries Merkur shaving supplies without egregious markup. Nancy Boy is a local company, and folks pay good money to have their stuff shipped all over the continent (and their laundry detergent is the best I've ever used!). Most Target stores now carry Proraso in their "Spa" section, and I grabbed Lucky Tiger at Elephant Pharmacy and I've seen it at Whole Foods.

What I'd Change

Now, let's look over my original Classic Shaving order. The Merkur HD (or "hefty") is a classic, and one that shavegeeks seem to return to time and again. I like that the extra weight gives it some mass, so shaky fingers aren't a problem. When Uncle Pedro ordered, they were out of all the hefty Merkurs except the open-comb version, so that's what he uses. The open comb seems to be good for thicker hair, although it tends to shave a little closer, I'm told. That might make it not quite ideal as a "my first DE razor", but it's still a fine instrument.

The Taylor's Avocado is good stuff, although I think I'd go with rose rather than lavender for my second tub next time. The blades are something I haven't experimented with, and I'm still using the Merkur Platinums.

But the brush is something where I feel like I'd make a different choice today. The shavegeeks are all about huge enormous brushes that carry six faceloads of lather in a single dab, but they've taken it to excess. The 2235 is the model that appears in The Perfect Shave, but Corey Greenberg himself recently said that the 2234 is his favorite overall brush: it's $10 cheaper, and a little bit smaller and easier to manage.

I do feel a little out of control with my big sloppy brush from time to time, but Corey has gone on to the Wee Scot mini-brush now. He's basically using little travel brushes to lather these days, so who knows what that's all about.

No Regrets

Of course, I'm not about to buy another brush. Buying a brush made of badger hair kind of went against my vegetarian sensibilities as it is, so I'm not going to waste what I have. Also, the brush was half the cost of my initial purchase to begin with. My reasoning was that the razor and the blades were such a small portion of the order that if I decided that shaving with a DE was too rich for my blood, I'd still have a classy brush and creams for use with a pedestrian Mach-3.

I will say that the larger brush does hold a good deal of warm water, and it's great to get that first pass of warm lather on the cheek.

What I've Added

The Nancy Boy is another big favorite, and I loved being able to just walk into the Hayes St. store and pick up a jar (oh yes, and do try their laundry detergent!). They're a super friendly company that seems to know how to win repeat business. I'm not sure the shaving cream is as good as the Taylor's Avocado, but it's not really in the same category.

Uncle Pedro described the NB cream as "like an altoid for my face" due to the mix of lavender, peppermint, and rosemary oils in the formulation. His only comparison was Taylor's lemon/lime, which left him nonplussed.

But speaking of altoid-on-the-face, I finally managed to grab a tub of Proraso shaving soap. It's another one of the brands mentioned in The Perfect Shave, and it's got menthol and eucalyptus to make a crazy chilly numbing tingling sensation like medicated shaving cream. I'm not sure it's the best thing for a chilly winter morning, but I mean to give it a chance. It's probably wonderful on a hot day.

But the best part is that with a good brush, just about any decent hard soap can make shaving lather in a pinch! In fact, a good chunk of olive oil soap is one of the more popular hard shaving soaps, and you can use it to wash your hands or feet or use it in the shower or whatever you want when you're not shaving with it. This gives me a sort of rugged self-reliant confidence, like I could McGyver up a shaving setup in the field if I had my brush on me.

Finally, I bought Lucky Tiger aftershave strictly because Tom Waits sang about it. I know he was singing about hair products made by the old company, and I bought 1990s-inspired nuts-and-berries New Organics stuff, but that suits me fine. I get pure aloe and orange extracts and chamomile and witch hazel and all that good stuff, and in a classy looking retro bottle made to look like the old brown glass pharmacy vials. It works a champ, too.

What I Recommend To You

Okay, so after all this, you're squirming in your seat, adjusting and readjusting your ironic horn-rimmed glasses, crying out "Oh, but now I simply must get in on this hip new retro craze! Tell us what to buy!" Your consumer obedience circuits are shorting out! Just sit back, take a stress pill, and think things over.

If I were to place an order from Classic Shaving for someone new to this, here's what I'd get:

Uncle Pedro ordered a set like this, only with an open-comb HD and Lemon-Lime Taylor's instead of avocado. I basically told him that the citrus creams tend to be made for oily skin, and the avocado is best for dry. Well ol' Pedro slapped the dust from his rough-cut hands, and gesturing with his John Henry mallet he proudly informed me that he had "combination skin". And we left it that way as men, true to our word.

So I sent him a travel jar of Nancy Boy Shaving Cream, prompting his gushing "altoid" comment. The Nancy Boy is made with Avocado oil, although it's not the all-hallowed balm that Taylor's is. Still, it's a fantastic all-around shaving cream, and you could do so much worse and still be in the top shelf.

Aha, you say, but you are in San Francisco! You demand instant gratification! You don't want to wait around for some Angeleno importer to ship you your gear via UPS GroundSloth! You want to pound the pavement and return home with bags full of gear!

I am powerless to resist your consumer gusto! Demand no further!

I have no idea how you intend to comparison shop on brushes, so you'll just have to comparison shop a bit in person. But the rest of the gear is available within easy walk of BART stations.

  • Grant's Tobacconists carries merkur razors, unlabeled and uncategorized. The shopkeeper is an old Boer who knows two things about the stock: Diddly and Squat, and Bo Dilddley's tour left San Francisco months ago. I occasionally go in to buy another box of blades (mostly because I can, since it took me six months to make it through the first box) I ask to see the Merkur Platinum Blades and he always responds "Uh, I think they're all made of steel." They've got mugs and brushes and other things, but I think they only have boarbristle instead of badger.

    They're by the Montgomery Street Station, North exit, across from Stacey's independent bookstore and next door to Patrick & Company stationers.

  • Nancy Boy moved out of their Castro digs and into a cute little shop in Hayes Valley. Stop by and pick up a jar of the Nancy Boy Shaving Cream and a tub of the laundry detergent. If you sign up for their mailing list, they give you a discount right then and there.

But generally stay away from the haberdashers and "gentlemen's clothiers" you'll find downtown. Most of those guys sell the imported English creams like Taylor's, but at stratospheric markup.

Oh, and if you live in London, just go to Taylor itself!

[zork(~)] cal
[zork(~)] tree
[zork(~)] cat README