Posts Tagged ‘ learning curve ’

The Lightsaber

Like a growing number of other men around the world, I have gotten into the art of Wet Shaving.  I always thought Wet Shaving was what I have been doing since I can remember–shaving has been a part of my shower routine since I started it.  During my early 20s, I figured out that it was quicker and easier since the hot water had already loosened up the whiskers, and I eventually knew my face well enough to quit using a mirror, or even shaving cream.

Straight Shaving (also referred to as Wet Shaving) is said to be a cathartic, mystical, soothing, sense-of-accomplishment-filled experience–after all, now you are doing something which not every other man does.  You are wielding a piece of metal which (at its best) is sharp enough to cut a human hair in half simply by resting one on its blade, and it takes skill not to cut your own head off if you sneeze.  You are one with your blade, and can get a baby’s-butt-smooth shave without blowing $25 bucks on ten Mach3 refills.  And you’re a badass because you do it, plain and simple.  Not only that, you are a prudent, frugal badass.

Basically What My Razor Looks Like

Yeah, right.

I have found Wetshaving to be frustrating so far, largely because there are several factors at play here.

The first is the learning curve.  Tribal knowledge among the Wetshaving crowd dictates that it takes roughly 100 shaves before you know just what in the hell you are doing.  A good shave requires proper technique, patience, and having the ability to pull your right cheek taught with your left hand by reaching all the way around the back of your head.  I can sort of pull off that last one.  My shaving technique is probably poor (since I’m trying to just learn by doing it), and I have many virtues at my fingertips, but patience has never been one of them.  I am 9 shaves in, and some days I would rather pull my hair out than try to shave it off for half an hour.

The second thing working against me is the fact that when I got the blade–a Dovo Swearingen, 5/8″, hollow-ground blade with a white handle–it seemed dull on the first shave (basically, it wasn’t cutting anything).  So I went out and bought a set of Norton Wetstones with which to hone the blade (another skill I have no background in) for $150 or so.  I plucked up some YouTube instructional videos, and off I went, and tried to put an edge on the blade.  Looking back, however, the blade could have been “shave ready” (some blades do come that way) and I just didn’t know it because I didn’t know how to use the razor in the first place.  I finally got a decent edge on the blade, and shaved my face a few times.

Right now, I can get the job done without coming out looking like the victim of a carjacking, but it irritates me that I can still get a closer shave with a Mach3.  (The reason is, of course, that while Mach3 blades are cheap in quality, there are three of them.  Not only that, I’ve learned that my face has several complex curves which make it difficult to get a blade as long as mine–probably three and a half inches–into to shave against the grain the way I can with a disposable–1 inch–cartridge.)  It’s something akin to whipping cream with a small fork when there is a Kitchen-Aid with a spinning whisk on it right next to you–I am choosing to use the more unwieldy tool.  It’s annoying, but I keep going back for more, and here’s why.

All of the things I mentioned in the second paragraph are true.  Every one of those attributes can be achieved with the right equipment, the right technique, and enough ambition for a man to develop within him a skill he did not possess prior.  It just takes time.

I suspect that by the time Shave 100 rolls around, I will have learned a few new things about myself, correctly honed my blade and technique to be Lightsaber-sharp, and upgraded my hardware to something a bit better-made than the beginner razor I got for Christmas (thanks, Mom!).  Since my facial hair grows at a snail’s pace (apparently it takes time for my body to put together those bristles you can clean brake dust off your wheels with), I estimate Shave 100 to be somewhere near Halloween.  I’ll update you then and let you know just whatever happened, and what I’ve learned in the process.

Is anybody else into Wet Shaving?  If you have suggestions as to which blade would be a great step up, or opinions on any other aspect of shaving in general, feel free to comment and let me know.  If you’re interested in getting into the Wet Shaving community, this guy’s video seems to be among the most popular.  Don’t forget to subscribe by clicking the button underneath my Gravatar photo, and have a great week!

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Life Is A Six-Speed Manual.

I’ve been pondering lately how life is like a transmission.  First gear (when you’re born) is starting to move, and requires the greatest learning curve.  It is where acceleration, over time, is never faster.  You must learn at least two languages–one spoken, the other with numbers.  You must learn to feed yourself, walk, speak.  You must learn to coexist with others in social settings.  You must learn to navigate a large and extremely complex series of emotions, and apply them at the very least to your relationships with your parents and siblings.  The amount of information to take in at this stage of your life is staggering.

Second gear covers your teenage years and your twenties.  You’re running at 5,000 RPM, picking up speed, going to school, getting your life moving.  You move out of the house, go to college.  Pay your own bills.  Repair your credit.  Buy your own car.  Get a dog.  You’re busting your ass to become independent, get a career on track, plan for a spouse and family.  Putting out near-maximum effort just to get ahead.

Third gear is to second gear what your 30s are to your 20s.  If your transmission is geared to get comfortable around this time, you are finally enjoying the fact that many who first meet you don’t immediately assume that you are inept because you are so young.  You are not so new to the work force that your experience actually counts for something.  If your transmission is geared for massive acceleration, you are still clawing for every extra MPH you can get, constantly trying to get ahead to sixth gear in as little time as possible.

Fourth and fifth gears are effectively purposed the same as third gear is–forever accelerating, forever working toward the ultimate goal of getting comfortable.  The thing about everything after second gear is that there are times when you are working, working, working, until you can work no harder–and only when you have enough speed and momentum to jump up to the next gear can your engine (for a short time) drop its RPMs, and doesn’t have to work so hard.  Then, something new comes along (a kid, a mortgage payment, a lawsuit), and once again you are forced to work harder, to put out more power, to put on more speed.  Some people spend a long, long time running at the top of their current gear’s limits before being able to breathe a little easier in the next step up.

This is why everyone is envious of those who are the wealthiest people in this country:  They are cruising along in sixth gear–typically the Overdrive gear–and they are comfortably doing 90 or 100 miles an hour while their engines loaf along at 2,500 RPM, sipping gas and barely breaking a sweat.  Everyone else is mired in the middle gears while these people are at the pinnacle of financial freedom, and in many cases, the higher up they go, the less actual work they must do to stay there.  Also, nothing makes people envious more than when people in their 20s and 30s find ways to either run through the gears quickly, or skip to sixth all together.

I suppose if life is a six-speed manual, people must be engines then–it would explain why some move slowly, and others light fires behind the tires at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Right now, I’m one of these:  

Soon, I’ll be one of these: 

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