Odds and ends/proof of life post

polar-vortex-nasa-670-1I woke up the other day and consulted my watch to discover that it was thirteen degrees below zero outside.  I feel like we were largely spared polar vortex horror last year, for the most part, but this year has definitely picked back up on the trend of the last several years, which is that the weather at the end of Winter Break is horrifying enough that school being cancelled and the break being extended is at least plausible if not guaranteed.  The boy goes back on Monday, finally, and I think the weather will be back to winter-normal by then, mostly, but holy fuck has it been cold around here lately.  There’s maybe, I dunno, fifteen inches of snow on top of the house, too, which means that we probably got eighteen to twenty since it tends to compress under its own weight after a while.  On the plus side, the new car appears to handle pretty damn well on ice and snow, or at least the new tires I put on it not too long ago appear to have done their job.

IMG_6692.jpgIN OTHER NEWS: the Lumberjack Beard is dead; long live the Lumberjack Beard.  I don’t normally shed my winter beard this early in the year, winter having just barely started, but apparently the answer to this year’s beard question, i.e. “How long can I let this fucker get before it starts to drive me insane?” is about nine weeks.  Granted, I brushed it backward to make it easier to shave off for that picture, but this was easily the bushiest I’d ever let my beard get, and unexpected side effects were starting to crop up– like eating getting much messier and– and this one really surprised me– all that hair on my face actually making it harder to sleep.  I think if I groomed it a bit better it wouldn’t have been as much of a thing, but I’m a novice at this and wasn’t super interested in putting in the research time.  I’d intended to just dial it back but ended up going completely back to the vandyke that I keep on my face for the other eight months of the year.  I may grow it back right away or I may not, but I won’t be doing Full Lumberjack again anytime soon.

IMG_6678.JPGMy phone is starting to slowly fill up with pictures like this, and I’m starting to see grid shapes with arcane symbols and glowing lines on them every time I close my eyes.  My buddy James Wylder posted a shot to Instagram of a bunch of notes and diagrams he was working with as he was playing through The Witness, and upon discovering that the PlayStation store had it for $15 and deciding I could use a more cerebral break from Horizon: Zero Dawn and Nioh, I was in.  Two days later I’m hooked as fuck.  I’d compare the game to Myst, but Myst had a genuine story to it and this really doesn’t; the reward for solving puzzles is more puzzles and occasional frustration and headaches.  There have been a couple of puzzles where I’ve had to cheat to get through them and at least one where even when the answer is on the screen in front of me I’ve been unable to figure out why the right answer was the right answer, but for the most part it’s hitting a nice sweet spot for me– challenging enough that solving the puzzles isn’t automatic, but not so challenging that my rapidly-becoming-legendary lack of patience with video game bullshit kicks in.  If noticing that some vines near you are a different color from the other vines and then figuring out how to get outside and line your screen up perfectly so that the vines trace the right path on the grid in front of you, and then taking a picture of it with your phone because fuck that, you don’t seriously expect me to memorize this, do you? sounds up your alley, check it out.

I had plans to write fiction this week, but they were burned to the ground once I realized that I’d have the boy with me all day yesterday and today for the last two non-weekend days of his break.  I’ve been lazy as hell on hiatus since Tales came out but it’s time to get back on the horse.  Next Thursday, then, I will either officially begin work on the latest version of the sequel to Skylights or start working on my entry for this anthology or both.  Because battle poets.  

Book sales have had a nice little spike lately too.  After most of a year where if I was selling a book or two a month I was pretty happy with it, I’ve sold five books today, two yesterday, and twelve since Christmas Eve– and that absent any sales or any particular promotion on my part other than a few surprisingly well-received Tweets.   In an absolute sense that doesn’t seem like much to brag about but I’m still in holy shit people are sending me money for stories mode, and I kinda hope I never break out of that.

That said, if anybody else wants to keep the ride going, that would be awesome.  Reviews would be cool, too, especially of the three that aren’t even at 10 yet.  Wanna help me out?

An observation

evil-razor.pngIf you shave your head in a hurry while you’re getting ready for work in the morning, and then once you get to work you discover a huge patch right above your left ear which somehow you appear to have missed entirely, and since you were a couple of days behind on shaving your head anyway that patch looks like you left it there on purpose, the pocket knife that you keep with you at all times is not going to be remotely sharp enough to carefully correct the problem in the men’s room before the store opens.

I am going to start keeping a couple of cheap disposables in my car, is what I’m saying.

What stupid things did you try to do today?

On whining about minor problems

Pictured: not my head.

So sometimes when you shave your head a couple times a week, you cut your scalp. It happens; it’s basically unavoidable. It bleeds a little bit and then it stops, and sometimes you have to go out in public with a Band-Aid on your scalp like a dummy and for the most part people are decent enough to not mention it (assuming they’re tall enough to see it in the first place) and everything’s fine.  Eventually they heal and they weren’t a big deal anyway.

Sometimes, though?  Sometimes, if you’re the kind of guy who rubs his head in a couple of specific spots when you’re thinking or under stress (and those spots, you’ve noticed, are significantly balder than the rest of your head) you get cuts on those spots, and you fuck with those little scabs forever and they never heal and eventually make you crazy enough that you do things like clip your nails just so that there’s no chance you can accidentally break a scab.  You also resolve to go a bit longer than usual in between head-shaves because you know you’re gonna screw them up again the next time you do it and are hoping to give them a bit longer to maybe actually possibly heal.  Because you never know, maybe it’s possible.

Then you blog about it, because it’s not like anything interesting happened today, and typing keeps your fingers off your goddamn stupid head.

A Mild Rant you Shouldn’t Bother Reading (On Razors, Again)

power_imageIf you’ve been around for a while you might recall a bit of a saga where I flirted with using a safety razor for a while and then went back to shaving with my 5-blade Gillette Fusion like a person with some Goddamn sense.  The big knock against the Gillette cartridge razors and others like it is that they’re ruinously expensive, especially when compared against straight razors, safety razors, or cheap disposables.

The last time I bought cartridges, I labeled the little plastic things they come in.  I bought a 12-pack of cartridges on July 23rd of last year.  It cost me roughly $40 at Meijer; I note that I can get them for about $35 from Amazon if I wish.

I just yesterday loaded the last cartridge into my razor.  It will last at least three or four weeks.

I shave my head every three or four days and my face at least five or six days a week.  I will admit that I have a vandyke all the time and had a full beard for part of last year, but again: I shave my head.  Nothing chews up a cartridge razor like shaving your head, guys.  If I was just shaving my face every day the cartridges would have lasted longer.

This means that that $40 got me well over a year of comfortable shaves.  That’s about nine cents a day, depending on how long this last cartridge lasts.

I don’t want to hear any more about my goddamn five-blade razors, thank you very much.

On Shaving: A Post No One Cares About

lm0wCwbTL;DR version:  I’m back, baby, and I’m so sorry; I don’t know why I ever quit you.  I must been crazy when we broke up.

As of today– as of five minutes ago, in fact– I give up.  I am going back to the Gillette Fusion, because goddammit it’s the best razor in the universe and I don’t care what anyone else anywhere has to say about it any more.

Let’s talk shaving.  Despite the author picture floating around that has me with a smarmy-ass half-grin on my face and a full beard, I have sported a vandyke for probably 97% of my life since first deciding it was okay to see what facial hair looked like early in college.  I’ve shaved my beard completely off twice; both were terrible mistakes and I will never do it again.  I’ve grown a full beard twice and that I probably will do again at some point, but I will never again be without hair on my chin barring some sort of chemotherapy.  And for the last… oh, thirteen years?  I have at least irregularly shaved my head as well.  I’ve been trying to be consistent about it for the last two or three years and do it every couple of days.

Here is the problem, and the only problem, with the Gillette Fusion: the blades are expensive as hell.  A four-pack can run $12 to $16 depending on where you get them.  Now, a blade lasts three or four weeks if you take care of it, so that’ll last you a bit, but that’s still a good hit for shaving.  A few months ago I got tricked into trying the Dorco Pace six-blade razor, lured mostly by astonishingly low prices for the cartridges on Amazon.

You see that picture up there?  It’s a terrible lie, and the person who put it together should feel bad about themselves, especially since they angled their picture perfectly to prove their own point wrong.  See how you can see through the spaces between the blades?  And see how there’s only the one little strip in the middle where there’s plastic behind the blades and not open air?  That makes the razor exceptionally easy to clean, because the little hair bits have somewhere to go.  It is that, in fact, and not the sharpness or quantity of blades, that makes the Gillette Fusion such a good razor.  I can go days without shaving my head and be done quickly with the Fusion precisely because it’s so easy to clean.  This isn’t my opinion; that picture is objectively wrong and the person who made it has never used a Fusion.

61VBENWoyVL._SL1500_The Dorco Pace razors?  I wasn’t able to find as immediately useful a picture, but take a look at this one, which shows you the back of the razor.  Look at all the plastic.  That huge white chunk in the middle– and the fact that the cartridge attaches to the handle in the middle and not on the sides like the Fusion does– means that the Pace is ridiculously hard to keep clean.  Those little gaps on the side aren’t enough to get the hair out, and the middle of the razor becomes, yes, clogged and useless incredibly quickly, meaning that you a) get a shitty shave and b) go through cartridges really, really fast.  I went through ten Pace cartridges in less time than a four-pack for the Fusion; so much for saving money.

I recently took the plunge and ordered a safety razor; you may recall a few posts about it.  Short version; this post is already 600 words long: I can’t make it work, and as of today I give up.  Using a safety razor just has too damn many steps for me, a fact that I was aware of when I ordered it and decided to ignore in favor of a new experience.  It is also flatly impossible for me to shave my head with one of those things; it may be that additional experience would make that process easier but as of right now I’m unwilling to invest the effort.

Then I tried the new Fusion Proglide, with the little ball on it?  That was interesting.  The Proglide appears to be a better handle but I’m having trouble getting the shaving results I want with it– I think because the cartridges they sell with it are shorter (i.e., the blades are packed closer together) and therefore get clogged quicker (there’s that cleaning thing again) and don’t work as well, at least for me, on shaving my head.  The awesome thing about Gillette razors is that all of their blades work with all of their handles.  I like the ball aspect; I’m going to buy some Fusion cartridges today and see how they work out with the Proglide handle.  Hopefully that will provide better functionality than the straight Fusion solution I had several months ago before I decided to be an idiot and start experimenting with shit that already worked.

The end.