Cremo versus Edge shaving creme

During the Gillette versus Dorco razor tests (Dorco Pace 7 came out ahead), a reader suggested trying Cremo shave cream.

Result: Chemical engineers today are not smarter than chemical engineers of the 1970s. Conventional Edge gel, essentially unchanged since its 1970 introduction (patented by S.C. Johnson), seems to work better. With Cremo, using both Dorco and Schick blades (the latest test; I think Schick may actually be sharper, but Dorco works better because it is easier to feel the blades working), it became necessary to re-shave various spots. With Edge, if the gel/foam has been wiped away with the razor then the stubble is gone as well.

Some of this might be user error in applying more Cremo than necessary.


  • New Yorker article with some shaving history: “Ever since the Wilkinson Sword company started mass-producing stainless-steel blades, in 1961, every man with whiskers to cut has had no trouble cutting off his whiskers without cutting himself.” (i.e., the last significant innovations in shaving were accomplished nearly 60 years by engineers in England and 50 years ago in the U.S. by S.C. Johnson)
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Supercharged ionized alkaline water too pure to be tested by pH strips

The only thing that our neighbors love more than spending $250,000/resident-learner on a new school building is expressing contempt for stupid Republicans and their “anti-Science” attitudes.

What is the beverage of choice for these folks who consider themselves highly intelligent and experts on science? As evidenced by what sells well enough at the town supermarket to merit endcap marketing:

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Dorco Shaving Test: 7 blades good; 4 blades bad

Having determined that Dorco razors are superior to Gillette, the question of “which Dorco” remains live.

Dorco makes life difficult by ignoring every principle of modern marketing. Instead of changing their name to “Shave Supreme” and putting all of their advertising effort into convincing consumers that one particular system is a must-have, the company offers almost every conceivable variation and dumps the problem of picking the best one onto consumers. But what man wants to think for himself? Isn’t it easier to have a razor company say “This system is awesome; the one we sold you last year is garbage”? Or a soft drink company say “Your life will be awesome if you guzzle Diet Coke”?

For consumers who identify as “men,” Dorco offers 1-blade, 2-blade, 3-blade, 4-blade, 5-blade, 6-blade, and 7-blade systems and gives them all more or less equal prominence on its web site.

I did a quick test of Pace 4 versus Pace 7. Conclusion: Pace 7 feels substantially smoother. From the Dorco site, the list prices for these are $1.51 and $2.22, though the Pace 4 was on sale at 76 cents/cartridge last I checked.

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Disney World shows that VR is pointless?

If you’re trying to save a few dollars, maybe a head-mounted display is a good idea. What if you don’t care about capital cost? Disney World has a lot of immersive simulators that don’t require any headgear for the park guests. They just project a virtual world on big curved screens.

What about for home use? Why not build a small room in a house with a curved screen that completely surrounds the player? Use whatever tricks they’re using at Disney to make the projection work, but with $100 LCD projectors instead of the super bright ones needed for the monster domes that hold hundreds of people simultaneously.

If you’ve got your head-mounted VR system on, you’re not going to be a great asset to the rest of the folks in an apartment or house. Why not declare that immersive gaming is an activity that happens in its own room? Maybe it costs $5,000 instead of $500 for the hardware, but people used to pay $5,000 for the then-new plasma TVs.

Readers: Would this be better or worse than the VR headsets?

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Disney World Ticket Price Inflation

Supposedly, the cost of a Disney World ticket has gone up roughly 3.5X, adjusted for inflation, since 1971 (chart).

During a March 30-31, 2019 visit, however, the parks were so jammed that waiting times for popular rides were 90-150 minutes. Using the Disney World app, it was impossible to obtain a same-day FastPass for any of the popular rides. “They’re all sold out at least 30 days in advance,” said a Florida resident season pass holder. “People who are staying in a Disney hotel are able to book them 60 or 90 days ahead.”

I went with a friend who paid up for a Disney VIP guide. He told us that we weren’t seeing a particularly busy day. “The wait times can be 300 minutes on the busiest days.” How crowded would the main streets be? “You won’t see any pavement.” Was the park more crowded because we were there on a weekend? “There isn’t much difference between weekends and weekdays.”

Go early in the morning during the “Extra Magic” hours when only people staying in Disney hotels are allowed in? The line for the roller coaster in Toy Story Land stretched to more than two hours before the park had even opened to the general public. People who said that they got in line at 8:02 am (park opened at 8) were only about halfway through the line at 8:40.

Go in the evening after the kids have collapsed? The app showed that the wait time for the Avatar sim ride was 95 minutes… at 9:58 pm, just before Animal Kingdom closed for the night. Apparently people who are already in line when the park officially closes will get to ride, but only at 11:35 pm after enduring more than 1.5 hours standing in line.

With the guide we were able to get into the FastPass line at every ride, cut through side doors for a few rides, and cut the line for portraits with princesses and other characters. The resulting wait time for rides was about the same as during my 1991 trip to Disneyland, but the overall experience was inferior because the non-rides portions of the park were so crowded that it was tough to appreciate the atmosphere or architectural details. Want to get food or drink? Wait in a 10-minute line at a kiosk or a 1-hour line at an unpopular restaurant.

The guides cost $500 per hour and can tow up to 10 guests around, so figure this adds $320/day per person if the guide is hired for 8 hours per day and there are 8 people assembled in the group. Tickets in 1989 were roughly $60 per day in current dollars (source). With a VIP guide the experience is comparable overall. The wait times for the rides are similar while the rides have gotten better from a technical point of view. Meandering around the park, trying to get a meal, etc., has become far less enjoyable. Let’s say that these pluses and minuses average out. To have a basically comparable experience today, therefore, costs $109 for the park ticket plus $320 for a 1/8th share of a VIP guide = $429 per day per person. That’s 7X the 1989 price.

Plainly the mobs are buying a lot of hotel rooms, food, and souvenirs. But I wonder why Disney doesn’t have “Crowd-hater Days” in each park to capture the market of people who would be willing to pay a lot more to have the 1990s experience. There are four core parks within Disney World. Why not say that every Monday through Thursday one of these parks will be designated “Crowd-hater” and tickets will be sold at whatever price it takes to keep max line length down to 15 minutes? If ticket prices were doubled, for example, I think Disney would actually make more money in ticket revenue since demand should not be cut by more than 50 percent. By using a high price to limit admission to only one park at a time they should still be able to keep all of their hotels filled (tourists who don’t value the less-crowded experience will still go to the other core parks and/or the water parks).

Topiary from the Epcot garden event:

Travel tip: The Swan and Dolphin hotels are run by a competent hotel chain (Westin/Marriott) and are still technically “on property”. Here’s the view from our $215/night balcony room (rates are cheap if they can’t fill these monster hotels with a convention). It is a 20-minute walk to Hollywood Studios or 30 minutes to the center of Epcot. The boat service is loud and slow and was ultimately rejected by my 9-year-old companion. (She wondered why can’t they use battery-powered boats? They are never far from a charger.)

The most outdated structure in all of Disney (Nikon “Darkroom”):

Fair and balanced: Disney gives equal weight to Donald Trump’s favorite restaurant and Elizabeth Warren’s ancestral home.

Three years after a child was killed by an alligator, Disney still doesn’t have signs clearly explaining or depicting the hazard (there is a sign, but a non-Floridian might infer that the lake-related hazard was drowning and could be addressed by watching children):

(See “Disney knew its property had alligators. It caught hundreds before a boy was killed.” (Washington Post))

Readers: Is the Times Square-level of crowding something that should prompt Disney to change its pricing? Or do young people expect to stand in line for hours to get anything good?

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What laptop for Senior Management?

Stop the Presses! My opinion has been asked for by another household member!

It is time for a new laptop for Senior Management. She is accustomed to Microsoft Windows and a 15″ screen. She does not like or want a touchscreen. She’ll be using it at home and in conference rooms at various pharma companies.

Surveying the laptop market I’m surprised at how little improvement there has been in price or specs in the past few years. This seems like truly a stalled industry. You have to pay about $500 minimum. You get a mechanical hard drive just like the 1957 IBM RAMAC. You get 8 GB of RAM, barely enough to ran a cleanly booted Windows 10 (welcome to Swap City!). How is this different than three years ago, for example?

Given that, despite a few trips back to Dell for hardware service and software reinstallation, my last laptop (Dell XPS 13) could never be made to sleep properly, I’m thinking that Dell shouldn’t be on the list of contenders.

The LG gram series seems interesting. Costco is selling one with 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD for $1300. They promise to support it for two years and take it back within 90 days if it fails the way that the Dell did. It weighs a minimal 2.4 lbs. and reviews say that the promised battery life is real (16+ hours).

Unlike Dell (and Apple?), LG does not plunge the unlucky buyer into a world of dongles. The specs include 3 legacy USB ports, one hip new USB-C port, and a HDMI output (perfect for the executive who needs to plug into a projector and doesn’t want to have to remember a dongle). Photographers will be stuck in dongle hell, however, because there is no SD card reader (only “Micro-SD”).

The LG site claims that the device has been tested for ruggedness and is stronger than its minimal weight would suggest. The only way in which this LG differs from Senior Management’s spec is in the provision of a touch screen (but she doesn’t have to use it!). And perhaps the screen resolution could be higher? But then we would say goodbye to the long battery life?

Readers: What do you think? Is there a better idea than this LG?


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Gillette versus Dorco Shaving Test 4

After four weeks of shaving alternating sides of face with a Gillette Fusion 5 ProShield with FlexBall and a Dorco Pace 7, the Dorco was plainly doing a better job and also holding its edge better.

Blind test data: I told friends in Manhattan about my experiment, two days after a mixed Gillette/Dorco shave, and both husband and wife identified the right side of my face as cleaner. It was the Dorco side.

At roughly the two-week point, we conducted the following test:

  • back of neck, unshaven for three weeks
  • Gillette Fusion 5 ProShield with FlexBall on left side
  • Dorco Pace 7 on right side
  • neutral operator (she had never seen the Gillette ad)

Result: “The Dorco is much better. It gets all of the hair in one swipe. But maybe that is because it is new and the Gillette blade is old?”

In other words, the performance of the Dorco was so much better that she imagined it to be a test of a brand-new Dorco versus a weeks-old Gillette. (As noted above, the blades were of identical age and had performed an identical number of shaves, each on half of my face.)

Loosely related: Opinion from a Harry’s subscriber: The Dorco 6 (not 7) Korean blades and Harry’s Germany steel were comparable in shave quality.

From a man with a light beard (maybe an ancestor was a cousin to Elizabeth Warren’s great-grandparents?): The almost-free Dorco 4-blade system is far superior to the older Gillette system (pre-Fusion) that he had been loyally using.

From a woman: The unfortunately named Dorco Shai 3+3 (why not “bold” rather than “shai”?) system is far better than the Gillette Venus she had been using. The cartridge is truly massive! (Dorco makes some more conventional razors for women as well.)

Next project: Dorco Pace 6 Plus versus Dorco Pace 7 (Preliminary results: The trimmer blade on the Pace 6 Plus surprisingly does not result in more precision under the nose; the Pace 7 seems to feel and work better (I doubt my own sanity as I write this).)


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Virtual reality and augmented reality: the technologies of the future

Part of our Austin experience was visiting the virtual/augmented reality lab at Capital Factory. Folks there have decided that the best current VR hardware is the HTC Vive. They aren’t in love with the much-hyped Oculus, but have it available to demo.

We did a 3D drawing game, browsed around in Google Earth, and played a first-person space-themed shooting game with the Vive. With Oculus, I played Angry Birds.

The good news is that we didn’t get sick, even flying around in Google Earth. On the other hand, I would rather have just covered the walls with more TVs for a more immersive experience.

I asked the folks running the lab for their theory on why VR hasn’t caught on. They cited the cost, noting that a complete HTC Vive rig is about $600. Yet that’s nothing compared to what hardcore gamers spend.

Readers: What do you think? Is it fair to say that “VR/AR is the technology of the future, and always will be”?

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Sizing a UPS for cable modem and router; market opportunity for a long duration low power UPS?

Things that our neighbors hate more than Donald Trump:

  • cell towers
  • underground power lines

Power failures are routine and, when they happen, we lose all communications capability (since a mobile phone won’t work inside the house and only barely works out in the yard).

I’m thinking it might be nice to back up our Verizon FiOS service, including the Internet. Then, in theory, we can at least use our landline and our smartphones or laptops that are charged.

A friend in town says that this is a fool’s errand: “when we had power failures, it turned out that the fiber switch on the street would go down.” On the other hand, this FiOS customer had 72 power outages with Internet in a 6-year period (great advertisement for U.S. infrastructure!).

I’m wondering how to size the UPS to run the latest ONT (corresponding to a cable modem) and VZ’s WiFi router. Verizon sells a ghetto backup battery system, just for the ONT (to run the landline for 24 hours), based on 12 D cell disposable batteries. Wikipedia says a D battery has 18 amp-hours of capacity at 1.5V, so the total of 12 would have 324 watt-hours?

If we assume that the WiFi router draws a similar amount, and will have both boxes plugged into a UPS, we therefore need a UPS with 650 watt-hours of battery? Add another 20 percent for the efficiency losses in converting from DC up to 120V AC down to DC, so now we need 800 watt-hours of battery inside the UPS to run for 24 hours?

It seems to be tough to find this information. UPS vendors spec them in volt-amps or watts and then bury the battery details. Also, maybe Verizon is selling its own thing because the appropriate product does not exist in the market? To get a beefy battery one needs to invest in crazy high max VA, which is irrelevant in this application. A $200 UPS rated at 1500 VA is backed by only two feeble $20 8.5 Ah 12V batteries (204 watt-hours; less than Verizon’s 12 D cells). We bought one to try out and it supplies the ONT and router for 2.5 hours, less than half as long as expected. The higher-capacity machines seem to be marketed as “generators” (without the generator!), e.g., this 412 Wh 11 lb. box for $550.

APC makes a box with a replaceable lithium ion battery for only about $71, which they say is intended to power routers, but it stores a pathetic 41 Wh. Lithium-ion is just not a sensible way to buy watt-hours, apparently.

Readers: Is there a market opportunity here? Apparently providing even the power of 12 D cells on a trickle-out basis is crazy expensive right now. How about a device that holds 24(!) D cell batteries and, in the event of a power failure, will supply power from those batteries to a router and ONT or cable modem? A brief interruption in the power supply is acceptable. Amazon sells D cell Energizer alkaline batteries for about $1 each, delivered. Instead of buying a $500 lith-ion battery that will be garbage after 3 years, just buy $24 of D cells every year or two.

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17” laptop for seniors

I wonder if this is the start of a trend… a 3 lb. laptop with huge screen and medium (2560×1600) resolution: LG gram 17″.

Could this be the perfect device for seniors? With eyes older than 50 years, 4K resolution on a 13″ screen is not all that useful.

Maybe this particular laptop isn’t the one, since it lacks a touch screen (I don’t need the convertible fold-over feature, but I don’t think I can go back to a non-touch laptop), but I’m wondering if it shows a future to which we can look forward.

As with other computers these days, I’m mystified by the small amount of RAM (16 GB) with which this thing is set up. My 32 GB desktop right now shows that 19.4 GB is in use. Google Chrome accounts for 6 GB. CrashPlan backup software is using 3 GB (it needs this if you have a lot of disk space to be backed up). Microsoft Edge is using 0.5 GB. Adobe Acrobat is virtuous! It has a bunch of big documents open and is consuming only 147 MB.

Given that processor performance has more or less stalled out I would expect a modern laptop to be available with 32 or 64 GB of RAM and 1-2 TB of SSD. A SanDisk 2 TB drive is $250 at Amazon. The 16 GB of RAM that LG includes is less than $100 at retail on Amazon. Why buy an expensive package, screen, and battery to go with a puny RAM and SSD?

Readers: Can bringing the weight down to 3 lbs. and the package size down to where 15″ laptops typically are revive the moribund 17″ laptop category?

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