The what and why of this blog

Welcome to my personal blog.

How’s that for originality?

If you’re here, odds are you’ve been checking out my @Optimizer64 tweets, which are (usually) about Optimization – which, if you’re not familiar with Optimization, it has a lot to do with (basically) how complex math helps solve some really tough decisions.

What kinds of tough decisions? For example, creating a sports schedule that accounts for everything from streamlining team travel to maximizing advertising dollars. Or figuring out how to make best use of your car rental fleet, given X amount of cars in various locations, loyalty programs, seasonality, etc. Even determining how to configure your retail store or grocery, based on likelihood of shoppers visiting various sections, manufacturer discounts and promotions, and other factors.

If you’re really into this kind of stuff – which, by the way, isn’t just for businesses (many people use applications to “optimize their lives” – more on that in a separate posting) – you can check out my work blog for some good optimization examples and musings. And in fact, my company, FICO,  actually develops and sells Optimization software, so I know a little bit of what I speak to.

But that’s all besides the point. Beyond Optimization – well, maybe as an adjunct to Optimization – I enjoy talking about “stuff” as you’ll see here, including shaving, baseball, cheese, travel, restaurants, and just random new tidbits. And yes, if you’ve made the journey from my Twitter handle here, I’ll pepper many of these blogs with something Optimization-flavored. Even when I don’t need a nonlinear algorithm to solve it.


A 3D Razor…What?


Yep. You heard it correctly. A 3D razor…well…almost. Read on.

The world of 3D Printing keeps getting more interesting. And for wet shavers, the continual evolution of the technology provides new avenues for excitement, experimentation, and new expectations.

Context? Yes, you may have it.

MÜHLE Razors, in Germany, has been cranking out serious shaving gear since (if I read their website correctly) 1945. In recent years, they’ve catered to discerning wet shavers with a variety of brushes, creams, and of course double edge razors.

The story varies depending on who is telling it, but I’ll do my best to piece together the parts I believe to be correct. Sometime in 2011, Muhle (sorry, the umlaut took off for Vegas) updated one of their razor models, the R41. This open comb (with “teeth” the “rake” the lather, a preference of some shavers) razor was actually quite fierce. It had a lot of exposed blade for a double edge razor, and the experience of shaving with it, according to some, was akin to using a straight (or cut-throat) razor.

In my early days of discovering the joys of double edge shaving, and breaking free from multi-blades and crazily expensive but virtually worthless electric shavers, I decided to give the newest R41 a go – even though I was barely six months into my double-edge apprenticeship and still learning the ropes of what it probably took my dad (and his dad) years to master back in the days of Gillette Techs and Superspeeds.  

Even with a light touch, the R41 proved to be the scariest instrument I had ever taken to my face. You could apply absolutely no pressure – or else, you would experience the feeling of applying a mandolin to your mug. Finding the right angle proved to be a roll of the dice, as everyone who used the razor seemed to have a different method for success (Steep angle? Shallow angle? Steep WTG, Shallow ATG?). Nobody could agree on the right blade, and indeed when you found a blade that worked one time, it would inevitably disintegrate into shards of glass during the next shave (or at least felt that way) and you’d be loading up a different blade next time.

Although the R41 was ostensibly selling well, particularly in Europe, the company opted to create a slightly less wicked version later in the year. In the US, however, the Freddie Krueger version still occupied the shelves of online distributors, some of whom claimed Muhle hadn’t put out a new version – indeed, the two R41s looked similar, although the newer model (which some refer to as the “2013 R41” because it took so long to arrive at our shores) had less blade exposure and was supposed to be less fierce. 

What happened next, believe me, has a direct correlation to the 3D theme of this discourse. You’re simply going to have to wait for Part 2.



Parker 26C OC DE Razor

There’s a general belief that a brand that has a poor reputation for quality has to get better to survive, or else in today’s nanosecond-response crowd, it won’t be around much longer.

I will note the airline industry as a possible exception, because the bar is currently so low that a number of mediocre performers can continue to operate and profit, but that’s besides the point. And of course if your price point is low enough, you may just keep attracting business even if you’re pinching pennies everywhere and nobody seems to care.

Which brings me to the Parker 26C Open Comb Double-Edge Razor. Which actually has not much of any reputation, because it was introduced only over the last year or so. 

However, while the Parker 26C is relatively new, the Parker brand has been around for a while. Since 1973, in fact. And while they’ve clearly been evolving the brand, there’s no getting around the fact that for several years, the quality control (QC) of the India-made razor was questionable. Wet shaving blogs and boards such as Badger & Blade have noted user experiences of defective heads and other issues. After all, while Parker may not offer razors as inexpensive as these China-made models, they weren’t producing $200+ efforts like this one either. You could usually grab a Parker razor for 20 to 30 bucks, and if you were lucky to get a defect-free razor, they actually provided a pretty good shave.

Still, as the remarkable renaissance of classic wet shaving has taken hold in the US and beyond (it never really abandoned regions that were too financially limited to jump on $4 multi-blade bandwagon), the Parker name has been bypassed by other brands such as Mühle that were usually costlier, but ostensibly offered better QC.

But the Parker team has been continuing to tweak their line, and after some good reviews from fellow wet shavers, I decided to take the under-$30 plunge on a brand new 26C. As you can see in the picture, it’s got one of those Richard Kiel-nightmare inducing open comb (OC) arrangements that looks like it could just tear your face up, but really it’s just a variation on the safety bar style that some shavers prefer – there are plenty of mild OCs out in the market.

I’ve tried three different blades in the 26C in the short time I’ve owned it, most notably the Zorrik Super Platinum from India, which has given me my best shaves so far – 12 on one blade before I tossed it, no small task for a 12-cent blade. This razor is excellent – the build is solid, the blade aligns perfectly, and the shave is efficient without feeling overly-aggresive. A great starter razor in my opinion for new wet shavers, but close enough that more seasoned double-edge users will appreciate the performance. 

Here I’ve paired it with one of my favorite shaving soaps:

Parker26C and XXX