Powered by Squarespace

Saving on Shaving

The other night I was out shopping with my wife and bought blades for my Gillette Fusion ProGlide razor at Target. They cost almost $20 for a pack of four. I'm not sure why it didn't hit me before that evening, but that struck me as expensive.  I decided that I would be on the lookout for cheaper alternatives. The problem is that I have a tough beard and very sensitive skin so bargain basement razors won't cut it. I have tried them in the past and ended up with stubble, a bloody face or both. You can say what you want about  the price but the Fusion ProGlide provides a good shaving experience. 

In the span of a few days I came across Dollar Shave Club listening to Back to Work podcast and Harry's on Twitter. The hilarious video on DSC's website prompted me to order the Executive for $9. The sophistication and attention to detail on Harry's website led me to order the Winston shave set. My DSC razor and spare blades arrived two weeks ago and my Harry's kit arrived last week.

What Comes In The Package.  
* DSC - 3 blades, a razor handle and a couple of cards that are nicely printed and rather humorous.  One suggests that your DSC purchase entitles you to a free drink at any bar in the US and the other admonishes you to change your blade on a regular basis.  The brown envelope had the DSC logo neatly printed on the outside. 

* The Harry's Winston Set arrived in a high quality black gift style box with the Harry's logo printed in white on it.  The razor handle, blades and shave cream were neatly tucked into their own custom inserts in the box.  It looked quite nice and could easily be given as a gift without shame. 

What I Like About DSC
  • Packaging - snarky cards
  • Razor handle is hefty and grippy
  • Provides close shave without cuts
  • Price
  • Subscription plan/auto refills
What I Don't Like About DSC
  • Can't order multiple razors and blades under one account. (I have son and wife who also shave.)
  • Trimmer blade pulls rather than cuts hair
  • Blades seem to dull more quickly than I would like
  • It takes more passes than my Fusion razor to get a close shave.
What I Like About Harry's
  • Boxing and presentation are top notch. 
  • Includes custom shave cream that helps stand up the beard and lubricate the shave without clogging the razor.
  • Razor handle is like a fine instrument. It feels like something that I could pass to my sons. 
  • The shave that the ensemble provides is sublime. It is close and smooth. I have not had a single nick or irritated spot. It easily suppresses my Fusion.
What I Don't Like About Harry's
  • Razor handle can be slippery if your hand is very wet
  • No trimmer blade
  • My wife wants to steal my razor more than ever before
First, both of these options will save you some money over the Gillette Fusion ProGlide. (Please note that what follows are estimates based on replacing your blade every week.)
  • DSC: $9 for 4 Executive blades each month over 12 months = $108. This includes the free handle with your first shipment. Note: with regards to shaving cream, you are on your own. 
  • Harry's: 
    • $15 Truman Set + ($8 for 4 blades each month over 12 months) = $111. Note: It comes with shaving cream in the kit, $8 for tube after that if you decide to use their shaving cream.
    • $25 Winston Set + ($8 for 4 blades each month over 12 months) = $121. Note: It comes with shaving cream in the kit, $8 for tube after that if you decide to use their shaving cream.  
  • $17.99 × 12 Fusion blades for a year=$215.88. Note: This assumes that you have already purchased the initial kit with a handle, storage tray and blade that I often see for sale. With regards to shaving cream you are on your own.
Second, both DSC or Harry's will give you a good shave for the money.  In my experience the Harry's product provides a much better shave than the top of the line DSC Executive blade for a slightly higher cost over the course of a year.  In fact, the Harry's shave gear has provided me with a daily shaving experience far superior to what I have had from the Fusion ProGlide for a much better price.  





An Alternative to Quitting The Smartphone That Has Taken Over Your Life

It would seem that the hot new thing to do is to give up your smartphone for a "dumb" phone. The people that I have read about or talked to who are doing this have a noble goal in mind and that is to lessen the amount of distraction in their lives. Smartphones and their attendant notifications and apps do provide ample opportunities to distract us from important work, people and relationships. New mail arrives. Someone followed us on a Twitter or posted to our wall on Facebook. Each of these fires off a notification with its accompanying screen message and audio alert. Many find it hard to ignore the digital siren call of these summonings for us to "come hither."

I know I have observed many coworkers, couples and families out for a meal together who spend the entire time starring at their smartphone. Truth be told it seems odd to see people gathered around a table, ostensibly spending time with each other, completely ignoring the other people present because they are fiddling with their phones. Of course, this takes its toll on relationships. If you ignore your spouse, friends and coworkers enough in favor of your digital companion you may discover it is your only companion left. Relationships take time and emotional energy and if you are investing all of it in your smartphone you will pay the price. Therefore I applaud the notice that people are giving to this subtle cost of smartphone ownership.

That said, I am not sure that I agree with their methodology for addressing the problem. Completely ditching a smartphone because you can't stop checking it or playing with it seems like an admission that a small slab of metal, glass and microchips is stronger than the human will. It is an admission that the smartphone owns us instead of the other way around.

I have also struggled to ignore the siren call of the smartphone nestled in my pocket and focus on the people and events in front of me. My first smartphone was a Blackberry (well before the iPhone came on the scene) and in a few weeks my wife referred to it as the "other woman." After a while and with the help of my wife, I learned that just because my Blackberry beeped I didn't have to check right then. As my wife would say, "I love you but you're not that important. You're not the president. The world will not end if you don't read that email right now." She was right. It was hard but I learned to resist the urge to stare at my Blackberry all the time.

But then the iPhone arrived in 2007 and I immediately ditched my Blackberry for it. That is when my old problem resurfaced. Now I had to resist the urge to surf the web, check the weather and stocks, and play music all the time. It only got worse with the advent of the App Store, games and Twitter. I was off the wagon big time and that was the case for some time.

By the summer of last year, I knew that my smartphone usage had become a problem but didn't know what to do about it. Fortunately, an opportunity came along to address my smartphone habit. This was the 9 day silent retreat at St. Benedict's Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado that I attended the first part of August 2012. The retreat guidelines suggested that attendees limit their use of technology while participating to better focus their attention and energies on developing their spirituality and prayer life. While this was offered as a "suggestion" it was "enforced" by the circumstances and location of the monastery high in Rocky Mountains. There was little to no cell signal most of the time and the only onsite internet connection was a single computer with dial up. After numerous vain attempts to locate a couple of bars of signal to check Twitter I gave up and put my iPhone in airplane mode. For the first couple of days I carried it in my pocket as a security blanket but then decided to just leave it on the desk in my room. I would occasionally take it with me on a hike for photos and music but for the most part I was off the grid and living life sans iPhone. I have to admit it was liberating.

For the rest of my time at the monastery I lived life without my smartphone and tether to the internet. I read more. I wrote more. I journaled prolifically. I prayed and meditated. I examined parts of my soul that had not been paid sufficient attention for some time. I believe this was possible because I was not distracted by my iPhone.

But then my time at St. Benedict's came to a close and as I rode back to Denver airport, I entered cell coverage and my connection to the internet was re-established. Twitter and my RSS feeds resumed their siren call. Emails began landing in my iPhone inbox. However, something was different and that something was me. Despite the arrival of notifications and alerts, my iPhone stayed in my pocket and after about 15 minutes of successive alerts disrupting my thoughts, I muted my phone. I decided that my smartphone could wait a while and that I would rather spend my time watching the scenic beauty of the Rocky Mountains than a glowing screen. My time at the monastery had provided me a sabbatical from technology and with newfound clarity I now had a different perspective on smartphones and their appropriate role in my life. This sabbath reminded me that technology is there to assist my life and not distract me from living it. My iPhone has a part to play in my life but it should not consume my life.

Maybe some people need to completely remove the temptation of the smartphone from their lives to avoid its deleterious effects. But maybe that approach is too easy. It is too easy because it allows us to avoid confronting the impulses that prompt us to overuse the technology that sits in our pockets. The daily struggle of making good choices that reflect our deepest values builds our character. By avoiding the use of smartphones altogether we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to grow and refine our character.

We might also be depriving ourselves of technology that allows us to be more efficient in our use of time and complete our work in a more timely fashion so that we have more time to focus on the people and relationships that matter to us. The same iPhone that has distracted me from spending time with my kids while I tried to finish another level of Angry Birds has also allowed me to capture an idea for an upcoming sermon before I had a chance to sit at my computer keyboard. Our smartphones are two-edged swords, capable of bringing benefit or woe. The power to use them for good or ill is literally in our hands. It is time to take responsibility for our choices and exercise restraint when necessary.

Since my return from the monastery this past summer, I have established what I call "technology sabbaths" where I put my iPhone down or leave it in my pocket as a way of creating healthy limits on its use. In this way I ensure that I own the phone instead of the other way around while still enjoying the myriad of benefits it brings to my life. Once our family is seated at the dinner table my iPhone is nowhere to be seen. It is on my nightstand or in my pocket but it does not make an appearance at the table. When our family gathers around the table for a meal it is a sacred time. The technology sabbath continues as we leave the table and move into the evening. Without the psychological encumbrance of my iPhone I am free to help my sons with their homework or play Legos with them.

Another place where I have declared a sabbath from my iPhone is when I am on a date with my wife. If we are out for dinner or a movie she should never see my iPhone - ever. It sits in my pocket with the ringer and alerts muted. The woman who loves me despite my faults and foibles and has given birth to our children deserves more than a distracted portion of my time. She deserves my full attention. If the sitter calls in the event of an emergency with the kids, I'll answer it. I'll know it is a sitter because I've set up custom vibrate patterns for them. That way I'm won't be constantly looking at my phone to make sure it is not an emergency and inadvertently see an email that might distract me.

Naturally, I extend this smartphone sabbath to my worship and prayer times. For those activities I prefer to operate in analog mode. While I am aware of apps and digital resources that could enhance my effectiveness as a worship leader or help develop my spiritual life I am reticent to use them at this point. God deserves my undivided attention. When I am worshiping or praying I have other, far more important matters on my heart than the proper place of technology in my life.

What I am trying to say in all this is that our smartphones represent both opportunity and challenge. With the establishment of appropriate boundaries through the adoption of "technology sabbaths" we can have the best of both worlds. It is possible to discipline ourselves and adopt the principle of moderation. Life is not a choice between being plugged into the Matrix or becoming a Luddite. Insisting otherwise creates a false choice and denies us the opportunity to grow.


We Need More Humility and Less Judgement

A couple of weeks ago North Carolina voters approved Amendment One.  The passage of this mean-spirited legislation troubled many people for a number of reasons.  For those who feel that people should be free to pursue committed relationships with other consenting adults that provide meaning and happiness in their lives, it was disheartening.  For those anticipating the untold harm the amendment will do to existing relationships and families because of its legally untested language regarding "civil unions," the passage of the amendment is heartbreaking. For those who believe that the civil rights of others should never be put to a vote, it was a betrayal of the American values of freedom and self-determination. Others saw the hypocrisy evident in the idea of people extolling the virtues of "limited goverment" while voting to insert government into the most personal of relationships. I share all these concerns but there is something else that has bothered me about the Amendment One debate and it has been simmering inside me over the last couple of weeks so I thought I would write about it.

In addition to the above concerns, what deeply troubles me is the arrogant self-righteousness that surrounds the issue of "gay marriage."  As a pastor I regularly meet with people who are experiencing significant issues in their marriage so I am well aware that the condition of many heterosexual marriages is actually quite fragile. Some couples are barely holding their relationship together and are doing so out a concern for the impact a divorce would have on their finances or their kids rather than a respect for the institution of marriage or a desire to build a loving relationship. They are just endeavoring to persevere.  I also meet with couples who are preparing to get married in our church and I help them work through our church's premarital counseling survey and companion workbook in an effort to help them discover the issues they will face in the first years of their marriage.  When I sit down with them, I encourage them to take the process seriously because statistics tells us that a little over 40% of first marriages end in divorce.  If you had to drive a car that catastrophically failed 40% of the time you would think carefully before starting the ignition and driving someplace. In addition, I have been married for 17 years and my own experience with marriage tells me that living in a committed, loving relationship with someone for any length of time is hard and something that requires work and compromise.  Indeed, there are many days that I wonder why my wife puts up with me at all.

Consequently, I have a deep sense of humility when it comes to marriage and I am profoundly disturbed by the arrogance and sense of superiority that pervades much of discussion from those who oppose gay marriage.  Maybe they don't intend it this way, but these self-appointed guardians of the sanctity of marriage act as though their marital relationships are all in good order so they are somehow qualified to pass judgement on someone else's relationship.  My experience tells me that most of us are not qualified to do so and that if someone looked under the hood of our marriage they would find a great deal about which to be concerned.

I guess what I would like to say is this: Until you are properly taking care of your own marriage, you have no business poking your nose into someone else's committed relationship - whether it be homosexual or heterosexual. As a wise rabbi from Nazareth once said, " Let you who is without sin cast the first stone." All of us could stand a healthy dose of humility before we start critiquing someone else's relationship. No one is perfect. All of our relationships could stand to be improved. When you never utter an unkind word to your spouse or always put their interests above your own, then you can tell other people when they can get married and to whom. Until then, you need to mind your own business and take care of your relationship with your spouse. If you're busy taking care of your own marriage, you'll be too busy to perceive a threat in someone else's happiness. I can't help but think that those who pass judgement on other people's relationships do so because their own marriage is so miserable that it's easier to critique someone else than to deal with their own issues. If you want to safeguard the sanctity of marriage - start with your own.  I expect it will keep you busy for a long time to come.