003: 8 months with a straight razor

this is my 3rd post and it also happens to be the second post in which i link to a sean bonner piece on boingboing, i don’t *think* im a fanboy but it’s weird that we seem to be making similar life decisions in parallel.

last year for my birthday, my granddad (well, my mum – as he was in hospital at the time) got me a proper badger hair shaving brush. she had known i wanted to start shaving with a straight razor for ages, but i hadn’t actually made any steps to start. but she figured having a brush was the first step, unfortunately it just sat in the cupboard. then, just before christmas (for some reason that i now can’t remember) i won a £20 amazon voucher at work. so i decided to use my unexpected windfall to buy a razor.

i wasn’t sure i was ready to take the plunge and get a full mega expensive stainless steel straight razor. A – because they are expensive. Bim pretty sure i’m going to do this : so instead i punted for a Shavette – its basically a straight razor that takes traditional razor blades you can get almost anywhere and change when it gets blunt.

im not going to go through the ins and outs of how you shave with it as there are plenty of great resources online. however, i am going to give a shout out to the amazing @thechapblog for his invaluable youtube videos. it was super great to have them in front of me on the counter in the bathroom the first time i shaved. which brings me nicely onto what my first shave was like…

it was fucking terrifying.

BUT i emerged from the bathroom alive (just about) with only a few cuts to my face and very little razor burn.. it was about 6 / 7 shaves until i got the – Achievement Unlocked: ‘shave your neck without cutting yourself’ badge.

over the last few months, shaving has turned from a ‘chore’ to a pleasure.

it takes longer than just shaving with a mach 3 or regular cassette razor and you have to concentrate really hard, and be decisive. i wouldn’t go as far as saying that it’s some kind of 10 min meditation; but there IS something to taking a short chunk of time out of your day to focus on just one task.

in the process of that one task, i have learnt a lot about my face. i know it seems stupid as i wear it everyday. but with a straight razor you have to be aware of the subtle topography of your face and neck, and be aware of the direction of the hair grain. this detailed understanding of a small section of the surface area of my body has been amazing. if you want you can use a mapping tool like this to keep a record of it.

its still terrifying, every time. but i also find there is something exhilarating about holding a very sharp, naked blade to my own throat…


.. i’m sure there are many things about this crazy futuristic world we live in that my great grandad if transported to the present now would find completely alien. but this is not one of them. for some reason when lathering up the soap with my brush, applying it to my face, and then using a straight razor to scrape the hairs from my face, there is something deeply familiar about it – i feel connected to a past.

and man is dirt cheap!

I got a pack of 5 wilkinson sword razor blades back in january for (2.99) and i’m still using them. a shavette uses half a blade and i shave around twice a week. i DO however make sure i sharpen the blade on my arm before and after i use it using this AMAZE technique.

how much have you spent this year so far? the soap i use is handmade and was basically free. plus the £2.99 i spent on blades and i still have ½ a blade left.

switching from a cassette razor has not only reduced the amount of money i spending on blades, it has also reduced the amount of useless packaging and associated transportation costs that come with it.

i don’t need a razor that needs a battery, vibrates and applies moisturizer. i just need one thats sharp.


002: young mechanical turks

so it appears i completely failed at blogging every week but ah well. i’ve been super busy.

at the thoughtmenu in july we were lucky enough to have james bridle speak at the second event where he gave a brief talk introducing the idea of ‘Young Mecanical Turks’

due to our 10min talk rule he unfortunately wasn’t able to fully get to the bones of his conclusion, so the talk was left quite opened ended for interpretation and where he was going, i’m not going to layout his argument here as he is much better placed to make that elsewhere.

however I would like to take his talk to its logical end point, work backwards and at high level talk about how we got there. whilst he was talking, the topic brought to mind this short story by marshal brain that my friend razi linked to on Twitter recently.

please read it

:: thoughts ::

> firstly one must assume that the main character in the story is a participant in a software platform, and not an ’employee’. if he declines a task issued, Manna will provide him another one  – i can imagine there is a small number of vetos an employee is allowed (per day/per week) before they are suspended from the platform and told to go home.

> he is paid per task completed rather than an hourly rate. the software will algorithmically assign enough tasks across his day to earn a living wage.

  • open the cupboard door 30p
  • pull out bucket 20p
  • fill it with water 25p

> with each small and mundane task he performs before he can start, he has to accept a eula of millions of lines of leagalease covering the terms of employment for that specific task.

> by making the user accept a eula with every task, the employer can calculate the amout of insurance need to provided cover to the employee via a task sperciffic risk assessment. (Micro insurance of this kind became common practice after zipcar introduced Google’s self driving car, which requires you to buy insurance on a per journey basis – as self driving cars are MUCH safer than manual drivers their insurence premiums went through the roof)

> there is a long term gamification element in the platform that rewards users XP and allows them to choose and open up skill trees for training purposes (points and skills accumulated on one platform are not transferable to any another)

> bonus points are rewarded if employees complete ‘market tasks’ these are open jobs that are in the job pipe and need doing but have yet to become urgent enough that the software issues an instruction to go do it. the task would start at say £1/£2 and go down in price as time moves on as it becomes more urgent/pressing. employees can bid against each other on ‘market’ tasks: with the job going to the employee that bids the lowest before the time runs out. of course if a young mecanical turk enjoys doing the task the can choose the ‘queue it now’ option which ends the auction instantly at the lowest price possible (bottom end price set by the Manna algorithm) and it gets added to their queue.

> as employees work in the system/on the platform over time they level up and gain accsess to things like days off, dental care and eventually healthcare.

:: workers rights do not exisit in this world ::


as companies like task rabbit and amazons mechanical turk evolve and combine, the mechanics and legal framework that employment law provides will not be able to move quick enough to keep up with the rate of change. i think the semantic point i made about people being participants in a software platform and not ’employees’ is key here. which is why it is so important that we fight for universal human rights both in the physical sphere and the digital. our identities and personalities are already exploited by a network used by nearly a billion people.

let’s not let the exploitation of our immaterial labour become material.