Free At Last!

Three years after graduating from an (expensive) private Christian college, I have finally thrown off the shackles of debt. It feels wonderful. Tomorrow I will have a few people over to eat grilled lamb, drink cider, and smoke cigars in celebration.

Therefore, it is time to start contributing to my new (Biblical) retirement plan.

Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. —Matt 6:19-20 (NET)

Book Review: The Last Witchking by Vox Day

I picked this book up because the Kindle version was free on Amazon a while back. Now, SF/F is not a genre I typically read. Probably I lack the requisite imagination, as I am firmly anchored to the physical and practical. When I do read fiction, I tend to go more for a story that at least ostensibly occurs in the real world–I can picture all the characters in a Hemingway or L’Amour story, but I’m still terribly unclear as to the difference between an Orc and a Gargoyle. However, I have been rewarded by some of my forays into the SF/F genre, notably by Huxley’s Brave New World.

My general aversion to the genre has kept me from reading any of Vox Day’s fiction in the past, but I have been following his blogs for a while, and when I saw The Last Witchking for free I decided to give it a try. It is a testament to the quality of the writing that I immensely enjoyed the read, despite my continued confusion as to the actual differences between the various fictitious creatures.  It did not supplant Winner Take Nothing and Men Without Women at the top of my list of best-ever short story collections, but it was quite good.

Personally, I found the middle story to be the best of the three. I was surprised by this, as the general practice when producing a collection of short stories, an album of music, or any other similar collection is to place the strongest material at the beginning and end, and the weakest in the middle. This story, “The Hoblets of Wiccam Fensboro” deals with the concepts of garnering the hatred of the righteous by appearing to join evil in order to defeat evil. Thus, it puts the concepts of duty of result and duty of example at odds, creating a compelling moral conundrum. Much fiction idolizes the man who takes a public stand against the odds and thus inspires a later victory, but comparatively less examines the value of the man who appears to capitulate in order to sabotage the enemy from within.

If you like the SF/F genre, you will assuredly enjoy this collection of stories. Even if you are not a fan of SF/F, like me, I imagine you will find this collection to be a surprisingly enjoyable read. Give it a try.

Frugal Friday: Shaving

I neglected to mention in the last Frugal Friday post that I have no intention of making this a weekly thing. I don’t want this to become the entire theme of the blog, and I don’t write often enough to do one of these every week without them taking over completely. So, these posts will be on the same unscheduled I-write-when-I-have-something-to-say schedule that all my other posts are on, except that instead of publishing them immediately like I do with any other post, I will schedule them to publish on the next Friday.

Anyhow, this week we will look at 3 ways to save money on shaving. If your job requires you to be cleanshaven, you probably spend quite a bit of money on shaving gear. Whether its expensive electrics that have to be replaced every year or two, bags of Bic disposables, or $20-for-2-blades Mach 3’s and Quattro’s, it adds up pretty quickly over time. This week we have a few options to help you save some cash, and maybe even get a better shave in the process.

1) Dollar Shave Club

Several of the guys I work with use this, and they all are extremely happy with it. If you like using a modern multi-blade contraption, but want to spend less on blades, this may be the option for you. They have 3 different monthly cost options, but all the guys I know who use this service choose the $6 a month option. I have never tried using their razors, but the guys I work with say the $6 option shaves very similarly to a Mach 3. For more information, check out their website.

2) Old-Fashioned Double-Edge Safety Razor

This is what I use most of the time at work. Blades are much cheaper than the multi-blade cartridges that modern razors use, and give a better, closer shave as well. Additionally, when a blade begins to dull, it can be stropped on a razor strop or leather belt, and is as good as new. I rarely strop a blade, because they only cost about 10 cents a blade and last for several shaves with no stropping. Even without stropping, a $1 pack of blades lasts me for well over a month. Plus I can pick up blades at any drug-store or Wal-Mart, unlike the Dollar Shave Club blades, so if I forget to pack blades for a trip it is no problem. If you want to get one of these, I recommend this inexpensive but high quality model by reputable manufacturer Feather. It’s what I use.

3) Cutthroat Straight Razor

The ultimate in cost-effective shaving. After a one-time purchase of a razor, hone, and strop, you will never again need to buy blades. Simply strop before each use, and hone once every year or two, and you are good to go. What’s more, you can hand that razor, strop, and hone down to your grandson some day. Plus, you get the ultimate in close shaves–there’s a reason barbershops still offer straight razor shaves. One thing to be careful of here is that many straight razors on the market today are not really designed for shaving, or are designed by people who have never shaved with a straight razor. If you are interested in purchasing a straight razor, I recommend a “sight unseen” razor from Whipped Dog Straights. You will get a vintage straight razor in good condition, honed, stropped, and shave-ready for $43. If that is too rich for your blood, you can also get a “sight unseen flawed razor” which is the exact same thing but with some cosmetic flaw that does not effect the shave, for $28. You simply won’t find a better price on quality straight razors.

While you aren’t likely to get as much monthly savings from re-evaluating your shaving equipment are you are from changing cell phone providers, little changes add up. If you are spending $20 a month on razor blades, it is definitely time to re-evaluate and move to a better alternative. Often, the latest and greatest technology is no better (or even worse) than the tried and true, time-tested item it claims to make obsolete. Even razors are prone to fads: I recently saw an add for a razor featuring the gimmick of a ball between the blade and the handle. Avoiding fads and gimmicks is a sure-fire way to save money, whether on razors or on anything else.