Category Archives: sanity

An American Tradition: Jack Daniel’s

Thanksgiving…an American tradition. This holiday is arguably my favorite. Friends, food, and giving thanks…what more can you ask for? (Yes, a Nikon D3 and a MacBook Pro would be nice but the season of consumerism begins tomorrow.)Jack Daniel

As we enjoy one American tradition today, perhaps we should enjoy another…

In 1866, Mr. Jack Daniel created an American icon when he licensed the now famous distillery that carries his name.  Jack Daniel’s distillery was the first licensed distillery in the USA, and few brands (beverage or otherwise) are more associated with “America” than Jack Daniel’s Old Number 7 Tennessee Whiskey.

The distillery has always been in the same spot although all the buildings have been rebuilt.  This icon survived the Great Depression, Prohibition, and being based in a dry county.  The recipe, Old Number 7, has never changed and the process of making this fine whiskey is still passed down through families. (Regardless of what you hear, the legend of “Number 7” remains a mystery.)  There is a sense of pride at the distillery that is rarely seen among employees of any company.

I recently had a chance to visit the distillery in Lynchburg, TN.  The employees of the Jack Daniel’s distillery are very serious…and proud…about what they do.  They should be.  They are part of a proud tradition that results in a mighty fine libation.

How has the distillery been able to produce the same, excellent product for more than a century with a consistency only dreamed of by many?  One could argue the unconcious application of many management principles or some super secret technology applied to Old Number 7 beyond the prying eyes of the public.  My bet is on a simple saying that is proudly displayed in Jack Daniel’s original office.


Interview season. Traveling…

Why has passenger train use almost disappeared in this country compared to the automobile? The train is so…nice. Why have we as a society turned away from a mode of transportation that dominated this country at one point? Luckily, the passenger train is alive (and well) in the North East. There are wide seats with power-plugs at each seat. Trains are leaving and arriving on time. No one is trying to violate the laws of physics by attempting to place over-sized luggage in the overhead bins. No sitting in traffic. The relaxing click-clack as the down runs down the track…overall, a great experience.


Problems – we face them everyday and yet so often we let them take control.  A dear friend has summed up, in one word, the process many of us go through when presented with adversity: “catastrophize” – the process of “making a mountain out of a mole hill.”

Most problems tend to be solvable rather quickly.  Instead of catastrophizing, try:

  1. Acknowledge the problem (panic briefly if necessary or therapeutic).
  2. Put the problem in perspective.
  3. Actively work on a solution.

Remember that panic is optional and no longer part of the process after step 1.

The Classic Wet Shave

Barber in BostonHow many billions of dollars are spent every year on modern shaving products – products designed to help you shave without tearing your face apart?  A new year – another blade added to the current “top-of-the-line” razor.  Granted, these razors from companies like Gillette and Schick are marvels of engineering and do decrease the number of nicks and cuts in the typical shave, but men have been shaving for hundreds, if not thousands, of years…

What happened?  Why has the morning ritual of shaving our faces become an exercise in misery?

In the 1940’s, the first brushless shave cream in a can was introduced.  Classic shave creams or soaps take time to use – you have to build a lather.  But the classic shave creams and soaps worked.  Canned shave creams gave you a “lather” without spending the time normally required of classical shave creams, but to this day no canned product comes close to the quality of the classic shave creams.  Our society sacrificed 10 min for burning skin and faces covered in bits of tissue paper.

The morning shave has always been a low point of my day.  My skin, like many, is extremely sensitive.  The typically morning shave was akin to running a cheese grater over my face.  Over the years I have tried pretty much every mainstream commercial shaving product.  Each iteration did result in a slightly better shave but each shave still ended in burning skin, cuts, and nicks.

“Enjoyable” is a word I had heard associated with shaving but could not believe.  More and more I had been hearing about the classic barbershop experience but I had yet to find a barbershop that offered such services as the “straight-razor” shave.  Also, I have to shave every morning and cannot go to the barbershop every day even if I could find one.

Shaving was not a big issue when I was a graduate student (some would argue that personal hygiene and graduate school are mutually exclusive.)  Returning to medical school, however, meant shaving everyday…

It turns out that there are a lot of guys (and gals) who share my frustrations.  And with all things internet, there are communities devoted to the intricacies of the classic men’s shave.  You can quickly become overwhelmed by everything that is out there, but after a little research it becomes clear that you can accomplish a classic wet shave with little effort.

I have yet to embrace the old-school razors.  In fact, even some Master Barbers like modern razors.  Instead, I chose to focus on the wet shave cream experience and use my modern razor (the Schick Hydro 5 – which I love.)  After acquiring an inexpensive badger brush and some Truefitt & Hill shave cream, I embarked on the classic wet shave experience.  Youtube is awash with classic wet shave instructional videos.  My favorite are those videos by Mantic59.

The result – my best shave.  No nicks or cuts, and the shave was closer than any I ever experienced.  Simply switching from a “shave in a can” to the “classic wet shave” made shaving…enjoyable.  It does add 10 minutes to my morning routine, but it is worth it!

There is a revitalization of the classic wet shave and there are more and more shops appearing in major cities.  There is a also a number of excellent websites devoted to classic shave education and products.  I am currently a big fan of The Gentlemens Refinery products, Truefitt & Hill, and Colonel Conk.  The GR and Truefitt & Hill are great places to start for shave creams and Colonel Conk has solid inexpensive badger brushes.

Regardless of what product or products you choose, the wet shave it worth trying.