When they announced last month that they were going to begin offering a Birchbox Man subscription, I knew January would want to sign me up. This presented me with a conundrum. On the one hand, the amount of time I have spent thinking about toiletries is far less than the amount of time I spend thinking about almost anything else. On the other hand, I love getting stuff in the mail. So when January offered to buy me a three-month subscription for my birthday, it seemed like a good enough reason to give it a shot.
Coincidently enough, my first box arrived on my actual birthday. I know it took all the strength she could muster for January to not open up the box herself when it arrived, but she did wait patiently for me to get back from breakfast that morning. Regardless of what your thoughts are on "grooming and lifestyle products for men," you have to give Birchbox credit for their packaging.
As for the contents, here's a quick rundown of what came in this month's box.
Billy Jealousy LiquidSand Exfoliating Facial Cleanser - I have this thing about water on my face. I don't like it. Ever since I was a little kid taking showers on my own, my face has always been largely neglected. I don't know what it is, but I just hate sticking my face directly in the shower stream, and splashing water on with my hands isn't that much better. Getting out of my comfort zone, though, I gave this facial cleanser an honest shot over the past few weeks. While it felt a bit like rubbing very wet sand on my face, I did like the results: Much smoother skin, and many compliments from January. I'll definitely keep using this, at least as long as the sample lasts.
Kiehl's Ultimate Man Body Scrub Soap - Before marrying January, I was pretty brand loyal when it came to bath soap: I generally bought a superpack of Irish Spring, because it was cheap and I didn't really care. After we were married, I promptly switched my loyalties to whatever she happened to have in the shower at the time, which for the past few years has meant some sort of body wash on a poof. Pretty manly, huh? I've been using this bar for the past few weeks, though, and I have no complaints. I've always preferred bars over body washes, because I somehow feel less greasy afterwards, so this gets a thumbs-up from me as well.
ZIRH Shave Gel - I'm fairly certain that the last razor I purchased was sometime in 2005, so this product is of pretty little use to me. January keeps telling me that I should probably get a razor to keep the neck of my beard a little tidier, which would give me good use for this shave gel. But you can't change a man overnight, so my bathroom remains razor-free for the time being. I'll scuttle this away, though, and maybe give it a shot at some later date.
Richer Poorer Socks - I treat my socks poorly. Very poorly. I typically buy them in a bulk pack from Target and wear them until they are barely recognizable as socks anymore. You see, I'm a shuffler and a pivoter; I don't always feel the need to pick up my foot completely when walking or turning a corner, and as a result the lifespan of one of my socks is pretty short. Over the past couple of weeks, I've treated these socks from Richer Poorer exactly the same way, and they've held up fairly well. They also do good job of staying up while not cutting off circulation in my legs, so bonus points for that. I'm not sure I'm totally down with spending $12 on a single pair of socks, but I'm admittedly pretty stingy with my wardrobe budget. I'll keep wearing these and maybe one day, when I've learned to walk properly, invest in a few pairs of these.
All in all, I was three-for-four on this month's Birchbox Man. They picked out some pretty solid products for me this time, so I'll look forward to seeing what they offer next month. If you want to give it a shot, go ahead and sign up. It's only $20 each month, and each box is customized to your tastes. What else were you going to spend that money on? An 18-pack of Irish Spring?
That's the first thing I say to you every morning when I pop into your room to get you up. And while I wish I could report that you respond with a chipper "Hi Papa!" it's much more likely to be either "bup!" -- which means that you want to be picked up -- "numanumanum?!" -- which means that you want to know if it's time to eat yet -- or "puppy!" -- which is pretty self explanatory. Up until a couple of months ago, your vocabulary was pretty much limited to "mama," "papa," "hi," "bye," and, of course, "puppy." In just a few short weeks, though, this list has nearly doubled. In addition to the already mentioned "up," you've been known to specifically ask for cheese, milk, and balloons. The balloons from your first birthday party must have been a major hit, because you could play with balloons for hours. I'm pretty sure I also heard you call me a "butthead" once, but I'm going to just assume that was a fluke.
You know what wasn't a fluke, though? That first day you strung a few steps together and started walking. Man, you really mastered that quickly!
Just walking apparently weren't enough for you, so you have since moved on to stairs. "Mastered" might be too strong of a word for how you handle the stairs, but you have absolutely no fear in working toward it. One Sunday when we were visiting Gramps and Mimi, you spent a solid hour ascending and descending the stairs. I'm pretty sure you will have moved on to learning to ride a bike by the end of the month.
In an effort to avoid what was beginning to be a babymullet, you had your first haircut a few months ago, and you handled it like a champ. Of course, we did have to ply you with Goldfish and Wonderpets, but you were very patient.
We've also managed to get you off of your bottle and onto sippy / straw cups. Bedtime was a little tricky that first week, but once you got the hang of things we were able to establish a really fun bedtime routine with you: First you get your last cup of milk for the day while we hang out in your room and read books. Once your milk is all gone, I get to chase you around with your tiny toothbrush as you laugh maniacally. After your teeth are all clean we turn off the lights, turn on your ladybug nightlight, and sing you a couple of songs as you interrupt us with a dozen or so bedtime kisses. After shutting your door we continue to listen in on the monitor as you babble for about 30-40 minutes. We're not entirely sure what you're talking about, but if we had to guess it would be that you're telling your good friend Donkey about your day.
Speaking of Donkey, you very clearly have it in your head that all animals are divided into two camps: There are the animals that roar -- such as tigers and bears -- that you refer to as "rowies," and everything else. This category of "everything else" is the "puppy" category. If we're walking down the street and you see any sort of dog, you point and say "puppy!" Kitty crosses your path? "Puppy!" See an elephant at the zoo? "Puppy!" Watching a video of JLo wearing a fur coat? "Puppy!" It's really one of the most adorable things you do these days.
Now that summer is here, I can't wait to see all the fun adventures you're going to have as we're able to do more and more things with you outside. The next three months will see your first beach vacation, first time in a swimming pool, and one of your longest road trips. Your mama and I are looking forward to all of it.
All my love,
I don't write much about the projects I work on during the day, mostly because I assume that anyone interested is already following the Institute for Justice on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or any of the other countless ways to keep up to speed with our activities. Besides, a lot of the work I do is pretty mundane from an outside perspective. Updating the web site content management system and migrating an operations database from one version to the next is certainly important, but it isn't glamorous.
This morning though, we launched a project I was involved in that has been a few years in the making. The Institute for Justice's License to Work report is the first national study to measure how burdensome occupational licensing laws are for lower-income workers and aspiring entrepreneurs. We examined licensing requirements for 102 low- and moderate-income occupations -- such as barber, massage therapist and preschool teacher -- across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and ranked each state and occupation according to how burdensome these licensing requirements are.
We had a whole team of people on this project, doing everything from gathering data to crunching the numbers to designing the report. As usual, we have an incredible video to go with the launch that Isaac put a lot of time into.
Most of the work I did was translating the data into an interactive online data model to allow visitors to our web site to view the report at the state or occupation level. For example, you can view the breakdown of occupational licensing data for the state of Ohio on the License to Work site by visiting http://ij.org/ol/OH. Similarly, you can view reports for how widespread licensing is for a given occupation, interior design for one, by visiting each occupation's designated page.
It's pretty common that a task I take on at work stretches me a bit, but this project took this to the extreme. It made me use every bit of knowledge I had learned and forgot in advanced statistics class (Thanks Dr. Case!) and really twisted my brain into knots from time to time, but I'm really pleased with how it turned out. It's a pretty fascinating study, and if you're interested you can check out the full report at http://ij.org/LicenseToWork.
I have a lot of catching up to do on my reading goal, so this post is going to be a short one. Things in March got a little off track, as I felt very much more like watching movies than I did reading. And I'm not even talking about good movies, I'm talking about watching the entire Transporter and Mission: Impossible series. Those were dark days, but I've since gotten my Kindle recharged and am determined to get back on track
This is the one that really got me hung up. It took me a little more than a month to read this one. I really did enjoy it, although it did delve into a lot of details on a lot of things that didn't feel overly necessary. There was one chapter in particular where Clancy went into a lot of detail to introduce a new character, only to have him die in a helicopter crash mere pages later. Worth the read, but I'm not sure I can say when I'll be ready to read the next in the Jack Ryan series.
The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy -
I'm allowing myself to re-read a maximum of one book per month this year, and in April I decided to crack open this classic again. I read it for the first time almost exactly ten years ago, and I loved it even more this time than I did then. Some things you love and you can't really put a finger on exactly why, and this is one of those books for me. It gives me a strange sense of nostalgia for a time that I didn't even live in, reading about Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty discovering themselves and America, living life on their own terms with all of the good and the bad that comes with it. It's the perfect balance of hopeful youth and mild despondence. More than that, though, it reminded me of my life when I read it the first time, in April of 2002, and all of the good and bad that came along with it. I look forward to reading it again, perhaps in April of 2022, and feeling those same emotions about this current time in my life.
On the Road, by Jack Kerouac -
I almost violated my rule on only re-reading one book per month by opening up Ender's Game again. January was reading that this month, and it made me want to go back to this wonderful book. Instead, I read this collection of short stories from the Ender series. The first two stories are a more in-depth introduction to Ender's dad, John Paul, and how he was almost recruited for Battle School when he was just a child and how he met Ender's mother while attending college. The third story is the original version of Ender's Game, and really just focuses on the period after Ender begins training with his own Dragon Team in Battle School. The final story takes place several hundred years after the events of Ender's Game, and explores a little bit of Ender's life while in exile. I enjoyed all the stories, but they were really just a taste of the brilliance of the full version of Ender's Game. Definitely worth a read just to fill out your understanding of the series, and certainly a quick read, but nothing amazing.
First Meetings, by Orson Scott Card -
Haruki Murakami is one of my all-time favorite authors, but this is the one book if his that got away from me. The English version of this book was published in 2007 and I remember first trying to read it while January and I were on our makeup honeymoon on Sanibel Island. For whatever reason I just couldn't get into this book back then and I ended up putting it down after only reading a quarter or so of it. I picked it back up this month, all these years later, to give it another shot. I must have just not been in a reading mood the first time around, because this time I got through it all very easily. It's pretty typical of Murakami's work, featuring a cast of interesting characters with their own quirks and mysteries, but I can't say it was my favorite of his books. Worth the read if you've read everything else he's written and just want more of the same, but there's no new ground covered here. If you haven't read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle or A Wild Sheep Chase yet, I'd recommend those instead.
After Dark, by Haruki Murakami -