Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wrap 2009

I was at the shop 'til well after 7pm tonight. Mrs. KintlaLake was done working six hours earlier, and as soon as she got home she put a bottle of champagne on ice.

I love that woman.

A year ago today I
wrote about standing on a ridge, forging ahead and not turning back. I'm fresh out of metaphors at the moment -- reality will have to do.

When my wife and I raise our glasses at the stroke of midnight, there will be a sense of "good riddance." I mean, this was a year full of trials and tumult for us, and she'll be kissing off a decade that began in another marriage, long before she and I met, an abusive environment that she and her boys fled five years ago.

Good riddance, indeed.

But tonight we won't be toasting the past's departure -- at our ages, both of us closer to the end than to the beginning, we know better than to celebrate days that won't come again. No, we'll clink and sip and savor in anticipation of new beginnings, this and every dawn, moments too few to squander.

"Only that day dawns to which we are awake," Thoreau wrote at the close of Walden. "There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star."

We stand in welcome before that star.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Swedish lawyers

Mrs. KintlaLake's car, a seven-year-old Saab 9-3 that she bought used, has been hinting recently that its battery was on the way out. Yesterday I put the family jump-starter -- one of those portable power-pack things -- into her trunk, just in case.

Sure enough, on this sub-20° morning the battery refused to spin the starter. Dutifully I donned my coat and gloves and came out to help. I pulled out the jumper-gizmo and shut the trunk, hooked up the cables and...wait for it...success!

After disconnecting the cables, I walked to the back of the car and rapped on the lid, signaling my wife to pop it open -- after all, she might need the power pack again and I wanted her to have it along. Thing is, this marvel of Swedish automotive engineering wouldn't allow the trunk to open while the key was still in the ignition.

So my wife switched off the engine, removed the key and opened the boot. I stowed the jump-starter and closed the lid. She re-inserted the key and turned it.

Nothing productive happened, of course -- the car still had a dead battery. We repeated the process (leaving the trunk lid open this time) and soon Mrs. KintlaLake was on her way to work.

My wife loves her Saab and so do I. The older spawn has a '99 9-3, essentially a re-numbered version of the '96 900SE that I once owned, and it serves his teenage purposes well. (Now that I think about it, perhaps too well.) We're disappointed that these days the company is, at best, an orphan.

But if you see one of those old ads claiming that Saabs are "Born from jets," don't you believe it.

"Born from lawyers" is more like it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The resolve of Thomas Paine

"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated."

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."

"It matters not where you live, or what rank of life you hold, the evil or the blessing will reach you all. The far and the near, the home counties and the back, the rich and the poor, will suffer or rejoice alike. The heart that feels not now is dead; the blood of his children will curse his cowardice, who shrinks back at a time when a little might have saved the whole, and made them happy. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death."

"If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace."

(The American Crisis, a series of pamphlets published in London between 1776 and 1783 by Thomas Paine, called attention to the tension between the American colonies and England. It seems to me that as we approach the New Year, Paine's words provide us with worthy raw material for our resolutions.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Off the clock

It takes a lot to keep me from going to work, even when my take-home pay doesn't depend on me showing up. For the last two days, however, I've been battling some something-or-other that refuses to go away -- so today, atypically, I'm home.

That's not to say that I've sentenced myself to bed rest. Before dawn this morning I walked the dogs, followed by liberating my wife's car from the ice and four-ish inches of snow that fell on us overnight. Next I did the same for my TrailBlazer and drove to the drug store, bringing home a handful of over-the-counter cures for what ails me.

Had I been less bullheaded and done that yesterday, I might be at work today.

The streets between here and the store were snow-covered and slippery, making me wonder what my country-roads commute would've been like this morning, especially the 15mph S-curve by the old one-room schoolhouse. There will be other winter's days, other snowfalls.

I suspect that at some point today a short walk will do me good. Depending on how things go, later I may pull on my boots and head down to the nearby
common space. We'll see.

For now, and to my regret, I'm staying put.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Real time

The shop where I work closes at 5pm on Saturdays. Today, however, we locked the doors two hours early and routed incoming calls to the answering machine. We cranked up random blues on the sound system, adjourned to our small break room and feasted.

Alongside my pot of chili was a crock of pulled pork and another of baked beans. There were plates stacked with cheeses and fresh venison sausage. As if deer-harvesting was some sort of theme, one of my co-workers moved through the group doling out hunks of peppery venison jerky. Dessert consisted of pumpkin pie, cherry cheesecake and Christmas cookies, all homemade.

I ate too much. Everyone did.

Just eight of us, including the owner, keep this humble enterprise humming. Our ages range from 17 to 62. This afternoon we talked of family, farming, hunting, old cars, places we've lived, races we'd won and lost -- anything but work.

It was relaxed, friendly and inescapably real.

As the fete was winding down I said goodbye and walked out to my truck, carrying the empty slow-cooker under my right arm. (My chili was a hit.) In my left hand was an eight-pound ham, the shop owner's "Christmas bonus" to each of us.

I don't know if it's my age, an evolving perspective or something else, but compared to the high-flying, fine-dining, executive-suite-dwelling life I once lived, more and more I find myself reveling in days like this -- simple, right and real.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Spark of inspiration

Checking out with my purchases at the drug store last week, I glanced over the selection of mints and chewing gum. Next to the regular-sized tins of Altoids was something called "Altoids smalls."

The tiny cinnamon mints appealed to me. The tiny stamped-metal package inspired me even more. Unable to resist, I bought one.

Fifty mints later, left with an empty tin measuring 2-3/8 by 1-5/8 by 5/8 inches, I set about building an ultra-compact (and yet effective) fire kit that'd nest inside.

Some of the contents were no-brainers: an eighth-inch firesteel blank two inches long; a four-inch stick of fatwood, quartered to fit; a length of jute twine; and a piece of bicycle inner tube (a.k.a. the multi-purpose "Ranger Band").

I struggled a bit with what to use to strike the little firesteel, ultimately choosing a knockoff of the Victorinox Classic, a freebie that I had hanging around. If I'd had an old LMF striker or a hacksaw blade to cut down I might've done that -- smaller, lighter and arguably stouter -- but this knife will do in a pinch.

It occurs to me that the el cheapo pocketknife can be used to shave the fatwood, too, and make small fuzz sticks. It was a tight fit for the Altoids mini-tin, so I filed-off its key-ring tab to make it a bit easier to stow.

With a firesteel and striker, jute, fatwood and yes, rubber -- that Ranger Band not only keeps the tin shut, a chunk of it also will burn for quite a while -- I've got a useful pocket-sized fire kit. It may not be ideal or perfect but it'll work, and the whole thing cost me less than a buck in real money.

That's damned near free.

It's Christmas Day

The KintlaLake family opened presents last night, as is our holiday tradition, and unstocked stockings this morning. I'll spare readers a rundown of our modest booty -- there's way too much of that sort of thing going around.

I will say, though, that the missus and I are grateful for gifts of thermal underwear and wool socks.

We breakfasted today on sausage-and-egg casserole, another tradition. Right now I'm finishing a 24-hour batch of
KintlaLake's Slow-Cooker Chili, which I'll serve tomorrow to my co-workers at the shop. My mother-in-law is preparing this evening's dinner.

On this Christmas Day, a tumultuous year for my family and me is drawing to a close. It finds us well, safe and together. As ever, our spirit thrives.

I wish the same for you and those you hold dear.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's Christmas Eve

Whatever you celebrate this holiday season, remember to celebrate home, love, family and freedom.

Give thanks for life's blessings, great or meager, and know that there are others who have less.

Find those people. Serve them -- and then don't tell a soul.

Give more than you get. Don't give back -- pay forward.

Watch children. See this night unfold through their eyes.

Christmas Eve is special, no matter how you hold it in your heart. So keep it, embrace it and make a memory to recall as long as you live.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Birthday girl

"Thank you, My Gift, for your support, your sanity, your example to all of us and, most of all, for your love!" (inscribed on a card accompanying the flower arrangement presented this morning to Mrs. KintlaLake)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday break

With Christmas and New Year's falling on Fridays, and since our shop closes Wednesdays and Sundays anyway, these two weeks were bound to be strange and, since I punch a clock, less lucrative.

'Tis the season, of course, so it's all good.

Making this week another day shorter, the shop's owner encouraged my parts-counter colleague and me to trade "eves" -- he's taking off New Year's Eve and I (because I'm "a family man") get Christmas Eve to myself.

After 30 months without a regular job -- and arguably all the time in the world -- seven weeks into this one I have three straight days off. I'm not sure why that seems like such a windfall, but it does.

Light snow fell on the gritty little village throughout the day, adding holiday ambiance but little accumulation. Walking across the street midday to refill my coffee, even trudging outside after dark to fetch an oddball part, there was a feeling of peace.

Maybe it was the falling snow. Maybe it's the time of year. More likely, the sense came from within.

I think I'll carry that feeling through the next few days.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Addendum: Preparations

It's been six months since I offered KintlaLake's Top Five Old-School Preparations. Time to add one more to the list, even though this particular potion has been around for less than 30 years.

Burt's Bees Hand Salve touts itself as "an everyday miracle" and I can't dispute the claim. A three-ounce tin of this concoction of plant oils (almond, olive), herbs (rosemary, lavender, comfrey) and beeswax costs nine bucks. It's worth every penny of that.

Used sparingly a couple of times a day, supplemented with the occasional dose of Corn Huskers Lotion (#2 on June's top-five list), this salve has won me over. It smells good, too -- lots better than Bag Balm, I'd say, but the Vermont-made stuff in the green tin still holds my top spot for its sheer versatility.

Burt's Bees Hand Salve is made here in the USA. Get some.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


The online community over on KnifeForums is pretty cool. Beyond lively participation by rank-and-file users, it benefits greatly from the active involvement of retail dealers and real-deal experts, cutlery-company execs and small-scale artisans. Like BladeForums, JerzeeDevil and similar boards, it's a great place to learn.

I spend most of my KF time in the Bark River Forums, but the other day I learned that was conducting a Christmas giveaway. The lucky winner would get a set of gorgeous crotched maple scales with feathered figuring. On an optimistic whim, I made my post and entered the contest.

When Mike and Christina (aided by their little girl and a pair of housecats) held the random drawing late yesterday, they decided to give away not one set, but five -- and I won!

I don't yet know what kind of wood will be coming to me from British Columbia, but when it arrives I'll be sure to post a photo on KintlaLake Blog. And when I decide (eventually) what knife those slabs will grace, I'll unveil that here as well.

Merry Christmas, Mike and Christina -- and thanks!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I'm dreaming of a...

It snowed here last night. It snowed this morning. It snowed all day long -- sort of, anyway.

Unlike areas to the south and east of here, namely the Appalachians and mid-Atlantic states, we got more of a dollop than a wallop, more wet than white. Temps danced around freezing, perfect for gloom and slush.

My morning commute to the shop was entertaining nevertheless -- for me, entertainment goes hand-in-hand with the season's first drive in wintry conditions. Business was slow today, though, and trudging out to the sloppy yard brought the promise of wet boots and chapped, aching hands.

But it's work, after all, and today was payday.

Regular income is good. Today's mail brought something better.

In April, I wrote about getting a badly needed
win -- convincing the bankruptcy trustee to accept my offer to buy back the non-exempt equity in my TrailBlazer and motorcycle over 12 months. And if that was the victory, today was the trophy presentation.

This morning, with trembling hands, I tore into an envelope from the trustee. Inside were the titles to the two vehicles -- mine again, free and clear, liens lifted.

Making that happen four months ahead of schedule was no mean feat, considering. Scrimp and save, scratch and claw. The job helped, sure, as did my share of our garage sale proceeds. An unexpected end-of-year bonus from a client and friend put me over the top.

Mrs. KintlaLake's trust, support and love kept me believing.

Today isn't a material triumph -- it's far more personal than that. I'm reminded of the closing lines of Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

"...there is a feeling now, that was not here before, and is not just on the surface of things, but penetrates all the way through: We've won it. It's going to get better now. You can sort of tell these things."
Legal and financial matters have been discharged. I'm working again. My family and I are together, safe and well.

Yes, it’s going to get better now. You can sort of tell these things.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Follow-up: EDC reconsidered

When I posted about juggling my everyday-carry lineup last month, I speculated that I'd "make more adjustments as time goes by."

I already have.

The Nite Ize Clip Case Cargo remains, as do the Victorinox One-Hand Trekker and Palm Centro. The Nite Ize pouch, while anything but slim, is convenient and capable. My Centro gets used only once or twice a day, maybe, but it stays with me regardless.

The OHT, which replaces my Victorinox Farmer on workdays, is the EDC tool I turn to most often. Its screwdrivers and one-hand-opening blade keep me from having to run to the rollaway cabinets. None of my co-workers carries such a pocketknife -- or, for that matter, a knife of any kind -- which I find positively puzzling.

Until I signed-on with the motorcycle shop, I hadn't held a job requiring portable light since I worked campus security in the 1970s. Back then I carried a massive Kel-Lite; these days something much smaller is in order.

I decided on the iTP C7T for a number of reasons. First, like every other iTP I've used, it's an extremely solid, high-quality piece at a reasonable price.

Second, I chose the "T" (tactical) version for its momentary-on feature and because it lacks the silly (to me) strobe and S-O-S functions found on the "R" (regular) C7.

And third, although I considered the more-compact iTP C9 (powered by one CR123A battery) and larger C8 (two AAs), I picked the mid-size C7 because it takes but a single AA -- a common cell, especially around the shop, and if I run out of juice I don't need to score more than one battery to get my light up and running again.

In use, the C7T is great. It's just the right size and throws a powerful, practical beam, whether I'm rummaging for a 1950s-vintage final drive buried at the back of a dark shelf or locking the gates and storage containers after nightfall. The power-saving adjustable-intensity feature is a plus, too.

Speaking of adjustments, I did make a change to my back-up folding knife. A week ago I swapped the Gerber Ultralight LST for a plain-edge Spyderco LadyBug3.

The littlest Spydie is a more costly choice, for sure, but thanks to the thumbhole it can be opened easily with one hand. To me, that feature alone is worth the additional expense -- and besides, it's a VG-10 Spyderco. 'Nuff said.

Finally, a
Bark River Bravo Necker -- in the standard-issue Kydex sheath, with firesteel, suspended from a hardware-store ball chain -- has joined my EDC kit for the last few weeks. I don't know if it's a lifetime commitment, but the rig rides so naturally under shirts and sweaters that it might well become permanent.

Just in case, I mean.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sharps: Fiddleback Forge Bushcrafter

Andy Roy is a craftsman. He makes his Fiddleback Forge knives by hand, and now I have the rare pleasure of holding a sample of his craftsmanship in my own hands.

At first blush, the Fiddleback Forge Bushcrafter looks like it might've been inspired by the classic Kephart pattern sold a century ago by Colclesser Brothers. Truth is, Roy didn't know of Horace Kephart's iconic knife when he designed the "Bushie" -- he says it's simply the knife he always wanted when he was a Boy Scout.

It's 8-3/4 inches long overall, 4 inches of which is a spear-point blade of O-1 carbon steel. The full-tang, convex-grind blade is 5/32 inch thick, quite broad with substantial belly.

My Bushcrafter is fitted with ivory paper Micarta handle slabs and black liners, and it's slightly handle-heavy. (The balance point is between the first and second fingers.) The sheath is the larger version of the
KSF Leather Modern Classic, a secure fit but a tight one. As we've come to expect from KnivesShipFree and Sharpshooter Sheath Systems, it's very well made.

As much as the blade appeals to me -- it's an extraordinarily useful take on the spear-point pattern, begging me to reconsider my preference of a drop-point -- what really shines is Roy's amazing handle.

Rolling and flipping and choking from one grip to another, I've found no position in which my fingers, thumb and palm don't index perfectly.

Until now, the Bark River Bravo-1 had the most comfortable handle I'd ever gripped, but this Bushie is giving me some serious second thoughts. The Fiddleback's handle is slimmer than the Barkie's but broader, like the blade, and it's ever-so-subtly sculpted in a way that I can describe only as natural. It's as if Roy made this Bushcrafter especially for me.

Honestly, I don't recall ever being so taken with a knife so soon after unwrapping it.

I really wanted to get to the woods today with the Bushcrafter -- it deserves better and so do I -- but that'll have to wait for another day. What couldn't wait was offering my initial impressions of what I believe is a spectacular knife.

Fiddleback Forge
Fiddleback Forge (BladeForuns)

KSF interview with Andy Roy

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Sitting idly in my truck before work this morning, I watched the comings and goings across the street.

At one point a Cadillac XLR, dark red with a black ragtop, rumbled past me and turned into the post office. An elderly man climbed out of the low-slung roadster, walked over to the mailbox, deposited a stack of envelopes and got back into his car. He performed an impressive burnout as he left.

Oh, by the way -- this gentleman was dressed in a red warmup suit, black boots and black gloves. On his head was a distinctive red-velvet hat, trimmed in white fur. He had a large snow-white beard.

Santa drives a hot Caddy -- who knew?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Day off, day on

My regular job gives me Wednesdays and Sundays off. Fridays and Saturdays the shop shuts at 5pm; the other three days I work 'til 7pm.

Yesterday, my mid-week break, was one of those weird weather days when a departing warm-air mass gave us our warmest temps at dawn. An approaching cold front took it downhill from there -- a 5am high of 52 degrees skidded into the teens by nightfall. High winds made it brutally cold throughout the day.

I had no desire to go out and, but for quick runs to the post office and the older spawn's school, I didn't.

I returned to work mid-morning today, chased by a steady 35mph north wind and powdery squalls. The last four miles of my workday drive wind through farmland, and skiffs of snow laced the long fields this morning. I was struck by the sight of the thin layer of white drifting over a green haze of winter plantings.

As usual, I stopped at the gas station across from the shop, bought a cup of hot coffee and parked my truck in the village grocer's lot to sit for a few minutes and collect my thoughts. As I settled in, the snow became heavy and the wind picked up. I watched as a mini-blizzard blanketed the humble little town, softening its rough edges.

An hour later, much of the snow had blown away or melted in the midday sun. The mercury stayed in the teens all day, however, and the wind persisted. My regular forays into the shop's salvage yard were exercises in endurance, bundled and braced against the cold.

Beyond reminding me that I'm alive, the (relative) discomfort has its advantages. I'm using it to teach myself -- a 52-year-old man who piloted a desk far too long -- many things that I'd forgotten. Staying inside the shop isn't an option, regardless of the weather, so I've resolved to wring lessons from the (relative) adversity.

I slid my parka-clad self back into the truck around 7:15pm tonight for the commute home. The cold engine was reluctant to turn over. The windows were frozen shut. I was ten minutes down the road before the interior had warmed enough for me to take off my gloves.

A steaming pot of vegetable soup, along with the warmth of my family, greeted me at home.

Honest labor brings rewards. Present challenges bring bright perspective. Strange as it seems, I've never known such riches.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Heavy heart

Eddie's gone.

Once my co-worker, always a friend to me and eventually to my family, Eddie flashed into my life and thousands of others -- a gentle, funny, gifted soul, an incomparable human treasure to those of us who knew him.

Eddie lost his life last night, in a motorcycle crash on I-75 in Atlanta. Mrs. KintlaLake, the saddest of messengers, brought me the news this afternoon.

I am...we are...all of us are profoundly heartbroken.

Ride on, Rev. Eddie -- ride on!

Sharps: Sharp

Our teenage spawns have watched a number of knives enter and leave my hands over the last year or so. Sometimes they're impressed with a particular blade, at other times nonplussed. You'll have that.

They're quite familiar with my penchant for keenness, too, often observing me slicing paper to gauge a new knife or assess my progress in honing an old one. It’s fair to say that they expect it.

The younger boy was around last week when a Bark River Mountain Man arrived in the mail. I opened the box, pulled out the knife and turned it over in my hands briefly before passing it to him.

After a minute or so he returned it to me, knowing what was coming next. I picked up a single sheet of printer paper with my left hand, holding it out in front of me between thumb and forefinger, and with my right I poised the Mountain Man over the upper edge of the sheet.

Bringing blade into contact with paper, I let the thin convex grind cleave the fibers effortlessly, a sliver of the sheet falling to the floor at our feet.

The 14-year-old watched the ritual intently. His eyes followed the knife, then the curled sliver. He stared at it for a moment before looking up and speaking softly, with a tone approaching reverence.

"That never gets old."


Saturday, December 5, 2009

An old friend's gift

Almost 30 years ago, I shared many musical hours with a friend and fellow college student -- he on piano, me on guitar. Strange as it seems now, we actually performed together as a duo at a campus coffee house.

These days he's the musical director at a church in the western Pennsylvania borough of Zelienople, and I learned last night that he'd just released a solo-piano CD of Christmas music. Curious, I scooted over to iTunes and downloaded all ten tracks.

I hadn't heard Bruce's hand in nearly 30 years, but the first eight bars brought a wave of memory from my heart and a flood of tears from my aging eyes -- what a gift.

I urge you to go to iTunes or Amazon and download David Bruce Smith's "Arrival: Piano Meditations for Christmas & Advent" yourself. As this holiday season unfolds before us, please join me in reveling in my old friend's seasoned genius.

Monday, November 30, 2009

EDC reconsidered

Not long after starting my new "regular job," it became clear to me that I'd have to adjust my everyday-carry arsenal. To wit:

Victorinox One-Hand Trekker
iTP C7T LED flashlight
Gerber Ultralight LST
Palm Centro
Nite Ize Clip Case Cargo

My keys now get parked on my desk as soon as I arrive at the shop. The OHT lives in a pants pocket, while the other items ride on my belt in the Nite Ize holster. I'm quite sure that I'll make more adjustments as time goes by.

More about my choices -- and the range of everyday tasks that prompted them -- next month.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Impressions: Little kit

Call 'em stocking stuffers, if you like -- 'tis the season, after all -- but recently I acquired three blog-worthy pieces of kit in small packages. Each fills a particular preparedness need (or two). Each is made in relatively limited quantities, right here in the USA, and is guaranteed for life.

#1: Bark River Knives Bravo Necker. I first
posted about this knife after its launch late last month, but it wasn't until yesterday morning that my very own Bravo Necker arrived in the mail.

I was right -- it's a winner.

The Bravo Necker, as a system, flat works. The standard-issue Kydex sheath is so good that I'm not pining for high-zoot leather pants, and the handle slabs (I opted for black-and-green Micarta) are a perfect fit. I like the firesteel sleeve molded into the Kydex, too.

Bark River leaves it to the user to supply a tether for neck carry, so I picked up a three-foot ball chain ($1.69) in the ceiling-fan aisle of our local hardware store. I may switch to a paracord lanyard later, but for now the chain serves me just fine.

I have only two complaints, both related to the four Allen-head machine screws (a hex key is supplied) and two threaded collars that secure the handle slabs to the skeletonized tang. First, the screws should've been slot-heads or even Phillips -- that hex key is just one more thing to carry (and misplace).

Also, it's safe to predict that sooner or later the tiny hardware bits will escape when trying to access the capsule-sized hidden compartment, especially with cold or gloved hands. I plan to reduce the number of pieces from six to four with SuperGlue or LocTite, semi-permanently fixing two of the screws to the threaded collars.

But those are nits -- this is a great concept and a great knife. In fact, I think I want a second Bravo Necker, sans handles, so that I can try a paracord wrap on the tang. That'll also give me another sheath, which I expect to equip with a paracord harness that'd put the rig under my weak-side arm.

#2: K & M Match Case. The waterproof match case arguably is as common as the pocketknife, and over the years I must've owned a dozen or more. None of those steel or plastic cases, however, compares to the ones made in an Idaho garage by Keith and Marge Lunders.

The press-fit stopper of the K & M case seals with a pair of rubber o-rings and is held fast with a twist of the double-cord lanyard. The interior surface of the stopper is machined to be a striking surface for Ohio Blue Tip or Diamond strike-anywhere matches.

Set into the outside of the stopper is a liquid-damped Suunto compass -- a useful pathfinder, by no means an el cheapo button compass. K & M supplies a slip-on cap to protect the face.

Each K & M Match Case is precision-machined from solid bar stock, either aluminum or brass. The standard-length case measures 3.875 inches long overall; for oversize matches, a longer version (4.25 inches) is available.

The craftsmanship on my standard-length, red-anodized aluminum case is just exquisite. K & M has created a work of utilitarian art that's earned a permanent place among my kit.

#3: Tru-Nord Compass. If I called this compass a jewel or a gem, I wouldn't be speaking figuratively -- the Tru-Nord is a piece of jewelry which could (if you know how to use it) save your life.

The Tru-Nord is manufactured, assembled and packaged in Brainerd, Minnesota, just as it's been for over 60 years. Its case is lathe-turned from solid brass rod. The dry compass movement floats on a polished, tapered pinnacle and is covered by a Lexan lens. Simplicity and precision combine to make the Tru-Nord truly waterproof and shock-resistant.

Now here's what's really cool: each Tru-Nord Compass is compensated for a specific region of the country -- that is, it provides a correct "Grid North." Mine happens to be set for central Ohio, but if I were to move to, say, New Mexico, I could return it (with $3 to cover postage) and Tru-Nord would re-compensate it for the Southwest.

When I eventually do make my longed-for trip back to Kintla Lake I could, of course, order another Tru-Nord compensated for northwest Montana -- and I will.

It's hard to describe how solid and capable the Tru-Nord is. Consider it highly recommended.

* * *

It's hard not to love simple things done extraordinarily well. Come Christmas Eve, each member of the KintlaLake family will find one of these essentials in their stocking.

Who's getting what? I'm not telling -- Santa doesn't give up his secrets.

Earlier post
Sharps: Neck-and-neck

Bark River Bravo Necker
K & M Industries

Thursday, November 26, 2009

We interrupt this commercial...

I remember loving the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade when I was a kid. Watching it now, I see it for what it's become (or maybe what it's always been) -- a three-hour commercial, interrupted only occasionally by something I want to see.

Mrs. KintlaLake and I sat through the annual affair anyway this morning, sipping our coffee while awaiting two particular entries.

Our patience was rewarded when my wife's hometown high school's marching band strode up to the reviewing stand during the first half of the parade. An alumna of the then-cross-town band, she judged the group worthy of its selection. (Natch.)

The last of the eleven bands in this year's Macy's parade hails from right here in our community. Their ranks were tight, their music crisp and their performance, according to us, spectacular.

It feels a wee bit silly that a bunch of teenagers gave us chills today, but that's the truth. From the banks of Decker's Creek to our own village, it's a pride thing -- it's about home.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Honest labor, musical perspective

A little over two weeks into my new "regular job," I now have a sense of whether or not it works for my family and me.

It does.

The work itself is mean but satisfying. For this long-time desk jockey, there's a certain appeal to digging through 40 years of road grime, hoping to uncover rare parts sought by those bent on keeping their machines running or restoring them to original condition.

What's more, because my mechanical education to this point has been of the shade-tree variety, I'm learning -- big-time. My head is overflowing with the kind of practical information I've been craving for years.

So it's a good thing. I'm walking my talk -- but that's not what's on my mind right now.

This evening we ventured out to see our friend John Schwab, who was playing solo at a restaurant a mile or so from where we're living. Toward the end of his first set he covered a Billy Currington song written by Bobby Braddock and Troy Jones. I'll close this post simply with the lyrics.

This old man and me, were at the bar and we
Were having us some beers and swapping I-don't-cares,
Talking politics, blonde and red-head chicks,
Old dogs and new tricks and habits we ain't kicked.

We talked about God's grace and all the hell we raised.
Then I heard the ol' man say,
"God is great, beer is good and people are crazy."

He said, "I fought two wars, been married and divorced."
What brings you to Ohio?
He said, "Damned if I know."
We talked an hour or two about every girl we knew,
What all we put them through
(Like two old boys will do).

We pondered life and death. He lights a cigarette.
He said, "These damn things will kill me yet;
But God is great, beer is good and people are crazy."

Last call, it's 2am. I said goodbye to him.
I never talked to him again.
Then one sunny day I saw the old man's face,
Front-page obituary -- he was a millionaire.
He left his fortune to some guy he barely knew.
His kids were mad as hell.
But me, I'm doing well.

And I dropped by today, to just say thanks and pray.
I left a six-pack right there on his grave and I said,
"God is great, beer is good and people are crazy."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

'The Game' 2009: Two bits

"How much does a man got to get humbled? Got humbled last year. Been humbled before and will be humbled again. In this profession, there's enough humility to go around for everybody. I'm getting tired of being humbled." (Rich Rodriguez, head football coach for the University of Michigan, after his team lost 21-10 to Ohio State yesterday, demonstrating both his command of the English language and his irrepressible narcissism)

Because OSU players wore 1954-era uniforms yesterday afternoon, their helmets didn't sport the familiar Buckeye Leaves awarded since 1968 for outstanding individual and team play.

Each throwback helmet did, however, display this sticker honoring Stefanie Spielman, wife of Buckeyes' great Chris Spielman. Stefanie died Thursday evening after a long and valiant [sic] battle with breast cancer.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Today's 21-10 victory brought back sweet memories. It made a few new ones, too.

Throwback uniforms, a tribute to the Ohio State team that won the 1954 National Championship.

Throwback dominance. The last time either team won six straight meetings, the Great Depression hadn't yet begun (Michigan, '22-'27).

Throwback defense, reminiscent of so many tough-as-nails Buckeyes squads. This group forced five turnovers.

Throwback offense. Woody (and probably Bo) would've cheered OSU's dedication to running the ball down Michigan's throat.

Throwback fans, who seemed to bring as much Scarlet and Gray to The Big House as there was Maize and Blue. (ABC's aerial shots bore out that impression.)

Throwback freshman, in the person of Wolverines QB Tate Forcier. Whenever his offense threatened to make The Game a game, especially in the fourth quarter, the 19-year-old would -- you guessed it -- throw it back to the Buckeyes.

Throwback photo. Check out the Dispatch image of Devon Torrence's fourth-quarter pick (right). Norman Rockwell would've liked that, I think.

Throwback futility. The University of Michigan hasn't recorded back-to-back losing football seasons since '62-'63, and no previous Wolverines coach has dropped his first two games to Ohio State.

Throwback to what matters. When current OSU offensive lineman Justin Boren transferred from Michigan, he cited incoming head coach Rich Rodriguez's lack of "family values." That's not quite fair, really, since for the second consecutive year Rodriguez has made sure that his players will be home for the holidays.

And finally, speaking of F-Rod (as he's known in the KintlaLake household), throw back your coach, Wolverines -- obviously, he has some growing-up to do before he's ready for The Game.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The anti-poseurs

When I was in my teens, I came to know Stefanie Belcher as the kid sister of a couple of girls who ran with my circle of friends. A few years later, everyone would know her boyfriend -- Chris Spielman, football star for Massillon Washington High School, Ohio State and three NFL teams.

The high-school sweethearts would marry, and had our introduction to them ended there it would've been a great love story. But at age 30, Stefanie was diagnosed with breast cancer, and a simple fairy tale became an inspiration to millions.

Chris put his All-Pro career on hold so that he could be with his wife while she fought the disease -- it remains one of the manliest (for lack of a better word) and most selfless acts I've ever seen by a public figure. Stefanie refused to play the victim, turning an ominous diagnosis into a chance to raise awareness about breast cancer and funds for research. After just six months, her appeal for $250,000 had been met with donations totaling four times that amount; ten years on, the foundation that bears her name has raised over $6.5 million.

Stefanie and Chris joined every challenge as true lifemates. As we saw them in public, candid and faithful, so they were in more private moments. Together they showed the world their unconditional love and a depth of character that's all too rare these days.

She pressed the monster into remission four times but, sadly, lost her fight in the fifth round. Stefanie Spielman died yesterday at 42, at home with her family by her side.

The echoes of Stefanie's personal courage will ring with all who knew her or simply know of her. I have no doubt that Chris will forge on with their mission, albeit now without his beloved partner.

What resonates within me, however, goes beyond any hometown connection or admirable struggle against terminal illness. In this world of spin, stunts and selfish superficiality, Stefanie and Chris Spielman -- inseparable, as both would insist that we see them -- leave me with an example of what it means to be real.

That's one helluva legacy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Impressions: KSF Complete Sharpening Kit

I love OtterBoxes.

Derrick and Wendy Bohn, proprietors of KnivesShipFree, love these bulletproof little cases, too, and they keep inventing new ways to carry and use them -- the KSF Leather Holt, the KSF Fire Kit and now the KSF Complete Sharpening Kit.

The sharpening kit is an
OtterBox 2000 stuffed with an assortment of edge-maintenance supplies: a two-sided leather hone, 20 strips of sandpaper (four each of five different grits) and two half-sticks of stropping compound (one black, one green). With the hone, compound and a couple of strips of each grit onboard, there's still room left for a small crock stick and a Sharpie.

The KSF kit is both tidy and capable, and using it is easy. If basic stropping is all that's required, simply load the leather hone with compound, set it into the rectangular recess on the top of the closed OtterBox and strop away -- black first, followed by green. For more aggressive sharpening, lay a strip of the desired grit of sandpaper over the leather hone, tuck the ends inside the OtterBox and close the lid to hold it in place.

The stropping method, by the way, isn't just for convex grinds. This morning I used the KSF kit to restore my trusty Victorinox Farmer to working sharpness. (I'd rolled the edge last week while cutting some cable, and yeah, it was the wrong tool for that job.) Just 20 minutes' attention with the finer grits and both compounds brought the knife back to the way I like it (as well as nudging the beveled edge toward convex).

It's tempting, I think, to see a compact kit like this only as a take-along thing, but the KSF Complete Sharpening Kit has more than enough muscle to handle 90% of the sharpening I do at home. It's a winner, a keeper and a bona fide bargain.

Earlier posts
Impressions: KSF Fire Kit
Impressions: KSF Leather Holt
Sharps: 'From the Edge'

KSF Sharpening Videos

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An observation is not a wish

Regional favorites notwithstanding, the annual football game between The Ohio State University Buckeyes and the University of Michigan Wolverines is widely regarded to be "The Greatest Rivalry in Sports."

Around here, we call it simply, "The Game."

Thing is, over the last eight years it hasn't been much of a "game" and, as a result, the "rivalry" tag is an awkward fit. The Buckeyes are 7-1 against Michigan since Jim Tressel took the reins, giving the Wolverines a taste of the futility that Ohio State felt under coach John Cooper, who went 2-10-1 against "that team up north."

A true rivalry requires a throw-out-the-records feeling, the kind of suspense that gives even the most rabid partisans pause. That hasn't been so since 2001, when a first-year coach -- on the day he was hired -- all but promised a win in Ann Arbor.

He delivered.

As much as I hate to say it, there's only one way for this ultimate rivalry to be restored: the underdog must defy the odds and win The Game -- Michigan (5-6) must beat Big Ten Champion Ohio State (9-2) this Saturday.

Yes, that's heresy, and no, it's not what I'll be cheering for. But any long-view Buckeye who loves OSU-Michigan and can put aside their rooting interest knows, deep-down, that it'd be all for the best.

There, I said it.

Now that I've purged myself of analysis, I want to say one more thing.

Screw the rivalry -- Beat Michigan!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


And so begins Beat Michigan Week.

Is it ok to believe?

My criticism of certain insubstantial public figures might lead a reader to conclude that independent critical thought is all that matters, that feelings and faith have no value.

That's not the point, of course.

In fact, operating purely from intellect is as insubstantial as relying only on emotion. A passionless person has little worth.

Head and heart coexist -- ἦθος and πάθος may not divorce. In proper balance, each informs the other, allowing us to see the world as it is.

So yes, it's ok to believe.

"If you don't stand for something," as the saying goes, "you're likely to fall for anything" -- an apt reminder of the pitfalls of living without purpose. Simply examining facts isn't enough. It certainly shouldn't be the end of the road.

Another aphorism, popular with the faith-full, goes like this: "God said it, I believe it and that settles it." Such a world-view manifests disregard for the (presumably) god-given gift of a working brain, faith that's as dangerous as it is blind.

Personally, I defer to the rational, or at least it's what I strive to do, but that's not to say that I hitch my wagon to reason alone. My values are products of observation, thought and emotion.

When I find myself in need of a tie-breaker, however, I remember the wisdom of Thoreau:
"In sane moments we regard only the facts, the case that is."
I'll explore the differences between facts and truth some other time. For now, here endeth the explanation.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The accidental comic

If you didn't catch last night's edition of CNN's "
Larry King Live," you missed some great comedy.

It's safe to say that near-Miss USA
Carrie Prejean didn't mean to be funny, but she really can't help it, can she? The interview had Mrs. KintlaLake and me laughing like we hadn't laughed in a long time.

Like the woman she idolizes -- "Sarah Palin is my hero" -- Prejean is a believer, and not just by religious definition. She truly believes that she's credible, that the words passing her lips make sense.

She isn't. They don't.

Forget the pageant hubbub and the boob-job, the racy photos and the sex video that she made for her boyfriend. Never mind that she scolded King last night as being "extremely inappropriate" for asking perfectly reasonable questions, and that she nearly walked off the set when the host had the audacity to take a call from a viewer.

No, the problem with Prejean, who whines that she's been "Palinized" mercilessly, is that she's a pure [sic] believer -- she operates solely from her values and feelings without passing them through the filter of critical thought (or expecting anyone else to do so, apparently). It's embarrassing and, as she demonstrated yesterday, laughable.

The Miss USA pageant, in a statement, said it well: "It appears that Carrie is frequently in error but never in doubt."

Raising embarrassment and humor to art forms are conservatives who hold the likes of Prejean and Palin as icons. I mean, many of my own positions are, by relative measure, conservative, but they're grounded in rational thought, not fanned by some fluffed-up persecution complex.

Yes, I've been pretty rough on Prejean and, long before that, Palin. I can summarize my reasons in two brief sentences:

An independent thinker has worth. Ideology-bound believers are a dime-a-dozen.

That's why neither the former Miss California nor the former Mayor of Wasilla has my sympathy, my admiration or (perish the thought) my vote.

They'll have my attention only when I need a good laugh.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Seen in Columbus

A new sign has gone up in Ohio's capital city.
No doubt there will be much wailing and rending of garments. Somewhere a misguided, unthinking soul is composing an angry letter to the editor of The Columbus Dispatch, condemning not only the Columbus Coalition of Reason for erecting the billboard, but the newspaper for publishing a photo of it on Veterans Day.

Even putting aside my own take on religion for a moment, I still contend that the actions of both the organization and the paper are perhaps an ultimate tribute to the men and women who have fought and died for our freedoms.

This is what it's about, People.

Columbus may not be the buckle of the Bible Belt but it's damned close, so a sign promoting acceptance of irreligion won't be very popular (to say the least). Anyone who's tempted to deface it as an affront to what they perceive as "a Christian nation," however, had better pull out their vest-pocket Constitution.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
As our veterans have protected and defended their fellow Americans' liberties to speak (or not) and worship (or not), so should we avoid insulting their sacrifices on our behalf by insisting that they fought for only one religion or a single ideology.

Thanks to the Founders, our veterans and their families, we're a free People -- let's act like it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Just who do you think you're talkin' to?

My family and I stayed close to home over the weekend. On both Saturday and Sunday we did, in fact, do laundry and watch football.

It was nothing special, unless relaxing is special (and for us it was). We didn't even prepare a meal.

Last night's "dinner" involved a swing through the local McDonald's drive-thru. When I placed our order, I noticed that the disembodied voice, while cordial and competent, bore a strange accent.

It was American, not foreign, striking me as the yah-sure-you-betcha-dontcha-know lilt typical of the upper Midwest and northern plains. Curious, I asked the young woman who handed me our bagged food if the friendly order-taker was in that building.

"Um, no -- they're in North Dakota."

Sometimes it feels like I've lived too long.

Oh, I do get it -- efficiency, centralization, customer experience and all that -- and I know that this stuff is nothing new. Even the Ohio Department of Taxation outsources its customer service to a private company in the state of Washington. I suppose it's some comfort knowing that I'm talking to employed Americans and not some offshore operation.

Still, the fact that my fast-food order must make an 1,800-mile electronic round-trip seems wrong somehow. The physical distance, enabled by technology, is short compared to how far we've strayed from the whole concept of neighbor-to-neighbor service.

Yesterday's experience reinforced -- and in some ways redefines -- my personal perception of "local commerce."

In a few hours I'll return to the working world, taking my pay from a small, independent, truly local business. And while much of what it sells is made outside the U.S., when a customer buys an oil filter, a wheel bearing or whatnot, they'll be talking to a living, breathing local in the same building.

In this imperfect commercial world, I can feel good about that.

Friday, November 6, 2009

At the overlook

The latest cycle-of-days puts us on the threshold of that recurring respite we call a weekend.

This one's different.

My wife and I have served notice to her parents, our spawns and the dogs that we'll be spending the next two days as we like, perhaps even irresponsibly. We may drive to Waldo for fried bologna or we might stay home to do laundry and watch football, but whatever we do there's to be no drama and no stress -- we insist.

See, this may be the last conventional weekend we'll have together for a while -- but that's not a bad thing. On Monday morning, and for the first time in thirty months, I'll get up, leave the house and go to work at a regular job.

I didn't call it "a real job" because my consulting work is as real as can be. It simply hasn't produced enough income.

Last week brought me two (count 'em) job offers, a relative embarrassment of riches considering the hundreds of dry holes I've drilled over that past two-and-a-half years. One offer was to manage a cell-phone store less than five minutes from home, the other to work at a somewhat-more-distant motorcycle shop specializing in used (salvaged) parts for a particular marque.

For a variety of reasons, I declined the former and chose the latter. My fundamental distaste for mobile-phone addiction notwithstanding, lacking other options I would've been willing (if disappointed) to descend into retail hell. The moto-parts business is friendlier to me, of course, and I found this small, independent shop intriguingly funky and appealingly warm.

I also saw it as a chance for me to acquire new skills, useful if the current economic downturn becomes a free-fall. Add an 11-mile commute down two-lane country roads and it was a no-brainer.

I haven't punched a clock in almost 30 years. I won't get rich, especially working part-time for the first few months. I'll have Wednesdays and Sundays off, which (combined with the shop hours) will let me keep pursuing my photography and consulting.

So that's what awaits me on the other side of this weekend. For the next two days, though, I'm going to revel in each and every moment.

A long ordeal is behind me.

Passing strange

We were reminded yesterday afternoon of a colossal irony -- that the American military personnel who swear to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" often are prevented from exercising their rights under that Constitution.

"As a matter of course, we don't carry weapons. This is our home," said Ft. Hood post commander Lt. Gen. Bob Cone in the wake of a mass shooting that killed 13 and wounded 30.

I won't presume to suggest that the U.S. Army established this policy thoughtlessly or that it should be rescinded. I observe only its inevitably tragic result.

Prohibiting the lawful carry of defensive weapons, whether within the bounds of a military installation or in the larger civilian world, creates so-called "unarmed victims zones." By statute, it cedes murderous advantage to the madman, the terrorist, the criminal.

It charges "a well-regulated militia," as defined by the enemies of Liberty, with defending the citizenry. So despite the fact that military police and civilian officers arrived quickly at the scene of yesterday's massacre -- before neutralizing the threat, at least two first responders were hit by gunfire -- their bravery and dedication didn't alter reality.

When seconds count, help is just minutes away.

That's not good enough -- not for me, not for my family and not for my country. This is, to echo Gen. Cone, my home. I stand prepared to defend it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Follow-up (sort of)

First of all, Ohio voters approved Issue 3 yesterday. The Home team won by a touchdown -- the final score was Critical Thinkers 53, Visitors 47.

Also, this morning I happened across this phenomenal PowerPoint presentation. Put together by Kevin Estela of
Wilderness Learning Center, it's one of the best primers I've seen on the subject.