Thursday, April 30, 2009

'Yesterday's summer'

A few hundred miles from here, an old friend is dying.

He's wrestled the cancer bravely and long, finally choosing to stop chemotherapy ten days ago. He's at home now, surrounded by family and being given medication to keep him as comfortable as possible.

It's been at least 25 years since our paths last crossed, but in our late teens and early twenties we were tight. We worked at a summer camp together, played guitars and sang together, celebrated and wept together.

When I drove west to Montana in 1978, the summer that first took me to Kintla Lake, he was my co-pilot. We undertook the cross-country odyssey like a couple of adolescents on holiday, ditching itineraries in favor of exploration. Our stream-of-consciousness journey took us off the beaten track to places like the Strato Bowl and Jewel Cave, lonely highways and greasy diners.

Beyond the adventure itself, I treasure the conversations we had while we were on the road. That trip, and the days he lingered with me in West Glacier before returning home, shine in my memory.

I recall the first song he wrote, the title of which appears at the top of this post. I wrote the bridge, which he never did like.

It's a different piece of music, however, penned by John Dawson Read and made (relatively) popular by Michael Johnson, that's been playing in my head over the last week. The voice I hear is that of another friend from our youth.

A Friend of mine is going blind, but through the dimness
He sees so much better than me
And how he cherishes each new thing that he sees
They are locked in his head, he will save them for when
He's in darkness again
I can picture several of us sitting around a campfire, trading songs.

And this friend of mine, he plays guitar & sings his song so well
And he sings so much better than I
He can sing you any pictures in your mind
He will sketch them out in rhyme, draw the details in the lines
And he'll colour it in time

And Oh how he loves his guitar, & it loves him
And they play so much sweeter than me
As if to say that come the day that he can't see
He will have at his command so much beauty in his hands
That the loss won't come so hard

The music is as poignant as the memory, intersecting perfectly with how I'm feeling about my friend today.

His wife has created a Web forum that allows his friends and family to post messages of support. I've been reading through those messages, laughing and crying and remembering, more than once interrupting Mrs. KintlaLake to read aloud something that couldn't possibly make sense to her. She's very understanding.

A couple of days ago, I noticed that as we hold our friend in the embrace of abiding love, we hold each other, all of us together again.

In our giving, in our loving, we've made it possible for him to present us with one last gift.
Won't you sing, Tommy Davidson, of things that you have done
Sing of silver seagulls sailing into evening's golden sun
Sing of city streets & villages & people on the run
Tell the people how you know it, Tommy Davidson

Thanks, old friend. You remain in my heart. I wish you peace.

Lyrics from "A Friend of mine is going blind" (1975) by John Dawson Read. An mp3 is available for free download on JDR's website, here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Over the last year or so, often I've turned to Mrs. KintlaLake and said, "I just need a win."

Yesterday, I got one.

The legal sacrament of bankruptcy is about losing, mostly, with our house being the biggest material loss. I knew that I'd be able to keep my four-year-old Chevy TrailBlazer if I could raise the difference between its agreed-on value and the statutory motor-vehicle exemption -- but my motorcycles, despite having been free-and-clear for years, would be surrendered to the trustee and sold at auction.

Last week, my attorney and I settled on what we'd offer the trustee for the TrailBlazer. I then suggested that we make a second offer that'd include one of the bikes -- admittedly low-ball, definitely a shot in the dark, payable over 12 months.

Fingers crossed, we submitted the offers on Monday. Late Tuesday afternoon, my attorney e-mailed me to say that the trustee had accepted our truck-and-bike proposal -- score!

Motorcycles have taken me to incredible places, introduced me to special people, put food on my table and sustained my soul. In recent months I'd come to accept the probability of life without a bike for the first time in nearly 30 years, but I really couldn't imagine it.

Now I don't have to -- I got my win.

My wife, by the way, is as ecstatic as I am. Her parents? Not so much.

This morning I went out to the barn and hooked up the battery charger to the bike I'm keeping, a 12-year-old Teutonic twin I've had since it was new. I'll liberate our helmets and riding gear from storage tomorrow, air-up the tires and then, dammit, the missus and I are goin' for a ride!

Following the path of Robert E. Lee's retreat near Farmville, Virginia (2000)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Speaking of Senators...

In 1966, Arlen Specter joined the Republican Party. This afternoon, the five-term U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania announced that he's now a Democrat.

Naturally, GOP hard-liners are going ballistic. They never much liked Specter anyway, discounting him as a RINO -- Republican-in-name-only -- and today is bitter vindication.

These days, it absolutely sucks to be a Republican.

Even when I disagree with Arlen Specter on issues, I like the way he plays the game of politics. More than that, I respect him as a man -- his personal courage in the face of multiple battles with cancer deserves admiration that crosses artificial partisan boundaries.

Specter had been facing yet another battle, at least until today -- a challenge from within the Republican Party for his Senate seat. That threat that made his jump to the Democratic Party a smart political play, and I have no problem whatsoever with his motive.

Truth is, I wish that Specter would've declared himself independent of both parties and been done with it, but I'll be satisfied with the independence of his actions if not his affiliation. I sense that he'll confound his new party's leadership as often as he did the GOP's.

When "RINO!" is hurled at the Specters, Snowes, Collinses, McCains and Hatches of the political world, it's intended as an insult, meant to disparage anything resembling independent thought. And while bucking one's party isn't as commendable as true independence, I consider RINO (or, if there is such a thing, DINO) a compliment of the highest order.

I mean, a political party is nothing but a name. It's merely a label. Anyone who reflects that fact should be admired, not admonished.

In the end, it takes a real chucklehead to be categorically faithful to a political party -- just look at the simple-minded hounds attacking Specter's defection. Lightning may strike me for saying so, but I find their howling entertaining as hell.

An enemy of The People: Dianne Feinstein

"Banning guns addresses a fundamental right of all Americans to feel safe." (U.S. Sen. Dianne Emiel Goldman Berman Feinstein Blum to the Associated Press on November 18, 1993, offering her typically idiotic counterpoint to Benjamin Franklin's 1755 assertion, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.")

"If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them -- 'Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in' -- I would have done it. I could not do that. The votes weren't here." (Sen. Feinstein, who authored the 1994 assault-weapons ban, to CBS 60 Minutes on February 5, 1995, expressing great disappointment in having failed to pass unconstitutional legislation that not only would've prohibited the sale of firearms to individual U.S. citizens, but also would've required law-abiding Americans to surrender legally owned guns to the federal government)

"I wouldn't bring it up now. I'll pick the time and the place, no question about that." (Sen. Feinstein, who now chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, to CBS 60 Minutes on April 12, 2009, vowing to re-institute the expired assault-weapons ban and to make it permanent -- and, we can predict, to do whatever else she can to deny The People our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ready, set...

Before leaving for the Spring Game on Saturday morning, Mrs. KintlaLake and I briefly discussed staying home. We were aware of the outbreak of swine influenza A (H1N1 virus) and we wanted to make a smart decision about venturing into crowded public places.

Like I said, our conversation was brief. We went to the stadium anyway, judging the risk to be negligible.

Now let's get this out of the way: The media are not over-hyping the swine flu.

One of the greatest threats to life as we know it is a
flu pandemic. Although this particular swine-flu outbreak appears to be manageable and not generally lethal, public-health professionals can make only educated guesses about how it'll play out -- and if they don't know, I don't know.

Pundits sure as hell don't know. I dismiss useless commentary in favor of facts and I, for one, am grateful for the media's attention.

What we're seeing right now, as I understand it, is typical of a pandemic -- any pandemic, essentially, regardless of ultimate severity -- in its early stages. And while panic may be unjustified at this point, so is ignorance.

My family and I will continue to keep tabs on the news. We'll evaluate it critically and act accordingly.

We'll also be watching the reaction of public-health officials. If they're smart -- and provided that this outbreak isn't The Big One -- they'll be using the present threat to test their readiness.

The rest of us, by the way, have the same opportunity.


Pontiac 1926-2009

Oldsmobile 1897-2004

Plymouth 1928-2001

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A spring day at The 'Shoe

As advertised, KintlaLake and family were at Ohio Stadium today, part of a crowd of 95,722 -- an all-time national record for a spring football game.

If life gets much better than sunburn, stadium 'dogs and Buckeyes football on a perfect April afternoon, I'm not sure I could stand it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Road trip

Our older spawn, a high-school junior this year, is looking at colleges. Right now he spends the first half of each academic day in an auto-mechanics program at a local career center, so some of his attention is devoted to tech schools.

Recently he'd expressed interest in the University of Northwestern Ohio, a respected institution in Lima which happened to be holding an open house today. The spawn's driver's license is still suspended, thanks to his second speeding ticket, and since his mom works for a living I got drafted into busing him up there this morning.

I was willing, if not necessarily thrilled, to make the drive. If nothing else, I decided, it'd give me a chance to gauge my success in improving the TrailBlazer's fuel efficiency. Strange as it sounds, in six months it's seen little more than short hops and milk runs.

We left the house early enough to escape metro Columbus before the height of morning rush hour. Once past Marysville, we had clear sailing all the way up US 33 and Ohio 117 to Allen County.

I seldom visit that part of Ohio and I don't know it well, but it didn't take long before I was seduced by its flatland charm. It sits at the far eastern edge of the plains, the kind of landscape where a single cornrow can stretch for miles. The Scioto River, broad and brown in Columbus, is but a trickle up in the burg of Roundhead, barely cause for a bridge.

It's the Old Midwest, the heart of the Heartland, a simple place with a slower pace. The good earth is salted with hard-working men and women. Patriotism is on display everywhere, American flags flying proudly from porches, poles and silos.

On this bright, windy and unseasonably warm spring day, the two-hour drive to Lima was a welcome vacation for me. I soaked up everything I could.

The spawn, of course, slept.

My take on UNOH may not match that of a 17-year-old, but I liked what I saw and heard. The 185-acre school sprawls between Lima's retail cluster and a typical industrial park, bounded on one side by railroad tracks and a huge grain elevator. The facilities are modest but well equipped, the curriculum impressive and the instructors I met engaging.

It's not Ohio State -- and that's the point. Our spawn has plenty of time to decide if UNOH, or any tech school, is for him. We'll see.

So how did the TrailBlazer acquit itself? To set the scene, since October I'd managed to increase its real-world range by 10%, to 330 miles -- not bad, but I'm looking to get at least 20 miles more from a full 22-gallon tank.

Over the course of 240 miles today, despite battling 30mph winds and including some maddening stop-and-go traffic in Lima, it achieved almost 21mpg -- that's a range of 450 miles.

If I'd checked tire pressures before the trip, and with fresh oil, it's conceivable that it would've performed slightly better -- but for an
everyday BOV, this'll do nicely.

With a short shakedown cruise in the books, now I find myself wondering how well my little white truck would do on a family trip to West Virginia -- twice the cargo and many long hills to pull. Sounds to me like a good reason for another road trip.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

You need a FuBar

This is a Stanley® FatMax® Xtreme™
FuBar™ -- short for Functional Utility Bar -- and you need it.

The FuBar is a multi-purpose demolition and forcible-entry (or forcible-exit) tool. It's available in 15-, 18- and 30-inch versions.

Firefighters use FuBars. Cops and search-and-rescue pros use them, too. I've used an 18-inch FuBar for three years now and there's nothing quite like it.

It's a FuBar. It costs thirty-five bucks, and you need one -- at least.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's come to this

Conservatives, wandering aimlessly in the political desert, think they've spotted another oasis. This latest mirage goes by the name of Carrie Prejean.

During Sunday's Miss USA pageant, the reigning Miss California was asked by intellectual featherweight Perez Hilton for her opinion on gay marriage. Right-wingers now are whining that what Prejean said -- "I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman" -- cost her the crown.

Maybe so, maybe not. If cyber-twit Hilton and other judges allowed a contestant's political or religious views to affect their votes, that would be bad form (but not a tragedy). I don't much care, really, because her opinion is irrelevant and her defenders' argument is specious -- this whole made-for-TV dustup misses the point.

Take a look at how Prejean began her answer:
"I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what? In my country..."
Say, what?

No, the best reason to deny her the Miss USA tiara is that she sounded like a bubble-headed beauty queen. Prejean truly may not be the quintessential dumb blonde, but when she opened her mouth, stupid came pouring out.

That doesn't matter, of course, to thirsty conservatives desperate for a cause. Like ideologues of all stripes, they'll leap to the aid of anyone who simply says the right things -- however inarticulate and vacuous they might be.

(See also Sarah Palin, Joe the Plumber, Dan Quayle, et al. You can add Perez Hilton to The Bimbo Brigade, too, along with about half of the celebrities pushing this or that political agenda.)

The mindless defense of Carrie Prejean, far more than the backward opinion she expressed, demonstrates once again that ideology is the enemy of excellence.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A tradition falls

My family and I will be in Ohio Stadium this Saturday afternoon for the 2009 Ohio State football Spring Game, the annual intra-squad scrimmage that caps off-season practice.

We'll be cheering for neither the Scarlet team nor the Gray -- we'll be rooting for the training staff. Honestly, it's pretty boring as football games go, but when admission to The 'Shoe costs just five bucks, we're there.

Most important, it's our tradition.

When OSU's regular season kicks off on September 5th, however, one KintlaLake gameday tradition will be missing.

March 30, 2009

Dear Hineygate Fan:

The Holiday Inn on Lane Avenue in Columbus, Ohio, is no longer.

This Columbus institution has been purchased by the real estate arm of The Ohio State University, called Campus Partners. It intends to use the hotel for student housing, thus prohibiting us from carrying on with our 26-year gameday tradition known as 610 WTVN’s Hineygate.

We had a number of discussions with the Campus Partners organization with the intention of forming a partnership in order to continue to provide a safe, fun gathering place before and after every Ohio State home football game.

Unfortunately, this simply wasn't of interest to them.

To a few, Hineygate was merely a beer bash for rowdy fans before and after the game. Nothing could be further from the truth. While alcohol was responsibly served with strict identification enforcement, it was a place for friends, OSU alumni, family, and business associates to gather, reunite, and celebrate football Saturdays in the center of the college football universe, Columbus, Ohio.

There are many on the losing end of this proposition starting with the loyal staff of the Holiday Inn. Some of these folks have been with the hotel for over 20 years, and now find themselves without a job in the worst economy this country has seen in a very long time. Also, there are many charities that benefited from Hineygate which will now have to find other sources of revenue this year. WTVN and the Holiday Inn donated over $600,000 to date to help these hard working organizations that helped children.

Finally, for you the loyal OSU football fan, your options before and after the game are now significantly reduced. Your tradition of meeting old classmates and watching the Danger Brothers at Hineygate at the Holiday Inn, is over.

There were many behind the scenes benefits to Hineygate that you might not be aware of, such as the relief of traffic flow before and after the games. Hineygate was a diversion and staggered the arrival and departure of several thousand cars every Saturday. Our on-air efforts in encouraging early arrival to the campus area were repeatedly lauded by the Columbus Division of Police.

Also, the fine Columbus Police officers working Hineygate and Lane Avenue would use the Holiday Inn as a headquarters of sorts to come in and use the restroom, grab a snack and a bottle of water, and communicate with management and staff about the happenings on street level.

In fact CPD has told WTVN and the Holiday Inn that Hineygate was the most well-run and well-behaved event on Lane Avenue with the fewest amount of incidents game-to-game and year-to-year.

610 WTVN’s Hineygate was a part of the fabric of Ohio State Football and gameday Saturdays for 26 years! The Holiday Inn on Lane Avenue was the home for this fine tradition and a significant element of Columbus pop culture. We are saddened to see both leave us now. On behalf of everyone involved with Hineygate, I thank you for your unwavering support over the years. It means more than you know.

Just remember as one door closes, another will inevitably open. Stay tuned…

Mike Elliott
Program Director -
610 WTVN

I've been a Hineygate Rat since returning to Ohio in 2001, and Mrs. KintlaLake became my partner-in-partying less than a week after we met in 2005. We've made many friends there. We've used Hineygate to introduce our spawns to adult entertainment, and we've celebrated four straight home wins over Michigan in that crowded, beer-soaked Holiday Inn parking lot.

Twenty-six years is a helluva run for any tradition, but this one is dying far too young.

We're holding out hope, perhaps somewhat foolishly, that Hineygate will relocate and not simply vanish. Like the man said, stay tuned.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sharps: Errata & addenda

First of all, I need to make a correction.

After posting "
A modern-day Soldier" a week ago, I learned of an error on the page announcing the new Victorinox Soldier -- the knife being sold right now in the U.S. is not equipped with a seat-belt cutter. That tool doesn't appear in the photo of the knife, but it is listed in the accompanying description.

I should know better than to trust the copywriter.

As far as I can tell, four other 111mm Victorinox knives actually do feature a belt cutter: the Workchamp, the Parachutist, the Fireman and the Rescue Tool.

Second, I'd like to make up for omitting the Victorinox
Farmer from my discussion of worthy Swiss knives.

The Farmer, like the pre-2009 Soldier, is a silver Alox-scaled 93mm model. It includes the same tools, plus a saw blade and a handy lanyard ring.

The additional blade brings with it another backspring and a second liner, making the package about 3/32" thicker than the traditional Soldier. Still, the Farmer is relatively slim, along with being rock-solid and undeniably classy.

It's affordable, too -- just $28 from FelineVet, a kind-hearted vendor who's well-known to Swiss Army Knife aficionados. As of this writing, for two bucks more FelineVet also offers a version with red Alox scales, reportedly produced in limited numbers in 2007.

Personally, I'd splurge for the red one.

Earlier posts
Sharps: A modern-day Soldier
Sharps: Rite of passage
Sharps, Part I: In the pocket

Swiss Army
Secret Order of Swiss Army Knives

Play before work

The KintlaLake household had a productive weekend, beginning with a bit of recreation.

Screamin' Willie's is a local mega-bar with a decidedly scooter-trash atmosphere. I'd known for some time that McGuffey Lane would be there Friday night, headlining a triple bill that also featured Danger Brothers (of Hineygate fame) and Jacked Up, but my wife and I couldn't justify fifty bucks to get past the door.

A phone call Thursday evening from John Schwab, offering us a pair of tickets gratis, changed our minds. We packed the spawns off to sleepovers at friends' homes and made a night of it.

Jacked Up was playing by the time we got there. We hadn't seen this new-country cover band before, but we'll definitely make a point to catch them again -- they're absolutely killer.

It wasn't long before we decided to shell out an extra $10 each to upgrade our general-admission tickets to table seats in front of the stage (worthwhile only because the tickets were free to begin with). McGuffey Lane followed the opening act with an energetic 90-minute set, after which we got to spend a few minutes backstage chatting with John and his girlfriend. Danger Brothers finally took the stage around 11:30pm.

Talented as these guys are, as much as we enjoy their act, we prefer to see Danger Brothers under pre-game skies at Hineygate, not indoors at some redneck bar. We hung around for a half-dozen songs and then headed home -- sort of.

For safety's sake (if you know what I mean), Mrs. KintlaLake took the wheel. We both had a bad case of the wee-hours munchies and, over my wife's objections, we swung by the drive-thru at a nearby
White Castle.

It's been said that what separates men from women, fundamentally, is that guys find the Three Stooges funny and girls think they're just stoopid. I contend that there's a second difference: guys like
Slyders and girls don't. So after our White Castle run, we hit Wendy's.

Fed and watered, we slept well -- very well.

The next morning I dragged myself out to the barn for the springtime ritual of stripping the tractor of its winter wardrobe (chains, wheel weights, plow blade) and installing the mower deck. With everything working as it should, I did an admittedly half-hearted job on the lawn -- I had other work to do, and besides, I couldn't stop thinking that it won't be my lawn for long.

My family and I spent the rest of Saturday and all day Sunday packing and hauling four loads of boxes to the storage unit. At one point yesterday afternoon, I did devote a couple of hours to rotating the tires on my wife's car.

It's never easy to use hand tools to break loose lug bolts last tightened with a pneumatic impact wrench. I got the job done, but in the process I managed to do a serious number on my right elbow, which is resting on an ice pack as I type this. Damned tendinitis.

My wife's father keeps reminding me that I'm in no shape to be doing this household move without professional help. (Maybe he was all used up by the time he was my age, but I'm still swinging.) I can't wait to tell him that I hurt myself changing tires -- sure, it'll validate his opinion, but it'll give me a good (private) laugh.

Anyway, it was a satisfying weekend. Now there's more work to do -- and, I think, more good times to come.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sound check: Gun control

It's time to cut through all the reactionary chaff and examine what high-ranking administration officials have said recently about the banning of so-called "assault weapons."

To start with, where does President Barack Obama himself really stand? For the answer, look no further than the Agenda section of the White House website:

"Obama and making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent."
Only yesterday, in a joint press conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderón, he reinforced his position:
"I have not backed off at all from my belief that...the assault-weapons ban made sense."
The president has lots of high-octane support, of course, from well-established gun grabbers in his cabinet. Remember what Attorney General Eric Holder said on February 25th?
"As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to re-institute the ban on the sale of assault weapons."
Ever since the anti-Second Amendment crowd started using drug-cartel violence in Mexico to make gun control a cross-border issue -- a development which threatens not only our constitutional rights but also our national sovereignty -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has had an excuse to join the fray. In late March, when Andrea Mitchell of NBC News asked why the administration hasn't yet challenged "the gun lobby" and pushed harder on gun control, Clinton responded,
"I'm not gonna, you know, sugar-coat it. It's a very heavy lift. I think (letting the assault-weapons ban expire in 2004 was) a mistake. I think these assault weapons, these military-style weapons, don't belong on anyone's street."
Against that backdrop, public opinion is running against stricter firearms laws and the political climate in Congress doesn't favor anti-gun legislation -- that's the "heavy lift" mentioned by Clinton.

So in that context, is an assault-weapons ban on the table or not?

Before I offer an answer, here's the complete transcript of what President Obama said yesterday in Mexico City:

"I have not backed off at all from my belief that the gun -- the assault-weapons ban made sense. And I continue to believe that we can respect and honor the Second Amendment rights in our Constitution, the rights of sportsmen and hunters and homeowners who want to keep their families safe to lawfully bear arms, while dealing with assault weapons that, as we now know, here in Mexico, are helping to fuel extraordinary violence -- violence in our own country, as well.

"Now, having said that, I think none of us are under any illusion that reinstating that ban would be easy. And so, what we've focused on is how we can improve our enforcement of existing laws, because even under current law, trafficking illegal firearms, sending them across a border, is illegal. That's something that we can stop.

"And so our focus is to work with Secretary Napolitano, Attorney General Holder, our entire Homeland Security team, ATF, border security, everybody who is involved in this, to coordinate with our counterparts in Mexico to significantly ramp up our enforcement of existing laws. And in fact, I've asked Eric Holder to do a complete review of how our enforcement operations are currently working and make sure that we're cutting down on the loopholes that are resulting in some of these drug trafficking problems.

"The last point I would make is that there are going to be some opportunities where I think we can build some strong consensus. I'll give you one example, and that is the issue of gun tracing. The tracing of bullets and ballistics and gun information that have been used in major crimes -- that's information that we are still not giving to law enforcement, as a consequence of provisions that have been blocked in the United States Congress, and those are the areas where I think that we can make some significant progress early.

"That doesn't mean that we're steering away from the issue of the assault guns ban, but it does mean that we want to act with urgency, promptly, now. And I think we can make significant progress."

Reintroducing the question, then: Are we going to see Obama-Biden-Holder-Clinton push for an assault-weapons ban?

Yes -- but not yet.

Notice that the president began and ended his response by asserting his support for a ban. Between those bookends, he expressed hope that repealing the Tiahrt Amendment -- which now blocks the release of confidential gun-ownership information to law enforcement -- might be fertile soil for legislative consensus.

And that's just a sample of his wish list. He also wants to close the (mythical) "gun-show loophole" and enact other "commonsense measures," like registration and onerous taxes, which effectively would prohibit the defensive use of firearms.

In my opinion, it's ludicrous for tin-hat gun owners to act as if the feds will be knocking on our doors today, tomorrow or any time soon to confiscate legally owned firearms. That said, I also believe that the government's ultimate goal is, for all practical purposes, to disarm law-abiding American citizens.

It wouldn't happen all at once. Our right to keep and bear arms would die by a thousand cuts.

Just as soon as the political climate and public opinion shift critical mass in the administration's favor, whether through electoral results or other events, it will begin to make its moves -- we can count on it.

We'd better be ready.

* * *
"The Second Amendment is not about hunting. ... The Second Amendment is about freedom. It's about protecting ourselves, our families, our property, and ultimately, if necessary -- I know this sounds pretty bold, but -- from our own government, when they get out of control. That's what it's all about." (former GOP presidential candidate & former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, to Glenn Beck on October 19, 2007)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sharps: A little bit, better

The folks at Victorinox have been making world-class cutlery for 125 years now, so it doesn't make much sense for me to fiddle with something that works as well as a Swiss Army Knife. A number of years ago, however, I did discover a small modification that greatly improves (for my purposes) the function of the small screwdriver bit found on many Victorinox knives and multi-tools.

This screwdriver is little more than a bump on the end of the can-opener tool, and it doesn't play nice with screws that have deep slots. Also, the curve of the can opener acts like a cam, making the screwdriver tip prone to climbing out when turning force is applied.

Someone eventually decided that this screwdriver would work a lot better if it looked more like a screwdriver, and that's the goal of the modification.

All that's required is a round needle file, a few minutes and some patience. One stroke at a time -- lightly and carefully -- remove material where the base of the screwdriver bit meets the sharpened blade of the can opener. (See the right-hand photo above.)

File straight across the edge and check the tool's profile after each stroke or two. Don't go crazy with this -- it doesn't take much effort.

In using the modified tool, it bears remembering that a small amount of material that once buttressed the screwdriver is no longer there. It's by no means fragile, but to avoid bending or breaking the tip, torque should be applied accordingly. I make this simple mod to all of my Victorinox knives so equipped and, for what it's worth, I've never had a problem.

Yes, the can opener still works fine. And no, it's not a good idea to use a Dremel Tool for this job.

It's great when a minor change yields a big improvement, and this mod does just that.

Earlier posts
Sharps: A modern-day Soldier
Sharps: Rite of passage
Sharps, Part I: In the pocket

Swiss Army
Secret Order of Swiss Army Knives

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What's wrong with this picture?

Glenn Beck is weeping. Rush Limbaugh is foaming at the mouth. (Natch.) Ron Paul is fretting about "economic fascism." Samuel Joseph "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher is pretending to be a journalist again.

And on this April 15th, tens of thousands of American sheep are holding "tea party" rallies. It's at once laughable and serious.
Some of the issues being raised -- corporate welfare, staggering national debt, erosion of constitutional rights -- are real. Beck is sincere and smart, at least, if misguided. Paul's consistent unpopularity is testimony to his integrity. The rest, however, is nothing but convenient populism -- which is to say, it's bullshit.

I'm not (necessarily) dismissing the validity of the messages -- I'm indicting the credibility of the messengers.

Many of the people now decrying America's fall into ruin were conspicuously silent when Bush-Cheney often brought us far closer to real fascism than Obama-Biden will to the brand of fascism invented by talk radio. So-called "socialized capitalism" has been practiced by our government for decades, and only now it's cause for alarm?

If free speech and the rule of law are so vital to the future of our republic -- and they are -- where was the right-wing froth when a Republican administration engaged in wholesale decimation of individual liberties?

The national debt was crushing our children and their children long before January 20th of this year. Today's fashionable "tea parties" are commendable exercises in free speech, but anyone who claims to be demonstrating against "taxation without representation" displays both an ignorance of history and a slippery grip on reality.

The present fervor has been whipped up by conservatives in disarray, for the most part, those flailing legions who haven't yet figured out that satirist Jon Stewart was right when he said,

"I think you might be confusing tyranny with losing."
"That’s democracy. See, now you’re in the minority.
"It's supposed to taste like a shit taco."
Anyone, whether they're conservative or liberal, who raises his voice in praise or protest only after hoisting his finger into the wind has no credibility with me. Defense of principle doesn't waver with the breeze -- and a political ideology is not a principle.

As our laws address actions and not persons, so critical thought is guided by facts and not affiliations. The fear merchants who oppose the president at every turn, like those who laud his every breath, are imprisoned by their beliefs and led by poseurs.

For independent citizens in a modern society, that's more than just a squandering of free will -- it's a joke.

Or, to borrow a popular metaphor: It ain't grassroots -- it's AstroTurf.

This nation faces clear and present dangers, both from within and without. Our government does not serve us well and We, the People, must reclaim our power. Raising our voices in dissent is an essential part of that.

Getting sucked into mindless populism and bowing to opportunistic ideologues, however, do more to harm liberty than to preserve it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sharps: Camillus MIL-K-818D

There is, by the way, an American-made alternative to the Victorinox knives I described in yesterday's post. It's worth talking about, even though it's no longer in production and the company that made it for over six decades is gone.

The Camillus Model 1760 "Demo" pocketknife, manufactured to U.S. Government Spec MIL-K-818D, first appeared in the mid-1940s and was issued to countless military personnel from World War II through Vietnam and beyond. An identical consumer version was advertised in the New York-based knifemaker's catalog beginning in 1946. And the Model 1760 was still there in 2006, the last Camillus catalog before the 134-year-old company collapsed into bankruptcy in 2007.

One of these inelegant all-steel knives, minted in 1988, lives in a survival pouch within my primary go-kit. While it may lose a beauty pageant to the old-design Victorinox Soldier, the Camillus is just as bulletproof -- and maybe more so.

A quick search of
eBay just now uncovered at least a dozen such Camillus mil-spec pocketknives, even a few brand-new ones, ranging in price from $15 to $40. (I ignored one delusional listing for a well-used Camillus Demo, allegedly dated 1960, priced at $240. The seller noted no particular provenance. Sheesh.)

When a Swiss-made Soldier can be had new-in-box for 20 bucks, it might be difficult to justify paying twice the price for a comparable pocketknife made by a defunct American company.

On the other hand, it might not. Buyer's choice.

Earlier posts
Sharps: A modern-day Soldier
Sharps: Rite of passage
Sharps, Part I: In the pocket

The Demo Knife

The federal government's NSN (National Stock Number) for the Camillus Model 1760 is 5110-00-162-2205.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sharps: A modern-day Soldier

I'll spare readers extended commentary on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's dizzying (and altogether expected) pivot on Second Amendment issues. In a matter of days she went from favoring "enforcing the (gun) laws we have now" to insisting that Congress has "never denied" individual American citizens our constitutional right to keep and bear arms, saying matter-of-factly,

"We don't want to take their guns away. We want them registered. We don't want them crossing state lines."

C'mon, people, consider the source -- it's Pelosi, for cryin' out loud. You'll have that. I'm just thankful (so far) for the 65 Democrats who signed that letter to Attorney General Holder.

I'll keep an eye on the incurably disingenuous congresswoman from The People's Republic of California, but right now I'm going to talk about a pocketknife. First, a brief rewind.

An earlier KintlaLake Blog post made it clear that I like the venerable Victorinox Soldier. It's slim, elegant and stout, and it regularly hitches a ride in my pocket when I'm decked out in a coat and tie. As simple as it looks, should this be the knife I'm carrying when the SHTF, it wouldn't cause me a moment's concern. Worked within its limits, my 1986-vintage Soldier is more than capable of getting the job done.

In the same post I also mentioned that within the last couple of years I've been carrying another Victorinox -- a Bundeswehr, the pocketknife issued to the German Federal Defense Force. It one-ups the Soldier with serrations, one-handed opening, liner locks and larger tools, as well as a saw blade and a Phillips screwdriver. The 111mm Bundeswehr is beefier than the 93mm Soldier and, as a result, a bit more able.

Fast-forward to 2008 when, for the first time in nearly a half-century and only the fourth time in 120 years, the Swiss government asked for an update to its standard-issue pocketknife. The new Victorinox Soldier, just released for sale to the general public, bears a striking resemblance to the olive-drab knife produced for the German Army. In fact, other than the "ergonomic dual density" scales, rounder thumbhole and seat-belt cutter on the new model, the two knives appear to be identical variations on the Victorinox One-Hand Trekker.

Street price for the updated Soldier looks to be $40 for a special inaugural edition, or two bucks more without the "First Production Run" inscription. (Figure that, eh?) A Bundeswehr goes for just $36, and the old-school Soldier is available for less than $20.

I quit the knife-collecting hobby a number of years ago -- these days I'm drawn to knives I know I'll actually use. In that light, and since I already own a Bundeswehr, there's no good reason for me to spend money on the new Soldier. If I were assembling a new go-kit for the truck, however, the seat-belt cutter might justify the four-dollar premium over the German Army model.
Update, April 20th: Since writing this post I've learned that the page on announcing the new Victorinox Soldier is incorrect -- the knife being sold right now in the U.S. is not equipped with a seat-belt cutter. Victorinox knives featuring that tool include the Workchamp, the Parachutist, the Fireman and the Rescue Tool.
To be fair, I haven't yet handled the new Soldier. Maybe I shouldn't, what with the "ergonomic dual density" grip and all.

No, these knives aren't made in the USA, much less in the Heartland, but my experience tells me that Swiss-made Victorinox is still the best of this particular breed. As soon as a comparable American-made knife comes close -- in quality as well as value -- I'll be the first guy in line.

Until then, you'll often find me toting an old Soldier or a Bundeswehr.

Earlier posts
Sharps: Rite of passage
Sharps, Part I: In the pocket

Swiss Army
Smoky Mountain Knife Works
Secret Order of Swiss Army Knives

Friday, April 10, 2009

The 'pinch me' letter

In yesterday's post, I mentioned a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, signed by dozens of House Democrats, opposing the Obama-Biden administration's wish for a permanent assault weapons ban.

Into a polarized political climate that draws a single crude line between the two dominant parties' positions on Second Amendment rights, I'd like to introduce the text of the March 17th letter, complete with the names of the elected representatives who signed it.

Congress of the United States
Washington, DC 20515

March 17, 2009

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Attorney General Holder:

As strong supporters of the Second Amendment, we were very concerned to see your recent remarks suggesting that the administration will push for the reinstatement of the 1994 ban on "assault weapons" and ammunition magazines.

We believe that this ban was ineffective during the 10 years it was law, and would oppose its reenactment. Crime began falling before the ban was passed in 1994, and continued falling during and after the ban. The last time the murder rate was at its current level was more than forty years ago.

Even the Urban Institute study of the ban's effectiveness mandated by the 103rd Congress found that it could only have a limited effect because "the banned weapons and magazines were never used in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders."

It is hard to believe the ban would be any more effective in controlling crime by well-funded international drug traffickers, who regularly use grenade launchers, anti-tank rockets, and other weapons that are not available on the civilian market in the United States.

The gun control community has intentionally misled many Americans into believing that these weapons are fully automatic machine guns. They are not. These firearms fire one shot for every trigger pull. Some of the guns that would be banned under proposed bills have been around for more than 70 years, and are often passed down from generation to generation.

Many of our constituents lawfully own and use these firearms and ammunition magazines that would be affected by the new ban. Indeed, these are commonly owned firearms throughout the country. Law-abiding Americans use these guns for all the same reasons they use any other kind of gun -- competitive shooting, hunting, and defending their homes and families.

Our constituents also have very real and serious problems that we in Congress urgently need to address. People are worried about keeping their jobs, paying for their families' health care, educating their children, and retiring with kind of security their parents and grandparents enjoyed. A long and divisive fight over a gun control issue will only distract us from giving these more important issues the attention they deserve.

Again, we would actively oppose any effort to reinstate the 1994 ban, or to pass any similar law. We urge you to abandon this initiative and to focus instead on effective law enforcement strategies to enforce our current laws against violent criminals and drug traffickers.


Mike Ross (D-AR), Tim Holden (D-PA), Jerry Costello (D-IL), Jim Matheson (D-UT), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), John Dingell (D-MI), Marion Berry (D-AR), Nick Rahall (D-WV), Gene Green (D-TX), Chet Edwards (D-TX), Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX), Gene Taylor (D-MS), Bart Stupak (D-MI), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Harry Teague (D-NM), John Tanner (D-TN), Allen Boyd (D-FL), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), Eric Massa (D-NY), Steve Kagen, M.D. (D-WI), Betsy Markey (D-CO), Paul Hodes (D-NH), Ron Kind (D-WI), Peter Welch (D-VT), Leonard Boswell (D-IA), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Walt Minnick (D-ID), John Boccieri (D-OH), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Tom Perriello (D-VA), Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), Ben Chandler (D-KY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Debbie Halvorson (D-IL), Travis Childers (D-MS), Tim Walz (D-MN), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Solomon Ortiz (D-TX), Paul Kanjorski (D-PA), Rick Boucher (D-VA), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), John Murtha (D-PA), Bart Gordon (D-TN), Zach Space (D-OH), Alan Mollohan (D-WV), Lincoln Davis (D-TN), Artur Davis (D-AL), Charlie Melancon (D-LA), John Barrow (D-GA), Christopher Carney (D-PA), Dan Boren (D-OK), Parker Griffith (D-AL), Charlie Wilson (D-OH), Heath Shuler (D-NC), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD), Jim Marshall (D-GA), Jason Altmire (D-PA), Larry Kissell (D-NC), John Salazar (D-CO), Brad Ellsworth (D-IN), Frank Kratovil (D-MD), Glenn Nye (D-VA), Bobby Bright (D-AL), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), Joe Baca (D-CA)

Most Democrats, of course, as well as a number of Republicans, will continue to work toward robbing individual American citizens of our constitutional right to keep and bear arms -- but I tip my cap to these 65, including four of Ohio's ten Democrats, who defied stereotype and partisan dogma to defend a crucial principle.

It's up to us now to make sure that their legislative conduct matches their public pronouncement -- no exceptions, no excuses.

A pdf version of the signed letter is available on the NRA-ILA website, here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I've been granted some breathing room here, a rare commodity for me these days. I'm taking full advantage.

The spawns are still vacationing at their grandparents', relieving my wife and me of a week of pre-dawn parental butt-kicking. On Monday I hauled another load to the storage unit, and I set aside a couple of hours to gather paperwork (along with my thoughts) for the next morning's formal bankruptcy hearing.

Truth is, my visit to the federal courthouse wasn't quite the proctologic exam I'd once envisioned. Having competent legal counsel helped, as did arriving with a firm grasp of the inevitable. Once I was seated before the trustee, the whole thing took five minutes.

Five minutes. The disposition of thirty years' honest labor reduced to a brief Q&A -- that's the way it works. The trustee ended the scripted ritual by looking me in the eye and saying, "Good luck to you, Mr. KintlaLake." Indeed.

Foreclosure on our house hasn't yet begun, but the company holding the mortgage has petitioned the court to expedite the process. Even on a faster track, however, my attorney assures me that in this county it'll be "four or five months" from the time I'm served with papers until my family and I will have to be out. The national average, I'm told, is seven months; in some states, foreclosure proceedings can drag on for a year or more.

We're fortunate in that we have a place to go. Also, since securing the storage unit we've already made a respectable dent in our move.

That's breathing room.

I'll resume more urgent activity this weekend, or next week at the latest. For now, I'm taking some time to decompress and indulge in a few simple pleasures. Little things, really.

Sitting quietly in a room lit only by a candle. Sipping my morning coffee on the front porch, the rising sun warming my face. Resurrecting an old Zippo lighter, enjoying the sound and smell of an American classic. Making popcorn the right way -- a little peanut oil in the bottom of a pan, a handful of kernels, a few shakes and patience. (No paper bag, no microwave.)

Mostly I've been keeping company with myself, engaging with my own thoughts. Current events invade, of course -- like hearing about the nutjob who murdered three cops in Pittsburgh over the weekend, reportedly because he was convinced that the federal government is intent on taking our guns.

(So am I, fella, but I know the difference between prepared and paranoid. You can go directly to jail -- and straight to hell.)

And there's the high-seas piracy drama that's unfolding off the coast of Somalia. I've seen many media accounts question why the crew of the Maersk Alabama was unarmed -- and then, in the convenient context of the Pittsburgh incident and the mass shooting a day earlier in Binghamton, New York, they wonder aloud why any individual American citizen would need to own a firearm.

(First of all, Barbie & Ken, you may have noticed that it's a damned dangerous world -- in the Gulf of Aden, in your neighborhood and everywhere in between. And second, it's our constitutional right to keep and bear arms in our own defense. Out.)

That sort of editorial idiocy is due more to ignorance than to ideological bias, I think, but the irony caught my attention. So did the results of a Gallup poll announced yesterday.

The percentage of Americans who favor a ban on handguns has dropped to 29%, the lowest level since Gallup began asking the question 50 years ago. Digging deeper into the survey, I found still more encouraging news for law-abiding gun owners.

Americans now are evenly split on the question of whether or not laws governing the sale of firearms should be made stricter. With that, proponents of gun control have lost more than a third of the support they had back in 1990. Hell, I'll drink to that.

To be sure, these trends are no guarantee that Second Amendment advocates have won the fight, and prevailing public opinion probably won't stop the current administration from pushing its explicit anti-gun agenda. As recently as February 25th, Attorney General Eric Holder reminded us that change is coming:
"As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons."
In what qualifies as a pinch-me moment, 65 (count 'em) House Democrats immediately fired back in the form of a letter to Holder, unequivocally opposing such a gun ban. Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, one of the Democrats who signed the letter, observed,
"Now we know there are 65 pro-gun Democrats. When you add up all the pro-gun Republicans and the pro-gun Democrats, (an assault weapons ban) or any other anti-gun legislation is DOA."
Even Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to the Attorney General, saying that she favors "enforcing the laws we have now." (When she takes the same position on federal immigration laws, hell will freeze solid.)

My most favorite quote on the subject, however, came just yesterday from CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley:

"Let me just give you about six words on why there will not be a major change in gun control -- Michigan, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia."
Crowley makes a good point -- and no, we can't take it to the bank, ever. That's the price we pay for precious freedoms. But even if we don't have grounds to be complacent, at least we can be buoyed that sentiment, both public and official, appears to be moving in the right (as in constitutional) direction. I know I am.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to continue to decompress for a little while longer and keep things simple. Outside my window a red-winged blackbird perches in the pear tree, which is in full bloom.

Simple is good.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Return echo

Mrs. KintlaLake and I just returned from her parents' house, where we all celebrated our younger spawn's birthday. Both teenagers stayed behind tonight and probably will be there most of the week. Spring vacation and all that.

From the moment that we rolled out of bed this morning, my wife and I have been throwing ourselves into packing for our upcoming move. We're as unhappy as we are exhausted. Neither of us likes what we're doing, but nevertheless it must be done.

I spent most of my day out in the barn, packing and pitching, spending little time lingering over what I was slinging into the back of my SUV. In the midst of the drudgery, however, somewhere between truckloads two and three, I did stumble onto something that made me smile.

In November's "Radio Echo," I
reminisced about the simple pleasures of AM radio.
"I'd usually dial up an Akron station or, if I got lucky (and weather permitting), I could find a strong Cleveland signal. I'd hide a small AM receiver under my pillow, listening to pop music every night 'til the Ray-O-Vacs gave out. (That probably explains why I can sing along with every top-ten tune from 1966 to 1970.)"
This afternoon I found that old GE transistor radio, stored in a worse-for-wear box of assorted objects from my childhood.

I carried it into the house, scared up batteries and installed them -- and nothing happened. Not a crackle, not a squeak, not a buzz.

Checking the battery contacts (I know, I should've done that to begin with) I found them badly rusted. Thirty seconds' scrubbing with a pencil eraser put them shiny and got the little dinosaur working.

I found a strong frequency and, with the tinny speaker blaring talk-radio blather (it was either that or religious blather), I ducked into the attic where my wife was stuffing boxes. Her reaction to my find was priceless -- let's just say that she gave me a reason to use "nonplussed" in a sentence. I shut the radio off and shuffled back to my office.

It must've been 15 minutes later when one of the spawns strolled in, so I tried to impress him with my rediscovered radio. After a suitably dramatic buildup, I turned it on -- nothing. The damned thing had sucked the life from a pair of brand-new AAs while sitting silent on my desk.

No matter -- it served its true purpose decades ago. I think I'll keep it out for a while.