Saturday, August 29, 2009

'Who only stand and wait'

First of all, my apologies to Milton.

Parents of teenagers spend a lot of time waiting -- I know we do. Much waiting happens in parking lots, marking time while our spawns are at school, busied with extracurriculars or bonding with friends.

The other evening, my wife and I were engaged in this sort of ritual thumb-twiddling outside a local martial-arts studio. She browsed through the day's mail and I, bored absolutely spitless, pulled out my camera

A hot-air balloon, the same one we see just about every day, drifted lazily overhead. I opened the

Glancing around the parking lot I took note of the usual two- and four-wheeled suspects, driven there by patrons of the studio and the adjacent gym. Sitting far away from the others was a vehicle I hadn't seen before.

Judging it unusual enough (and not in a good way) to deserve a real photograph, I borrowed my wife's point-and-shoot

In the words of our younger spawn, who eventually emerged from his martial-arts session, some things in this world just can't be fixed.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Update: Benchmade 551 Griptilian

The more I use my new Benchmade 551 Griptilian, the more I like it. The only time that I haven't had it clipped to my pocket recently was while attending a school function with our younger spawn last night.

The knife wasn't quite perfect right out of the box, however.

The orange-handled Grip came with a steep bevel and a surprisingly toothy edge. It was plenty sharp enough for my
moving purposes -- I'd call it a "utility edge" -- but it was considerably cruder than what I'm accustomed to seeing from Spyderco or SOG, for example, or even from humble Victorinox.

Now I could've returned the knife to Benchmade, taking advantage of the company's "LifeSharp" service. Instead, I decided to tackle the job myself. I wasn't interested in re-profiling the edge -- I wanted only to refine it more to my liking.

First, I tacked a strip of 1500-grit wet-dry sandpaper to a mousepad and drew the blade across the abrasive surface about two dozen times. I followed with 2000-grit paper, and by the time I'd finished the edge was shiny and the "shoulders" of the bevel had been eased -- a good start at taking the flat-ground Benchmade in the direction of a convex edge (which it'll become over time).

Finally, I stropped the edge on the back side of an old leather belt (no compound) 'til it would push-cut newsprint easily.

Benefitting from 30 minutes of careful attention, my big Grip now has the kind of edge that I prefer -- easy to maintain and serviceably keen but not at all fragile. Regular stropping should be all that's necessary to keep it that way.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

'An idealist without illusions'

After nearly 36 hours of wall-to-wall tributes to (and critiques of) Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy, who died of brain cancer Tuesday night, I can't say much that hasn't been said.

Kennedy was neither as good as his devotees insist he was, nor was he as evil as his detractors claim. On one hand, I don't much care about the Chappaquiddick incident or about his father's appeasement of Hitler 31 years earlier -- both interesting, both ultimately irrelevant. On the other, I fundamentally oppose many (if not most) of the positions he advocated without apology.

I avoid fixing on either convenient extreme. In the interest of intellectual honesty, I prefer to look at the whole man.

Much like George W. Bush, Kennedy emerged from a powerful American family to become a colossal screwup as a young man. It took him almost 40 years to find his way, such as it was, but once he did he became a political force of Nature.

That second act, which is well documented, earned the respect of colleagues and constituents, supporters and opponents. Despite his elite lineage, Kennedy spent his later decades in service to those far less fortunate than he.

He wasn't a bunker-dwelling critic -- he was an activist, a self-described "idealist without illusions," the rare public servant who stands in front of the battlements.

If how a man finishes is more important than how he starts -- and I believe that it is -- then Ted Kennedy ran his race well. I honor his service.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ouch, babe

Larry King (Tuesday, August 18th, 2009): "We understand from our crack staff that you took advantage of the 'Cash for Clunkers' program. We understand you traded a 1991 Chevy Suburban for a 2009 Prius. True or false?"

Former Senator Bill Frist (R-TN): "You don't see a lot of Republicans driving a Prius. But I'm going to get 50 miles to the gallon. My 18-year-old Suburban is going to have that junk put in it which is going to kill it. So I'm very sad. But the taxpayer gave me $6,000 to do it and so I'm out there driving my Prius."

Former Governor Howard Dean (D-VT): "I'm about to do the same, but I'm going to get a Ford Escape because I like to buy American."

King: "Whoa."

Frist: "You got me there."

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I understand that many Americans are growing restless over the agendas being pressed by our President and the majority in Congress. Even when their objections are shallow and uninformed, as an independent citizen-patriot I feel (and in some cases share) the underlying sentiments.
So when yesterday's edition of The Columbus Dispatch ran an article entitled, "'Patriots' events mark unease over government," it had my attention. After reading the piece I dug deeper, anxious to learn more about today's "Gathering of the Patriots" in Lancaster.

"We will have experts on survival, law, Constitution, gardening, weapons [and] communication," proclaims the event flyer -- all right up my alley, for sure. And then I saw this:

"God-Fearing Americans Only."
"Jesus is the only answer to America's problems."
Seems I'm not invited.

Extremism continues to put down its toxic roots in this community and countless others across our nation. An event that purports to defend the Constitution and yet flouts the First Amendment is a most sinister joke. Independence with religious conditions is no independence -- it's isolationism.

These self-styled theo-patriots are threats to Liberty, not its guardians. I'll give them a wide berth -- and my full attention.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sharps: For the move

Over the weeks and weeks it took us to execute our household move, hundreds of times I reached for a folding knife or a multi-tool. Since the bulk of my sharps were packed away, only three saw duty.

Most often I pulled a Victorinox Farmer from my pocket -- no surprise to regular readers. From cutting cardboard and tape to removing a handful of wood screws securing a dinner bell to a door frame, this knife was unremarkably competent at everything I asked it to do.

If I have one complaint, it's that it takes two hands to open the Farmer -- but that's picking nits. Truth is, I could've unpacked a Bundeswehr or a new Soldier if I'd really wanted a one-hander. The bottom line is that the humble Farmer turned in a predictably solid performance.

I got up one morning a few weeks ago knowing that I'd be pulling a lot of RG-59 cable from the joists in our old house, and a multi-tool seemed right for that job. I clipped a
SOG Paratool to my belt -- not my first choice, but it happened to be the only multi-tool that wasn't already buried in a box -- and headed down to the basement.

It didn't take long before I wished that I'd gone digging for my Leatherman Wave instead. The SOG's pliers proved plenty capable of twist-breaking dozens of cable ties and snipping the occasional wire, but whenever I needed to deploy a knife blade or a screwdriver tool, I was reminded how bloody inconvenient (and borderline unsafe) the Paratool is. I really want to love the American-made SOG, but I can't.

Note to self: Either sell the Paratool or pack it away.

I'm going to mention my new
Benchmade 551 Griptilian here, even though I've been using it for less than a week. This is one excellent folder -- solid, sharp, smooth, well-designed and comfortable. Especially at its price ($63 street), in my opinion the made-in-USA Griptilian deserves consideration as a truly great knife.

No, my big orange Grip doesn't sport pliers and it can't turn screws. All the same, it's earned a place in my EDC rotation. It's a keeper.

I did, by the way, think about carrying and using a small fixed-blade during the move but decided against it. Maybe next time.

As for when "next time" might be, if it's a hundred years before we move again, it'll be too soon.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stars, bars & blunt-force trauma

Lynyrd Skynyrd is one banana peel shy of being a tribute act.

The band that performed outdoors at The LC in Columbus last night featured only one original member -- that would be guitarist Gary Rossington. Johnny Van Zant stands in for late brother Ronnie these days so that the group can claim some credible measure of lineage.

But really, other than the music itself, this wasn't Skynyrd.
It was a helluva show anyway. For better (pride) and worse (prejudice) the battle flag of the Confederacy was everywhere, on stage and off, and the players wielded the Skynyrd songbook like the musical bludgeon it is. This morning my ears have stopped bleeding but they're still ringing.

I don't need to name the encore, do I? Everyone ought to hear that classic performed live and authentically, even by a latter-day Skynyrd.

The opening act, McGuffey Lane, was stellar, especially the guitar work. The jam at the end of "Green Country Mountains" -- Kevin Reed on harp, Mike Nugen and John Schwab on guitars -- was the stuff of goosebumps.

All in all, it was a great gig. The way I see it, sometimes a near-tribute is a clear winner.

Well-deserved smackdown

"Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining-room table. I have no interest in doing it." (U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, at a recent town-hall meeting, to a woman who equated Pres. Barack Obama's health-care proposals with the Nazi policies of Adolf Hitler)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The return

Nothing I've done in recent years has been as humbling as toting my worldly possessions in garbage bags for the past few days.

This odd odyssey is nearing its end, at least for now. My wife and our older spawn had a set-to with the in-laws last night and, two-and-a-half hours later, reached détente.

We'll be back there tonight.

Life doesn't come with instructions or guarantees, but it really doesn't need to be this complicated.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Opening my eyes this morning, I wasn't sure what I was seeing. It took a few moments for me to recognize that it's a motel room.

Strange, cramped and inconvenient, it's yet another "new normal" for my family and me. At least we know that it could be worse (and it may, in fact, worsen as things unfold), and that we didn't bring this on ourselves.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


The lack of activity on this blog lately can be traced directly to domestic harassment thrown at my family and me by my in-laws. It's sapped a lot of time and even more of our energy.

The matter came to a head last night during a kitchen-table discussion that was supposed to resolve our issues. It didn't.

My wife's alcoholic mother, who last night was drunker than usual, kicked us out -- including her grandsons, whom the slurring old woman referred to as "MY sons."

We rounded up the boys and the dogs and gathered random important stuff. Within 15 minutes we piled into three vehicles and peeled out of the cul-de-sac.

Regrouping at our old (dry) house five miles away, my wife and I sat with the boys and talked them through the crisis. It was striking to me how much maturity they showed -- far more than their grandparents displayed.

Afterward, the two teenagers were surprisingly relaxed, laughing with each other and horseplaying. We'll keep an eye on them, sure, but I'm proud of them.

I'm even prouder of my wife.

So here we are, essentially houseless but not homeless. We'll grab a motel room the next two nights for showers and other comforts. From there it's hard to say what's next.

It is as it seems, all drama and no sense, just like the addled and chemically altered people who showed us the door.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Post-move bits

With just one NFL game in the books -- and an exhibition game at that -- I miss John Madden already.

Madden was the most interesting pro-football commentator of my lifetime. Now he's enjoying his retirement, and good for him, but the airwaves are less colorful for his departure.

The good news is that football season is here at last. The first points of 2009, incidentally, were scored by a former Buckeye -- Tennessee Titans' rookie A.J. Trapasso ran 40 yards with a faked punt -- in last night's Hall of Fame game against the Buffalo Bills.

Here in our village we felt a special sense of pride. Before starring at OSU, Trapasso was a standout at the high school up the street.

* * *
I've been watching the healthcare debate with interest, especially the phenomenon of "town brawl meetings."

Soft-headed conservatives, masquerading as free-speech advocates, are pimples on the ass of honest reform. What they're doing is stifling free speech, not exercising it. It's less grassroots than AstroTurf.

With their disruptive wails of "Socialized medicine!" they represent the result of failing to examine facts and think critically. They're protesting proposals that aren't on the table.

It's embarrassing but not unexpected. We saw the same misinformed ideological rage last year at Palin rallies. The fact that there's considerable overlap between the two crowds is no coincidence.

Thank you, talk radio, for once again dumbing-down the populace.

That said, the other side of the argument is flawed at its foundation. Care and compassion are human longings, not entitlements of citizenship. Pres. Obama is to be commended for seeking to mend a broken system, but I reject the premise that every American should be guaranteed medical coverage.

Equal access to care? Fine by me. Control costs? Absolutely. Just don't presume to tell me that insurance is my birthright.

* * *
"Cash for Clunkers" is a Trojan horse, and yet it's duped so many Americans that the program is running out of money.

On its face, it's an enormous green boondoggle. In the big picture, the environmental advantage of a new vehicle is minuscule compared to the contaminants released and the energy consumed in its production. (Never mind the impact of crushed clunkers, most of which won't be recycled or reclaimed, on landfills.) For the consumer, even with a $4,500 federal subsidy in-hand, trading a clunker on a shiny new ride rarely is anything but a boneheaded financial decision.

What we have here, plain and simple, is an ill-conceived attempt to prop-up the automakers by helping them shed excess inventory. Considering these companies' record of wasting time and money, it won't do them any long-term good. Worst of all, it's encouraging the same kind of mindless overspending that inflamed the consumer-credit crunch in the first place.

When the recession deepens later this year, as inevitably it will, remember those observations.

I don't own a clunker. If I did, I'd be keeping it -- and making it last.

* * *
Finally, this today from Ron Reagan, son of the former president:

"Sarah Palin only needs a red rubber nose and some exploding shoes and she could go back to work for Barnum and Bailey. The fact that we give this clown any time at all is shocking and silly and a little bit stupid."
That easily wins Quote of the Day honors, and it's a strong contender for Quote of the Year.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Charlie Foxtrot II

It's rare that I sleep in -- I hate to squander dawn and pre-dawn hours.

This morning I made an exception.

Our choice to hire movers for the last big bits ended up adding stress, not alleviating it. Two weeks ago my wife made arrangements for them to begin at 9am yesterday, and we were at the house a half-hour early. When the truck didn't show by 9:15am, she called the moving company.

"We're sorry," said the recorded voice. "This number has been disconnected."


Both of us began phone-Googling other ways to get in touch with the tardy toters. I found what appeared to be a cell-phone listing for the owner and called the number.

"We're sorry. This subscriber's voice-mailbox is full."

The sinking feeling in our guts could've been worse -- at least we hadn't put down a deposit. Mrs. KintlaLake and I discussed our options and placed a few more calls to explore those options, without success. Eventually I tried the original mover's mobile number again. The sleepy owner answered.

The cynic in me insists that he was hung over. Sticking to the facts, however, it was clear that he'd forgotten to schedule our job.

It was after 10:30am when the truck finally showed up in our driveway and two smallish young men hopped out of the cab. They were friendly and polite, but they didn't present a sight that inspired confidence. Worse, they lacked the equipment to do the job they'd been contracted to do -- they were without hand tools, straps or an appliance dolly.

Even so, the load-out went without incident. Once at the new house, the movers got my father-in-law's "lacquer lecture," cautioning them to mind the woodwork.

I'd heard that speech before, but I hadn't expected the driver to ask for payment-in-full -- cash only -- before unloading the truck. I ignored him.

As the second half of the ordeal got underway, my wife and I were around the back of the house preparing a clear path for arriving goods. Suddenly, we heard a loud crash from the driveway.

The movers' dime-store dolly had jumped off the ramp leading down from the truck, dumping our washing machine onto the concrete. I instructed the driver to keep working, assuring him that we'd discuss the damage later.

One of the last pieces to come off of the truck was a large, armoire-type chest destined for our bedroom. The movers had wrestled it about halfway up the stairs when it became obvious that it was going to fall -- either it'd take out a wall or break the downhill mover's legs. (Lacquered woodwork notwithstanding.)

I'm not accustomed to doing a job that I've paid someone else to do, but this time I had no choice. I threw myself under the lower end of the 300-pound piece, got a good grip and proceeded to chest-press it over my head and out of harm's way.

Bad for my back. Good for my ego.

Once all six items were safely inside the house, my wife and I sat down with the movers at the patio table to discuss the charges. I was, shall we say, inflexible -- I wasn't about to pay retail prices for wholesale incompetence.

Ultimately, and after I spoke directly with the owner, paying two-thirds of the invoice settled the account. The moving company's insurance will cover damage done to the washer and armoire.

We occupied ourselves the rest of the day with unpacking and arranging, along with rounds of ice and ibuprofen. After an extended cat nap, at midnight we drove to Lancaster to fetch our older spawn, who'd spent his Saturday doing volunteer work.

At that point we didn't need to make our long days any longer, but all three of us were hungry, so we ducked into an all-night restaurant for a wee-hours breakfast. We fell into bed just before 3am.

And that's why I slept in today.

Friday, August 7, 2009


The house we're leaving is nearly empty now, save the items that'll be moved on Saturday and a rather impressive pile of goods we'll sell at a garage sale there later this month. Yesterday morning I hauled one of the last sizable-but-manageable pieces to storage.

The well-loved wheelbarrow was born long before I was and originally belonged to my father, who died several months ago. It's common, unremarkable -- a thick, hammered-steel bucket and oak handles, rolling on a pneumatic tire. At some point it was painted red, although I seem to remember that it was green when I was a boy.

I have vivid memories of Dad sweating behind loads of topsoil, pavers, balled shrubs and firewood. I remember mucking stalls, flopping a pitchfork on top of a too-heavy pile of manure and straining to wheel it out to the pasture behind the barn.

As I rolled the old wheelbarrow into our storage unit yesterday, I acknowledged that I'll never, ever part with it -- it symbolizes both hard work and the hardest-working man I've ever known.

Last night I went back to the house to finish preparing the washer and the desk for tomorrow's move. There was a package on the front porch, addressed to me.

Inside the parcel from my mother was a smaller box, which held three items wrapped in tissue paper.

My father's pocketknives.

Befitting the man, they're simple tools: two small stockmans, a Buck and a Schrade Old Timer, along with the knife he carried every day -- a Case pen with jigged-bone scales.

This particular Case was a birthday present from me in the mid-1980s, replacing a similar knife lost on a farm call one rainy night. Twenty-five years later the blades are worn and, to my surprise, in need of sharpening. The spine of the smaller blade shows that it had been used as a scraper.

Holding this humble little slipjoint in my hands brings a smile and a warm, familiar feeling. Like that 60-year-old wheelbarrow, it's a reminder of the man and a treasure worth keeping.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Still schlepping

It's the move that keeps on giving.

As I've said, there are some household items that we can't move ourselves -- washer, dryer, fridge, desk and two dressers. We'll get professional help with those on Saturday, but we still have work to do. This morning I made three trips in my SUV, hauling drawers and framed pictures and mirrors and such.

On the bright side, the spawns' effort has improved to the point that they've become useful. Unfortunately, our hosts' attitude is making our new digs borderline-intolerable. They've provided us with a house but seem intent on robbing us of our home.

We understand that our presence is an imposition, but really, we're very easy keepers. There's not much that The KintlaLake Four can do except to pull together.

It's noon, and after five hours' schlepping I'm done for today. Time for a hot shower and a coupla hours on the heating pad...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sharps: 'From the Edge'

I want to devote a few pixels here to bumping a new e-newsletter from friends Derrick and Wendy Bohn at

Called From the Edge, it claims to be more than just another e-mail sales flyer -- and if the first issue is any indication, KSF makes good on that claim. Sure, these folks are in the business of selling knives, sheaths and other top-notch stuff, but From the Edge also promises to offer interviews, tips and educational content.

Of special note in the August edition are a
profile of Bark River Knife & Tool's Mike Stewart and a how-to on modifying a coated knife so it'll work as a firesteel striker. (The photo in the latter article should look familiar to KintlaLake Blog readers.)

In its debut, From the Edge seeks to join the handful of e-missives that bring us news we actually can use -- it's well worth subscribing, which you can do here.

Besides, Derrick and Wendy are good people who do things the right way. They've already earned my business, and I encourage readers to give KSF a look.

The smart newsletter is just a bonus.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Big Push

The physically strenuous part of our move is over, and one thing is clear: I'm getting too old for this.

We fetched a 26-foot U-Haul truck mid-day Thursday and worked late into the evening loading it, mostly furniture and big chunks of household goods. That night we backed the rented beast up against the house to keep it relatively secure, and then yesterday we drove it across town to our new home.

Unloading was much easier than loading, and despite the heat and humidity we were able to knock it out in less than four hours. We even had time and energy to do a little bit of unpacking and arranging.

It feels more like home now.

The two-day push wasn't without complications, of course, and both of our issues were related to attitude. The spawns were, in sum, less-than-stellar on Loading Day, although they did acquit themselves quite admirably yesterday. And Friday morning my in-laws, our new hosts, launched into an addled, entitlement-fueled harangue aimed at my wife and me.

You'll have that sort of thing, I guess. The missus and I persevered and got the job done anyway.

Our teenagers, relieved of duty around 6pm, dashed off to hang out with friends. I'd been saving my pennies to treat my wife to dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant and so, after washing the moving-day grime from our weary selves, that's where we headed.

It's a great little place, very authentic and just a couple of miles from where we're living now. The proprietor greeted us warmly and the staff, as if they knew we needed pampering, were pleasant and attentive. I can't decide what I enjoyed most -- the chorizo, the tequila or the strolling musician who serenaded us.

The company I kept topped them all. Mrs. KintlaLake is the best. No one works harder that she does. I'm a fortunate man, and we make one helluva team.

Over the next several days we'll empty boxes and move things around 'til we make this space our own. Next Saturday we'll pay a pair of pros to move four pieces we couldn't manage ourselves.

So we're not done just yet -- but the worst, I think, is behind us.