Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I can't remember the last time I went ten days without posting to KintlaLake Blog. I guess I must've needed a break.

In any case, I'll be back at it in October. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Our garage sale is over -- sort of.

Today was excruciatingly slow and much remains unsold. Either we'd tapped our potential clientele Friday and Saturday or the iffy (and ultimately wet) weather interfered. Maybe both.

Our last customers were a husband and wife from Oklahoma, living here temporarily for his contract job. They lingered long and we talked about the difficulties of leaving home for the first time in their lives. They'd left a new grandbaby behind, along with their younger son's starting spot on the basketball team.

My family and I know hardship ourselves, but we also know that others endure far more than we'll ever confront. That's why we decided -- before our sale began -- that we'd turn ten percent of our receipts back into our community.

This evening, five percent went to a local substance-abuse program. A like amount will go to our village's food pantry tomorrow morning.

Yeah, it feels good, but for us it's not a feel-good thing. Simply put, this is our home and we're taking care of it.

What, I wonder, could happen if all private sales funneled this small amount to public good?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Garage Sale Weekend

This is more time-consuming than moving, for cryin' out loud.

Two days down, one to go. Like every garage sale I've ever been a part of, the things I expected to sell immediately still await buyers, and the who-on-earth-would-buy-this stuff went in a flash.

So we've raised some cash, which is a good thing, and we're left with a considerable pile of goods to sell tomorrow. The best part of the process, however, has been the people we've met.

The pair of aging Air Force vets, both career flight mechanics with nearly identical service histories, who came within minutes of meeting each other in our driveway. Several mentally and physically disabled children, their parents displaying the kind of unconditional love that inspired me to tears. The young couple who hauled away our living room furniture in two trips, speaking humbly about the youth ministry they'd started. The teacher who selflessly collected toys and classroom aids for her students.

Ah, and then there was the well-heeled couple who showed up early this morning. They never got out of their car. They didn't even shut off the engine. They simply looked -- and so did we.

See, it's not every day that a Ferrari 355 FI Spider rolls up to our house. With a wave and a wink, the driver backed out onto the road, pausing for a moment before lighting up the tires and paddle-snicking through the gears. The roar of the V8 was exquisite.

And the sight of our two teenage spawns -- eyes wide open, jaws on the ground -- well, that wasn't bad, either.

Anyway, we'll tally our receipts at the end of the day tomorrow.

We're counting our blessings right now.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One for 'The Bucket List'

Someday before I leave this earth, I'll attend the world's greatest motorsports event -- the Isle of Man TT.

Chances are you've never heard of the Isle or the motorcycle races held there each year. And in this age of energy-absorbing barriers, head-and-neck restraints and restrictor plates, maybe that's a good thing, because the IOM TT isn't about safety.

It's all about speed, endurance and, most of all, courage.

Perhaps the coolest thing about the IOM TT is the circuit itself: in a single lap, a rider must negotiate an estimated 200 corners over 37.75 miles of public roads that wind through towns and snake over mountains.

Winning is the goal, but simply surviving the Isle is an achievement.

I may not make it to the IOM TT next May, but I will get there one of these days. Take a look at this video and tell me that you don't want to go, too.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

'4 Problems That Could Sink America'

(This article by Rick Newman appeared on ten days ago. It's thought-provoking and worth the read.)

If we're lucky, the recession is winding down, and life will start to feel a bit more comfortable before long. But that doesn't mean things will go back to the way they used to be.

The global recession that began in America's housing market has shaken the world's economic order and possibly knocked the United States down a notch or two. The spendthrift American consumer is out of money. American wages are flat. Despite some hopeful signs, the U.S. economy could muddle along for years.

Meanwhile, actions in China -- rather than the United States -- may have been the initial trigger for a global economic recovery. Many other nations will grow faster than the United States over the next few years and command an increasing share of the world's resources. "The message to Americans," says Mauro Guillen, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, "is you need to redouble your efforts to be more competitive."

American innovation has solved daunting problems before and could again. But it would be a mistake to assume that American prosperity will continue on some preordained upward course. Nations rise and fall, often realizing what happened only in retrospect. Here are four problems that are undermining our future prosperity:

We don't like to work.
Sure, now that jobs are scarce, everybody's willing to put in a few extra hours to stay ahead of the ax. But look around: We still expect easy money, hope to retire early, and embrace the oversimplistic message of bestsellers like The One Minute Millionaire and The 4-Hour Workweek. Unfortunately, the rest of the world isn't sending as much money our way as it used to, which makes it harder to do less with more.

White-collar jobs are now migrating overseas just like blue-collar ones. Kids in Asia spend the summer studying math and science while American mall rats are texting each other about Britney and Miley. "We need a different mind-set," says Guillen. "People need to invest more in their own future. Instead of buying stuff at the mall, spend the money on evening classes. Learn a language or skills you don't have."

I recently interviewed entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, who transformed his father's neighborhood liquor store into a $60 million business anchored by the Web site An overnight success? Hardly. Vaynerchuk has big plans, and he works at least 16 hours a day to achieve them. "If you want to work eight hours a day," he says, "you're going to get eight-hour-a-day results. There's nothing wrong with that, but I don't want to hear you bitch about money if you're only willing to work eight hours a day."

Vaynerchuk is 33 and has something in common with John Bogle, the founder of the Vanguard mutual fund firm, who's 80. I talked to Bogle recently about how Americans need to change their approach to work and money. He told me this: "We need more caution, more savings, and we may have to work harder. Maybe we need more people who like to work and don't count down every day 'til retirement."

Nobody wants to sacrifice.
Why should we? The government is standing by with stimulus money, banker bailouts, homeowner aid, cash for clunkers, expanded healthcare, and maybe more stimulus money. And most Americans will never have to pay an extra dime for any of this. Somehow, $9 trillion worth of government debt will just become somebody else's problem.

When he was campaigning, candidate Obama dabbled with the "personal responsibility" theme, and in his acceptance speech in November he called for a "new spirit of sacrifice." But now that he's in office, there's less interest in such quaint ideas. During his prime-time news conference about healthcare reform in July, a reporter asked Obama if ordinary Americans would have to give up anything in exchange for better, more widely available care. Obama's answer: "They're going to have to give up paying for things that don't make them healthier." Hooray! Something for nothing! He may as well have said, "Here's a magic pill that will make all your problems go away."

Obama's plan is to get a tiny portion of the American public -- the wealthy -- to pay higher taxes for the benefit of the majority. Hey, while we're at it, let's see if we can convince 1 percent of the population to bear the entire responsibility for fighting two open-ended wars that are supposedly in the interest of every American. It would just be too uncomfortable to tell the middle class that if they want something, they need to earn it themselves.

We're uninformed.
The healthcare smackdown -- sorry, "debate" -- is Exhibits A, B, and C. The soaring cost of healthcare is a problem that affects most Americans. It's shrinking paychecks, squeezing small businesses, bankrupting families and swelling the national debt. Yet outraged Americans seem most concerned about fictions like death panels and government-enforced euthanasia, while clinging to the myth that our current system of selective availability and perverse incentives somehow represents capitalist ideals. But let's take a break from that burdensome issue to examine the likelihood that President Obama was born in a foreign country and hoodwinked America into believing he was eligible to run for president.

People who lack the sense to question Big Lies always end up in deep trouble. Being well informed takes work, even with the Internet. In a democracy, that's simply a civic burden. If we're too foolish or lazy to educate ourselves on healthcare, global warming, financial reform, and other complicated issues, then we're signing ourselves over to special interests who see nothing wrong with plundering our national -- and personal -- wealth.

The iCulture.
We may be chastened by the recession, but Americans still believe they deserve the best of everything -- the best job, the best healthcare, the best education for our kids. And we want it at a discount -- or better yet, free -- which brings us back to the usual disconnect between what we want and what we're willing to pay for.

Rationing is a dirty word, so we can't have a system that officially rations something as vital as healthcare or education. Instead, we have unacknowledged, de facto rationing that directs the most resources to those with the best connections, the most money, or the savvy to game the system. What keeps the rest of us content is the illusion that we, too, will be able to game the system someday -- as long as the government doesn't interfere.

Solutions that serve some public good -- like Social Security and bank deposit insurance in the 1930s and Medicare in the 1960s -- usually require everybody to give something to get something. If it works, the overall benefits outweigh the costs. Good programs leave individuals the option to pay more if they want more. Bad programs promise more than they can deliver. But often we don't know that until it's too late.

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11, 2009

Today I touch the memory of ordinary lives and extraordinary bravery. It's a day to honor those who serve my community, my state, my nation.

It’s time to visit again the aching grief, to embrace my rage and to shape anger into vigilance that guards my freedoms.

Whatever else I thought I needed to say can wait until tomorrow.

Today, I remember.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sharps: Bark River Little Creek

I know I just finished gushing over the Gunny, but here's a quick peek at another Barkie -- the diminutive Little Creek.
It's 5.5" long overall and a shade over two ounces, a positively wonderful "three-finger" knife. Think of it as a pocketknife that doesn't bend in the middle.

The handle material on this example, by the way, is "golden spalted maple burl." A photo can't begin to do it justice.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Seen on Facebook

After Pres. Obama's address to American schoolkids yesterday, I spotted a few tongue-in-cheek reactions worth preserving here.

"Today, Barack Obama urged my son to stay in school and work hard to be successful in life. What is this, Communist China?"

"If you were a good American, you would've kept him home from school today instead of exposing him to ideas that might cause him to think. Why do you hate your country so?"

"That Obama, he's always pushing the envelope, isn't he? I mean, next he'll be suggesting things like brushing my teeth every morning or looking both ways before I cross the street. He's nothing but a politician."

Without notice or fanfare, neither of the KintlaLake spawns' schools showed the President's speech to students -- disappointing, sure, but not surprising in an area that went for McCain last November.

I guess the current curriculum doesn't include a module on leadership. Clearly, that's a socialist concept...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sharps: Brits & pointy things

Most Americans have an insular perspective. We act as if what happens on the other side of the world or "across the pond" has little bearing on our daily lives.

That's just wrongheaded. Over the last two decades, repressive laws enacted elsewhere have leached into U.S. public policy. Other societies bent on protecting citizens from themselves have had a disturbing influence, both legislatively and socially, on the liberties that American citizens claim to cherish.

Case-in-point: Great Britain's statutory control of edged tools. In simple terms, the UK's Criminal Justice Act of 1988 made it illegal for anyone in a public place to possess a knife with a blade of 7.62cm or longer. (For the metrically impaired, that's three inches.)

Practically, the Act is even stricter -- unless a Brit has good reason or legal authority to carry a knife of any kind, it's against the law.

There's been much talk in the British media recently about the rise in "knife crimes" and a so-called "knife culture." In an inexplicable knee-jerk response earlier this year, The Scout Organization in the UK -- equivalent to the Boy Scouts of America -- issued new guidance to its Scouts and their parents:

"Knives should be carried to and from meetings by an adult."

"Campsites are considered public places...and so knives are not to be carried."

"Knives of any sort should not be carried by anybody to a Scout meeting or camp...they should be kept by the Scout leaders and handed out as required."

Speaking as a former Scout -- yes, I was an Eagle Scout -- that's the height of absurdity. Lord Baden Powell surely is whirling in his grave.

Our children don't need another taboo. Kids should learn to respect, use and carry their own knives -- under adult supervision, of course -- and we must begin teaching them at an early age. The younger, in my opinion, the better.

And while we're on the subject of lessons, Americans shouldn't presume that the UK's ridiculous rules never will visit our shores. Bad ideas, especially those rooted in the illusion of "safety," have a nasty way of sneaking in through the back door.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sharps: Bark River Gunny

I've admitted to being a fan of Bark River Knife & Tool's exceptional Bravo-1 and the larger Bravo-2. So when Mike Stewart and company unveiled the Gunny -- which essentially is a downsized Bravo-1 -- I fully expected to like it a lot.

I just didn't expect to like it better than its "Search & Rescue Series" brethren.

See, I'd been thinking that the Bravo-1 might just be my ideal all-around knife: a drop-point blade 4.25" long and 0.215" thick, A-2 with full convex grind, a comfy handle and near-perfect balance. Truth is, I can still make a strong case, but the Gunny is giving its bigger sibling a serious run.

By the numbers, the Bark River Gunny is 8.4" long overall, with a blade 3.775" in length and 0.154" thick. Naturally, it's convex-ground A-2 carbon steel. At 5.625 ounces, the Gunny is 31% lighter than the Bravo-1.

After working my Gunny, I found it to be just as stout and just as able as my Bravo-1 and (predictably) a bit more nimble. And because a lighter, more compact knife often is easier to carry, it's more likely to be carried -- whether on a day hike or as part of my EDC kit.

Adding the two qualities together -- capability plus ease-of-carry convenience -- makes the Gunny more versatile for my purposes, perhaps even more useful to me than a larger knife.

Workmanship on the Gunny is typical Bark River (excellent, that is), and the California Buckeye burl handle I chose is as comfortable in the hand as it is stunning to the eye. The Loveless-inspired sheath, Sharpshooter's new "Sur-Lok" design, is likewise top-shelf.

For now I plan to carry my Gunny in the Sur-Lok, as-is. Later I may pick up a
KSF Leather Field Sheath from, add an LMF Army firesteel and create a low-drag version of my Bravo-1 and Bravo-2 rigs (left). Honestly, I haven't decided yet.

I do know one thing -- the Bark River Gunny gives me no nits to pick. It's well on its way to becoming my favorite fixed-blade knife.

Considering the family rivalry, that's saying something.

'Silly season'

Barack Hussein* Obama, 44th President of the United States, plans to address American schoolkids Tuesday in a televised address, and conservatives aren't happy about it.

Critics protest that's he's taking the whole President thing a bit too far, insisting that he'll use the speech to push a political agenda. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, typically:
"At a minimum, it's disruptive. Number two, it's uninvited and number three, if people would like to hear his message they can, on a voluntary basis, go to YouTube or some other source and get it. I don't think he needs to force it upon the nation's school children."
Uninvited? Forced?

Pull-eeze -- he's the President, for crissake. White House mouthpiece Robert Gibbs had this reaction yesterday:

"I think we've reached a little bit of the silly season when the President of the United States can't tell kids in school to study hard and stay in school."
Gibbs is right, of course.

The present dustup is just the latest example of the willful marginalization of American conservative ideology. There's no denying that these folks now dwell at the fringes -- it simply baffles me that they keep publishing their home address.

For sure, liberal ideologues one day will have their turn in the same idiotic barrel. But for now, let's all be embarrassed for right-wingers as they thrash about in self-righteous denial.

*I included Pres. Obama's middle name for the sole purpose of making mindless conservatives convulse. See also "Maynard G. Krebs."

Friday, September 4, 2009

But do you need it?

I know what you're thinking.

Please, not another post about his orange Griptilian.

Relax, click on that photo and look closely -- it's a new Benchmade 551, this time fitted with blades of "highly corrosion-resistant" X-15 T.N stainless steel. Otherwise, it appears to be essentially identical to other 551 Griptilians.

What surprises me most about the
551-H2O is the price -- $120, just 20 bucks more than the 154CM version. A quick check of street prices seems to indicate that the increase in MSRP translates into a $13 bump (to about $76) in the real world. Not bad.

In concept, this looks like a good upgrade, certainly a bargain. Obviously, I don't need one -- but do you?

I guess that depends.

Forget claims of collectability and the intangible CDI factor. It's like this: if you're in the habit of using a folding knife around salt water, then you might benefit from the 551-H20's additional resistance to corrosion, so go for it.

For us landlubbers, though, Benchmade's 154CM variant probably is plenty cool enough.

Every Monster energy drink I've ever tried reminds me, in one way or another, of cough syrup. And like most medicine, Monster is overpriced and, when used as directed, does the job.

It kicks my ass, every time.

Still, I have a hard time justifying the price tag -- or I did, until the Java Monster line was introduced.

I like all eight flavors, but by far my favorite is Russian Java Monster. Not only does it taste all grown up, it puts me in the mood to clean baseboards and ceiling fans and the clear plastic that covers the speedometer on my truck and -- hey Sparky, wanna go play in the creek? What day is it, anyway?

Let's face it, you want a jolt like that every now and then. But really now, do you need it?

Of course you do. Now quit stalling and just hold the ladder while I...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Returning to the familiar

It's summertime, at least technically. The trees are green and daytime temps rise into the 80s.

According to my personal calendar, however, September brings autumn. Most important, Saturday will usher-in the best season of all: Ohio State football season.

For 48 years -- since I was five, if you're keeping score -- I've bled Scarlet and Gray, through national championships and conference futility. Aside from my given name, cheering for my beloved Buckeyes is the longest continuous thread in the fabric of my life.

It doesn't get more familiar than that. At a time when I seem to be immersed in the unfamiliar, I welcome the return of a constant.

Unless I find tickets under my pillow Saturday morning, I won't be in The 'Shoe for the game against Navy. And with money tight in the KintlaLake household, we may not even venture down to campus for the traditional tailgating.

I suspect that we'll have the boom box tuned to the game while we're sorting through garage-sale goods out in the barn -- and that's ok, because radio broadcasts planted the first seeds of my fanaticism way back when.

Speaking of our garage sale, we've had to push it back a few weeks. Life, especially the events of a few weeks ago, got in the way of our preparations, so adjusting our plans was the right thing to do.

I have no idea how four people who already have filled four rooms and a 10-by-30 storage unit still can have so much stuff to sell -- toys and tools, furniture and folderol, it's positively overwhelming.

The sorting is at once maddening and therapeutic. Opening box upon bag upon box, everything I come across triggers memories. Each item once had a purpose or is associated with an occasion.

It's all familiar.

Take, for example, a canvas briefcase I found. Once black as coal, 15 years of dragging it to work and back left it tattered and gray -- and yet intact and still solid as iron.

"Wow, you probably could get ten bucks for that," my wife suggested with a smile.

Not a chance. Hell, there's more character in that old satchel than in most people I meet -- it stays.

Keep what's familiar. Hold on to the things that last.

Even with much sorting left to do, that's good practice, I think.