Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taken on faith

I'm a "None" -- like 34 million of my fellow Americans, I'm one of those people who checks "none of the above" when asked to register my religious affiliation. Still, the subject of religion continues to intrigue me.

When I
wrote about the American Religious Identification Survey, I noted that 80% of respondents self-identified with a religion of one sort or another (76% with Christianity) but only 69.5% affirmed their belief in "the existence of God," observing,
"For Americans, it seems, religion is somewhat less about believing than it is about belonging -- more fellowship than faith."
So it's not about believing. Apparently it's even less about knowing.

The just-released U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey from The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that we Americans don't know much about religion.

Overall, Americans correctly answered 16 of 32 religious-knowledge questions. Self-identified Christians averaged 15.7 right answers, with Protestants (16.0) outpacing Catholics (14.7). Jews averaged an impressive 20.5 correct, edging out Mormons (which were included in the Christian segment) at 20.3.

Atheists/Agnostics got top marks, averaging 20.9 correct answers.

The survey included seven questions testing respondents' knowledge of the Bible. It's interesting that professed Christians (4.2 correct) did better than the average American (4.1) but took a back seat to Jews (4.3) and Atheists/Agnostics (4.4).

Mormons (5.7) and White Evangelicals (5.1) seem to know more about the Bible than other survey segments, including Protestants (4.5) and Catholics (3.2).

Digging deeper into the Pew survey, it didn't surprise me to learn that the faithful are relatively uninformed about religion's role in public life. Just 68% of Christians surveyed knew what the Constitution says about religion, for example, compared to 82% of Atheists/Agnostics.

Atheists/Agnostics also outperformed Christians by nearly two-to-one on a series of questions about the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on religion in public schools, exposing yet another persecution complex fueled by ignorance of facts.

It's a fascinating and well-done survey, typical of
Pew. The complete report (pdf) is available here, and KintlaLake Blog readers interested in testing their own knowledge of religion can take a 15-question sample quiz by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The United Kingdom of Ohio

They call it "the surveillance society."

By one estimate there are 4.2 million CCTV cameras in use in the UK -- one camera for every 14 people.

It's all in the name of public safety, of course. (This from a nation that hasn't yet met a
nanny it didn't love.)

Back on this side of the Pond, today we
learned that $2 million of Homeland Security money has brought Mary Poppins to Ohio. The camera-integration project, approved by the Ohio Controlling Board, links cameras statewide to a hub in Columbus, where Ohio officials will be able to access real-time video feeds.

My wife and I actually got wind of this a couple of years ago. We heard credible reports that businesses were being quietly encouraged to install at least one camera and a DVR. A link-up scheme, though not explicitly proposed at the time, obviously was the goal.

And now it's here.

The deterrent effect of video surveillance is negligible. It serves safety and security primarily by facilitating identification of bad actors after they've committed bad acts -- no one should harbor the illusion that a blanket of video monitoring somehow makes us safer.


It doesn't.

Anyone who wants to waste time opposing Ohio's plan or trying to block its implementation should know that the civil-liberties ship sailed years ago. Those of us who surf the Internet or use mobile phones, swipe credit cards, subscribe to magazines or visit the ER already volunteer our personal information to the State.

No matter what you call it -- Big Brother, Nanny State or New World Order -- it's real, inescapable and here to stay. As I said
yesterday, the best we can do is be aware of it and act accordingly.

Thinking about education

CNN's Larry King Live rarely is worth an hour of my time these days. Last night's show, a panel discussion on the state of education in America, was an exception.

A couple of King's guests produced particularly incisive nuggets. Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the Washington, DC public schools, has been criticized mercilessly for firing 241 poor-performing teachers. Rhee may lose her job when DC's next mayor takes office -- her current boss, Adrian Fenty, lost the Democratic primary two weeks ago -- but she remains unapologetic:
"...it was not particularly popular. But the thing that we have to remember is that, you know, we're not a jobs program. We are not here for the comfort and the security of adults. We are here to educate children. We have a responsibility to them and to them alone. And so if we have to take some actions that makes some adults unhappy, but it's going to benefit kids in the end, we have to do those things."
The inimitable Ben Stein, an economist best-known as a speechwriter for presidents Nixon and Ford, approached from a different direction:

"My thought is that the education crisis is a cultural crisis in this entire country.

"I don't see these kids in the low-income schools, I've never taught in one. I taught for many years in universities with well-to-do white kids, and even there there's a crisis of learning.

"The culture just does not value learning, knowledge, self-discipline, rigor, as much as it should. It values other things, but in much of the population, it just does not value learning and hard work.

"There's never been an educational system so bad that a well-intentioned, hard-working motivated kid could not get an education. There are libraries, there's the Internet. But there's a cultural crisis where people are told that it's not worthwhile to be a learned and hard-working person."

Later, Stein took another tack across the same bearing:

"...we are a very great country, but we have a lot of problems with the culture of the country."

"...long ago, there were some freed African-American slaves who worked and worked and worked and worked, and got into Harvard and got into Columbia and got into Princeton. So those kids had the right ability to do that.

"Now there are white kids from the suburbs who don't bother to learn to read and write. It's all a matter of motivation.

"And one thing I noticed from this discussion endlessly is we blame the teachers, blame the teachers, blame the teachers, and I'm sure many of them deserve blame, but we don't ever say, why don't the kids wake up and smell the coffee and say, look, it's up to us to do some work. It's up to us to go to the library and maybe get some books out and educate ourselves."

I present these snippets not to make a particular point, necessarily, simply as examples of critical thought on a tough subject.

Sharp people, sharp observations -- and no pandering.

Listening post: 'Way Out Here'

I heard Josh Thompson's ballad on the radio yesterday and can't quite get it out of my head. Here's the music video.



Clearly, "Way Out Here" occupies the same musical-cultural niche as "
Country Boy Can Survive." For me, it brings up feelings similar to those evoked when I hear "Close to the Land" and "This is My Home."

Thompson's refrain, "John Wayne, Johnny Cash and John Deere" is bound to resonate with certain Americans, but (like racing stock cars or pickin' punkins) those images are easily romanticized.

I contend that these lines are a better measure of a listener's roots:
The dogs run loose.
We smoke, we chew.
We fry everything.
If that makes you smile, you get it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Real & imagined

If you picked up this morning's edition of The Columbus Dispatch, maybe you saw the page-one article about the federal government's plan to compel now-encrypted social-networking sites and VOIP networks to allow law-enforcement agents to monitor what you and I say to each other.

Like that'd be something new, right?

All the feds want now is a law that makes it legal to spy on citizens who use these communications media. Sure, it's a development we need to be aware of but hey, we should act with the knowledge that it's happening anyway.

On Dispatch page B7, sandwiched between the obituaries and the weather, is far more pressing
news.

Columbus mayor Michael Coleman, who's cozy enough with New York City's Michael Bloomberg to qualify as an enemy of The People, wants Columbus and other Ohio cities to have the power to enact their own gun-control laws.

Never mind that the state legislature and Gov. Ted Strickland wisely took away that authority three years ago. Forget that nearly all of Coleman's hoped-for laws either are on the federal books or have no effect on crime (or both). Ignore the 2008 Heller decision and (especially) the McDonald case decided earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hell, ignore the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions.

Coleman is a member of
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which means that he's not concerned about constitutional rights or, for that matter, anything beyond the group's Bloomberg-esque agenda. Here's what MAIG says about itself:
"We support the Second Amendment and the rights of citizens to own guns. We recognize that the vast majority of gun dealers and gun owners carefully follow the law. And we know that a policy that is appropriate for a small town in one region of the country is not necessarily appropriate for a big city in another region of the country."
In point of fact, MAIG's aim is to make the exercise of constitutional rights so inconvenient, so onerous, that it results in the de facto disarming of individual American citizens.

Don't believe it? Read MAIG's latest report, Trace the Guns, which is packed with misinformation, disinformation and outright lies. Visit TraceTheGuns.org to see what MAIG has in mind for your state. Check out the NRA's list of MAIG's member mayors and The Truth About Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how the game is played -- gun-grabbers know that enacting unconstitutional local laws is relatively quick and easy, and that citizens' legal challenges take much longer. And while a challenge crawls through the system, people like Coleman and Bloomberg bide their time until the judicial wind blows to the left.

They won't let up and neither should we.

I don't live in Columbus, so in two years I'll have no direct say in who assumes the office of mayor. Maybe you don't live in a city or town governed by one of MAIG's anti-Second Amendment mayors, either.

It'd be a mistake, however, for us to ignore this or any political attack on our right to keep and bear arms. Having Heller and McDonald behind us may be great, but we must never let our guard down.

* * *
"A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." (Constitution of The United States, Amendment II [1789])

"The people have the right to bear arms for their defense and security; but standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and shall not be kept up; and the military shall be in strict subordination to the civil power." (Constitution of The State of Ohio, Article I §4 [1851])

Monday, September 27, 2010

Nuts


Our resident squirrels have been busy knocking bristly acorns out of the bur oak that towers over the back of our lot. We've also seen a few stray acorns from our northern neighbor's red oak, smaller than those shed by the bur oak, almost dainty by comparison.

Strolling along the edge of the woods before dinner this evening, I spied a cluster of spiny yellow husks hanging from a vine-covered Ohio buckeye tree -- home-grown good luck. I picked 'em all.

Flash: The recession is over!

In a news release issued last week, the National Bureau of Economic Research proudly announced:
"...that a trough in business activity occurred in the U.S. economy in June 2009. The trough marks the end of the recession that began in December 2007 and the beginning of an expansion. The recession lasted 18 months, which makes it the longest of any recession since World War II."
That's a relief, now, isn't it? The recession has been over for 15 months -- who knew?

Answer the damned question. Seriously, who knew?

If KintlaLake Blog readers reflect the results of the latest
CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, then 25% of you believe that things are looking up. In the view of 74% of those surveyed, however, we're still deep in the woods.

Revisiting (and updating) "
The Stain," posted here seven months ago, helps explain why.

A series of
maps, developed by Latoya Egwuekwe using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, gives us a time-lapse image of U.S. joblessness. Here's the map for December 2007, when NBER says that the recession began:


In June 2009, when NBER tells us that we reached the end of this recession, the unemployment map looked like this:


The most recent month for which complete county-by-county statistics are available is May of this year:


The national jobless rate, after hitting 10.1% last October, has jittered between 9.5% and 9.9% over the last six months. In August it was 9.7%.

The spread of unemployment's stain and its disturbing pervasiveness, illuminated by the maps, are more relevant than a single number. In virtually every corner of our country, unemployment is close and getting closer, higher than at any time in living Americans' memory.

Most of us apparently don't believe in a "jobless recovery." We're weary of experts' talk of employment as a "lagging indicator," and we're not inclined to buy what a bunch of pointy-headed econo-wonks are selling. Or, to reprise what I said in February:

"Recovery? My ass."
With all that as context, I'll tell you what I do buy: High unemployment (as we define it today) is here to stay.

I don't believe that we'll see 95% employment again. A big chunk of the jobs lost during this recession probably needed to be cut, from a business-efficiency standpoint, and they won't be coming back. (By the way, I tend to agree with the view that some companies used the economic crisis as a smoke screen for doing what had to be done.)

When the dust finally settles, it may well be that 10% unemployment is considered "full employment." That will, in part, be the new definition of "recovery."

Other definitions also beg for change. Rewinding again to
February:
"...recovery will begin only when we, individually and collectively, change the ways that we consume and spend. If our goal is to return to 'the way things were' before the downturn, we're dooming ourselves (and likely our children) to 'the way things are' right now."
Fundamentally, our perspective needs to change -- and I mean right down to what we consider "The American Dream."

That's not pessimism talking. It's a view grounded firmly in reality -- our new reality.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

For the birds

Four minutes into OSU's game with Eastern Michigan yesterday, the Buckeyes were up 14-0.

The mismatch was official, the rout on. I did some quick math.

"Y'know," I said to my wife, "this thing really could be 210-0 by the time it's over."

Against a team riding a 15-game losing streak, a school which has the proud eagle as its mascot but initials that spell out the name of a flightless bird with a brain the size of its eyeball -- EMU -- anything was possible.

The Bucks possessed the ball 12 times and had 11 scores, racking up 645 yards and punting just once. Wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher caught an OSU record-tying four TD passes from Terrelle Pryor, who himself had a TD catch and another rushing.

Most memorable, at least for me, was Ohio State's second-quarter response to the Emus' first touchdown. It took the Buckeyes eight nonchalant plays to cover 68 yards, the dominant offense making the exercise look about as strenuous as a hotel-ballroom walkthrough, ending with Pryor's nine-yard scoring toss to Sanzenbacher.

That made it 31-7, on the way to a holy shit final of 73-20.

Here endeth the "green" portion of the 2010 schedule. Now bring on the Big Ten and let's see what we're made of.

Friday, September 24, 2010

To the House Committee on Immigration:

When Stephen Colbert testified before your Committee today, the People weren't laughing with you -- not because you weren't laughing, but because we were laughing at you.

In this compartmentalized society we separate drama from comedy and family shows from news, and you've had your own private pomposity network. That ended today, when Mr. Colbert lampooned you to your face.

Since the hearing, your Democratic members have been wringing their hands, calling Mr. Colbert's testimony "sad" and wondering aloud if it damaged the cause of migrant workers. Republican members, amplified by captive partisan bullhorn FOXNews, have called it "disrespectful" and "a mockery."

We, the People, see it differently. We know that nothing could be sadder than the liberal naiveté demonstrated by your Chairwoman in inviting Mr. Colbert in the first place, unless it's the Committee's confidence that he'd actually deliver the politically correct pabulum that he submitted in advance of the hearing.

Self-serving conservatives on this Committee and of this Congress, those of you so adept at making campaign hay on the issue of illegal immigration but accomplishing absolutely nothing, display institutional disrespect for the People you purport to serve.

You've made a mockery of yourselves and of governance. Your impotence and inaction have done more damage to the House of Representatives -- and to our nation -- than a comedian's five-minute statement ever could.

Mr. Colbert simply walked into your hallowed halls today and served his satire to you personally. It's time someone did.

Sincerely,
KintlaLake


* * *
"...the true counterweights on the left to the crowd-rousers on the right are the comedians." (Alexandra Petri, The Washington Post)

"As Stephen Colbert asked committee members if he could enter into the Congressional Record a video of his colonoscopy as evidence of the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, I realized that decorum is dead, celebrity rules and maybe bringing a clown into these proceedings is just what's needed to show the extent to which our Congress has become a circus." (Dave George, AolNews)

Notes from the pumpkin patch

Ok, so my Monday didn't turn out so well -- a willing spirit lost to weak flesh -- but I still managed to come home with useful experience.

Under a cloudless sky, with low humidity and temps pushing 90°F, drinking plenty of water was a must -- and I did, although it's unlikely that I could've chugged enough to prevent the world-class bonk that knocked me out of the game. Nutrition came in the form of three
PowerBars, and that was adequate.

If I had it to do over again I'd employ a canteen or a hydration bladder, some way to keep water with me rather than in an ice chest in the truck, which often was 200 yards away.

I dressed for battling the spiny overgrowth -- sturdy boots and comfortable socks, blue jeans and a long-sleeved denim shirt. Although I prefer deerskin gloves, that day I wore a well-loved cowhide pair and they did the job.

Under the loose-fitting long-sleeved shirt I wore a polypropylene t-shirt (
layers aren't just for cold weather), which kept me much cooler than a cotton tee or nothing at all. For headgear I chose Amish over redneck -- a broad-brimmed straw hat, bought for five bucks at an odd-lots store earlier this summer, ventilated much better than a feed cap and allowed me to carry a 360° patch of shade around with me.

I also had the good sense to tuck a bandanna into my hip pocket. In addition to serving as headband and sweat rag, soaked with water from the ice chest and tied around my neck it provided blessed (albeit temporary) relief from the heat. Honestly, I don't know why I don't carry one of these indispensable cloth squares every day.

I brought along a pair of short-handled loppers for cutting pumpkins from their vines. That's what I ended up using 99% of the time, but I thought that a medium-sized fixed-blade knife might come in handy, too, so I slipped a Bark River Gunny onto my belt -- not the one that I wrote about a year ago, rather a Micarta-handled version bought at well below dealer cost from a shop that was reducing inventory.

Capable as the Gunny is, it generally isn't the right tool for the job of harvesting pumpkins. (My 18-year-old, who carried his own bargain-basement Gunny on Monday, concurs.) See, at this point in the season their tough, woody stems no longer are securely attached, and it proved almost impossible to apply enough force to cut the stem without breaking it off (thereby junkin' the punkin). I did use the knife a few times to clear vegetation, but that was about it.

I had my
EDC Victorinox Farmer with me, of course. I never took it out of my pocket.

Finally, I left my Glock 19 in the safe and carried my
Walther P22 -- lighter on the belt and arguably a more reasonable choice should I have had to dispatch a pumpkin-patch pest. (I didn't.) Loaded with ten rounds of CCI Stinger, the P22 rode at 4 o'clock in an El Paso Saddlery Tortilla OWB leather holster, joined at 8 o'clock by a spare ten-round magazine in an El Paso Mag Pouch.

Whatever else came out of that imperfect day, I got to spend quality time sorting out kit. If I were headed back to the pumpkin patch tomorrow -- and I'm not -- with just a few changes I believe I'd equip myself the same way.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Well, duh.

Over on the home page of Ohioans for Concealed Carry -- a good group, by the way -- is a thought-provoking commentary. In "Not-so-conservative talk radio," Philip Mulivor writes about keeping company with Bill Bennett's Morning in America for the last three years.

Then Mulivor reports stumbling upon what
David Kopel wrote for the NRA's America's 1st Freedom magazine:

"Before the dark days of the Clinton administration, few federal government officials had done more to damage Second Amendment rights than William Bennett, the so-called 'drug czar' under President George H.W. Bush. In March 1989, Bennett set off a national panic by pushing the first Bush administration to ban the import of so-called 'assault weapons.'

"Bennett claimed that 'assault weapons' were the firearms of choice for violent drug dealers. The claim, of course, was nonsense. Police gun seizure data showed that the guns were rarely used in any type of crime. Yet Bennett's massive publicity stunt prohibited dozens of models of high-quality guns. And it set the stage for state-level bans on so-called 'assault weapons,' and, in the long run, for the 1994 Clinton gun ban."

Mulivor's superficial image of Bennett was shattered by the revelation. Chagrined, he observes,
"The lesson here is simple, and I'm probably the last person in Ohio to get it: Not all pro-[Second Amendment] folks are politically conservative, and not all conservatives are pro-[Second Amendment]."
Really? Like, we actually have to think about this stuff?

Mulivor, who's clearly a slave to right-wing purity, goes on to show us that he doesn't "get it" at all, disputing Bennett's patriotism.

I once had the pleasure of dining with Bill Bennett, prior to an event I helped organize a decade ago. Our conversation made it abundantly clear to me that this self-described conservative is, in fact, an independent citizen-patriot.

A few of the views expressed to me that evening, if widely known by right-wing ideologues, would have him riding on a rail -- and make no mistake, I'm in adamant disagreement with positions he's taken on Second Amendment issues -- but I judge Bennett to be an intelligent, thoughtful voice in a shamefully simple-minded political climate.

The real "lesson" from Mulivor's experience (and mine) is that the conservative label is fundamentally useless, both as a gauge of others and as a badge we wear. The same must be said of liberal, Republican, Christian and all the rest.

Division will not save our nation. Believing will be our downfall.

We must stand independently, think critically, embrace differences and act with the passion of patriots.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Contrary to popular belief

Election Day is less than six weeks away. We, the People, seem to be in an anti-incumbent mood these days, seasoned with rhetoric about (or lip-service to) "returning to constitutional principles."

Please grant me, at least for the duration of this post, my contention that the right to keep and bear arms, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment, is the most fundamental of constitutional principles. It's the one and only right that empowers us, if necessary, to defend with force our other precious liberties.

So it would seem, then, that a principled People would be looking for staunch Second Amendment advocates to supplant the bums who now hold office. Everyone knows that means getting behind right-wing Republicans and conservative Tea Party candidates -- right?

Welcome to The Great State of Ohio, where a Democratic governor is up for re-election and conventional wisdom [sic] takes a long lunch.

Gov. Ted Strickland, a steelworker's son from Lucasville, came to the office after several terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. As a Democrat raised in southern Ohio he wears the label "progressive" more comfortably than he does "liberal," even though he endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in 2008.

Strickland has helped to
repair much of the damage that the previous governor -- Bob Taft, a Republican -- did to our Second Amendment rights. (Why Ohioans put a Boston-born lawyer in that office for eight years is beyond me.) Strickland's record as governor and, before that, as congressman has earned him an A+ grade from the National Rifle Association and the endorsement of both the NRA and the Buckeye Firearms Association.

Opposing incumbent Strickland's bid for a second term is John Kasich, a Pennsylvania native and former congressman representing Ohio's 12th District. Many FOXNews viewers will remember "From the Heartland with John Kasich" and his occasional stand-ins for Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly. While he's a loyal Republican, he expresses his values with a moderation which annoys wingnuts in search of ideological purity.

I don't care that Kasich worked as a managing director of Lehman Brothers until it imploded in 2008. I do care that as a congressman he voted on the side of the Clinton Assault Weapons Ban -- five times -- and against repealing the oppressive DC gun ban that ultimately was neutered by the Heller decision. And that's not the half of it.

His NRA grades: C- overall, with a flurry of Fs on crucial tests.

Obviously, Kasich and Strickland defy partisan stereotypes. Neither is a litmus-test candidate, and for that I'm grateful. Each manifests the kind of thoughtful independence that has my respect (if not always my agreement on specific issues).


There's no perfect candidate in this or any race, but from a constitutional perspective I believe that Ted Strickland would give Ohio a more principled four years than John Kasich would.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Honest labor

In this New Normal, many Americans are enduring long stretches of unemployment or (so-called) under-employment. No matter who or where we are, we ask ourselves this question:
"What am I willing to do?"
After leaving Saturday's game my wife and I headed to a gun show over on the city's west side, where we ran into the guy who taught my CCW class. In addition to being a firearms instructor, a retired (but still commissioned) law-enforcement officer, a local elected official and a proponent of preserving primitive skills, he's also something of a gentleman farmer.

It's mid-September, time for him to harvest his pumpkins. He offered me a job picking the seasonal crop. I accepted.

I showed up at the farm early yesterday morning, accompanied by my unemployed 18-year-old. The first field we were instructed to work was overgrown with thistles -- I'm talkin' eight feet tall, their downy seeds filling the air like snow.

We were left on our own to clear ten-foot-wide paths that'd be bush-hogged and harvested later. It took us nearly two hours to fight through the tangle to the opposite side of the field, 150 yards away. Our boss returned with another picker just as we made the turn to cut another swath.

Together the four of us cut two more paths over the next hour. We then hitched a hay-wagon to a pickup truck and followed it back and forth across the field, heaving the orange orbs onto the wagon.

Once loaded, truck and wagon began their slow journey to a local roadside stand. The spawn and I drove on ahead to unload another wagon that had been delivered the day before, finishing about the time that the morning's picking arrived. And after that wagon was empty, we set about unloading a trailer stacked with the biggest pumpkins that are practical to sell, some requiring two of us to move.

My watch read 1:30pm when our crew broke for an hour. The spawn and I picked up his younger brother at school, dropped him at home and went back to the fields, where we loaded yet another wagon.

The day's final hours saw us picking a planting of smallish pumpkins, round ones ranging from grapefruit- to cantaloupe-sized, and tossing them into the bed of a pickup. Field's end coincided with full truck, which by that time held around 2,500 pumpkins.

The boy and I boarded my TrailBlazer as the sun dipped toward the tops of the trees. We fell in behind our boss on his old John Deere and followed him across field and wood, past his shooting range and finally to his well-kept homestead. The three of us chatted in the driveway for several minutes before saying our goodbyes.

The 18-year-old is back in the fields today. I'm not.

Yesterday I pushed myself to, through and well past my physical limits. My slow recovery now isn't a matter of age -- hell, two of my fellow punkin-pickers are 65+. I dressed for the day's oppressive heat and kept myself well-hydrated. I bonked anyway, big-time.

There's no labor so honest as farming, working
close to the land. I'm no farmer, though, nor am I the 16-year-old who slogged through football drills on late-summer mornings, went straight from the practice field to the hayfield to help with baling, and was back in pads by 4pm for the second two-a-day.

Willing though I may be, as hard as I'm able to work around my own yard and house, compared to men who have been doing this kind of labor all of their lives it seems that I've gone soft.

I'm not resigned to decline, however. Whether or not I can reverse my physical slide remains to be seen, but I'm committed to forestalling it at the very least.

Addendum: Gameday notes
A strange scene unfolded during Saturday's pre-game in The 'Shoe, directly below where my wife and I stood and cheered.

OSU's mascot, Brutus, was leading the #2 Buckeyes onto the field before the National Anthem when OhioU's mascot, Rufus, crashed tradition, tackled the unsuspecting Brutus (twice) and punched him repeatedly.

This wasn't the play-acting typical of sports mascots -- the 19-year-old raging psycho-dumbass in the Bobcat getup admits to having planned the stunt for over a year.

"It was the whole reason I tried out," he told the campus newspaper.

It's tempting, naturally, for self-righteous Ohio State fans to shout, "Disrespect!" and make this some sort of OSU-OhioU thing. That'd be wrong, of course.

Confusing disrespectful with stupid, I mean.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Hemi may be gone...

...but I'm still enough of a motorhead to love this commercial.

Gameday notes

When the Bobcats of Ohio University stepped out of the MAC and into The 'Shoe yesterday, no one gave them a chance to beat The Ohio State University -- and no one should've.

The Buckeyes' offense clicked and the defense smothered everything that Ohio U. tried to do. (Dig the photo showing seven Silver Bullets on the ball.) OSU was up 27-0 after one quarter and 34-0 by halftime. The final score was a merciful 43-7.

Since falling 7-6 to Oberlin in 1921, Ohio State is 41-0-1 against in-state football competition. (Wooster managed a 7-7 tie in 1924.) A few opponents have come close -- Ohio U. in 2008 and Cincinnati in 2002 -- but this wasn't to be the year for an upset.

* * *
Best game-day slogan, seen on the back of a t-shirt:
"I may cheer for the Buckeyes, but I drink like a Bobcat."
An inside joke, playing off of Ohio U.'s reputation as a party school.

* * *
After the season-opener against Marshall I
commented on the level of security around Ohio Stadium, noting specifically the "roll-through checkpoints" we observed. This week Mrs. KintlaLake discreetly snapped a couple of photos as we passed through a chicane on Woody Hayes Drive, in the middle of the bridge over the Olentangy River.


Notice the Ohio State Highway Patrol SRT trooper with the dog, posted just prior to where vehicles enter the checkpoint.

The white delivery van in front of us was ordered to pull to the side and was swept individually.

Looking back toward the security chicane reveals how truly tight it is. The magnified perspective shows that we were the second-to-last in our six-vehicle group to clear scrutiny. At the intersection in the distance, several hundred yards west, traffic is stopped awaiting officers' instructions to proceed toward the checkpoint.

I'm careful, of course, not to post a lot about the hows and wheres of game-day security. We respect the integrity of the effort, as well as the men and women behind it.

A friend of ours has command responsibility for much of this deployment -- my wife and I spent a half-hour chatting with him yesterday morning, actually -- and we're privy to details that most folks will never know.

Suffice it to say that some of those details would curl your hair.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The sound of the lights

Our town has two high schools, one of which sits behind a stand of trees across the street. The football stadium, which is hosting its first home game as I type this, is less than a quarter-mile from our house. Naturally, we can hear the crowd, the band and the public address system as if they're in our front yard -- which, essentially, they are.

After tonight's pre-game festivities, we were treated to the PA announcer reading the Preamble to the United States Constitution, followed by the singing of the National Anthem.

That's what I'm talkin' about -- Happy Constitution Day, People!

Urban Resources: Fatwood

Fatwood, the resin-rich heartwood of pines, is the ultimate natural firestarter. Until you've watched it burn -- whether you harvested it laboriously from a lightning-struck tree or bought a bundle from your favorite outfitter -- you've been working way too hard at getting your fires going. I recommend carrying a stick or two in every fire kit, survival kit and 72-hour bag.

There's no question that old conifer stumps produce the best fatwood, but even a living tree will push resinous sap toward any injury. When a branch breaks off or is cut, resin will fill (and eventually ooze out of) the wound. The photo at right shows one of our backyard pines where I removed a three-inch limb at the trunk last month.

In my experience, the most convenient source of utility-grade fatwood is the stubs of lower branches. In urban settings, thanks to tidy homeowners and the ubiquitous ornamental pine, it's easy to find.

This morning I used the saw blade of my Victorinox Farmer to harvest one such thumb-sized stub. My first clue that it contained a fair bit of resin was the chalky buildup at the end. The wood was relatively hard, too, and it didn't yield easily to the saw, another sign that I'd made a good choice.

Once I'd sawed the stub from the trunk, I put the freshly cut end to my nose -- a strong whiff of turpentine confirmed the presence of
turpene, the volatile compound that makes fatwood burn so well.

Next, using the knife blade as a wedge and a stick as a baton, I split the stub a couple of times to expose "the good stuff." Batoning a folding knife can put a lot of stress on the pivot and backspring, by the way, so I didn't open the blade completely to its "locked" position.


To liberate the best fatwood in this particular piece, I looked for sticky, dark-orange veins of concentrated resin. (Click on the photo above to see what I was after.) The resulting sticks will be shaved into curls or scraped into powder for starting our next backyard fire.

Did I mention that fatwood will burn even when it's wet?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A bit of navel-gazing

Although KintlaLake Blog has been around for two-and-a-half years (as of yesterday, actually), Blogger has offered statistics only for a few months. It doesn't tell me who you are, exactly, but I know (generally) how you got here, the country you're in and what you've been looking at.

It is, in a word, fascinating.

First, I was stunned to see that KintlaLake Blog has had thousands of page-views since July. An overwhelming majority of readers (81%) check-in from somewhere in the USA; there's also a respectable audience (5%) in Canada. The rest of you are scattered across the globe -- the UK, Western and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet republics, Australia and New Zealand, China and elsewhere.

It didn't surprise me to learn that most of you found this blog via a search engine like Google, Yahoo! or bing, or through a referring site such as American Bushman or Facebook.

(Over the last couple of days, incidentally, one of the most common search strings leading readers to KintlaLake Blog has been christine o'donnell fundamentalist wacko. I love it.)

What did set me back a bit were the most popular posts. The top ten:
Sharps: Camillus MIL-K-818D
Sharps: Bark River Gunny
Sharps: RAT Cutlery RC-4P MB
Sharps: Fiddleback Forge Bushcrafter
Impressions: KSF Complete Sharpening Kit
EDC revisited
Addendum: Kephart kerfuffle
Sharps: Neck-and-neck
Sharps: Heartland blades
Sharps: A modern-day Soldier
I wouldn't have expected an article about the humble Camillus "Demo" knife to generate significant interest, really, but it did -- to the tune of twice as many page-views as any other single post. Go figure.

Anyway -- wherever you are, however you got here and whatever keeps you coming back, your interest gratifies me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Unintended consequences

Mike Castle's run as an elected official stretches back to 1966 and includes two terms as Delaware's governor. Considered a moderate Republican, the 71-year-old Castle has served his state in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993.

Yesterday, Castle lost the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate seat once held by Joe Biden.

While we should honor his contributions, we need not mourn his defeat -- it's time he retired anyway. I mean, if we're going to get The Revolution underway, we need new faces in government. And if those professional politicians and long-toothed incumbents won't step aside, dammit, we should vote them out of office.

In this case, unfortunately, Delaware Republicans have given us a cure that's worse than the disease --
Christine O'Donnell, a 41-year-old marketing consultant and political pundit who's best-known for promoting sexual purity. Seriously.

Addressing supporters last night after her victory, O'Donnell beamed,

"You guys are the visionaries and leaders who made this possible."
By "you guys," no doubt she was referring to endorsers Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint, Michelle Bachman and (natch) the Tea Party Express.

Yikes -- that's a scary bunch of wingnuts, for sure, but I'll give credit where it's due. O'Donnell's campaign vanquished the national Republican establishment, which threw everything but the kitchen sink behind Castle and still lost. Generally speaking, I celebrate whenever one of the dominant political parties goes down hard.

Who else is celebrating? None other than Chris Coons, the Democratic Party candidate. Here's what greets visitors to Chris Coons for U.S. Senate this morning:

There's also a rather pointed statement, which begins,
"With Christine O'Donnell, we face an ideology rather than a record. One of Sarah Palin's newest 'Mama Grizzlies,' O'Donnell will fight to roll back a woman's right to choose and lead the charge against stem-cell research, falsely claiming that this ground-breaking research exploits women. She has a record of supporting discrimination against gays and lesbians, and pressing for public schools to teach creationism."
Democrats should wait 'til after the general election to break into a Snoopy dance but, given the stark choice between a centrist Democrat and fringe-dweller O'Donnell, in a state like Delaware it's all but certain that Coons will prevail.

That's the rundown -- but what's really happening here?

Citizens are righteously pissed at our dysfunctional government. We're expressing our anger by shunning incumbents, insiders and establishment-backed candidates in favor of fresh political blood. Because the American electorate can't break its addiction to ideologues, however, the transfusion is hopelessly tainted.

"Throw the bums out" serves The Revolution, in my opinion, only if the alternative is independent of mindless ideology and dominant political parties.

The Tea Party, in its early days, was on the right track. Its focus was on constitutional principles and a libertarian approach to governing -- until, that is, it was polluted by ultra-conservatives and co-opted by the Republican Party.

The result, sadly, is typified by Christine O'Donnell -- a unelectable, anti-libertarian, right-wing extremist.

In a perfect Delaware, Republican primary voters would've had an intelligent, truly independent alternative to Mike Castle. They didn't.

Even worse, it appears, they wouldn't have known the difference.

Oh, they meant well, but when they chose a nutjob like Christine O'Donnell, they signaled to a troubled nation that
The Revolution may need to be postponed -- indefinitely.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Urban Resources: Firewood

Our house sits on a postage-stamp lot, a tiny patch of land in a Midwestern village. On its face, it appears to offer little in the way of natural resources.

A closer look reveals what a first glance doesn't.

I believe this post will be the first of a series I'll call "Urban Resources" -- seeking and finding materials often discarded and practices neglected. Today I'll talk about making use of a ridiculously simple source of firewood for our backyard pit or, in a pinch, the indoor fireplace.

There are but four trees on our lot -- two maples, a crabapple and a 60-year-old ash. On township property to the east are a magnificent bur oak and a catalpa, each estimated to be 180 years old, as well as a handful of tall pines and spruces. Our southern neighbor's sweetgum and poplar hang over our driveway.

Because all of those trees are relatively mature, they shed onto our lawn every day -- just how much depends on the weather. I've made an early-morning ritual of collecting fallen wood and carrying it to a semi-tidy pile I've built behind the garage.

It's not all small twigs, either. We had an arborist prune the ash of dead limbs back in May, which added some respectably large rounds, and our decrepit crabapple seems to lose a branch or two every time the wind blows.

Bucking the larger limbs requires nothing more than a pruning saw, although occasionally I resort to using a small
chainsaw that operates on rechargeable batteries. I also break out my old Estwing hatchet from time to time. The tool I use most often, however, is a machete.

Specifically, it's 22-inch Collins that I've had for 27 years. The blade is stained and the edge is nicked, and the fractured phenolic handle is wrapped in adhesive tape -- that is, it's just about broken-in. A few minutes' attention with a flat file and a genuine Carborundum stone is all it takes to keep the blade brutally effective.

In four months I've gathered about one-third of a cord of imperfect firewood for my inelegant woodpile. Yes, much of it is kindling and some of it is tinder, but I figure I have enough wood for about a dozen good cooking fires -- so far -- and every bit of it was free.

In the next installment, I'll talk about a surprising source of the ultimate natural firestarter: fatwood. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Where were you on 9/11?

No, not in 2001 -- I'm talking about last Saturday, on the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

Ok, I'll go first.

Where I was
As you might expect, on a football Saturday I spent my daylight hours in and around Ohio Stadium for the game with Miami.

Buckeye Nation is the heart of the Heartland and we have our priorities. Before the teams strapped on their helmets and drew first blood, we paid reverent tribute to the occasion.


The Ohio State University Marching Band unfurled a big American flag on the field and played "America." After a moment of silence -- observed by all but the classless and poorly self-policed Miami fans, who wouldn't shut up -- the National Anthem was performed by Columbus' own
Rascal Flatts.

It was a stirring rendition and a significant break from tradition. As I said
here two-and-a-half years ago, when it comes to the "Star Spangled Banner" I have a problem with performances:
"The national anthem is our national anthem -- it should be joined and sung by The People, not performed for The People. The People should celebrate -- insist on celebrating -- the privilege of honoring our freedom in unison."
I love Rascal Flatts and they did a spectacular job, but let's not make a habit of this, ok?

Toward the end of the first half, the public-address announcer directed our attention to the South end zone and introduced first-responders from throughout Ohio, men and women who serve us every day. Then, before TBDBITL took the field for its halftime show, another group was honored -- FDNY firefighters and paramedics, NYPD officers and other first-responders who bear the physical and emotional scars of Ground Zero.

Last to be introduced: David and Peggy Beamer, parents of the late Todd Beamer. Todd spoke the words, "Let's roll!" on United Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on 9/11.

More than 105,000, tears dimming our eyes, roared for our heroes.

Mrs. KintlaLake and I left the stadium at that point, piled into the truck and drove 130 miles northeast for my 35th high-school reunion. It was our second such trip in 24 hours -- we'd joined a smaller group of my classmates on Friday night for a tailgate party.

This wasn't any sort of 9/11 commemoration, certainly, simply a gathering of aging men and women who remember being children together. We reacquainted and reminisced, laughed and cried, poked and prodded and pretended we aren't getting older.


We're the sons and daughters of dirt farmers, steel workers, meat cutters and firefighters, so we didn't reunite in a fancy hotel ballroom for a seven-course gourmet meal. We came together in a picnic pavilion (a big garage, really) to feast on fried chicken, take-out pizza, grocery-store cookies and cheap beer in 12-ounce cans.

Returning to my old stompin' grounds and seeing the faces of childhood friends -- coming home -- was the right thing to do, putting a perfect cap on my September 11th.

Where I wasn't
I didn't travel to Anchorage, Alaska for Sarah Palin's fundraiser featuring her "buddy" Glenn Beck.


Maybe you think it's ok for public figures to exploit 9/11 to line their pockets -- I don't. The only people who deserve less respect than Palin and Beck are the simple-minded groupies who paid a minimum of $73.75 -- that's $3.75 more than a ticket for OSU-Miami, if you're keeping score at home -- and as much as $225 to see the carnival act in-person.

They're the same people who see these clowns as "thought leaders." I have a question, though -- is "thought leader" the same thing as "attention whore"?

Of course not -- the latter is closer to the truth. And after their self-serving Anchorage gig, maybe we should simplify matters and just call Palin and Beck what they are...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11, 2010


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.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Welcome to Fantasy Island II

"[The conduct of 'Pastor' Terry Jones, organizer of 'Burn-a-Koran Day'] is utterly irrational. It's pathological. There's a sickness... there's a sickness here."

"He talked with someone in New York. He did not talk with someone in New York. He was lying. And then to go from Florida to come to New York would be to put more gas on the fire. So he's still running, set the stage, and got all the media following him and now the government following him."

"I would have rather seen a group of ministers go to Florida at the behest of the White House and say, I hope he does not do it, would talk with him. It does not represent the Christian faith."

"...when you can engage the White House and they allow the secretary of defense to make a call, the secretary of defense -- I mean, Petraeus from Afghanistan makes a statement. Secretary Clinton makes a statement.

"You have given this guy awesome power. You have fed into all of his pathologies. It seems to me that somehow you must tone down the appeal to him, because, if he burns it, it does not represent the Christian faith."

"The church can isolate a heretic. The government cannot isolate a heretic. They cannot even distinguish between what's a heretic and what's genuine."
(Rev. Jesse Jackson)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Welcome to Fantasy Island

"We thought about what would have to happen for us to call our event off. As we prayed about that, in the past we did have one idea.

"This idea we put out in prayer to God. That if he would want us to call this off, if we have accomplished our goal, then our thought was the American people do not as a whole want the mosque at the Ground Zero location.

"That if they were willing to either cancel the mosque at the Ground Zero location, or if they were willing to move it away from that location, we would consider that [a] sign from God."

"[Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf] has agreed to move the mosque. We have agreed to cancel our event on Saturday. And on Saturday I will be flying up there to meet with him."
(Pastor [sic] Terry Jones)

"I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Qur'ans. However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam [Muhammad] Musri [president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, who counseled Jones]. I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony." (Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf)

"I am making this offer [to buy the 'Ground Zero mosque' property at a 25% more than the current owners paid for it] as a resident of New York and citizen of the United States, not because I think the location is a spectacular one (because it is not), but because it will end a very serious, inflammatory, and highly divisive situation that is destined, in my opinion, to only get worse." (Donald Trump)

Hey, Angelenos: This is how it's supposed to work

The quote: "We don't train police officers to take knives away from people." (Chief Charlie Beck, Los Angeles Police Department, defending his officers' decision to shoot Manuel Jamines on Sunday)

The background: Jamines, a 37-year-old Guatemalan "day laborer" -- it's not hard to decipher that label, is it? -- reportedly was threatening bystanders with a knife. When police ordered him (in both English and Spanish) to drop the knife, Jamines raised it over his head and advanced on the LAPD officers. He died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head.

Game over, drive home safely.


Since the incident, predictably clueless residents have engaged in angry protests -- not against the illegal who was swinging a knife at innocent people, but against police.

Welcome to California.