Friday, December 31, 2010

Another treasured tool

Ten days ago I devoted a post to three tools that once belonged to my mother's father. Now I'll pay respect to a utilitarian gem from the other side of the family.

This "monkey wrench" bears no maker's marks, so I can shed no light on its provenance except that it was my paternal grandfather's. It measures just 3.875 inches long closed; it opens to one inch. The frame and jaw appear to be cast steel and the adjuster is brass.

As for how the tool was used, I can't say. I do know that my dad's dad, born in 1900, raised Guernsey cattle during the Great Depression. Too poor to afford a tractor, he farmed the land with teams of Belgian draft horses -- "Tom" and "Jerry," to name two. Perhaps he carried this small wrench in an overalls pocket for tending to implements, harnesses and such.

He was killed by one of his Guernsey bulls two years before I was born, but my father often spoke of his dad's
frugality, the product of desperate necessity. I'm willing to bet that the man didn't own dozens of wrenches -- he probably had two or three at most, and he damned sure made them last.

That tells me more about this tool than any maker's mark ever could.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Urban Resources: Ranger Bands

I'll admit to being hesitant about this installment of Urban Resources. I mean, just about every outdoorsman, farmer, biker, cop and firefighter I know is familiar with Ranger Bands. I figure most KintlaLake Blog readers are, too, and the subject has been covered extensively on the Web.

Then last week I saw an online retailer selling a pack of ten for $9.95, and it occurred to me that this post might be worthwhile after all.

My Scoutmaster, while prepping a group of us for a trip to Philmont Scout Ranch, introduced me to making industrial-strength rubber bands by cutting up inner tubes. On our trek through the Sangre de Cristo range, the bands were indispensable for securing all kinds of gear.

I've been using them ever since. It wasn't until years later that I learned that they're commonly called "Ranger Bands."

Depending on the type of inner tube -- mountain bike, road bicycle, truck, tractor, motorcycle, etc. -- and the width of section cut, it's possible to make custom bands for specific tasks. Some folks use a utility knife; I prefer scissors. Either way, it's ridiculously easy.

So there's no need to spend money on pre-packaged "official" Ranger Bands. And although it may be forgivable (and less expensive) to buy new inner tubes for the purpose, that's not necessary, either.

Last evening, for example, the younger spawn needed professional help lacing a BMX wheel, so we paid a visit to a local bicycle shop. As the shop owner patiently wove spokes onto the rim, I asked him if he had any huffed tubes laying around.

"We've got tons of 'em," he said, gesturing toward a large cardboard box in the corner. "Help yourself."

I rummaged through the castoffs, picking out a couple of skinny road-bike tubes that should yield about a hundred small bands -- and they were absolutely free.

Over the years I've done the same thing at tire installers, motorcycle shops and tractor-supply stores. All I had to do was ask.

There's truly no limit to the ways that Ranger Bands can be used. In the photo, there's a band around my motorcycle's tool roll and another securing the optics wrench supplied with my new Leatherman MUT. Lengths of bicycle tube make the Bic lighters grippier. Each of the Altoids tins holds a fire kit -- Ranger Bands keep the lids shut and the rubber can come in handy as a firestarter.

The band shown on my
Bravo Necker's sheath gives me a place to stow a whistle, a compass, fatwood sticks or other small items. My modified Mora 640 no longer fits securely in its plastic sheath, but adding a wide mountain-bike band fixed the retention problem.

Beyond what's pictured, I'm always using Ranger Bands around the garage -- to clamp wood or leather, to suspend brake calipers while I have the wheels off my motorcycle, and more. Also, long strips of inner tube make dandy tie-downs.

I could go on, but I won't. Use your imagination -- just don't spend any money.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On the side of Liberty

The Supreme Court of Ohio, in the matter of The City of Cleveland v. The State of Ohio, today struck down the city's ban on "assault weapons" and its mandate that handguns be registered.

At issue in the case was R.C. 9.68, a law passed in 2006 by the Ohio General Assembly providing that only federal or state regulations can limit Ohioans' individual right to keep and bear arms. Today's
ruling, coming in the form of a 5-2 decision, blocks municipalities from enacting restrictive ordinances that conflict with Ohio's "general laws."

Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton wrote the Court's majority opinion. She took Cleveland to task for its political opportunism:

"...the fact that some states have more regulations than Ohio does not warrant a conclusion that Ohio’s statutory scheme for regulating firearms is not comprehensive."
"A comprehensive enactment need not regulate every aspect of disputed conduct, nor must it regulate that conduct in a particularly invasive fashion."
The majority opinion concludes:

"R.C. 9.68 addresses the General Assembly’s concern that absent a uniform law throughout the state, law abiding gun owners would face a confusing patchwork of licensing requirements, possession restrictions, and criminal penalties as they travel from one jurisdiction to another. We hold that R.C. 9.68 is a general law that displaces municipal firearm ordinances and does not unconstitutionally infringe on municipal home rule authority."
It's another step in the direction of Liberty. And despite the fact that two crucial bills still hang fire in our House of Representatives, the favorable Cleveland v. State ruling makes this a very good day for Ohio gun owners.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bonus motivational poster!

You know he's right

"It goes against everything that football is all about. This is football; football's played in bad weather."

"My biggest beef is that this is part of what's happened in this country. I think we've become

"We've become a
nation of wusses. The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything. If this was in China do you think the Chinese would've called off the game? People would've been marching down to the stadium, they would've walked -- and they would've been doing calculus on the way down."

"I think it's part of the wussification of America. We've lost a lot of our pioneer spirit. We've lost a lot of our independence. We've lost a lot of that ability to think for ourselves and make decisions for ourselves. We gotta get it back."

"As far as the 'public safety' argument goes, it's a little bit like the 'nanny state' again -- telling us what we
can't do."

(Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, reacting to the NFL's decision to postpone last Sunday's Vikings-Eagles game until tonight -- because of snow. All you zero-sum right-wingers take note: Gov. Rendell is a Democrat, while NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is a Republican.)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day

I skipped posting here yesterday, choosing to preserve a wonderfully peaceful Christmas Day in the KintlaLake household.

Our holiday revelry began on Thursday, actually, when my wife and I marked her birthday with a trip to
Cementos for an evening of good friends and great music. The John Schwab Party Band, a subset of McGuffey Lane, provided the perfect soundtrack to our celebration.

Thanks to Christmas spirit, perhaps, the crowd was in a playfully festive mood. And thanks to the Italian restaurant next door, the all-you-can-eat buffet was free -- no cover.

Cementos, as it often does, hosted a high communion of local musicians. Gifted guitarist Mike Nugen guested throughout the gig. The five-piece band was joined at various times by an aging Kid Rock impersonator, a silver-haired fellow who played a mean harp -- sans harmonica -- and a vocalist known for his Zydeco stylings.

A light dusting of snow Friday night fulfilled our dream of a white Christmas. We drew close 'round our tree, exchanged gifts and embraced a life not imagined a year ago.

Although each day in this place is special, the last few weeks have presented us with sparkling reminders of our good fortune -- this holiday season seems to have gathered our blessings. Yesterday we shared our Christmas Day meal, mindful of the road that brought us here.

As Thoreau might say, these days we advance confidently in the direction of our dreams. It's all good.

Now, if you'll permit me, I want to thank Mrs. KintlaLake and the younger spawn for my holiday haul: an Everest Designs hat and a Leatherman MUT.

The fleece-lined wool hat, hand-knit in Nepal, is a welcome addition to my cold-weather kit. The practical-tactical MUT is rather specialized compared to my trusty
Wave, fitted with gadgets designed to aid in servicing the AR-15/M-16 rifle platform. It appears to be well made, as I've come to expect of Leatherman, and very thoughtfully conceived. I'm especially impressed that a number of its normal-wear items are replaceable.

It's a safe bet that I'll have more to say later about the MUT.

Today we've escaped the Nor'easter battering the East Coast. The Lake Erie Snow Machine gave us another dusting anyway, enough to lure a few sledders to the hill behind our house but not enough to shovel.

The woods are laced in white, the landscape quiet save chattering chickadees and barking squirrels. It's a cold cap to a warm holiday weekend.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

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

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

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

Give more than you get. Pay forward.

Watch children. See this night unfold through their eyes.

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Contrast & correction

Bob Marshall is a Delegate to Virginia's General Assembly, a Republican and a raging homophobe who places a higher value on irrational taboos than on the U.S. Constitution.

On Monday, as Congress lifted the ban on gays serving openly in our nation's armed forces, Marshall told Richmond TV station WWBT,

"If you've got ground troops -- and those are the ones who are most adamant about this -- disturbed because the person in the foxhole next to them may decide to sexually assault them under certain circumstances, that's going to distract them from an enemy across the field."
Marshall is drafting a bill to keep gays out of the Virginia National Guard. Like many other (so-called) "social conservatives" he casts himself as freedom's friend, but his own words expose him as a fearmongering fraud.

The evil of bigotry will exist until the last human breathes a last breath. Most bigots act out of mindless fear, often grounded in tradition or faith that seeks to impose personal beliefs on others.

Bigotry is antithetical to liberty.

Fortunately, a bright, libertarian and indisputably constitutional line was drawn this morning when Pres. Barack Obama signed the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Here are several excepts from the President's remarks:

"No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who were forced to leave the military -- regardless of their skills, no matter their bravery or their zeal, no matter their years of exemplary performance -- because they happen to be gay. No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder, in order to serve the country that they love."
"There will never be a full accounting of the heroism demonstrated by gay Americans in service to this country; their service has been obscured in history. It's been lost to prejudices that have waned in our own lifetimes. But at every turn, every crossroads in our past, we know gay Americans fought just as hard, gave just as much to protect this nation and the ideals for which it stands.
"There can be little doubt there were gay soldiers who fought for American independence, who consecrated the ground at Gettysburg, who manned the trenches along the Western Front, who stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima. Their names are etched into the walls of our memorials. Their headstones dot the grounds at Arlington."
"I say to all Americans, gay or straight, who want nothing more than to defend this country in uniform: Your country needs you, your country wants you, and we will be honored to welcome you into the ranks of the finest military the world has ever known."
"For we are not a nation that says, 'don’t ask, don’t tell.' We are a nation that says, 'Out of many, we are one.' We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot. We are a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal.
"Those are the ideals that generations have fought for. Those are the ideals that we uphold today."
With that, we're a better nation today than we were yesterday. We're better because a law that flouted our founding principles is gone from the books. We're better because our military's code of honor has one less exception. We're better because we, as a nation, embrace the service and sacrifice of gay Americans, as gay Americans -- past, present and future.

We're better because bigotry lost this round.

It's about damned time.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Marks & makers

We're still unpacking here, eight months after our last (and I do mean last) household move. Other than seasonal storage -- winter coats, holiday decorations and the like -- at this stage it's mostly discovering stuff I'd forgotten about.

I pulled a plastic toolbox down from a basement shelf yesterday afternoon, recalling that we'd used it last spring to shuttle everyday wrenches and pliers and such. Buried in the bottom of the box I found three tools that once belonged to my maternal grandfather -- a claw hammer, tin snips and pruning shears.

I don't remember the last time I actually used any of those tools. We probably tossed them into the box as an afterthought, part of the process of making small items disappear into containers headed for our new place. Turning them over in my hands now, however, I was drawn to investigate the
stories they might have to tell.

Carved into one side of the hammer's oak handle are my grandfather's initials. The other side bears his surname. His last initial is scratched into the butt.

Apparently he prized this simple tool and, typical of Depression-era Heartlanders, he didn't want it wandering off. I can't say that I blame him.

The head carries the marks of the maker: HELLER and MADE IN U.S.A., flanking the image of a horse.

Heller & Bros. made hammers and files, specializing in farriers' tools (thus the horse). Founded in Newark, New Jersey in 1866, Heller bought the fire-ravaged Rex File & Saw Co. in Newcomerstown, Ohio in 1917 and by the early 1950s had shifted virtually all of its production there.

It's not clear when or where this hammer was made; for what it's worth, my grandfather lived his entire life 15 miles south of the Newcomerstown plant. Heller was sold to Simonds in 1955, and while the brand survives today, production has moved to South America.

The small pair of tin snips offers no obvious clues to its origins. The pruning shears, on the other hand, are quite intriguing.

Behind the pivot, one blade is stamped with T. HESSENBRUCH & CO. arched over PHILA. On the other is a standing bear grasping a cane.

Hessenbruch, which sold its marked tools from Philadelphia between 1873 and 1926, usually is associated with fine German straight razors and, to a lesser degree, gentleman's pocketknives. The initial "T" reportedly stands for "Thomas" and helps date this tool to before 1890, when son Hermann assumed the business. (At that time the mark was changed to "H. HESSENBRUCH.")

On Hessenbruch's razors and knives, from what I gather, the bear icon often was accompanied by the words "WILD INSPECTION" (whatever that means) or "PERFECTION WARRANTED" (which at least makes sense). There's no such text on these pruning shears.

I'm not likely to press my grandfather's tools into regular service again anytime soon, despite the fact that they're still solid and capable. I'll keep them close at hand anyway, if only to be reminded of the history behind them.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Backyard firebuilding, Part II

It was well after dark tonight when I set about building our backyard fire. The mercury had fallen back into the single digits, but this wasn't to be a warming fire -- I wanted a cooking fire.

Although the fat pine chunks took flame quickly, predictably the buckeye didn't. It took quite a long time and a lot of coaxing for the stuff to catch. Once it did, however, it produced a decent (albeit short-lived) bed of cherry-red coals.

We broke out our trusty pie-iron (one of my favorite pieces of campfire cookware) and collected fixings for "hobo pies" -- a stick of margarine to grease the iron, slices of white bread for "crust" and a can of cherry pie filling. I made the first pie for our 15-year-old, another for my wife and, just as the coals were dying, one for myself.

Gathering wood on a bright winter morning, bathing in the glow of a fire on a cold evening, savoring a sweet dessert drawn from pantry staples -- these are the simplest of pleasures.

Backyard firebuilding, Part I

It's the perfect winter's morning -- there's snow on the ground, the sun shines from a clear sky and the winds are calm. Bitter as it is, it doesn't feel unpleasantly cold.

The temp hadn't reached 10°F when I headed outside to liberate our American flag, which had hung up on the front-porch gutter and froze fast. As I was putting the ladder away after, I spied my old
Estwing carpenter's hatchet hanging on the garage wall and hatched an idea.

Grabbing the hatchet and a folding saw, I walked back to the edge of the woods. I'd had my eye on a dead hardwood, probably an Ohio Buckeye, for a while now. At four inches in diameter and about eight feet long it'd be easy to process. And because it was a "leaner," held off the snow-covered ground by surrounding growth, it was ideally dry.

I used the saw to cut it into three portable sections -- crown, trunk and base -- and hauled it home in one trip. After stripping twigs and smaller limbs, I bucked the trunk (with the saw) into 12-inch lengths.

A carpenter's hatchet may not be my first choice to split kindling, but for this backyard fire I'm using backyard tools. My antique-store Estwing worked just fine cleaving the dry, frozen wood (stubborn knots notwithstanding).

I made one more trip back to the tree line, harvesting a couple of resinous pine stubs to serve as a natural firestarter. Less than 45 leisurely minutes after I began, I had the makings of a respectable fire.

One of the best things about this morning's exercise, I think, was doing the job with less-than-ideal hardware -- a used hatchet and a cheap lawn-and-garden saw. It's a reminder that skills, not tools, matter.

I'm not sure when we'll light our backyard fire -- maybe later today, maybe tomorrow. That'll be Part II.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Open mouth, insert cake

Americans' opinion of Congress has never been lower -- according to Gallup, an overwhelming 83% disapprove of the way our elected representatives conduct the People's business. Just 13% of us approve.

When you get right down to it -- and despite pronouncements to the contrary from partisans and ideologues -- we disapprove not because Congress is doing the wrong things, but because it accomplishes essentially nothing.

This week, with time running out on the 111th Congress, Democrats are scrambling to ramrod legislation that won't have a snowball's chance in the 112th. Senate majority leader Harry Reid threatens to keep lawmakers in Washington right up to New Year's, prompting this
reaction from tea-bagging Republican Sen. Jim DeMint:
"We shouldn't be jamming [START] up against Christmas; it's sacrilegious and disrespectful. What's going on here is just wrong. This is the most sacred holiday for Christians. [Democrats] did the same thing last year -- they kept everybody here until [Christmas Eve] to force something down everybody's throat. I think Americans are sick of this."
Another GOP senator, Arizona's Jon Kyl, agreed:
"It is impossible to do all of the things that the majority leader laid out, frankly, without disrespecting the [Senate] and without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians and the families of all of the Senate, not just the senators themselves but all of the staff."
From the same side of the aisle but the other side of the Capitol, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas weighed in with this:
"We were talking about not being able to buy Christmas presents because [Rep. Nancy] Pelosi and [Sen. Harry] Reid keep dragging us up here. Isn't it going to be bad if our kids don't get Santa Claus because we're stuck here? I haven't bought a present yet."
I've grown numb to such self-righteousness -- acting as if Christ is the only reason for this holiday season, grounded in the unconstitutional presumption that this is a Christian nation -- and even to the use of religion as a political ploy. I don't expect that to change.

What makes my head explode, however, is legislators' detachment from the People's reality, along with their apparent lack of shame in expressing it publicly.

Someone needs to remind these arrogant bastards that they'll find many of their constituents -- Christians, Jews, Muslims and others -- at work on their "holiest of holidays." Cops and firefighters, soldiers and nurses, snow-plow drivers and convenience-store cashiers work on holidays to feed their families and serve the People.

And in these excruciatingly difficult economic times, it's worth remembering that millions of unemployed and under-employed Americans must explain to their families that they won't "get Santa Claus" at all this year. Many will be lucky to have a rooftop, much less a chimney.

The injury of political hubris is compounded by the insult of governmental sloth. Consider that this Congress will have been in session for about 150 days -- far less time than the typical American puts in during a year -- and that the incoming Republican leadership
proposes to cut back to 123 days.

Seriously. Our do-nothing Congress -- stocked with career politicians who spend more time blocking votes than casting them, mismanaged by feuding Democrats suddenly motivated to eleventh-hour action, obstructed by sanctimonious Republicans bent on running out the clock -- is responding to a 13% approval rating by vowing to spend even less time serving the People.

If that's not proof-positive that our elected representatives don't get it, I don't know what is. And I don't expect that to change one bit, either, no matter who's in the majority when the 112th Congress convenes in January.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


The snow that was predicted to begin falling around midnight didn't get going until just before dawn today. It stopped a couple of hours ago, leaving us with a few more inches.

Once I'd finished shoveling the sidewalks and my share of the driveway (the 15-year-old is responsible for the rest), I ventured out back to see if we'd had visitors overnight.

I spotted evidence of a solitary rabbit and four deer, no doubt the whitetails that pass under our tall trees before sunup most mornings. The powdery snow had softened their tracks some, but I could see that they'd grazed on the pumpkins and corn I'd left for them.

Every creature leaves its mark, regardless of the season. One of the great things about winter is that the shadows linger.

Bob Feller: 1918-2010

Back in my bachelor days, my home office was a veritable shrine to sports. Truth is, all of the memorabilia paid tribute to Ohio State football, with but one exception -- an autographed photo of a reared-back pitcher wearing a Cleveland Indians uniform.

Bob Feller and his blinding fastball burst into Major League Baseball in 1936, skipping the minors entirely. During his 18-year career, all with the Tribe, he recorded 266 wins, 2,581 strikeouts and three no-hitters (including the only no-no ever pitched on Opening Day).

"Rapid Robert" was an eight-time All-Star and in 1962 a first-ballot Baseball Hall of Fame inductee. In 1999 The Sporting News ranked him 36th among its 100 Greatest Baseball Players.

My father gave me the yellowed old image of Feller that once hung on my wall, a prized souvenir of a summer day at old Municipal Stadium. Dad was a big fan, but he spoke to me less often of the player than of the patriot.

On December 8, 1941, Feller enlisted in the U.S. Navy, one day after the Pearl Harbor attacks and the first major-league player to do so. Missing four baseball seasons at the height of his pitching prowess while serving in World War II, Chief Petty Officer Robert William Andrew Feller earned five campaign ribbons and eight battle stars.

Feller returned to the Indians after the war and picked up where he left off. His 1946 season was one for the ages -- 42 starts, 36 complete games, 26 wins, 10 shutouts, 348 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.18. Two years later he'd lead Cleveland to a World Series title.

We're all left to wonder what his numbers might've been had he not interrupted his career to serve his country.

Bob Feller died yesterday at age 92. Over the next few days we'll hear countless remembrances of his feats on the ball diamond, and that's as it should be, but I'll recall the man the way my father did -- as an American patriot.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Don't lick the pump handle

Saturday night's soaking rain gave way to honest-to-god snowfall late yesterday morning. By noon there was a brief break in the weather and the season's first sledders began to appear on the village's best hill, which happens to be just beyond our back door.

We watched the scene through our living-room window as we trimmed our Christmas tree. A boom-box, tuned to a local radio station playing holiday music, was fitting accompaniment for both.

Snow resumed later in the day and temps headed for the deep-freeze overnight. This morning we awoke to a few more inches of fluffy white stuff, whipped into drifts by winds gusting to 40mph.

It's beautiful, bitter and perfect. Strolling outside on this frigid day I could find nothing worth complaining about -- and it struck me that somehow every moment here seems like a gathering of perfect things.

The absolute rightness of these days is, for me, inescapable.

As my family and I decorated a tree for the first time in two years, I couldn't help but think back to where we were last December, living in a toxic atmosphere of alcoholism and hate. We pooled our humble human grace and persevered through collective force of human will. We survived to greet this tree, a glimmering symbol of holiday memories and joy surpassing anything we imagined.

Life's difficulties, like today's icy wind, challenge the peace that lives with us in this place. No matter -- our spirit thrives.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sharps: Diggin' the Gold

Because sharps has been the most popular recurring theme here on KintlaLake Blog, and by request, today I'm posting a few two-page spreads from The Golden Book of Camping and Camp Crafts. (Be sure to click on each image for a larger view.)

First, here's "Your Knife and How To Use It."

And here are two sections dealing with axemanship -- "The Ax and Its Care" and "Using the Ax in Camp."

I don't consider a kids' book to be sine qua non on the subject, of course. I offer these classic pages simply as sentimental snapshots, suspecting that others who grew up in the late 1950s and early 1960s will appreciate them as much as I do.

But for those who still turn up their noses at Golden Books, preferring their edged-tool reading with a longer beard, I'll close with an excerpt from Will C. Stevens' "
Sensible Outfit for Amateur Hikers," which appeared in the May 1914 issue of Outing -- enjoy.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Golden inspiration

I've loved woodcraft for as long as I can remember, but I didn't discover the landmark works of Sears, Kephart, Beard et al until later in life. My spark came from a much more ordinary book.

I don't recall ever not having The Golden Book of Camping and Camp Crafts. Typical of Golden Books it's a primer, equal parts inspiration and information.

It was my favorite bedtime reading well before I was a Cub Scout, certainly before I became a Boy Scout. If I added up the hours I spent poring over Gordon Lynn's words and, most especially, Ernest Kurt Barth's illustrations, I probably invested a year of my boyhood in this simple book. I was, in a word, hooked.

It had me imagining and planning, studying and dreaming -- and for the first seven years of my life that's all I could do. When it came to family vacations, my parents were all Holiday Inn, no KOA.

Scouting changed that. Suddenly I was taking real hikes, sleeping in real tents and cooking over real campfires. Scouting also gave me an official handbook, though I found myself still measuring my experiences against the wellspring of my imaginings -- the scenes in a dog-eared Golden Book.

I'm sure that I still have my original 1959 edition packed away somewhere. I haven't seen it in years, but I was pleased today to stumble across a blog post paying tribute to The Golden Book of Camping and Camp Crafts.

I can't begin to describe what it was like seeing those pages again. In an instant I was a kid pulling the covers over my head and clicking on my flashlight, imagining that it was me in colorful pictures I'd seen a hundred times before and to which I'd return for inspiration a thousand times more.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's ok to laugh

Even though the future of our country is hanging by a thread, sometimes it's best to bow to the absurd. Certainly it's therapeutic.

And so, fresh from the editing consoles of the clever folks at The Tonight Show, I present this 15-second

Pres. Barack Obama, who (politically) functions as The Adult in the Room, this week had the audacity to collaborate with The Loyal Opposition. The deal, which still must be approved by both legislative chambers, gets him a 13-month extension of federal unemployment benefits (among other crumbs) and gives Republicans a two-year, across-the-board extension of the (so-called) Bush-era tax cuts.

The agreement has Republicans all giddy'n'stuff. Ideology-bound Democrats, on the other hand, are apoplectic. The President, answering a reporter's question during a press conference yesterday, tells us why he intentionally pissed-off his own party.

"[If compromise is a sign of weakness,] if that's the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let's face it, we will never get anything done. People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime, the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of preexisting conditions or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.

"That can't be the measure of how we think about our public service. That can't be the measure of what it means to be a Democrat. This is a big, diverse country. Not everybody agrees with us. I know that shocks people. The New York Times editorial page does not permeate across all of America. Neither does The Wall Street Journal editorial page. Most Americans, they're just trying to figure out how to go about their lives and how can we make sure that our elected officials are looking out for us. And that means because it's a big, diverse country and people have a lot of complicated positions, it means that in order to get stuff done, we're going to compromise."

This is what collaboration looks like -- it's bound to rankle my-way-or-the-highway types. Pres. Obama failed to wring a drop of cooperation from Democratic leaders, so he declared (dare I say) independence from his party, turned to the GOP and cut a deal. For that, and for giving us those whirling Democrats, he deserves credit.

That's where my admiration ends.

The deal, while undeniably collaborative, is not in our best long-term interest. It's just more of the same -- unfunded appeasement of unthinking masses. Between tax cuts and increased spending, it's projected to add $1 trillion to the deficit.

No one who's party to this expensive compact should be anything but ashamed.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Just before dawn today, the thermometer hanging on our ash tree read 9°F. Six feet to the right, the temperature was a wind-chilled -5°F.

'Tis the season for learning again how to conserve warmth, taking longer perform tasks with gloved hands and other such inconveniences. This is no time for machismo -- I, for one, don't care what my bundled-up appearance says about my manhood. It's about staying warm and dry.

Snow has been falling (technically) for several days here, squalling and flurrying and not amounting to much. We're well beyond the reach of lake-effect snowfall that's been slamming northeastern Ohio.

The KintlaLake household devoted some of last weekend to holiday decor. Our first task was to strike our harvest display and haul corn shocks, gourds and pumpkins around back for their appointment with my

I scattered ears of feed corn, along with chopped-up pumpkins, out by the tree line as a treat for wintering critters. Cornstalks got tossed onto the garden plot and hacked to bits.

We then unpacked boxes labeled "XMAS" and lovingly placed decades of memories around the house. Since I'm still not up to par here, a cheerful Mrs. KintlaLake managed the ritual, indoors and out.

So now there's a wreath on our front door and another on the garden shed. A candle glows in every window. Hundreds of tiny white lights twinkle from the porch at passers-by. A fir from North Carolina leans against the back wall of the house, awaiting its place in the living room. We'll bring it inside and trim it later this week.

Cold as it is outside, we're wrapped in the warmth of the holiday season, our first in these new digs. It feels good.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I don't think that's what she meant

We see this sort of thing from sports fans whenever they feel they've been "wronged" somehow by a player, a coach, an owner. It's the graphic equivalent of the sputtering, red-faced outburst, "You SUCK!"

LeBron James left the North Coast for South Beach in decidedly (or at least arguably) arrogant fashion. Cavs fans can be forgiven for being pissed about that, even for hoping that he fails miserably in Miami.

As often happens, though, the vitriol has gotten way out of hand. To paraphrase Stewart Mandel's
observation of another group of fans after they watched their football coach leave for fatter paychecks:
"Don't you see what you've become, Cleveland? You're the psychotic ex-girlfriend."
Last night the Cavaliers hosted the Heat, James' first game against his former team since his departure. Predictably, Cleveland fans behaved like a bunch of spoiled third-graders.

James responded by scoring a season-high 38 points -- that's ten more than the Cavs' entire starting lineup -- despite not playing at all in the fourth quarter.

Star-studded Miami won, 118-90, raising its record to an admittedly disappointing 12-8. LeBron-less Cleveland, however, falls to 7-11.

Whatever happens from here borders on irrelevant. This was a moment, a righteous moment, a winner-take-all game in which hordes of juvenile fans got owned by the best baller in the business.

And by the way, Clevelanders, this is a business. It's not about your bruised feelings -- it's about winning.

Right now the score is LeBron James 1, Psychotic Ex-Girlfriend 0.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Congressional quack-off

Well, we didn't have to wait for the new Congress to be seated -- we have our gridlock now.

Oh, there's plenty of actual governing to be done in this lame-duck session -- taxes, unemployment benefits, START, DADT and the rest. This month could be our legislators' audition, if you will, a time to show the People that they can collaborate in our interest.

Fat chance.

GOP leaders, feeling their post-election oats, refused to devote even two hours to meet with Pres. Obama and ranking Democrats. They strutted afterward for the obligatory photo-op, certainly, just long enough to pay lip-service to bipartisanship. They even took time to assert right-wing
censorship of art on display at the Smithsonian.

And then, with all that's at stake here and now, Senate Republicans found time to pen a
letter to the chamber's majority leader. The gist:
"...we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers."
In other words, Republicans will block everything else until the Senate votes to extend the (so-called) Bush-era tax cuts.

It's a political tantrum, a shameful partisan stunt. While it keeps an intellectually dishonest promise not to raise taxes, it flouts fiscal conservatism and lacks any semblance of economic credibility.

Calling the prospective failure to extend tax cuts "job-killing," invoking a pithy old GOP chestnut, presumes that the cuts created jobs when they were implemented -- they didn't, they haven't and (if they're extended) they won't. I find it hard to believe that anyone still subscribes to "trickle-down economics," since it's never, ever worked beyond the anecdotal.

And just like Dems' wish to turn federal unemployment benefits into another entitlement program, extending the tax cuts effectively adds to a deficit Republicans pledged to reduce. The perpetual practice of spending money we don't have -- by both parties -- is fundamental to why our nation's economy is on the road to ruin.

Any meaningful proposal to fix what's broken must be the product of
collaboration among factions now preoccupied with the next election cycle. Neither side would get everything it wants -- which would be fine, since neither side has a monopoly on good ideas. Their solutions must incorporate both cuts in spending and increases in revenue.

No, I'm not excited about paying higher taxes, nor am I looking forward to (for example) working years longer before drawing Social Security. But if I want my country to be here for my spawns and their spawns, that's what it'll take. There are no other options.

Time is short, too -- we have two years, maybe less, to get our national barge turned around. And that means that we've already elected the representatives who will (or won't) do what's required to save our country.

I don't think they can. Even if they could, we wouldn't let them.

Governing is crippled by politics. Economic recovery -- like everything else, it seems -- is poisoned by ideology. We're screwed.

I ache for my country.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sharps: Right on cue

Nature doesn't observe man's calendar, of course, but as the eastern sky brightened on this, the first of December, the season's first snowflakes danced in the air.

Winter has arrived on-schedule here in our central-Ohio village. The timing is pure coincidence and yet it feels exactly right.

For the last week or so, with the exception of summoning the strength to attend The Game on Saturday, for health reasons I've been confined to quarters. I've managed my boredom by taking on a variety of simple, meditative tasks.

While watching football on Thanksgiving Day, for example, I pulled out my Frosts Morakniv Viking 640 for some relaxed stropping. I took my time coaxing the carbon-steel edge to satisfactory keenness. Next I broke out a flat file and squared the spine, giving it wickedly sharp 90°corners that'll bite reliably on a firesteel.

The Mora 640 -- a wonderful little knife, by the way -- is equipped with a considerable self-guard (pictured in its original form
here). That damned guard kept getting in my way, though, so about a year ago I began cutting it down. Bit by bit I shaved away the orange plastic with a utility blade, followed by filing and sanding (and then working with the altered handle) 'til I got it where I wanted it.

On Thursday I put the finishing touches on the mod, hitting the scuffed-up areas with a micro-torch to make them smooth again. I admired my work, stowed my tools and, on a whim, sat down at my computer to see what fellow blogger American Bushman was up to.

As it turns out, a day earlier he'd been doing his own
maintenance and tuning -- on an orange-handled Mora 510, no less. Go figure.

Life has its coincidences.