Monday, October 31, 2011

Sharps: Benchmade 755 MPR

Sharps-wise, my interests tend to wander around. For a while there I had my attention on fixed blades -- mostly Bark River but also RAT (now ESEE), Fiddleback Forge and others -- and various slipjoints.

Now, for some reason, I'm drawn to folders, and a couple of weeks ago I picked up one dandy of a folder -- a Benchmade 755 MPR.

The 755 essentially is a production version of custom maker Shane Sibert's "Mini Pocket Rocket." The Benchmade's weighty price tag (MSRP $235, street $200) and the materials used in its construction (titanium for the frame, G-10 for the scales and Böhler-Uddeholm M390 "super steel" for the blade) have some comparing it to high-end offerings from the likes of Chris Reeve and Mick Strider.

Honestly, that sort of apples-oranges exercise isn't terribly useful. Having handled and used Sebenzas and Striders, however, I'll say this: The Benchmade 755 MPR deserves the compliment.

It's well-designed and extraordinarily well-built. The action is smooth and precise, the blade scary-sharp and the construction so solid as to qualify for the "bomb-proof" label.

I won't attempt a full review here -- Woods Monkey (for example) did a credible job with that -- but after carrying the overbuilt Benchmade for a week I've formed a few impressions.

The 755 is both a small knife and a big knife, compact enough to skirt statutes that frown upon blades longer than three inches and yet large enough to be a hand-filler that begs for tough duty. It's surprisingly lightweight but by no means is it a slight "gentleman's knife" -- clipped to a blue-jeans pocket, the beefy folder's thick profile always reminds me that it's there.

I found the lanyard tube disappointingly small, for what it's worth, and I would've preferred tip-up carry, but those are nits -- this is one helluva knife.

As for the price, yes, it's considerably higher than I'm inclined to pay for a folder, no matter how good it is. But when I saw a KnifeWorks coupon code (still active as I post this) that knocked 25% off the street price I mentioned above, I couldn't resist pulling the trigger.

Think about it -- for the going rate of a Small Sebenza you could buy two Benchmade 755 MPRs and feed a family of four at Golden Corral.

Now that's what I call value.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tragic necessity

By now you've heard the story: On Tuesday evening, the owner of a private exotic-animal farm in Zanesville, Ohio, liberated his menagerie before taking his own life. A total of 56 animals -- including 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, nine bears, four primates, three leopards and two gray wolves -- disappeared into the rainy twilight.

Deputies from the Muskingum County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to the scene where, with no realistic alternatives, they shot to kill. Wielding the tools they had -- patrol rifles and handguns -- they took down 49 animals.

Six of the escapees were captured and hauled off to the Columbus Zoo. A missing monkey is presumed to have fallen to one of the big cats.

The bizarre incident unfolded 35 miles east of the KintlaLake household. Since it happened it's been the hot topic at diners and dinner tables, water coolers and cash registers. Local news outlets have covered it thoroughly and well.

There's been an outpouring of public sorrow over the deaths of more than four dozen exotic animals, many of them endangered species. Predictably, Sheriff Matt Lutz is being criticized for issuing shoot-to-kill orders, by people who believe that authorities should've handled the situation with tranquilizer darts instead of live rounds.

That's just plain ignorant. I speak from some experience here, by the way -- my father was a veterinarian for more than four decades, and I witnessed him administer anesthesia, tranquilizers and euthanasia preparations to hundreds of animals. It's an unpredictable exercise, to put it mildly, but please don't take my word for that.

"It's not as simple as seeing the animal and taking a shot and it's going to go to sleep," said Gwen Myers, a veterinarian with the Columbus Zoo. Dr. Myers worked with deputies Tuesday night.

So did Barbara Wolfe, chief veterinarian for The Wilds, an animal preserve southeast of Zanesville. She told of shooting a tranquilizer dart into the neck of a 300-pound Bengal tiger -- bullseye. What followed, though, wasn't exactly made-for-Animal Planet fare.

"He sort of exploded," said Dr. Wolfe. "He roared, he got up, and he came straight for me."

Deputies were forced to open fire, killing the tiger.

Neighbors and friends of the farm's owner now are reminding us what a great guy he was, telling us how much he loved his exotic "babies," asking us to understand that he was yet another troubled veteran of the Vietnam War. And while all that may be true, the man's final act was to sentence 49 creatures entrusted to his care to certain death.

The deputies who responded to Kopchak Road in pouring rain and deepening darkness Tuesday night had no real training for what they faced and no choice but to do exactly what they did. They had neither the means nor the time to track, contain, subdue and capture.

Their duty, as we define it, is public safety, and human life trumps animal life. I doubt that any of these law-enforcement officers, many of whom probably are hunters, relished what they had to do.

They'd agree that the animals were innocent, the outcome tragic. The actions they took, however, were indisputably necessary.

Friday, October 21, 2011

This much is true

"We are at war over...whether or not equality means equality of rights or equality of rewards."

"The idea of socialist equality and freedom are in mortal conflict."

"Freedom and absolute equality are in conflict."

(Pat Buchanan, author of Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Faithful arrogance

"How can you have judgment if you have no faith? And how can I trust you with power if you don't pray?" (Newt Gingrich, during Tuesday's CNN Western Republican Presidential Debate)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Occupy à la mode

No doubt about it, those Occupy people have themselves a catchy battle cry -- "We are the 99%!" -- but no one really believes that a fragmented mob of idealists represents virtually all Americans. It's not even close to the truth, which makes the protesters an easy mark for ridicule well deserved.

Real numbers -- and by that I mean facts, backed up by polling or other research -- tend to make lousy slogans, even when the numbers themselves highlight something that may be, in one way or another, significant. To wit:

We are the 15%
...of Americans who profess no religion.

We are the 18%
...of Americans who believe that Pres. Barack Obama is a Muslim.

We are the 20%
...of Americans who admit to having peed in a swimming pool.

We are the 21%
...of Americans who pledge allegiance to the Republican Party -- coincidentally, the same percentage that identify their political ideology as "liberal."

We are the 24%
...of Americans who are unemployed.

We are the 32%
...of Americans who pledge allegiance to the Democratic Party.

We are the 36%
...of Americans who identify their political ideology as "moderate."

We are the 41%
...of Americans who identify their political ideology as "conservative."

We are the 46%
...of Americans who pledge allegiance to neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party.

We are the 55%
...of Americans who disapprove of the way that Pres. Obama is handling his job.

We are the 66%
...of likely Republican-primary voters who want the former Mayor of Wasilla to stay the hell out of the 2012 presidential campaign.

We are the 75%
...of likely Republican-primary voters who want someone other than Mitt Romney to be President of the United States.

We are the 77%
...of Americans who say that our country is on the wrong track.

We are the 81%
...of Americans who disapprove of the way that the U.S. Congress is handling its job.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Between the Tea Party & 'Occupy Wall Street'

"Half of the people are stoned
"And the other half are waiting for the next election.
"Half the people are drowned
"And the other half are swimming in the wrong direction."

(From "Gloria: Trope, 'Half of the People,'" Movement XV of "Mass: A Theater Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers" by Leonard Bernstein. This particular quatrain, the composer said, was a Christmas gift from Paul Simon. Bernstein's brilliantly caustic "Mass" premiered 40 years ago last month.)

Friday, October 7, 2011

We saw this coming

"[The ATF's 'Fast and Furious'] operation makes no sense. According to every law enforcement authority I have talked with, and that includes many ATF agents themselves, you don't ever let a gun walk, as they say in this business, Anderson. Especially without any way to know where it is going.

"So what's the real purpose? The lack of sense, the apparent cover-up has opened the door now for these conspiracy theorists. And you got to follow this. They believe this was part of a convoluted plan for the Obama administration and the attorney general to actually increase the level of violence on the Mexican border with assault weapons purchased in the U.S. in an apparent attempt to rekindle interest in an assault weapons ban.

"As wacky as that may sound, I must tell you that theory is gaining traction, not just among the second amendment crowd because this operation makes no other sense."
(CNN correspondent Drew Griffin, September 28, 2011)

"...Attorney General Eric Holder received at least five weekly memos starting in July 2010 about the controversial [ATF] gunrunning probe known as Operation Fast and Furious, though he claimed in May [in testimony before Congress] he only learned of the operation a few weeks prior." (The New York Post, October 6, 2011)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs: 1955-2011

"No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don’t be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

(from the address delivered by Steve Jobs at Stanford University's 114th Commencement on June 12, 2005)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Listening post: 'Cost of Livin''

We tuned the shop radio to a local country-music station while we counted stock Friday night. I was about to take a break when Ronnie Dunn's "Cost of Livin'" began playing, and I stopped to listen.

Co-written by Dunn and Phillip Coleman, the sparse and touching song was released earlier this year but I hadn't heard it before the other night. As good as the radio single is, the video is even better -- watch.

"Cost of Livin'" and what it represents breaks my heart. Maybe my reaction has something to do with the road I've traveled over the last few years, the simple labor that now helps feed my family, or what I see happening all around me here in the Heartland.

The get-a-damned-job crowd has no idea.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Down for the count

Two, four, six, eight --
It's getting hard to concentrate.

September's end marks the close of the fiscal year at the shop where Mrs. KintlaLake and I work, so this weekend we're slogging through physical inventory -- 100% manual, no bar codes or high-tech help.

The annual ritual began when we arrived here yesterday morning around 7:30am for a regular workday. As soon as the clock struck 5pm we began counting -- 15,000 SKUs, give or take -- and we didn't leave until 1:15am, by which time our eyes were crossed and our brains were mush. We were back at it at 9am today, preparing to enter our data and transmit it to the corporate office, which has to wrangle nearly two dozen other branches' numbers as well.

My wife, who manages this shop, and our two co-workers have been doing data-entry now for over an hour. I've busied myself with sweeping the floors, cleaning the bathrooms, taking out the trash and tidying up my warehouse, my kingdom.

An independent auditor will pay us a call early this afternoon. A typically humorless creature will scowl at, pore over and, well, audit what we've done.

We won't get our lives back until he/she/it signs off on our counts.