Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sharps: Spyderco Para-Military2

Spyderco's unusual designs first caught my eye back in the mid-'80s, and I've owned various patterns over the years. These days I have an Endura4, a Delica4 and a LadyBug3, as well as an Endura II that I bought used. I deploy a second-gen Chicago at work every day.

Each of those Spydies is a keeper; all, as it turns out, were minted offshore, in either Japan or Taiwan. It wasn't until late last year that I picked up my first US-made model -- the Spyderco Para-Military2.
Right out of the box the Para-Military2 is impressive. It doesn't inspire the same wow as, say, a Reeve or a Hinderer -- rather a nicely done, especially in light of its price (MSRP $175, street $100).

The knife's fit and finish are excellent, with no evidence of shortcuts or sloppiness. The pivot is smooth and precise, best of the Spydies I've owned and rivaling my Benchmade 755 MPR. The compression lock -- a type of liner lock, this one featuring a release tab on the spine -- is solid and easy to use. The CPM S30V stainless-steel blade, sporting a full flat grind, came shaving-sharp and has stayed that way through three weeks of warehouse duty.

The Para-Military2 falls between the Endura4 and the Delica4, size-wise -- not too big, not too small. Its textured G-10 scales feel just right and the handle shape allows for a variety of grips.

I'm especially fond of Spyderco's choice to employ jimping both on the thumb ramp and on the integral choil. Together they aid in no-look indexing and make the grip that much more secure.

Honestly, I've found nothing to dislike about this knife. And while that may sound like I'm damning it with faint praise, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Spyderco Para-Military2 isn't flashy, nor does it possess the cachet of more expensive überfolders. But like certain other all-business/no-drama knives -- Benchmade's Griptilians come to mind -- it's easy to like a solidly built tool that just flat works.

To boot, the made-in-USA Para-Military2 can be had for a hundred bucks. If someone were to call this Spyderco the ideal EDC folder, I'd be hard-pressed to argue the point.

Monday, February 27, 2012

And the Oscar goes to...

I urge readers of KintlaLake Blog to take 15 minutes to watch this video, "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore." I find it wonderfully touching, inarguably deserving of the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film it won last night.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


It's been the strangest of winters 'round here -- no snow to speak of, lots of rain and temps climbing past 50°F once or twice a week. A cold front came through yesterday, bringing only a trace of the white stuff but steady 30mph winds gusting to (reportedly) 60mph.

Last night one of those gusts took down a long-dead 35-foot pine just east of our property. I've no idea what killed the tree or when, but it was dead and bare of needles when we moved in two years ago.
I strolled out back this morning to survey this casualty of the wind, snapped off a foot or so above the ground. As I approached it I noticed the glow of heartwood at the center of the bug-eaten pine.

I suspected that this golden core, which measures about four inches in diameter, might be what I described in an early installment of "Urban Resources" -- fatwood.

Sure enough, I now have a resiny reservoir of natural firestarter, aromatic and hard as a rock, within a hundred feet of my back door. I expect I'll harvest as much of it as I can, practically speaking, if only to hone the skills required to do so. Stay tuned.

There oughtn't be a law

The front-page headline in this morning's edition of The Columbus Dispatch blares, "Secret compartments could get drivers busted."

A proposed law, touted yesterday by Gov. John Kasich as part of Ohio's stepped-up drug-interdiction efforts, would make it a fourth-degree felony to own a vehicle equipped with hidden compartments. Naturally, law-enforcement agencies -- notably the Ohio State Highway Patrol -- love the idea.

Law-abiding citizens, however, should be less than thrilled.

Think about it -- should we expect drug traffickers to avoid Ohio, or to smuggle narcotics in vehicles not fitted with covert stashes, just because there's a law against secret compartments?

Of course not. Any claim that such a law would be a deterrent is patently laughable.

Citizens who cherish Liberty see a far more sinister effect. The simple act of modifying a vehicle to incorporate a secure place to stow emergency supplies or, for example, to (otherwise legally) transport a firearm or ammunition would earn us a felony charge -- even if the compartment doesn't hold drugs or other contraband.

It's the definition of a political stunt. Gov. Kasich is desperate to curry favor with law enforcement. Sen. Jim Hughes, the bill's sponsor, wants to score points with Gov. Kasich. And patrol superintendent Col. John Born is doing what political appointees do.

The ill-conceived secret-compartment proposal seeks to address the state's drug-trafficking problem by assaulting individual liberties. Ohio has plenty of anti-drug statutes already on the books without creating another that'd turn now-law-abiding citizens into criminals.

This citizen will urge his elected representatives to squash the bill.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

We need more Alan Simpson

"I am convinced that if you get into these social issues and just stay in there about abortion and homosexuality and even mental health they bring up, somehow they're going to take us all to Alaska and float us out in the Bering Sea or something. If we're going to do that, and here's a party that believes in government out of your life, the precious right of privacy and the right to be left alone. How then can they be the hypocrisy of fiddling around in these social issues? We won't have a prayer."

(Former Sen. Simpson on CBS News "Face-to-Face")

A moment from last night's GOP debate

Rick Santorum: "I have to admit, I voted for ['No Child Left Behind']. It was against the principles I believed in, but, you know, when you're part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake.

"You know, politics is a team sport, folks."

Ron Paul: "Once again [Santorum]...was for 'No Child Left Behind' -- but now he's running for president, now he's running to repeal 'No Child Left Behind'....and he calls it 'a team sport.' He has to go along to get along and that's the way the team plays. But that's what the problem is with Washington. That's what's been going on for so long.

"I don't accept that form of government. I understand it. That is the way it works. You were with the majority. You were the Whip and you organized and got these votes all passed. But I think the obligation of all of us should be the oath of office...and it shouldn't be the oath to the party. I'm sorry about that, but it isn't the oath to the party -- it's the oath to our office.

"To obey the law -- and the law is the Constitution."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Liberty sacked

[Ask yourself, please, if this is what we want from our government. It had better be, because it's what we're begging for.]

Preschooler's Homemade Lunch
Replaced with Cafeteria 'Nuggets'

State agent inspects sack lunches, forces preschoolers to purchase cafeteria food instead
Sara Burrows, Associate Editor
Carolina Journal

RAEFORD -- A preschooler at West Hoke Elementary School ate three chicken nuggets for lunch Jan. 30 because a state employee told her the lunch her mother packed was not nutritious.

The girl's turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to the interpretation of the agent who was inspecting all lunch boxes in her More at Four classroom that day.

The Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services requires all lunches served in pre-kindergarten programs -- including in-home day care centers -- to meet USDA guidelines. That means lunches must consist of one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables, even if the lunches are brought from home.

When home-packed lunches do not include all of the required items, child care providers must supplement them with the missing ones.

The girl's mother -- who said she wishes to remain anonymous to protect her daughter from retaliation -- said she received a note from the school stating that students who did not bring a "healthy lunch" would be offered the missing portions, which could result in a fee from the cafeteria, in her case $1.25.

"I don't feel that I should pay for a cafeteria lunch when I provide lunch for her from home," the mother wrote in a complaint to her state representative, Republican G.L. Pridgen of Robeson County.

The girl's grandmother, who sometimes helps pack her lunch, told Carolina Journal that she is a petite, picky 4-year-old who eats white whole wheat bread and is not big on vegetables.

"What got me so mad is, number one, don't tell my kid I'm not packing her lunch box properly," the girl's mother told CJ. "I pack her lunchbox according to what she eats. It always consists of a fruit. It never consists of a vegetable. She eats vegetables at home because I have to watch her because she doesn’t really care for vegetables."

When the girl came home with her lunch untouched, her mother wanted to know what she ate instead. Three chicken nuggets, the girl answered. Everything else on her cafeteria tray went to waste.

"She came home with her whole sandwich I had packed, because she chose to eat the nuggets on the lunch tray, because they put it in front of her," her mother said. "You're telling a 4-year-old. 'oh. your lunch isn't right,' and she's thinking there's something wrong with her food."

While the mother and grandmother thought the potato chips and lack of vegetable were what disqualified the lunch, a spokeswoman for the Division of Child Development said that should not have been a problem.

"With a turkey sandwich, that covers your protein, your grain, and if it had cheese on it, that's the dairy," said Jani Kozlowski, the fiscal and statutory policy manager for the division. "It sounds like the lunch itself would've met all of the standard." The lunch has to include a fruit or vegetable, but not both, she said.

There are no clear restrictions about what additional items -- like potato chips -- can be included in preschoolers' lunch boxes.

"If a parent sends their child with a Coke and a Twinkie, the child care provider is going to need to provide a balanced lunch for the child," Kozlowski said.

Ultimately, the child care provider can't take the Coke and Twinkie away from the child, but Kozlowski said she "would think the Pre-K provider would talk with the parent about that not being a healthy choice for their child."

It is unclear whether the school was allowed to charge for the cafeteria lunches they gave to every preschooler in the class that day.

The state regulation reads:
"Sites must provide breakfast and/or snacks and lunch meeting USDA requirements during the regular school day. The partial/full cost of meals may be charged when families do not qualify for free/reduced price meals.

"When children bring their own food for meals and snacks to the center, if the food does not meet the specified nutritional requirements, the center must provide additional food necessary to meet those requirements."
Still, Kozlowski said, the parents shouldn't have been charged.

"The school may have interpreted [the rule] to mean they felt like the lunch wasn't meeting the nutritional requirements and so they wanted the child to have the school lunch and then charged the parent," she said. "It sounds like maybe a technical assistance need for that school."

The school principal, Jackie Samuels, said he didn't "know anything about" parents being charged for the meals that day. "I know they eat in the cafeteria. Whether they pay or not, they eat in the cafeteria."

Pridgen's office is looking into the issue.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Columbus turns 200 today

When someone asks me where I live, chances are I'll say "Columbus, Ohio." That's not my postal address, of course, but it's easier for most folks to fix on their mental maps.

So, in a sense, Columbus is my adopted hometown. And today, February 14th, marks the bicentennial of its founding.

As a kid growing up in the northeastern part of the state, making the two-hour drive to Columbus qualified as a trip to "the big city." We'd come down for Ohio State's home football games and, several times a year, to shop at Lazarus.

The city today bears only a passing resemblance, really, to the Columbus of my childhood. The changes owe to progress as well as decay, and I'm prone to getting sentimental about what's been lost to both.

It's still a good place, though, the hub of a region that I call "home," and this is a birthday worth celebrating.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sharps: Zero Tolerance 0350

I believe it was Holiday Inn that coined the advertising slogan, "The best surprise is no surprise." Myself, I'm a fan of pleasant surprises.

I'd put off sampling Zero Tolerance Knives for years, judging them (from afar) shamelessly "tacticool." Then, on something of a whim, I decided to take ZT's 0350 folder for a spin.

Color me pleasantly surprised.

The Zero Tolerance 0350 (MSRP $175, street $100) is a downsized-and-detuned version of the 0300 (MSRP $340, street $220), which is a higher-end folder designed in collaboration with Strider. The made-in-USA 0350 features a 3.25-inch recurve blade of coated CPM S30V, thick stainless-steel liners incorporating a beefy liner lock, textured G-10 scales and a four-position pocket clip.

The 0350 is equipped with Kai-Kershaw's SpeedSafe assisted-opening system. Pulling back with an index fingertip on the "flipper" protruding from the spine snaps the blade open with authority. Ingeniously, the flipper becomes a guard when the blade is deployed.

Now, if you read the maker's description of SpeedSafe, you'll see that the blade also can be opened "with a manual push on the blade's thumb stud." Problem is, when the blade is closed the ambidextrous stud nests very close to the frame. It's virtually useless as a natural and reliable means of opening the knife.

The stud functions primarily as a stop-pin, it appears. And since the flipper works so well, not having the thumb-opening option is no loss.

It took a week or so of EDC (and a few drops of Benchmade BlueLube) for the 0350's pivot to get over its initial stickiness. Since then it's been smooth and precise -- no wiggle whatsoever.

This ZT's handle fits my large paws perfectly, and the G-10 slabs are wonderfully grippy. The CPM S30V blade takes and holds a scary-sharp edge; quick touchups, rarely necessary, have been easy. That's a good thing, since it's trickier to hone a recurve than a straight edge.

After carrying and using the Zero Tolerance 0350 for several weeks, I'm not just pleasantly surprised -- I'm damned impressed. It's a hell-for-stout tool and, with the exception of that vestigial thumb stud, very well designed. Best of all, considering the street price, it's a whole lot of knife for the money.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Our entitlement culture, defined

[The following analysis, published on Monday, should be required reading for every citizen, especially those who pretend that we can continue to cater to an entitlement-hungry populace.]

A Nation of Government Dependents?
49% of U.S. Population Lives in Households Receiving Gov't Benefits
Veronique de Rugy
Mercatus Center at George Mason University

This week Mercatus Center Senior Research Fellow Veronique de Rugy examines the share of the U.S. population that live in a household with at least one member receiving government benefits using the Census Bureau's data from the third quarter of 2010.

The red bar represents the percentage of the population living in a household receiving benefits from one or more federal and state programs. The green bar represents the share of the population receiving benefits from at least one means-tested program (a program that targets low-income people with non-welfare income) for food, housing, or children's aid, etc. The blue bars give a breakdown of the population living in households receiving benefits from various federal programs. (Note that the bars do not add up to 100% because it is common for people to receive benefits from more than one program.)

In 2010, 49% -- or nearly half -- of the U.S. population lived in a household receiving government assistance. According to Investors.com, this percentage of the population has gone "up from 44% the year before Obama took office, and way up from 1983, when fewer than a third were government beneficiaries."

Spending on entitlement programs is one of the main drivers to U.S. debt as such programs have the most recipients. Specifically, 16% of the population lived in a household receiving Social Security benefits, and 15% in a household receiving Medicare benefits. Medicaid benefits had the largest share of dependents, with 26% of the population living in a household receiving such benefits.

About 35% of Americans in 2010 lived in households that received benefits from at least one means-tested transfer program. Out of these programs, more than 46 million -- or 15% of all Americans -- lived in households receiving food stamps, 2% unemployment compensation, and 6% supplemental security income. The percent of the population living in a household receiving benefits for low-income families with children reached 8%, and those receiving temporary assistance for needy families reached 2%.

Means-tested welfare spending at both federal and state levels has grown faster than any other category of government spending. Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation found that annual spending for means-tested programs increased by nearly 300% between 1989 and 2008. According to Rector, the growth in means-tested aid "greatly exceeded the growth in government spending on education (143%) and defense (126%)" during this same time period.

The more people receive government assistance, the more difficult it will be to reform these programs. The majority of future federal spending will be to finance this growing nation of dependents.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

One more reason why I'll never live in California

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors made it a crime, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, to throw a ball or a Frisbee on any beach in the county.

What's more, these nannying nutjobs also made it illegal to dig a hole more than 18 inches deep in the sand.

I swear I'm not making that up -- click on the image (right) to read the most abominable passages, or check out the entire ordinance here.

Truth is, the decimation of individual liberties throughout the People's Republic of California is reason enough to keep me on this side of the state line. But this latest sandy insanity is beyond the pale -- and, thanks to LA County officials, it even goes beyond the (plastic) pail (and shovel).

What the hell is wrong with these people?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Iconic, ironic or patriotic?

Each of my favorite Super Bowl commercials, posted here yesterday, promotes a venerable American brand.

Chevy. Chrysler. Budweiser.

None of those corporate icons represents what it once did. Chevrolet (founded in 1911) and Chrysler (1925) survived Chapter 11 thanks to billions in taxpayer-funded bailouts and, in the case of Chrysler, because an Italian carmaker bought almost 60% of the company. Budweiser (1876) is the flagship brand of a brewer headquartered not in St. Louis, but in Belgium.

Ever since the commercials ran on Sunday, pundits have been cranking out commentary after ironic commentary. The Chrysler ad has come in for special criticism.

Pres. Obama's backers see the spot as supporting his approach to our national economic crisis. Conservative klaxons view it the same way, accusing Clint Eastwood of being a shill for the administration.

When you're a hammer, as it's said, everything looks like a nail.

Of all the perspectives I've read and heard, only three ring remotely true with me. The first came from Jay Leno:
"One of the most talked about [Super Bowl] commercials was the one with Clint Eastwood, where he said, 'It's halftime in America, and our second half is about to begin.'

"The bad news? China has the ball and we're down $15 trillion."
The second belongs to John Avlon:
"When the next Republican assumes the Oval Office, whether in four years or eight, he or she will find that the political culture is set up to destroy rather than build. Unifying the nation absent an urgent crisis is increasingly difficult, if not impossible. The organized activist class from your own party will not tolerate dissension from ideological purity, even in the face of real-world responsibilities. The opposition will have been conditioned to reflexively attack, demonizing the duly elected president almost regardless of what policies he proposes. This cannot be good for the country."
Last, here's what Eastwood himself said to FOXNation:
"I just want to say that the spin stops with you guys, and there is no spin in that ad. On this I am certain.

"I am certainly not politically affiliated with Mr. Obama. It was meant to be a message...just about job growth and the spirit of America. I think all politicians will agree with it. I thought the spirit was ok.

"I am not supporting any politician at this time.

"Chrysler, to their credit, didn't even have cars in the ad.

"Anything they gave me for it went for charity.

"If...Obama or any other politician wants to run with the spirit of that ad, go for it."
Now permit me, please, to offer my own view: Attacking Chrysler's "Halftime in America" commercial because it's somehow pro-Obama is intellectually dishonest and ideologically crippled.

There's nothing so patriotic as (to quote Avlon) "making the case for American resilience." That's what the ad did, simply and with the conviction of an independent citizen, and that's why I love it.