Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Duke of Numbnuts and Listing

Unsensible Manly Things

I wanted to write about manly things, but what could be more manly than high speed automobile jumps on your average stretch of I-675? 

Seems the Dukes of Hazard County have moved up to Sugarcreek Township around Dayton. Or a least their half-wit cousin, Numbnuts, has.

Get a load of the video: http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/08/video-insane-100-mph-crash-caught-on-tape/

The 19-year old genius decided he needed to pass a police car at 100 miles an hour and the grassy median between highways was the perfect place for it. The dashboard camera of the cruiser caught the action as Numbnuts shot past him, used the metal crash barrier as a ramp and catapulted himself and his car up and into a bridge support.     Eee-haw!! Ride 'em cowboy!!

I have been known to state the gene pool needs a little natural chlorination. If you don’t believe me, watch the video again. All we can hope is he left a little highly specialized tissue in the wrecked car and is now out of the procreation lottery. I understand he survived in critical condition. I’m sure someone loves him, but…..

Sensible Manly Things

I have a friend who had list of things he thinks every man should be able to do with some degree of ability. As I remember them and in no particular order they were:

Ride a horse;

Build a fire;

Shoot a gun and hit your target;

Pitch a tent without instructions;

Read a map (I think he meant topographic and not road.);

Sharpen a knife.

Looking at the current crop of young men around me, I have to wonder if their list might be:

Change or recharge batteries in an ipod/pad/phone thingie;

Drive a shift stick;

Open a beer bottle without an opener;

Golf just over par;

Make reservations.

That’s my list drawn from my interactions with them. I’m sure their list isn’t quite so vacuous.

My list from my younger days was:

Darn socks and stitch a button on;

Sharpen a knife;

Build a fire;

Cook a simple meal more or less from scratch (No TV dinners—Do they even make them any more?)

Change a flat;

Put a bit on a horse.

I asked my wife to name 3-5 things she thinks any man should be able to do. I think I caught her off guard. After sputtering a bit she came up with three:

Drive a car;

Cook a subsistence meal (no peanut butter and fried banana sandwiches, men!);

Operate a computer.

Seems modern woman has lower expectation levels than I would have thought.

With time comes maturity or at least some kind of an excuse for it. My basic list now is:

Keep a knife sharp;

Stitch a button;

Drive a stick shift with a clutch;

Build a fire;

Cook a simple meal for two;

Know which target needs to be shot and when.

Of course this is all minimum listing and just a little sexist. Everyone should be able to change a tire or diaper, gas up a car, fill the washer reservoir and burp a baby. I used to say change plugs, replace hoses and belts, but every time I stick my head under the hood my brain spins.

I don’t know about darning socks, but everyone should be able to fix a button, repair a hem or a small rip. This doesn’t seem too unreasonable. Preparing food seems like such a useful skill, but I know people who couldn’t grill a steak or bake a potato if their life depended on it.

You should be able to balance a checkbook, clean a bathroom or a fish (your choice) and paint a wall.

All these lists deal with survival at some level. There also seems to be a note of caution that more primitive skills could be called upon. Maybe I should add knap flint and shoot a sling-shot.

What’s your list? I’ll publish it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On the Edge – Continued!

“Morning comes early in northern Greenland. The bright sun made the igloo walls glow with inner light. The howling wind had abated. I had survived the arctic storm.”

“I pressed on the snow door plug, but it failed to move. I was frozen in. The storm had formed a layer of ice on the igloo protecting me but imprisoning me as well. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence. You simply chopped a new hole in the ice wall and crawled out. I reached for my smatchet, knowing the heavy blade would make fast work of this problem. It wasn’t in my sheath. It wasn’t in my sleep bag. It wasn’t loose on the floor. “

“I saw it in my mind’s eye. I had placed it under supplies on the sled last night so I wouldn’t lose it in the darkness. I had intended to slip it back in my sheath before I pulled the snow cork in behind myself. It was still outside.”

“I was trapped. I had no way out.”

Sven paused to let the enormity and irony roll over us. He was trapped in the classic locked room with no way out, but clearly he had escaped.

After a few moments, I was about to break the silence when Rodger spoke up.

“Are you telling us you’re dead? You look very much alive to me.”

“I thought you would immediately see how I escaped my predicament. I needed a knife and didn’t have a knife, so I improvised.”

It must have been clear from our faces we had no idea what he did.

“The solution,” Sven said “was alimentary. I dropped my trousers, had a bowel movement and shaped the still warm excrement into a stout, knife-shaped form. It soon froze and hardened and I chopped a hole big enough to wiggle through. I found my knife where I put it, recovered my gear and freed the dogs from their ice covered dens.”

“The rest of the trip was uneventful.”

Sven went back to his paper and the knot drifted apart. I waited until everyone had left before I leaned over and partially pulled his newspaper down.

“So, how does a turd knife lay claim to the expression of ‘two is one and one is none?”

“It doesn’t. But when I returned to camp, I requisitioned a second knife. The quartermaster wanted to know what happened to the first one and I explained that two is one …”

“I supposed,” I interrupted him, “he gave you one.”

“He was a very intelligent man and immediately saw the sound logic in it.”

Having satisfied my question, Sven sat back to finish his paper, but not before snagging my untouched spare brandy.

I was about to comment on the theft when from behind the newspaper came, “After all, two is one…”

Sunday, August 8, 2010

On the Edge…An Adventure.

It was one of those snowy, blustery winter nights Cleveland is so well known for. On such a night only the mad or foolhardy venture outside. I had already decided to spend the night at the Explorer’s Club.

“Why not?” I thought. “My wife is out of town, the club’s larder is well stocked, as is their bar, and the small member suites are more than snug and comfortable.”

Don’t bother trying to find us. We don’t advertise. The outside of the building looks like an abandoned building complete with nine-foot rusty chain link fence. The only membership requirement is a life of exploration and adventure. If your idea of adventure is Grand Theft Auto III, don’t call us; we’ll call you.

The chairs were arranged in the Members’ Reading Room in clusters. Of course, conversations were discouraged in the room according to club by-laws. I found both a book I had been meaning to read and an overstuffed chair just the right distance from the roaring eight-foot fireplace. At my signal Butterling, our majordomo, brought my standing overnight order which he quietly placed on the end table I shared with another club member. He was politely and quietly ensconced behind a foreign newspaper in the other chair.

I had just relaxed and began to luxuriate in the warmth of the fire when one of the members, taking a shortcut to the door, noticed my two double brandies and cleared his throat in disapproval. His rude behavior was not lost on me.

“You know, two is one and one is none,” I foolishly snapped back at him.

The rude member was already out of earshot and if he had heard me, chose to ignore me. Unfortunately, my neighbor behind the newspaper choose not to.

“Yimminy, that’s so true.” It was Sven Olsen, perhaps the oldest and most gregarious club member. He folded the newspaper and placed it on his lap.

“Did I ever tell you how I invented that saying?” he said, raising his voice over the crackle of the fireplace.

This created a dilemma. We were in the reading room and I was loath to surrender my chair by moving to the conversation room. Sven was a prolific storyteller and he was setting up to spin a yarn. While I doubted the whole cloth of his stories, I had previously done enough research to verify many of his tales.

“No, you never did,” I said, throwing caution to the winds. What kind of adventurer would let a few rules stand in his way? I said the fatal words. “Tell me more.”

“It was summer 1955, and I was between classes at the University of Helsinki.”

“I didn’t know you had a degree, old man,” Rodger interrupted. “What was it in?” One of the newest members, Rodger had not learned proper manners and most likely never would.  I still regretted not blackballing him.

Sven paused to take Rodger in. “It was a non-degree program. I was pioneering independent study. Later they gave me an honorary degree in…. but that’s another story.” Sven paused and got back on track.

“With the summer free and troubled by a significant lack of funds, I was casting about for employment. Word reached me that the CIA was looking for….”

“You worked for the Central Intelligence Agency?  Rodger interrupted again.  “What? We didn’t have any spies that spoke Swedish?”

“What your spies can or cannot speak is of little concern to me.” Sven’s accent flared up as he lost his temper. “Nor did I know they were the CIA at the time. I was a bright young man aware of world events. I suspected it was some government agency, possibly one of Britain’s MI groups.”

“Since the cold war was heating up and the Nordic communities had no love for the Russians, I took the job. On the surface it was a simple job.  I would ski from various base camps to specific points in northern Greenland where I would place explosive charges and set them off at specific times. Someone, somewhere collected measurements for some purpose.”

“It was an adventure, my friends.” His accent faded again. I often wondered about Sven. He spoke several languages without accent.  Even old agents have to retire somewhere.  “There was no GPS, no apps for your cell phone; just you and your dog team, a chronograph, slide rule and sexton.”

Olsen demonstrating his Igloo building skills for BBC journalists
From the Cleveland Explorer Club Archives

Sven looked over to Rodger, whose investments had tanked when the housing market stumbled. He was attempting to get a government jump-start loan for a new business.

“For two weeks at a time,” Sven continued, “you lived on what you and the dogs could carry and by your wits. Independent, free and living on the edge. There was no bailout if you made a mistake.”

“It was a harsh, cold, white landscape filled with beauty that could surprise you and turn on you at any moment. I spent many nights watching the Northern Lights pirouette across the dark skies.”

“There were other teams, but I was the most successful, reaching specific locations by specific deadlines and it became a matter of pride. I carried few extra supplies, reasoning my mobility and success depended on selecting only the most important items. I chose carefully.”

“Besides the technical equipment, I needed dried fish to feed the dogs and myself, a small stove, a double-bladed smatchet and, of course, a short barreled shotgun set up for slug.  Polar bears….” Sven gave a little involuntary shiver. “Nasty little javlarna.”

By now Sven was in his element and most of his accent had vanished. His tale had captured our imaginations. Several of the other members gravitated to the growing knot of listeners. I even caught sight of Butterling hovering on the outer edge of audible range. Even Rodger knew better than to interrupt the yarn.

“What I didn’t take was a tent. Instead I planned on making what Americans call an igloo. I used the smatchet to serve as a snow cutter and spatula. With a little practice I was able to cut and place rings of snow blocks to make a passable shelter in less than 30 minutes. The dogs, born and bred for this; simply curled up in a snow cave I’d carve for them. This system worked remarkably well. At least until I made a mistake.”

Smatchet reported to belong to Sven Olsen.
From Cleveland Explorer Club Archives

“It was my third trip out. The employer was more than happy with my notes and placement of the explosive charges. Noting how well I handled the long and arduous treks, they asked me to travel even farther north on longer trips. I was happy with myself for earning both their confidence and the increase in hazard pay.”

On my third day of the last week out, a storm closed in almost without warning. I barely had time to get the dogs sheltered, watered and fed before the storm was on me.”

“It was white-out conditions and the wind stung like a whip. I started cutting snow blocks, but the storm and gusting winds made work all but impossible. Yet I couldn’t stop. I had to finish. The igloo meant survival. Freezing and in the dark I was working more from memory and force of habit. I cut the last block, dragged my sleeping bag in and pulled a snow block in behind me. It was like corking a bottle from the inside.”

“I sat for a few moments in the darkness listening to the storm grow worse and pondering my fate. Tired and exhausted I crawled into my sleeping bag and shivered myself to sleep.” Sven paused and look deeply at each of us. “I didn’t know if I would wake up or not.”

…………To be continued 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Will Kydex be illegal in New York? Stay tuned...

Pressing On

I decided my sheath-making activities needed a press; a real, honest-to-God working, Kydex-shaping, fully functional press. I didn’t need to juggle six components (count ‘em: two lids, two foams and two clamps) while trying to compress the foam and get the clamps on it. I had reached the limits of human tolerance, pressed beyond all reasonable expectations and … and … well; I saw a neat design on YouTube and knew I could copy it.

Kydex press waiting for hot plastic and one C-clamp.

Not my design, but I’m pretty proud of it. My wife found the green high density foam at Marc’s. They had garden kneelers cheaply priced, less than 2 bucks each. I already had the hinges and double sticky tape to hold the foam to the plywood.

I also bought smaller, 1/8-inch pop rivets and small number 6 brass washers for spacers and was ready to give it a go. And go I did.

Somehow, I kept thinking Kydex sheaths had to be shaped like fitted leather sheaths. I picked an oval shape, laid out my Kydex. I spent more time measuring this time, but you know the old saying, “Measure twice. Cut once.”

Me too, but I didn’t realize the backing washer was larger than the rivet flange. This put all the washers too close to the blade and because of my fugal Kydex ways, too close to the edge. I trimmed the sheath on a metal cutting band saw and sanded the edges with a little sanding drum on my drill press.

Shaping the rivets with a block of metal and a ballpeen hammer was both easier and more enjoyable than I thought it would be.

The empty sheath was the first go, but beginner’s luck found me on the second try.

For my second try I cut a little more Kydex (about 3.5X the blade width). I elected to go with a square edged sheath with rounded corners.

A square helped me place the rivets better and I used small brass spacer rivets to float the belt loop off the knife sheath. I remembered to take into account the size of the backing rivet as well. The other big change: I taped the blade with two layers of painter’s masking tape.

I used a hunk of iron cut to size to make belt loops and I heated the metal a little to help keep the Kydex flexible while it’s stretching and shaping in the press. Belt loop making is a separate function and still under review and revision.

The sheath worked out better this time.

“The dark blue Kydex doesn’t go with the turquoise knife handle,” my wife said. I asked for her opinion and got it.

“I know, but I bought this color because it was cheap. Nobody else wanted it and I knew I could work and play with it without too much guilt.”

Kydex takes light coats of spray paint quite nicely… hmmmmm. Color matching may not be too much of a problem.

On The Knife Front.

New York, New York, why would I want to live there? Please don’t tell me Times Square.

The New York Times, June 17, 2010:
“At least 14 retail stores in Manhattan — including major retailers like the Home Depot, Eastern Mountain Sports and Paragon Sports — have been selling illegal knives,….”


What are these illegal knives? They appear to be any knife you can manipulate to open with one hand.

“What makes these knives so dangerous is the ease with which they can be concealed and brandished,” said Mr. Vance (spokesperson from the prosecutor’s office).

Well I looked at the picture of these dangerous knives and noticed Emerson, SOG Spyderco, and Smith & Wesson brand knives. All of the knives are consider tactical knives because they open with one hand, lock open and can be clipped to stay where you put them. I think of these knives as safety knives because the blade doesn’t un-expectantly snap shut. But you know it’s not about protection for police, firemen or other New Yorkers. It’s about money.

The Times glosses over this and reports the fines have reached 1.9 million greenbacks.(!) NYC gets almost 1 million of it, the state gets 0.19 million and the rest, 760 thousand dollars goes to unidentified “law enforcement agencies.” Could that be the District Attorneys Office?

And what happens to the 43 knives purchased as part of this sting operation to protect New York citizens? I bet the nicer ones will end up in someone’s pocket.