Ebb and Flow

Welcome to my 300th post. Tonight we dine in hell. Nah, that would require liver stuffed mac and cheese, drizzled with olive juice.

300 shouldn’t be special, yet for some reason it keeps shouting to me that it is. Isn’t the usual big moments, 10, 50, 100, 250, 500, ect.?

The fact that this is number 300 added to the complexity of this post. The car guy in me wanted to make it about the Chrysler 300 series and the forgotten, semi-fake Chrysler 300 of the late 70’s.

It was an optioned up Cordoba.

I’d do a review of the movie 300, but except for commercials, I never saw it. (Why is it in these movies the men have full beards yet somehow have the technology to have the rest of their bodies cleanly shaven? What were they afraid of, razor burn?)

I could talk about the probably 300 jelly beans my wife and I have eaten over the last month, but it’s almost Easter and who hasn’t done this?

I’d love to boast about the 300 creative ideas bouncing around in my head, but I definitely don’t have anything close to that number. (but I do have a few I’ll be sharing.)

Nope the real reason why this 300th post is important is you. If ti wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be motivated to do this many posts. It’s seeing the likes and reads that encourages me to go on.

I had a real strong case of “stuckitis” and I think I’m finally breaking free. I just needed to get myself to sit down and actually tap theses keys again. (Ok. It’s more of a slam/pound than tap. I’ve never been gentle with mechanical things.)

300 is a big number because it represents a commitment. Continue on or turn the corner. For me the adventure and discovery still go on, so now that I’ve crossed the field of limbo. I can continue.

Let’s see what’s over that next rise.

Ketchup with us #39: Ten minute challenge

And go!

This challenge by Michele and Mel is to take the next ten minutes and write whatever pops into your head.  No rehearsing, no cheating.

So here are my thoughts.

Nothing…

Nothing…

Why do I have to punch these keys so hard?  I’m sure they can hear it two rooms away!

How should I end my Pony Express story?  Daniel is going after the bear to get the mail.  How does he get it?  It is spring?  Does he find it in the cave?  Are there cubs?  Does the bear circle around and hunt him for food?  How do I do this properly and keep it realistic?

I love my new truck but hate the mileage.  Why did Dodge have to make it run on Midgrade?  Trucks are supposed to handle third world 80 octane garbage, not need fancy gas to run right.  Stupid idea Dodge!

I must be the only one who thinks this though.  The Ram pickup outsold Chevy this month.  A feat that hasn’t happened since 1999.

I need to take more pictures.  I need to find time to take more pictures.  I also need a good app for my android phone that will allow me to crop these pics.  This blog needs more picture posts.

I really need to go camping soon.  I have all this great gear that I can blog about, but I have to test it first.  Any review is useless without even trying the equipment first.  I need to hurry up and do it too, before the summer heat and humidity comes.  This is our Northern summer time of year.  Nice and cool in the morning and pleasantly warm in the afternoon.  Soon it will be 80 and muggy when I wake up and get unbearable from there.

It’s good to do these challenges again.  I miss linking up with these ladies.  They are a lot of fun.

Not ten minutes but not bad.

What are your ramblings?

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2015 Jeep Renegade – Have we met before?

Jeep Renegade

Jeep is screaming at the top of their lungs about the new Renegade.  Oddly enough, it seems familiar.

It’s not the full independent suspension.  That’s completely new and going to cause all sorts of revolts from the Jeep purists.  (It is based off the Fiat 500 after all.)

It’s not the size.  It’s roughly the same as the square head-lighted, YJ Wrangler, but the four doors changes the feel dramatically.

It’s the look!  I’ve seen that look before.  No.  Not on a Jeep.  I’ve seen it somewhere else.  Oh, that’s right.  The International Scout II.

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The Scout II was International’s attempt to compete against the popular Jeep CJ-7.  They made it a little bigger to carry people in the back more comfortably and give a little more storage space behind them.

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Never heard of them?  They started out making competitors to the Chevy Suburban and worked there way down in size.  They never had a lot of sales, so they eventually went bankrupt in the Eighties.

Now Jeep brings out this little runabout and I can’t help  but notice the similarities.

Same round headlights

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Same upright grill

Same boxy look

And same kick up in the bottom of the rear side window.

It’s a modern Scout  to me.  Possibly getting a diesel option for it doesn’t separate the idea either.  International threw diesel engines in the Scouts back in the day as well.

But then, Jeep doesn’t really have to worry about people like me noticing the look. They aren’t aiming this at me.  They aiming at the people who have Soul.  Kia Soul that is.

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Yep.  They built this to go after Kia.  I didn’t know the urban commuter was so important to Jeep.  You sure wouldn’t know this from their commercials.

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To compete against the Soul, The Renegade will have the same interior mood lighting and techno gadgets galore.  To one up Kia, Jeep will offer a double sunroof as an option.  It’s called a sky roof and will let a lot of sunlight in to wash out the touch screen on the dash quite nicely.

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As you can bet, the hardcore religious Jeep worshipers are going into hysterics over this.  They are crucifying the Renegade and anyone who defends it with a passion that would make any political party envious.  “Ugly” and “Fiat Panda wannabe” are among the few comments I can repeat here.  Most are far worse.

There is a chance for Jeep to get a marketing win out of this though.  The know it’s not a Wrangler.  They don’t want to try to sell it to Wrangler buyers.  They want to sell it to Kia owners.  So they need to make their commercials for this market.  This give them a chance to spoof themselves.  Using an overly dramatic voice they could talk about conquering deadly potholes, splashing through the torrents of the neighborhood sprinklers, and narrowly avoiding the rampaging large SUV wildlife on the road while snagging the tight parking spot right next to whatever hangout is popular at the moment.  Don’t think it will work?  It did for Suzuki (until Consumer reports killed it)

 

Now if Jeep wants to get crossovers from their own brand there’s only two ways of doing this.  Camping and Ralley.

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Mini Countryman mud

Either way it’s going to be an interesting time for Jeep – even with a 30 year old style.

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Bringing back the yarn

I don’t know about you, but it’s been a while since I’ve done a good piece of fiction.  I’m going to stoke up the creative fires by working on a western.

This western will not be based on my work that I’m trying to get published.  This is going to be a western set in the Utah Territory.

The focus will be on one of the Pony Express Riders who rode that route.

As always, I’ll try to keep in focus the era and the mindset of the people of that era.  I will also keep an eye on the personal psychology of the main character.

What makes him the way he is?

What past experiences guide or misguide his choices?

What are his goals?

Why is he in the place he is?

How will he respond to the challenges that come to him?

And you will be along for the ride so dust off those boots and saddle up.

The trail’s callin’.

I lost my heart in San Francisco, but I lost my dumb phone in Georgia.

Say hello to my little friend.  It’s a Kyocera something or other.

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It replaces the dumb phone I used to have.  You know, the one I raved about in an earlier post.  I guess it didn’t like being called dumb because it decided to leave me somewhere in Georgia.

I was driving back to Florida in that ethereal timeline between late night and early morning when I made a stop for a bite to eat.  That when my phone decided to ditch me and try to hitch a ride somewhere else.

Fifteen dollars down the drain.

I’m not too concerned about it.  There were few phone numbers on it and it was set up for talk only.  I had a pay as you go plan, so they couldn’t rack up long distance calls on it, nor could they even text on the thing!  All in all, it was a pretty safe phone.

My new phone had the same account and phone number, so the old phone is now totally off-line.  I have no concerns about it if it is ever found.

In according to tradition, this phone started out pretty cheap.  Thirty bucks.  I chose it so I could take pictures and download podcasts.  The wife had other ideas.  She insisted on a cover and protective screen film.  I opted for the one year replacement plan.  (It was $5 and who knows what’s going to happen to this thing in a year.)

So far I’ve downloaded a few free apps and love watching you tube on it.

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I’ve found it takes ok but not great pictures.

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What I haven’t figured out is how to post these directly onto my blog using WordPress.  (Any help here would be immensely appreciated.)  Right now I download them to my lap top and then go from there.

And as a bow to modern culture I bring to you my phone’s first “Selfy”.

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Personally I don’t get it.  Why would anyone want a picture of someone else’s phone is beyond me.

Knife Fight – The second cut

Earlier I had talked about wanting a new pocket knife and the process I went through in deciding which one would be best for me.  Well Christmas came and not only did I get the knife I chose, I received two others!  Can anyone say comparison test?

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The challengers are the Ontario RAT Model 1, Ontario RAT Model 2, and Leatherman Sidekick.

The baseline I had chosen to compete against is the almost historic Buck 110 Hunter.  (My wife’s favorite large folding knife.)

To be honest, when comparing these three tools against each other, it’s not a fair fight.  Each one is a different size and has different strengths and weaknesses.

As you can see, they all fold nicely and will fit into a pocket no problem, and all have line locks to hold the blade in place. (More on this later.)  What did surprise me is that the Leatherman Sidekick had the smallest blade.  I expected it to be at least the size of the RAT Model 2.

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The advantage of the Sidekick is all the tools packed in it.  You can do so much more with it than the Ontario folders.

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But, of course, it is also heavier.  I can put both Ontario knives in a pocket to offset the weight of the Leatherman which weighs in at 7oz.  The blades are 420 high carbon (HC) stainless steel.  That’s a big plus living in Florida with the high amounts of rain and salty air.  I see the Sidekick coming along with me on bike rides, picnics, beach excursions, and possibly some shopping in other towns.  The bottle opener will come in handy if I ever have that urge to buy Sprite in a glass bottle again.  (They don’t twist open.)

The overall features of the two Ontario RAT knives are the same but the differences in size changes the character of them dramatically.   Both are made in Taiwan, use AUS-8 steel, have stainless steel liners inside the handle, have “jimping” on back of the blades, and have black handles.

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I should also mention here that the RAT in these knives stands for Randal’s Adventure Training.  It’s a woodman/survival school, but I really don’t care about that.  I just like the knives.

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The RAT-2 is the Gentleman’s folder of the two.  Lightest to carry and very discrete.  Its three inch blade is very maneuverable for projects like trimming a picture or cutting down an oversized straw.  Non-knife people won’t feel threatened if you use this to open boxes at work or cut string for a kite at a kid’s birthday party.  My wife balked at me bringing my old Smith and Wesson knife to the movies, but has no concern when I bring this one.  It is the best in a social setting.005

Its big brother, the Ontario RAT Model 1 is the woodsman of the bunch.  Its 3.5 inch long blade is the closest to the original Buck 110 Hunter as is its overall length.

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The blade of the RAT 1 is also a tenth of a centimeter thicker than the Model 2 as well. (0.3 cm/0.12 in for the RAT 1 vs. 0.2cm/0.095in for the RAT 2)

The blade is definitely wider than the blade of the Buck and gives a good, solid feel to the blade as you carve with it.  Chopping through branches is really easy with this knife.

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The AUS-8 steel is nowhere near as rust resistant as Buck’s hard chrome stainless, so you need to keep the blades oiled to prevent rusting in high moisture areas.  (I have a rule of oiling them once a month just to be sure.)

The blade is a flat grind which will make it easier for me to sharpen and while it does seep up to a point, it doesn’t have the hole punching point of the Buck  110.

There are a lot of differences between the Ontario RAT 1 and the Buck 110 Hunter, but two items were the most noticeable to my wife.

The first was the locking mechanism for the blade.

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The Buck uses the lockback design.  What this means is that a long piece of metal along the back of the handle pivots against the bottom of the blade to hold it in place.  Pressing a part of it, levers it open to allow the blade to fold into the handle.

The Ontario uses a liner lock design.  Here the metal on the liner of the handle pushes out against the bottom of the blade to hold it in.  To close the blade, you must push this lock back towards the handle and hold it as you start folding the blade back into its handle.

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My wife doesn’t like the liner lock design because she is concerned about cutting her finger while closing the blade.  I know that once you start the process of closing the blade, you can move your finger out of the way and not worry about cutting yourself.  My personal concern with the lockback design is that lint or dirt can get caught in the pivot point of the blade and locking piece of metal in the handle, preventing it from locking and allowing the blade to swing back into your hand as you are pushing down on the blade to cut.  (In fact this has happened to me a number of times with other folding knives.)

The other difference is in how they open.

The Buck uses the original “pull with your thumbnail” method while the RAT uses a thumbstud to flip it open.  The thumbstud is definitely faster and is easier to use.  Could it get caught in your key ring and open if you shove your keys in your pocket with it?  I guess it’s possible.  I keep them in separate pockets, so that’s never happened to me.  I will say that I personally prefer a knife that is easy to open one handed and takes more attention to close than one that takes attention to open and is easier to close.

So that’s my opinion of these great knives.

The Leatherman Sidekick is great for active days biking or picnicking.

The Ontario RAT 1 is a great camper/woodsman folder

And the Ontario RAT 2 is great for a night on the town.

You can’t go wrong with any of them.

What’s that?  You want to know which one would I pick if I could have only one?  “Sigh.”  I knew you were going to ask that.  Well, since I started this project by looking at my wife’s Buck 110 Hunter and wanting something comparable for me, I have to say I’d pick the Ontario Rat Model 1.  It does all the hard chores with ease and I’m not afraid to work it.  It is exactly what I was looking for.  (I’m still keeping all three though.)

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Turning the Flywheel of inspiration and hope.

If there’s one thing a writer or blogger will talk about is the persistent problem of writers block.  It can come numerous sources.  Boredom, stress, family, work, obligations, distractions; the list is endless.

But there is a book that puts all these problems to shame.

Flywheel:  Memories of the open road.

It’s a collection of an automotive monthly magazine put into book form but it is unlike any automotive magazine you’ve ever heard of.  This magazine was created by and for Allied prisoners of war during World War Two.

Soldiers imprisoned in Stalag IVB formed a small “car club” called The Muhlberg Motor Club (MMC).  A membership of six soon grew to over 200 with most never even owning a car.  (Most learned to drive while in the military.)

Not only did they have the challenge of creating stories to write about, but they had to work hard just to get ink and paper!  To create colored ink, they stole quinine tablets from the infirmary.  The glue binding the pages together was created from their daily millet soup.

Under the stress of imprisonment, these soldiers  created storylines, thought of new technologies, wrote and illustrated not only the vehicles of the times but of what the future would bring as featured in a report of an auto show.

Flywheel:  Memories of the open road shows that inspiration and creativity can happen in even the worst conditions imagined.

The Knife Fight

It’s fun to get obsessed.  Dive down into that dark rabbit hole of the unknown and come out like a champion with a treasure.  My latest obsession is finding the perfect pocket knife.

Pocket knives are a deeply personal decision and every choice tells a lot about its owner and the life it leads.  The choices are dizzying.  Blade size, blade metal, serrated or smooth, shiny – satin – flat, clip point or tanto, plain or fancy, number of blades, weight, cost… the list goes on and on.

It doesn’t even have to be a knife either.  Multi tools are every bit as common and offer their own advantages and disadvantages.

But for me it has to be a knife.  I recently owned a Smith and Wesson folder and enjoyed it.  I used it hard and it never failed.  I recently gave it to a friend.  She works landscaping and really needed a good knife.  I have a Leatherman Wingman that I use for my day job, it works ok but in comparison to blade length and overall weight, it’s just not what I want for everyday carry.

So with the question of what to get, I dove down the rabbit hole.

I had a general idea of what I wanted and what I wanted it to do.

I want a non-serrated blade around four inched in length.  I want a solid locking mechanism that will keep the blade locked in position even if I “hammer” it with a stick.  I want a decent thickness to the blade to prevent it from snapping under hard use.  It has to be easy to sharpen and hold its edge for a decent time.

I want to be able to cut thick rope and twine with it, chop little branches if needed, whittle wood, spark a ferro rod, split broom thick sticks to smaller kindling, and cut leftover meats without tearing.  I might even use the pommel (bottom end) of the handle as a hammer or bottle opener.  (They sell Coke in glass bottle here.)

As you can see, this is not going to be a show knife that is pulled out of the pocket at parties to impress the neighbors.  Uh-uh.  This is going to be a hard working tool full of scars and stories.

I’ve been doing research for a few weeks.  It’s one of my favorite things to do because it lets me day dream about the possibilities and discover products I never knew.

My Smith and Wesson Knife was roughly the same size as a Buck 110 Hunter.  The classic pocket knife.

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My wife has one.  She keeps it tucked away in a kitchen drawer for safe keeping.  I like the idea of us having matching knives, but also appreciate our differences.   Besides, we have matching wedding rings.  How matchy do we need to be?

But Buck does have some other interesting offerings:  The Bantam and the BuckMax Large.

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These knives have the same blade length as the 110  Hunter, but with different grips and blade widths. (The Bantam is a little wider than the 110 and BuckMax.)  If I do get the Bantam, the one on top, I’ll have to find a different color. Orange camo is so not me.

Besides Buck, there is Ontario Knives with their RAT II.

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It’s a slightly shorter blade, but very good in all other desires.

Another is the Gerber Freeman Guide.

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This one has a metal pommel that could work as a bottle opener and has a good blade length.

Or I might just go with another Smith and Wesson.  They have a model called “Cuttin’ Horse” that reminds me of a smooth bladed version of my old knife.

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Any of these will probably work, but I am not going to deny myself the pleasure of checking them out and deciding for myself.

That’s the best part of all.