Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pocket knives

A friend of mine gave me a pocket-knife several years ago: a Spyderco Endura. Very shortly after I started carrying that knife, I realized why so many of my friends carry knives around. It's just too convenient to have a sharp blade every where you go.

Of course I don't mean it's as weapon. I know a lot of silly people think that: the sorts of silly people that are afraid of guns, big dogs, and their own shadows. The fact is, a sharp knife is one of the most useful tools you can have in your pocket. I find myself needing a sharp blade several times a week.

I carried that Endura everywhere I went (excepting airports: I had to put it in my checked bags every time I flew). That finally came to an end last summer, when it fell out of my pocket at my sister's house and I was unable to find it. She found it a couple weeks after I came back here, but I've not had a chance to go home since August. Next time I'm on the Island I'll claim it.

Of course, that doesn't help me now. I've a backup knife my brother-in-law gave me just before we left the East coast. It's a Browning, but I have no idea what the model is.

From Pocket Knives

The problem is, the Browning is just not a comfortable knife. It's a little block-ish in my pocket, and the clip's a little loose, no matter how I've tried to tighten it. And the knife has a liner lock; I just don't like liner locks.

So I've never really warmed up to that knife.

I started thinking about a replacement for my Endura, and I finally settled on the Cold Steel Rajah III. It's a nice little knife: a folding version of their Kukri. The blade is curved with the sharp edge on the inside. It's only 3 1/2 inches long, but it's very broad. I've always wanted a kukri: this is the closest I was likely to get.

But when my sister found the Endura, I sort of shelved my replacement plans.

But this last Christmas, my buddy handed me a package from Cold Steel. Now that's a true friend.

From Pocket Knives

I've been carrying the Rajah for a couple weeks now, and it's been a great knife. There are some down-sides: it's a little heavy for an every day carry. Not ridiculously heavy, just heavy enough that you can't quite forget it's there. In fact, it's a little bigger than my Browning, but it does feel better.

From Pocket Knives

But aside from its weight, the Rajah is my favourite knife. I love the broad blade, the deep belly, and the drop point. Let's be honest, this is a beautiful knife. Actually, it looks like something Galadriel would give a hobbit.

Still, when I get my Endura back, I think it'll go back to its place as my primary carry knife. It's not that I like it better than the Rajah, but I think the narrower blade and the less bulky haft make it a lot more practical for every day use. But honestly, if I ever end up lost in the wilderness, I think the Rajah's what I want in my pocket.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I know he can get the job...

My parents gave me a gift card to Amazon. I've always got a few items in my cart there, so it's always appreciated.

I just received a DVD I ordered, Joe versus the Volcano. I am quite convinced this is among the best films ever made, perhaps the best.

It's not that there's an incredibly complex plot: the story is remarkably simple. It's not that it's terribly humorous: there are a lot of great one-liners, but the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. This movie is great because it tells a simple story very well. And it does so effortlessly.

Most people I've known who've seen this movie didn't like it. I understand that: it's a movie that's not easy to classify, which means it's hard to know what to expect. The first time I saw it, I wasn't sure what I thought. The second time, I was convinced it was brilliant.

The story is about Joe, a hypochondriac with a dead-end job in a depressing factory. His boss is an idiot, his co-workers are lifeless, and he's miserable. Then his doctor tells him he really is sick: he'll be dead in six months. So Joe quits his job. The next day, he's approached by an insane business man who offers to pay for him to live like a king, if he'll jump into a volcano in one month. Seeing no real point to his life, Joe agrees.

The story follows Joe on his journey to a small south Pacific island with an enormous volcano, into which he's planning to jump. Joe meets several memorable characters: the limousine driver who teaches him how to dress, the salesman obsessed with luggage, and the spoiled daughter of the businessman paying Joe. The characters are brilliantly done: drawn in bold strokes, but very simply. Each feels like a real person.

Ultimately, its Joe's journey to find a purpose for his life. He quits his job, goes shopping, sails to the South Pacific, is shipwrecked, and finds the best luggage in the world.

If you've not seen the movie, I recommend you watch it. If you've only seen it once, you need to watch it a second time. It's not the sort of thing you can really grasp the first time. To me, this is one of those movies that comes out of nowhere and stuns me. It's funny, quirky, a little strange, and a little exciting. The acting is great, the story is interesting despite its simplicity, and the characters are convincing. The photography is captivating; there is a whole host of symbols and images that appear and reappear through the movie. Well worth the $5 on Amazon.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Back to it

Working in higher ed has a lot of frustrations and aggravations that just come with the territory, but there are some definite perks. One is that my place of work basically shuts down for a little over a week every Christmas. That didn't prevent me getting called a couple times when the campus was "closed", but I still ended up with more than a week off.

It was a nice break: I made some beer, played the guitar and mandolin, cooked, read a little, and watched some movies.

I've been reading The Coming Prince by Sir Robert Anderson: it's well worth the effort.

I might try and actually finish more books this year: it seems I'm about 75% done a dozen books at any given time, and most just end up back on my bookshelf without my actually crossing the finish line.

Every year, my sister Shan sends me something cool for Christmas. Shan's what I might call a very gifted giver. She has a knack for finding that perfect thing you didn't know you wanted. She made my Bodum Cozy, she gave me the CD of Dylan Thomas reading "A Child's Christmas in Wales," and she gave me her own copy of The Grand Sophy. This year she gave me a copy of the BBC's adaptation of North and South.

Yesterday one of the kids was sick and I wasn't feeling the best, so we popped the new DVDs into the player, expecting to watch one of the four episodes. We watched them all in one sitting. Shan describes the story as "Pride and Prejudice for grown-ups." Is it my favourite 19th Century book adaptation? I don't know... I'll need to watch it a couple more times. It's definitely in the running.

I think I prefer it to BBC's famous and brilliant Pride and Prejudice adaptation, solely on the grounds that it is visually more pleasing. The P&P miniseries was really very well done, but the DVDs are awful: they're washed out and colourless. (I hear the Blu-ray version really is much better.) But I'm very fond of the 2009 version of Emma. I don't know if the melancholy brilliance of N&S can possibly overcome the much more cheerful--- but not totally insipid--- E.

Here's a question, if it's not insipid, does that mean it's "sipid"?

Finally, my neighbour bought me the Lord of the Rings, Extended Edition on Blu-ray last summer. We had said we'd watch them together, and we're still not finished. It's hard finding times when we're both free. We've made it through The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. We were supposed to watch The Return of the King on New Year's Eve, but we got pre-empted.

This is a time when the "new and improved" really is. I watched the same sequences both on the older DVD version and the Blu-ray version, and I can actually see the difference. For example, the threads in Frodo's cloak are plainly visible.

Tomorrow it's back to work. Back to Perl and Java and Unix and Lisp and Spring and Hibernate and email and Oracle and GWT. I'm not really depressed by the thought, but it's been nice to get away from it for a while.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Back to real life

Well, 2011 is over and done. I was just starting to get fond of it.

Today being the first Sunday of the month, there was "eating at the meeting". We never made it all the way in: one of the kids was sick, so we turned tail and ran before we actually got to the hall. Of course I didn't know that yesterday; I finished 2011 barbecuing some chicken to take this morning. I must say the chicken looked pretty good.

From New Year's Eve 2011

On a more celebratory and seasonal note, my neighbour got hold of a rib roast and had us grill it for New Year's. I've never done a standing rib roast before, so I approached this task with some fear and trepidation, with my neighbour documenting the whole thing on my camera.

The roast was pre-seasoned, so I suppose I had it slightly easy. On the other hand, I've no idea how to reproduce the roast.

From New Year's Eve 2011

We started out by searing the roast on all sides.

From New Year's Eve 2011
From New Year's Eve 2011
From New Year's Eve 2011

Once properly seared, the roast was left on the grill with a drip pan under it. We kept the temperature between 270F and 350F. The roast was done in a little under four hours.

From New Year's Eve 2011

I took the roast off when the thermometer registered 138F. The temperature climbed to 145F over the next half-hour or so, which is a perfect medium rare.

The only real problem was, I had anticipated the roast taking a good hour or hour-and-a-half longer; so it sat out more than an hour before we carved it. But I needn't have worried. It all turned out fine.

To be perfectly honest, I've not been a huge fan of prime rib: I've always preferred either a roast (with Yorkshire pudding, of course) or a steak. But I have to say that this little adventure has piqued my interest. This is a little project I'd like to try again.

Best of all, Ames made her amazing potatoes gratin. Ah.