a good knife.

Like many other civilized tool-using ape-descendants, I carry a knife in my pocket wherever I go.

For the last seven or eight years, the constant resident of my right-hand pants pocket has been a red Kershaw Blur. I may have mentioned it on the blog before. It fits the hand well, the blade is fast to deploy, and the red aluminum and black “skateboard tape” inserts kind of set it off from the average pocket knife and thereby satisfy my love of neat shiny things.

Late last year, the Kershaw snapped its torsion spring, the part that makes the blade open by itself once it’s push-started with the thumb. I used it as a regular folder for a while and then got around to asking Kershaw for a replacement torsion spring, which they promptly sent free of charge. I put the spring back in, and the knife was an assisted opener again. It was, however, showing its age. Daily use and pocket carry over eight years or so had taken a bit of a toll—the play in the lockup had gotten a little more loose, the anodized finish had worn off in several places, and the Blur was clearly getting a bit long in the tooth. So I started shopping around for a replacement. For my birthday last October, I decided to splurge and get a slightly more upscale replacement for the Kershaw.

Here’s what I found: the Spyderco Sage 2.

spyderbenza

Robin has been toting a Spyderco Native for years, so I was familiar with the excellent Spyderco ergonomics, but this thing makes every other knife I own feel like a chunky pack of gum in the hand.

Prior to the Sage 2, the best (and most expensive) knife I’ve ever owned was a large Chris Reeve Sebenza. Anyone who knows how much those things go for will flinch when I tell you that I lost that one in the move from Tennessee somehow. While the ergonomics of the Sebenza are good but not stellar (sort of like the Kershaw Blur), I’ve always loved the construction: no springs or liners or other flim-flam, just two massive titanium slabs with a blade in between, and a lock that’s so secure that the knife is basically a fixed blade when it’s open.

Well, the Spyderco Sage 2 combines the best features of the Sebenza (the materials and lock design) with the best features of a Spyderco (the fantastic ergonomics). I call it my “Spyderbenza”. The result is a top-shelf working knife that fits the hand like nothing else, and it’s built like a bank vault. The blade is short enough to be legal for everyday carry in most jurisdictions, the blade shape and overall appearance of the knife are sedate enough to not raise eyebrows even in an office environment, and the whole thing just oozes class. The pocket clip is a high-mounted wire clip that makes the knife ride in the pocket in a very unobtrusive fashion. The knife can be completely and easily taken apart with a little torx screwdriver for cleaning and maintenance. The blade steel is S30V, which is one of those new super-steels. I don’t know the exact voodoo behind that steel, but I can tell you that it’s easy to sharpen, and that it really keeps an edge. The scale lock is just as massive as the one on the Sebenza. When you swing the blade out with your thumb, it locks into place with the most reassuring, solid clunk this side of a Mercedes S-class car door.

If it has any weakness at all, it’s the clip. The rounded wire doesn’t wear out the pocket fabric, and it blends in with most clothing very well, but brushing it against a countertop hard enough can make the wire snap. It happened to me a week or so into owning the Sage 2, and I ordered two replacement clips from Spyderco, just to have handy if it ever happens again.

This knife is so good that I wish I could afford two more just like it just to have around…but the way this thing is built, chances are I’d never need the spares. The best part is the price—while it’s not a cheap knife (around $160), it’s a third of the current price tag for a Sebenza, and it offers the same construction and materials in a much more ergonomic package. I’ve retired the Kershaw Blur and all my other pocket knives, although I still use a Victorinox GAK for beater use and odd jobs around the house. The Spyderco Sage 2 is hands-down the best knife I’ve ever owned, and I can’t recommend it enough if you’re in the market for an upscale and high-quality daily carry knife.

(The Sage also comes with carbon fiber scales or blue G10 scales, but those come with different lock mechanisms. I much prefer the solid scale lock of the Sage 2 that’s a bitwise copy of the Sebenza’s lock. I’m also a big fan of titanium. The other versions are quite a bit less expensive, though.)

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retail combat.

Tapping into radio traffic of the 304th Wal*Mart Loss Prevention Regiment, currently heavily engaged at Store #374:

“…confirm we are OUT of rainchecks…get Close Air Support on the horn pronto…”

“…combat engineers have welded a barrier out of shelving and garden rakes between Electronics and Toys…get some belt-feds up there as soon as you can…”

“…falling back to the service desk, requesting limited tactical nuclear release OH GOD THEY’RE EATING EACH OTHER IN HOUSEWARES…”

“…running low on ammo, holed up near Computers…”

“…remember: short, controlled bursts…”

“…they’ve broken through at Sporting Goods! Get the reserve battalion in there!”

“…Jackson’s gone, man…took a Blu-Ray player to the neck, severed his aorta…”

Yeah. Won’t be going near the shopping mile today, thank you very much.

zombie borders, risen from the grave.

There’s a Books-A-Million in the location where our local Borders closed doors a while back. I went in there today for the first time—they opened a week or two ago—and the experience was a little eerie.

The place looks almost exactly like the dead Borders. I’m fairly sure they even recycled most of the signage in the store, because it has that familiar dark red Borders color. Everything is in the spot where it was in the old Borders—the kid books, the YA section, the magazines, the paper-and-pen stuff. They even reused the old cafe furniture for the new Joe Muggs cafe that’s now in place of the old Seattle’s Best Coffee. I swear, it was like stepping back in time a few months. The only difference I noticed was the Christian Fiction section, which is about four times the size of the one Borders used to have. Oh, and there’s now a two-aisle assortment of Bibles. Other than that, the assortment mirrors that of the old Borders…with the exception that the shelves of the Books-A-Million are fully stocked.

On the way out, I bumped into one of the managers, and I was surprised to see that the recycling of Borders stuff even extends to the managerial staff—she was one of the managers at Borders.

So it looks like we have our Borders back in West Lebanon. In a fashion, anyway.

curse you, tempting canadian comfort food.

On Friday, I loaded the kids into the car and went down to Manchester. We had lunch at Chez Vachon, which has the best poutine south of the border. (Side note: iOS autocorrect does not know “poutine” and thinks I mean “pouting.”) Then we went to We-B-Toyz, where the kids picked out Halloween costumes and some small toys.

Poutine, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a Quebecois dish that consists of fries with cheese curds topped with gravy. It’s about as healthy as it sounds, but it tastes pretty damn good. I don’t know that I’d do the 120-mile round trip routinely just for a plate of it, but I’ll definitely go back there the next time I have business in Manchester or surroundings.

Also on Friday, we got an iPhone 4S (at the Verizon stand inside BJs, very little waiting in line involved), so now both adults in the house are schlepping around iPhones. This is actually my first Jesus Phone–up until now, I’ve used an old flip phone and an iPod touch for comms on the go. It’s nice to have all one’s digital tools in one device, and the iPhone is really an electronic Swiss Army knife. It has all the features of the iPod touch, plus a GPS and a camera (my old iPod touch didn’t have one), and it makes phone calls on top of that. Now I have a HD video and still camera plus a miniature laptop and a cell phone all in one little glass-and-steel brick. I immediately passed the Manly Pink Camera down to the kids, and they’ve been running around the Castle doing photographic essays like The Sleeping Dogs That Sleep All The Time, Out-Of-Focus Siblings, and Daddy Really Doesn’t Want His Picture Taken When He’s In The Bathroom.

The iPhone was my birthday gift from Robin. I got myself a modest little trinket for my upcoming 40th as well: a Spyderco Sage 2.

This is a handy little blade that combines the ergonomics of the Spyderco Native with the looks, feel, and frame lock of the Chris Reeve Sebenza. I’ve dubbed this one the Spyderbenza. The blade is only three inches long and should be legal to carry around in most jurisdictions outside of NH. (Here in the Granite State, we can carry whatever we want, no matter how long the blade or how it is deployed.) It’s also a very sedate-looking folder, without the black coating or serrations that make a knife twice as lethal in the eyes of office drones and police officers in more uptight localities.

Rounding out the New Toy lineup is my latest pen acquisition, a Platinum Carbon fountain pen. This is an inexpensive Japanese desk pen for writing and drawing. It has an insanely fine nib that somehow still manages to be very smooth. It’s designed for Platinum’s carbon ink, which is a pigment-based waterproof artist ink that will clog fountain pens not designed for it. (It’s basically India Ink without the shellac.) The pen is just a bit over ten bucks at JetPens. I also got the desk stand for it to keep it upright when I’m not using it. This pen is kind of addictive to write and draw with, and the ultra-fine smooth line it produces makes me want to doodle tiny little stick figures in the margins of my notebooks.

So that’s the birthday loot haul, even though my birthday won’t be for another week and a half. I don’t have all the toys I want, but I most certainly have all the ones I need, and the rest is pure gravy.

Thank you again, all of you who hit the tip jar for the short story. I feel like I ought to be giving refunds–a buck or so seems fair to me for a short story, so many of you greatly overpaid. That little experiment makes me think about posting an entire novel on the same pay-me-if-you-like-it basis, despite my earlier assertions that I wouldn’t self-publish. Five or six bucks was the rate at had in mind for a novel, not a short story. (For any writer friends who may be curious: I’ve not made professional rate money on that little story yet, but it’s quite a bit more than I would have gotten from a market that offers semi-pro or token payment.) Most importantly, the story is being read and enjoyed by Actual Readers, not languishing in a folder on my hard drive.

For the rest of the day, I’ll be putting some ink down with the new pen, and later on there will be some interskyping with my brother in Germany on my new iPhone. I suspect this Sunday will also involve cocktails at some point. Living in the future is pretty cool.

neat stuff for excess currency disposal.

I spent the day plugging away at a new short story, putting a bookshelf together for Robin, playing with the kids, and talking to my family in Germany over Skype. (This was my mom’s first experience with the Interskypes, and the first time she has seen the grandkids since we came over with Quinn seven years ago, so she was a little overwhelmed.) All in all, it was a pretty good way to spend the day.

As announced, I have a few plugs for you—neat stuff I found on these here informational megaparkways that I think are worth the money.

  • For writing music, I’m greatly enjoying my latest find of Kerry Muzzey’s body of work. My favorite album of his is Music for the Body in the Bathtub, which is a dark, dramatic, and atmospheric soundtrack that forms sort of a narrative arc. It’s fantastic from start to finish. There’s also Trailer Music and Trailer Music 2, for more orchestral epic arrangements that are a little more varied in mood.
  • My Viable Paradise pal and critique partner Steve Kopka has a new kid novel out. It’s called Comet Jack, and it’s a cute and well-written story.
  • Local writer Jo Knowles’ YA novel Jumping Off Swings is on sale for the Kindle at the moment. Jo is published by Candlewick Press. I met her a while ago at a Q&A, and she’s a sweetheart and a fine writer. (I borrowed her storybook trick for plotting out novels, and it has served me well for the urban fantasy mystery I’m writing right now.)
  • Intertubes pal Carteach0 is holding a fundraiser to benefit the Wounded Warrior project. I know I’ll be putting in a donation. I’d love to contribute something to the fundraiser as well, but I can’t for the life of me come up with something that has value enough for people to want to bid on it.
  • Michael Z. Williamson’s new novel Rogue is now available for your purchasination. If you like good military SF, you’ll like Mike’s stuff. I really liked his novel The Weapon, and it looks like Rogue is a sequel of sorts. He was selling copies at DragonCon, and I’m too late to point you his way for that particular event, but Amazon is open 24/7.

That concludes the commercial recommendations for this evening. I may actually hit the hay early tonight, because we have visitors coming tomorrow, which requires bright-eyedness and bushy-tailedness on my part. Good night, imaginary Intertubes pals.

salvaged from the shipwreck of the s.s.borders.

I know I said I wouldn’t participate in picking the bones of the local Borders clean…but then I saw that the liquidation company even put the fixtures up for sale.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been using a standing desk setup for the last few months. Right now, that setup is just a coffee table on top of my regular desk. I’ve been shopping around for proper standing desks, but they’re a.) extremely hard to find, b.) ridiculously expensive, or c.) half-assed constructions that aren’t very sturdy. I briefly considered building my own, but with my level of craftiness and power tool mastery, the result would have been likely to look like something hastily thrown together by beavers.

Luckily, my wife, smart cookie that she is, walked into Borders and checked out the furniture. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this myself, but they have those service desks all over the place–you know, the kind where employees and customers can look up books online. And they’re all <insert angelic choir background music> standing height. 

So Robin bought one, and I went back a week later and got another one. I won’t be able to pick them up until the shop closes for good (sometime in mid-September), but my temporary setup will serve until then.

The nice thing about those desks is that they’re ridiculously well built–no plywood $99 Staples furniture here. They’ve been used daily for ten years or more, and I couldn’t find a thing wrong with them. The drawers and doors are mounted with industrial-strength hinges and tracks that still work like they’re on ball bearings. There’s some finish wear at the corners, but I can sand the desks down and refinish them. Considering their build quality, we got them for pennies on the dollar–they were cheaper than anything I could have picked up in the bargain corner of the furniture section at Staples.

This is the pair, each shot from two different angles. The second desk has a non-slip black work surface which is at the same height as the keyboard shelf of the first desk, so they’ll go side by side. I’ll use the computer desk for the Mac, and the desk with the black surface inlay for longhand and typewriter work.

So there you have it–dirt-cheap standing furniture, and a sort of durable souvenir from Borders. I told the furniture manager that I should have marked and tracked down my regular seat in the cafe, because we go way back. (I wrote a significant chunk of my word count since early 2008 in that Seattle’s Best Coffee.)

probably my last entry ever on borders books.

This article on the decline and fall of Borders—and the management decisions that were the direct cause of them—is a very good read, and a glimpse into the corporate mindset I’ve come to loathe after working under it for a while as a tech monkey.

The money paragraph deals with Borders’ absolutely bone-headed decision to outsource their online business to their competitor Amazon.com:

In 2001, Borders would go on to partner with Amazon.com, allowing the online book retailer to handle their internet sales for them, if you can believe it. There’s a photo of Jeff Bezos and then-Borders president and CEO Greg Josefowicz shaking hands to celebrate the partnership. Josefowicz has weatherman hair and a broad smile, and he’s beaming past the camera with the cocksure giddiness of a guy who thinks he just got rid of all his problems because he sold his dumb old cow for a handful of really cool magic beans. But when you pull your eyes away from Josefowicz’s superheroic chin, you notice that Jeff Bezos is smiling directly into the camera with keen shark eyes. His smile is more relaxed, a little more candid than Josefowicz’s photo-op-ready grin. It’s the face of someone who’s thinking, I finally got you, you son of a bitch.

In the last year, I’ve split my new book purchases evenly between hardcopy from the local Borders, and online and ebook orders via Amazon.com and B&N.  Now that Borders is history, and there isn’t a major bookstore left within 75 miles of here, it will be more like 90% via ebooks on my Kindle, and 10% via impulse buys at the local indie book store in West Leb. (What can I say? Getting books I want in 60 seconds via 3G while watching the kids at the playground really appeals to my Instant Gratification gland, and the Kindle is a slick device that makes it easy to haul around a stack of books.)