There is nothing fancy about an Opinel. It doesn't hold its edge, offer any special features, or do anything slick. It's just a functional, cheap, light-weight pocket knife with a nice wooden handle that you use and sharpen and use and sharpen and eventually lose somewhere. And then you get another one.
Its secret is that little pressed-metal collar just below the blade. It rotates, and has a slot in it that's just big enough to let the blade pass through it. Twist it, and the blade can't close. Which is a nice feature for people who enjoy having fingers.
If you've never plucked a wild green apple from an ancient tree and gazed out over a mountain meadow while cutting yourself a slice with a weathered old Opinel, you've missed one of life's greatest pleasures.
It's a portable candle. A hand-warmer. It's something to fiddle with when you're waiting for a ride. A flashlight. It's a bar trick and a practical tool. It's fully serviceable and while you'll likely lose it someday, it will never, ever die. Just the feel of a Zippo in your hand will give you a sense of completeness and well-being.
These things have been around forever. Hell, they practically won World War II singlehandedly. And millions of people probably started smoking just so they'd have an excuse to carry one.
Engrave your name on it. Preferably with your Opinel. Just don't buy one with an expensive bullshit case.
Satya Sai Baba Nag Champa incense.
Trying to get some work done and need to clear your headspace and timing? Or at least change your perspective? You grab the blue box and burn a stick.
You don't need any other varieties of incense, or aroma therapy, or whatever. Keep a box around the house at all times.
I've used a lot of tools over the years, but after picking up one of these 2012, the rest of my collection of mechanical screwdrivers felt like rubbish. They're not particularly expensive, either.
The story of my life, regrets and adventures over the past decade is largely contained in a collection of about a dozen Moleskine pocket notebooks on the bookshelf here by my computer. The early volumes have smashed spines thanks to the original hard covers, but I've been toting soft-cover Moleskines around for years and even the full ones are remarkably intact.
A writer thinks way too much about notebooks, and I have different notebooks for particular purposes. I carry proper reporter's notebooks for assignments and interviews -- they're spiral-bound at the top, cut to fit a back pocket, and perfect for taking fast, loopy notes. You trash these when you're done with them. Over the years I've also taken to using cheap, small (48-page), cardboard-bound pocket notebooks (typically Moleskine, but sometimes other brands) for particular projects, particularly when I'm multitasking and want to keep things separate and organized. And for conceptual creative work at home, I tend to keep grid-lined, stich-bound black Moleskine 7.5-inch notebooks around my desk (you can buy them in three-packs).
But there's no pocket notebook quite like the Moleskine soft-cover lined pocket notebook.The paper is top-quality. The cover lasts forever.It a has a ribbon sewn into the binding to mark a place, or just to make it easy to open to your last used page. There's a folder at the back that's meant to hold loose notes, and the simple truth is it always fails, but there's an elastic band that holds the whole thing together, and so that doesn't really matter.
Why love it? Because it's a fundamentally intimate technology. Because It becomes part of your "kit" as a writer. Because you can doodle in it, rant into, copy down phone numbers and scraps of dialog. Because you stuff receipts and found art into your Moleskine. Because mine are filled with folded bits of things I need that I staple to relevant pages, and poems written on airplanes, and plans for things that fell apart, and all sorts of aspirations. And once they're filled, I get a new one, write the dates in the old one, fill it with yellow Post-Its for quick future reference, and move on.
I've also carried unlined Moleskines with art-grade paper with the thought that I'd paint or draw in them... but that's just not the way I work.
So yes, my new phone as an audio recorder app, but ever since I wore out my old Sony MP3 recorder, this has been my go-to for interviews, ideas that pop up while I'm driving alone, even writing dialog for books when I'm away from the computer.
The sound quality is good enough, and it's got all sorts of features I never use, and don't intend to ever explore. The main thing is that it's light, fits in my pocket, operates simply and reliably, and plugs directly into my computer via a built-in USB drive. The USB not only transfers my interview audio files, it also recharges the unit for the next interview. I hope it lasts for years.
My Fisher Cobia mountain bike has a nice frame and solid components -- a good value-point bike for a guy who just likes getting out on the trail. But the original set-up featured entry-level off-brand hydraulic disc brakes. And that just wouldn't do.
In the bike world, hydraulic discs are generally considered a step-up from mechanical (cable-operated) discs. That means that hydraulics are where the elegant engineering takes place.
The cable-operated BB7 is the exception to that rule. Ask your bike mechanic. He'll know what I'm talking about.
These things just work. They're lightweight and super easy to adjust. They deliver great feel and control, and mine have been practically maintenance-free. So yeah, you'll notice a lot of expensive hydraulic brake sets around the trailhead, but pay attention to what your mechanic rides. There's an excellent chance he sold his original hydraulics on eBay and replaced them with these.
Park Tool up in Minnesota makes some great stuff for bike mechanics, but this tool is so perfect for what it does that it's practically in a class by itself.
It's got leverage. Angles. Power. Gravitas. It's designed for the way bikes are, not the way they should be, a great big beast of a pedal wrench that will blow up even the most horribly cross-threaded, jammed-on, fucked-up platforms anybody ever shoves your way.
You know when I felt like I'd finally arrived as a professional mechanic? The day when I decided my mobile repair service had earned enough money to upgrade my toolbox to include the PW-4. It's the luxury of professionalism.
You know why they named this thing the 1911? Because that's the year it officially entered service in the U.S. Army.
As a tanker in the mid-1980s, this 45-caliber automatic was my first service weapon. It was heavy, ancient, loosely constructed and had a maximum effective range of 50 meters. And we loved them. Even after I gave mine up for the new Army-issue Baretta 9 mm in 1988, I missed the old Colt, and apparently I wasn't the only one. There are Special Forces units that still use this weapon today. Because it works.
It breaks down easy, cleans easy, reassembles easy. That loosely engineered standard makes it relatively quiet (because the gas escapes in lots of places instead of one) and surprisingly easy to keep on target (because it kicks less than many smaller-caliber guns) if you're trying to put a bunch of bullets onto something in a hurry.
And while there are people who will tell you this guy isn't as accurate as newer designs, I say, who cares? I qualified expert with this pistol multiple times, and twice earned perfect scores. It's accurate enough.
If the world fell apart tomorrow and I could take only one weapon with me on my way out the door, I'd take a Kalishnikov. Duh. But along with that Kalishnikov I'd pack an M1911A1.It's the perfect blend of reliability, simplicity and effectiveness.
What are your perfect things?