Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Santoku knife

The Japanese word Santoku means "three virtues". When it comes to Santoku knives, these virtues are: chopping, mincing and dicing. Santoku knives are also known as "chef's knife". We recently bought one of these babies and here is the story.

One of my wife's hobbies, among scores of others, is cooking. She loves to cook and experiment with different kinds of cuisines. Lucky me, I get to be the taster! Did I tell you that she is a great cook. Since she is a cooking aficionado, she watches the Food Network on a regular basis. She always wondered how the cooks on the show chop the vegetables so precisely, and wondered why we could not do so. After a little bit of research, she found out that the answer lies in the knife you use, and the technique. She looked around and found that for most of the chopping, mincing and dicing work, a chef's knife was the best. To our surprise, we found that there was a whole world of knives in prices ranging from a mere $5 to upwards of $200! The more expensive models are the professional tools some of which have ceramic edges.

Santoku knives a heavy, well balanced and have a comfortable grip. Used in the right manner, you can rival the chef's on Food Network. We always thought that really sharp knives were dangerous since you could easily cut yourself. But, you know what, it is the other way around. Dull knives have a tendency to slip when you force them through the veggies and you end up chopping a finger or two. Sharp knives do not slip and always do their job. A well maintained chef's knife has a keen edge and can easily cut any vegetable/fruit/herb. Also, the right technique of wielding the knife and holding the vegetable is also very important.

For quite sometime, we have gravitated towards serrated knives and glass cutting boards. They sorta get the work done. You are always 'sawing' the vegetables, than 'cutting' them. Also, even though glass cutting boards are easy to clean and hygienic, they are loud. After using one of these Santoku knives, we can vouch that it makes a big difference in preparing the ingredients for a meal. One important thing is that you use these knives only on wooden cutting boards, or they go dull before the meal is done. It is a pleasure to chop veggies. Your hands don't get tired so fast. So, in the end, you save some time as well as energy. What a pity, we waited all these years before discovering this secret!

Before I go, an update on the boat. I finished glassing the entire bottom, and it took only 5 hrs spread into two days. It was a lot easier to lay the cloth compared to the tape. It was an exhausting experience since I was working alone, and had to run back and forth mixing small batches of epoxy and applying it before it hardened. Now, I am ready to epoxy the insides of the boat, and put the finishing touches! With every coat of epoxy and fiberglass, the boat is getting heavier and heavier. Looks like, cartopping may be a challenge once the project is completed.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


OHIO- An acronym which stands for (among other things) Only Handle It Once.

This certainly applies to all sorts of mails, be it emails, snail mails, bills, etc. Earlier, whenever I received a bill, for instance, I would open it, check it for its accuracy, file it for later payment. Most of the time, I would miss making a payment and pay a late fee. Or, end up going through the pile again another day and paying some, and stacking the others for another day. This was a very bad habit. Now, I am close to following the OHIO rule for all my correspondence. There is no point in procrastinating. It only multiplies the time spent on the subject. So, as Nike says "Just do It"; as soon as you receive your mail, read it and take an action on it immediately, and be done with it.

I started applying epoxy and fiberglass to my boat a few days ago. It sounds intimidating, but once you get all the materials in place, and follow all the safety instructions, it is not so bad. I am still getting used to laying the glass fiber, and saturating it with the right amount of epoxy. You apply a coat of epoxy on the wooden core, before it dries (this is the wet layup method), lay the fiberglass cloth on it. Now, you are supposed to apply just enough resin to wet it completely, but not float it off the wooden surface. That is the tricky part. In one occasion, I ended up floating the cloth. In another, I had too little resin and had to soak it again. But, I am getting there.

With epoxy, there is not much reuse of materials. The mixing cup, the stirring stick, spoons, brushes, gloves, all go to the trash after 15- 20 mins. You need to use all the resin before it starts getting hard. Epoxy is what is packaged as super glue in small containers. It comes in two parts: resin and hardener. Alone, both of them are in liquid form. Once you mix them in the right proportion, an exothermic chemical reaction starts, and the molecules bond to form a very strong union. So, at the end of the curing time (20 mins, in my case), all tools used in the application will become useless. This was when I remembered the OHIO acronym. In case of fiberglass, you are forced to complete the work as soon as you start it. This is a great way of making sure that you don't procrastinate. Procrastination, in this case, turns out to be very costly.

Well, the boat core is completely done. I just need to finish off some rough edges, and then I can glass the entire boat.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Back to the boat

The core of the boat is all done, and that wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. The right tools made all the difference in the world. I had cut the plywood a bit generously, so as not to screw up, and ended with a lot of extra material that I had to sand off. When I went to Lowes to get some sandpaper, I discovered this amazing yet inexpensive tool, SurForm. It is like a cross between a rasp and a plane. It is small and removes material at an alarming rate. It saved me days of sanding and dust.

I have also cut the bottom piece a bit wider than necessary. For this I am thinking of using a router. Once I am done with fiberglassing the insides, I will just turn the boat over, run the router over the bottom edges, and I should have a beautiful smooth surface. That brings us to fiberglassing (aka, glassing). As of now, it seems very intimidating, since I have never done it before. I am planning on trying it out for the first time tomorrow, and I am sure it will turn out to be a simple process. Scarphing seemed tough and I was done with it in a jiffy. Now, I can scarph plywood to any length.

In my next entry, I will most probably extol on the joys of fiberglassing. Or, if the whole thing turns into a gooey mess, you will hear me cursing... Hopefully not.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Beauty is only skin deep

The other day our daughter was acting and doing cute things, as usual at this age, and I ran to get my camera, as usual for me. As I started snapping pictures she immediately called her grandmother, who is visiting, to join her. Her grandmother's immediate reply "I am not looking good. Why do you want me to spoil the picture. Go ahead by yourself". But, my daughter vehemently insisted and grandma reluctantly joined. I finally ended up with great snaps of both of them.

The lesson from my daughter: Beauty is only skin deep.

She doesn't see the outer beauty of her grandma. For her, beauty comes from the person's intellectual, emotional and spiritual qualities. In short, she equates the personality to a person's beauty. Which is what everyone should do. Today's media paints a different picture. It splatters the so called beautiful models day in and day out on the TV, in Ads, in movies, etc. Which makes me wonder: of all the actors in Bollywood, it is easy to find ones that are not so 'physically attractive' but great at acting. But, we seldom find Bollywood actresses who are short on the beauty end and still great in acting. Hmmm. That speaks a lot on the Bollywood audience. But, I am digressing...

I always dislike sharing photos of friends and family with people who don't know them. Consider this scenario: You are visiting a friend/family member and they start showing off pictures of their friends' who you don't know anything about. You see a guy with droopy eyes, and the first thing that pops to your mind is that he snorts drugs or is into drinking. But, for a person who knows the 'personality', they 'see' a great ball player, a great friend in need, a great cook, a childhood friend who loves to crack jokes, etc. You get the point. So, whenever people visit us, all they see is slides of our adventure, places we visited, or projects we have done. Only rarely do we share pics of people, and that happens only when the audience knows the people in the pictures.

'Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder'. What is considered (media-suggested) as beautiful in one country may not be so in another. This is true right here in America. The US media portrays tall and skinny (almost to the point of mal-nourished) women as models of beauty. Go South for a few hours, and you see a completely different portrait of beauty. In Mexico, a little chubbier women are portrayed as beautiful. We are 'trained' by the environment around us to 'see' beauty.

My daughter is still at a stage where she is not yet influenced by the environs, and I want to keep it that way as far as possible.

For her, I am the most handsome, smartest, loving, caring father in the whole world. I am not going to argue with her. For all you (and the influenced world) know, I may look like the ugliest toad in the whole world.

Her grandma is the most beautiful, intelligent, loving, caring grandma in the whole world. Why should we argue with her. We should learn from her and go back to our roots, and accept it whole heartedly and bask in that glow.