Sunday, January 23, 2011

On building model cars

In my last blog, I briefly discussed how limited time is for the modern father and tried to use that as an excuse for not finding more time to write. Naturally, the very next day, I am writing about yet another hobby that I have taken up. Model car building.

The first model I built was not even my own. I was in Standard 5 (Grade 7) and my best friend had received a model Apache helicopter for his birthday. I would love to say that it was the greatest thing we had ever done but I had an amazing childhood and unfortunately making a model helicopter did not rank high in our Top 100 experiences. The next model was a solo effort many years later. It was a Ford Estcourt RS Cosworth Rally Car. I used that experience to learn how cars worked. Using plastic cement to glue together the suspension made me understand the mechanics of the modern day car, and that incidentally could explain my two left feet when it comes to anything related to automotive repairs.

Destiny has re-united me with this old hobby (really long story involving a mosque, an old train set and a Honda NSX) and I purchased the Tamiya model kit for a Nissan Skyline R34 GTR V-spec or as it is often referred to 'Godzilla'. The GTR got it's nickname from it's complete dominance in the Japanese racing circuit and this was the last GT-R that was supposed to be built. Nissan thankfully went back on their word and the GT-R (sans the skyline badge) was reborn. I have had the pleasure of being driven in one and the experience was mind blowing but I digress.

Rear suspension of Skyline R34 GTR

I intend building this car slowly, patiently, enjoying the experience and hopefully one day including it in the display cabinet in my office where it can park alongside the Escourt that is presently there. Tonight I made the rear suspension and assembled and painted the exhaust. tomorrow I intend to attach the suspension and the exhaust to the chasis. I'll keep you updated on the progress form time to time. On one hand I am hoping for this hobby to instill in me a sense of patience and the appreciation of taking the time to do something slowly and precisely. On the other, I am clinging to my childhood and want a new toy. Methinks, either way I win!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Return to the Web

The title to this blog entry is a bit misleading. I never left the web. I just could not find the time to blog and I find myself wondering, is this it? Is this the slow steady decline that leads to me not writing anymore? Am I losing interest in this hobby?

The simple answer is, No. I seem to think in blog these days which is not much different to how I used to think, except the voice in my head just uses more sophisticated words. Here is my dillemna. I would often watch/ read  something that I have an opinion on and think, "hey. maybe I should articulate that on my blog." (OK, I don't actualy use the word 'articulate'). The problem is that my opinion is influenced by information/ experiences that are in my head, so for you to get where I am coming from, I have to explain all that to. By the time all that is formulated (in my head), the task of writing it all down sometimes seems too much or I have moved on to the next thought process. Then there is twitter, facebook ( I admit to still logging in, even after watching "The Social Network"), and now Pushnote. Pushnote is very new and I must admit that the reason I like it so much is because the spammers etc. have not caught on to it yet. Check it out on

I suppose another reason for my brief hiatus was the fact that this year, my return to work form annual leave co-incided with my daughters first week of school. That left me having to get up an hour earlier than I was normally used to and about 3 hours earlier than I was getting up during my break. So I would often fall asleep whilst reading to my daughter (she generally tucks me in before getting the light and going to sleep :)) i.e. no time for any Nightly Notes.

Completely unrelated, driving my daughter to school in the morning has become my favourite time of the day. It is about a 15 minute commute and she uses that time to ask me the most interesting questions. Not interesting like "Who is God?" or "Why do boys and girls have different parts?", although I am sure those are on their way but cute questions like,

" How does water get into the tap?"
"Why do birds sit on telephone wires?"
" Why do we have buses?"

It's enough to even make traffic bearable! Now that i am getting into the routine I think I may find the time o write more and I will continue to write cos I have lots to say and  not because I have to write.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Choosing a good kitchen knife

For as long as I can remember I have had a fascination with knives. As best as I can recall it, it started with my grandfather who similarly used to collect knives. He was in a different league though. He had most of the knives in his collection engraved and used to allow me (under strict supervision) to bring them down form his cupboard every now and again. Being his eldest grandchild and without competition his favorite grandson (my sister was his favourite grandchild), he always told me that the collection would be mine one day and that I would have to care for them like he taught me how to ( a fairly uncomplicated task that involved covering them with vaseline and storing them in wax paper). My father gave them away 2 days after my grandfather died while I was away and I thought it would be wholly inappropriate to go reclaim my inheritance (sans legal documentation). I have however held on to a pair of Kitana Blades that he had, and my wife will be ecstatic to hear that I am moving them from our bedroom to be the centrepiece in my new office.

I have previously written on what a huge MacGyver fan I was growing up so I pestered my parents constantly to keep buying me swiss army knives and I would take any opportunity to whip out my Victorinox and save the day. I particularly liked using the screwdriver to open up appliances that generlly stopped functioning after one of my “services” and who could forget those awesome survival knives that used to have a storage compartment in the handle.

Now older (yet surprisingly not much wiser), I am preoccupied with the idea of buying myself a very nice set of Kitchen Knives. One of my best friends, who also happens to be one of my favourite cooks, had convinced me of this investment many times over and I have made the illogical conclusion (generally associated with passion purchases) that her knives and superb knife skills was what contributed greatly to the awesomeness of her food. I had decided that when the time came for me to make this investment , I would buy a Wusthof 18 cm Cook's knife (which I am told is used for 90% of your tasks). The two primary things holding me back from the purchase was the price vs how often I really cook and my inability to sharpen the blade. Enter Anthony Bourdain!

 The Wusthof 18cm Cook's Knife

Some would call “Kitchen Confidenial” an autobiography and others 'a guide into the fascinatingly hidden world of a modern restaurant kitchen'. Irrespective, it is a great read that is peppered with tidbits of knowledge that the reader could use to improve his cooking skills or at the very least, his future menu choices. He argues that as an amateur chef, do you really need a knife ( like a Wusthof or Henkel) that is so heavy, so expensive, so difficult to maintain? He recommends rather the lightweigth, easy to sharpen and relatively inexpensive vanadium steel Global Knife from Japan, which in addition to all of the above, looks cool. I was sold. Relatively inexpensive and easy to sharpen! This was what I had been looking for.

You would be surprised to discover that, as it stands, I still dream of oneday owning a Wusthof. The price of Global knives have, after the glowing recommendation by Anthony Bourdain and other New York chefs, increased to the point that presently in South Africa, a Wusthof knife is about R100 ($13) cheaper than the equivalent Global knife. I am happy to continue using the non-branded chef's knife I have for now. It is heavy enough with a complete piece of steel from tip to handle that feels great in my hand. I have decided to invest in a knife sharpener though and since I dont have the time or patience to acquire the skill of sharpening knives with a sharpeneing steel, I have opted to buy the Scanpan 3 stage blade sharpener which seems simple enough to use.

Fun fact: a bit of unrelated information related to cooking that I was thrilled to discover recently. Whislt doing a roast chicken on the Weber, my sister who was reading a recipe book asked me why the symbol for pounds was lbs? I had never contemplated that and immediately whipped out my phone to google the answer. It turns out that pound is short for pound weight which translated in latin is Libra Pondo. The Latin usage was shortened to libra, which naturally was abbreviated 'lb'. We adopted the pound part from pondo, yet kept the abbreviation for libra.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Islamic Terrorists and why they should be stopped!

When I started this blog, I had made an unsaid pledge to myself that I will try and stay clear of religion. My reasoning was simple. I have little knowledge of source text (i.e I have read mainly  books that have been translated and abridged ) and I am still searching for many things and would not want my confusion or percieved logic to affect/ hinder anybody who may be further done the spiritual path. Islam is a way of life and you need to remain balanced which I admit I am not. I tend to favour Service to Mankind over Service to God. It is not something I say with pride. I would like to achieve a balance in my life but that is an ongoing struggle. I think that maybe if I excel at 'service to mankind', all my other flaws/ deficiencies would be forgiven and that if those that believe in the Gospel of Christopher Hitchens are proven correct then, at least I would have made the lives of some a bit more bearable.

What could have possibly happened to get me to go off on this tangent? It is an old saying that goes something along the lines of, 'If you do not speak out against an injustice then you become complicit in the act itself.' I speak of the attacks over Christmas on Churches and worshipping Christians and priests in muslim-majority lands. The most notable were the attacks in Nigeria, Baghdad and Alexandria. Reading accounts of the attrocities committed leaves me with a feeling of utter disgust and shame. Shame that this barbarism is being carried out in the name of Islam.

The only time I recall feeling more disgust and fury was when I discovered how the Taliban had destroyed the Budhas of Bamyan because they were regarded as idols. If you have no idea what I am refering to then let Wikipedia be your guide on this one.

It is for idiocy such as this that I beleive that the Taliban deserve all the warmth and cosiness that there cave offer during the Afghan winters. Lukily there are also muslim clerics who have strongly condemned these attacks and I am told that the Kutbah (lecture) by Shaykh Sadullah Khan at Claremont Main Road Mosque on Friday was very informative and riveting. A brief synopsis of the Kutbah is attached below and I strongly urge everyone to read this because he quotes from the Quran and more importantly describes verbatim the protection offered by the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh)to the Christians of St Catherines Monastery which is a church at the foot of Mount Sinai and possesses a collection of Christian manuscripts that is second only to the Vatican.

I too condemn these acts of terrorism but will refuse to use the Quran or Islam to explain why this is wrong because I do not believe that these loons deserve that privilege. And before I am accused of looking at this from only one perspective and that I should consider the similar persecution of muslims, allow me to save you both the time, and effort. I am aware of the persecution of muslims in Kashmir, Iraq, Chechnya etc and this too is a source of considerable pain but one does not justify the other and any assertion to the contrary is both childish and nonsensical.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Short term goals for 2011

Is it just me or does 2011 just not sound right? I guess as South Africans we were overloaded with 2010 everywhere for so long that 2011 in comparison was always going to be 'just another year'. Actually since the Indians are hosting the Cricket World Cup in 2011, and soccer in the Indian community was only big with the girl from "Bend it Like Beckham", I wonder whether 2011 for the Indians would be like what 2010 was for us. If that is the case then I suppose the Brazilians who will completely forget 2015 since it will fall between the Soccer World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016.

I don't generally make resolutions because they never seem to last' prefering to make rather set myself short term goals for the year. These often don't materialise either, but at least there's a plan. Right? In any case my goals for this year are:

1) To write more

I started the blog last year and it proved to be really cathartic. It gave me a chance to express myself and pour some of my thoughts into a public forum. Although the readership has been great (and shocking), I wold have appreciated more comments thereby starting a conversation/ discussion which would be awesome. It also got me noticed and I started writing for Durban Live and will this year start writing for two additional websites ( and ). I hope to branch out a bit and cover more live events and experiences but food remains my passion so I will continue to talk to some of Durban's great chefs and visit a lot of restaurants. 

My blog will remain my opinion page but I am thinking of seperating some of the content i.e. things relating to parenting will be posted on the page "In the Knight's Garden". If you have no idea what I am talking about then it is very likely that posts appearing on that page will have no relevance to you. Similarly, material that is humorous will be on the page " On a Knighter Note". Any further pages will be dependent on whether I can think of other ways to include the word Knight into popular phrases.

2) To build my Man-Cave

Superman had the Fortress of Solitude, Batman had the Bat-Cave so I think I am in good company here for thinking I need this personal space. Since my father is not the ruler of Krypton (on most days) and I do not have access to the Wayne Billions I am going to settle for a 3.5 m x 4 m room in my outbuilding for now. I don't plan to make it exclusive i.e. my girls being 8 months, 4 years and 32 years are not going to understand my need for this space that only I am allowed into. I just want it to be designed by me, to my taste and to be void of any Barney toys. I will post pics when completed but essentially I just need a desk , a comfy place to relax/ read and space for my books. You're thinking why does this sound like an office. You would be correct. It is, but telling guys you have a man cave sounds cooler and the construction expenses will be used as a legitimate tax deduction.

3) To maintain my body weight and Shape

I am being sensible here and not setting outlandish targets like I will lose 2 kg this year. I will be content to maintain my current fitness level and body shape ( which is presently not good). I will be happy to lose some weight and get fitter but I am definitely not ready to start buying XL T-shirts or go up another pants size. This has nothing to do with vanity, I just want to look good when I meet old friends from my past! If I was losing my hair at a more rapid pace I would seriously be considering a red sport's car.

4) I need to learn to speak and understand Zulu

I am extremely embarassed by the fact that I cannot speak Zulu yet and have decided that I have put this off for too long. Especially if I consider being more involved in social organizations or disaster management in the coming years, I think it is imperative that I am able to understand first hand what is being communicated. I am going to start by purchasing a guide (not a person, a book with an accompanying CD) to start and maybe consider lessons from there.

So these are my goals for this year. I hope God grants me the strength to achieve them whilst remaining a loving Husband and awesome Dad. 2011 suddenly seems full with possibility, yet it still refuses to roll of the tongue. Bring on 2012 (on the proviso that the Mayans were high when making predictions regarding the end of the world).