Knife on Watermelon

First off, there’s no secret or metaphor to unravel here. The knife in the picture doesn’t signify anything; it’s just a kitchen knife. To be more exact, it’s my new knife that I bought myself as a reward for getting a new job. So I suppose it signifies something, namely my successful escape from the unemployed people club. But you can make something else out of anything (just ask my son with his creative use of foam blocks as, well, practically anything they vaguely resemble), so there’s still no allegory or hidden meaning here.

Now my rambling will head off in a new direction. As I said, the knife was my reward to myself for landing a new job. No job is permanent, especially in modern software development, and I’ve gotten used to the idea of periodic layoffs (though how I was first-pick for the last one, where other people had been hired well after me and I was neck-deep in R&D projects, is not an entirely resolved question). But when offers start to come in, the scary insecurity of unemployment is supplanted by the scary insecurity of what potential opportunities one is squelching by accepting an actual one. My worry over that decreases, though; a really simple way to reject an opportunity, whether it’s a job or a road trip with friends, is to literally refuse it when it’s offered. You can’t refuse something that was never offered in the first place. Reaching out to potential employers, promoting one’s marketable skills in a cohesive fashion, and convincing people of the reality and value of those skills are all daunting enough in themselves. That’s why I bribed myself with the knife. I’ve taken kitchen work to my customary “obsessive” (I prefer “serious”) interest level over the past few months, and a new chef’s knife is a critical addition. It was a great motivator and tangible evidence that I’m no longer hitting the bricks.

Enough disclaimer, though. Like that sucker, do ya? That is a ten-inch chef’s knife from Mercer’s Genesis line. I’ve heard horrible things about Mercer from culinary students on discussion forums, and after a few days with my new go-to for meal prep, I can’t figure out what they’re on about. The blade arrived nearly razor sharp, and so far it’s handling my typical workload beautifully. A little light honing to maintain the edge is all it’s taken over the past week with daily use, including chopping up whole fruits like that watermelon and a huge pineapple. Of course it makes easy work of onions, carrots, and all the usual stuff. Maybe I’m just not picky enough, I don’t know; but the thing cost me something like $45 at a restaurant supply store (which is where I buy all my kitchen hardware these days) and it works about the way I’d expect a commercial kitchen knife to work. Maybe not the easiest, most consumer-friendly tool, but consistent and reliable. Ask me how I feel six months from now; if I’ve only honed it and never taken it to a sharpening stone in that time, it’s as good as the $200-500 competition for my purposes.

So what can you take from this wildly abstract post that has nothing to do with programming? I dunno, here are a few suggestions. When you have to do something big that’s not much fun, offer yourself a reward and ask a friend (or, like me, your wife) to keep you honest about it. Or this: if you’re going to offer yourself a bribe for something really important that you don’t want to do, make the reward aspirational (like a fancy new tool) instead of decadent (like an expensive dinner that will end up like every other meal you’ve eaten in your life). Or try this one: like the guy who drools for months over $300 kitchen knives, then finds a $45 knife that apparently does exactly the same thing in the same way and with the same consistency as its $300 equivalent, see what a combination of flexibility and economy will get you this year.

Image sources

  • knife: Owned by the author