How sharp is your knife?

12 Feb 2023

Some time ago I bought a proper kitchen knife. It was (is) a wonderful piece of equipment – one might even pretend you’re feeling like a chef when you’re wielding it (though, to be honest, I mainly use it to cut biltong).

But lately it was not cutting like it used to. You did not need to be a rocket scientist to know it needed sharpening. So yesterday I’m at the shopping centre and wandered into the shop where I originally bought this knife; not naming any names, but it is usually frequented by yuppies who like to play chef.

There are a whole host of knife sharpening devices one can choose from, but, having never had success with a fancy knife sharpening device, I was looking for a simple sharpening stone. To my joy there was one for sale! My joy was quickly dampened when I saw the price (somewhere approaching R900,00). I was about to buy it when I thought that maybe I should just check at the local hardware store to compare prices.

Long story short – I bought a sharpening stone at the hardware store for R55,00.

So with great anticipation (after googling how-to) I started sharpening my kitchen knife that evening. It was like playing with a new toy! Only problem was, I did not know if my “sharpening” was making any difference to the knife.

Enter the tomato.

My wife and I came to the conclusion that if the knife can easily slice through a tomato, then it is sharp enough.

Which brings me to the title for this little blurb. Which simply put, boils down to “what are you measuring?”. In other words, if you want to know how your choir is doing, what are you using to measure them?

It is impossible to measure if you do not have a standard to measure against. The answer to the question “how long is a piece of string” would probably not be very useful if centimeters or inches did not exist. Simply saying “I would like my choir to sing well this year” is a wonderful statement of intent, but useless in helping you improve until they reach a certain standard.

It is worth one’s while to spend time to articulate specific, measurable (rehearsal) goals that one can achieve with one’s choir. E.g. “I want the choir to have memorised all the repertoire for this season one month before the first performance.” Now you have a goal you can measure and track. You can give feedback to the entire choir: “as a group we are sitting at 65% on our way to this goal” or to individuals: “you are ahead of the group, well done!”, or “you are on track, keep it up”, or perhaps “you have fallen so far behind that I am afraid I must ask you to reconsider your membership of the choir”.

Leon Starker