When I saw the article, it made me think about my first semester at UNLV. My marriage had just gone belly up and I was trying to readjust to a life on my own. I found myself in Doc T’s Composition II (Argumentative Essay) class, a 37-year-old surrounded by students young enough to be my children. After writing almost every day to chronicle my experiences, I suddenly found myself knee-deep in schoolwork. I had completely slacked off on writing in my blog as I was researching and preparing to fight the battle of creationism versus evolution for my final 10-page paper that I would eventually title “Centerfield.” While I was procrastinating on getting my writing done, I came in here to unwind and air out a few wild theories that I couldn’t really put in an academic paper. The result? A pair of “Rabbit Nikes.”
As I re-read the post, I laughed out loud a few times. Man, the things I come up with.
I like to think of evolution in terms of a pair of “Rabbit Nikes.” So let’s use our imaginations and think about a caveman for a second, and here’s a visual to help out…
Wait, on second thought, let’s not…because all of the pictures I found on cavemen or Neanderthals…well, the pictures all have everyone’s “whatevers” hanging out and, no, I’m just not gonna go there. No pictures of some caveman’s willow on my blog!
But that does illustrate my point quite the bit…let’s imagine our very nude caveman walking along. He steps down and gets a sharp rock in the sole of his foot. Now in today’s society, we’re liable to hop up and down like a jackrabbit hollering about the pain, but to Mr. Caveman…well, that’s normal. Sighing at the fact that he’s taken one more sharp rock in the foot, he reaches down and pulls the rock from his foot and keeps going, accepting that it’s always going to be like that. He doesn’t even consider another option.
Now, let’s switch to a different caveman, same situation. He’s walking along, minding his own business when he gets a sharp rock in the bottom of his foot, but this time instead of sighing about it, removing the rock and going about his business, he figures he’s about had enough of his only means of transportation constantly being hurt by things on the ground that he inadvertently steps on (or in). Just then, a rabbit quickly scampers by. He sees the rabbit…he’s hungry, so he figures, “Hey! Food!” (I’ll leave out the quip that the rabbit was probably the first rendition of “Fast Food”…go ahead and groan, it’s ok.) He chases down the rabbit, kills it, skins it and has a really good lunch…BUT then he looks at the leftovers…bones, fur (if he’s not eaten them in the process)…all sorts of stuff…so, he looks at the cut in his foot, looks at the fur, feels how soft it is and figures out that “Hey, that fur could be protecting my foot!” So he takes the skin, wraps it around his foot, uses the remaining bones to fasten the fur together so it’ll stay on his foot, then gets up and walks on, not worrying about rocks on the ground anymore…our friend the caveman invents the first “shoe” of sorts, a “Rabbit Nike.”
Now, let’s put the shoeless caveman next to the guy with the Rabbit Nike’s on. Is the caveman with the “Rabbit Nike’s” going to be able to go a further distance when he walks? Odds are he will. Odds are that he’s got better survival skills than our caveman who just pulled the rock out of his foot and moved on.
Think about it. You’re a caveman. If you hurt your feet, how are you supposed to hunt and gather when you can’t walk? Now I’ll concede that the caveman foot of prehistoric times probably had the sole of a Doc Marten because their bare feet were their only mode of transportation; the skin of the foot was probably extremely calloused and made to survive a sharp rock or two. But now we’ve got this guy with the Rabbit Nike’s on…he invented something that he probably put on his girl, then on his children. What happens to the feet of that family? Odds are they got softer, because there was not a lot of damage being done to them; the damage being absorbed by the fur and skins that encased their feet. They got to walk farther in inclement weather, (snow, ice) and generally survived a lot better. That is a great case of evolution. The next generations of the family of the Rabbit Nike inventor unwittingly had caused a change in their feet, with less damage being done to the foot and fur-lined insulation cutting down on illness, that means they could hunt and gather more and enjoy a better quality of life, thus leading to the dominance of the Rabbit Nike-wearing caveman. That singular innovation passes down through the generations, changing the foot over millennia to what we see today when we look down at our feet to get out of bed, all because some caveman was sick and tired of getting a sharp rock in the sole of his foot and was smart enough to use the remains of his lunch to protect them.
Now while I’m using a male pronoun for the caveman, it could have easily been a cavewoman who invented the shoe. Actually, I’ve got odds that a woman invented the shoe because, I mean, come on, girls and shoes? Yeah…that whole thing had to start somewhere.
This, of course, is followed by the evolution of the first shoe salesman:
”You like fur? You like no rock or thorn in foot? You like to run fast to catch mammoth for big meal or run away faster when big cat tries to eat you? Shoe made from rabbit. Rabbit fast. You be faster wearing Rabbit Nike.”
Evolution, isn’t it grand?
I’m sorry, I had to do it, it was too funny to pass up.
This morning welcomed me with something that I have never seen before: Two hummingbirds fighting to the death.
If you remember the description way back in the day of my daily routine, you know that it consists of waking up, taking my thyroid medication and perusing the news of the day. Hey, it’s an ingrained habit from my days at school. Ever since my Global Media class, every day is the same: get up, take my pill, read the news (in that exact order).
This morning, I had walked out onto the back porch with coffee in hand to take in the cool morning breeze along with the morning’s headlines. I took a sip of coffee, put my cup down, tapped the AP icon on my phone and began scanning headlines. After seeing what the AP had to offer, I swiped my screen to an app called “Flipboard” to find an article on CNN.com about the takeaways from the latest town hall in Wisconsin.
Mid-way through reading about the latest disgraceful antics of childish, bickering politicians, I started hearing this odd cacophony. The sound was distinctly hummingbird, distinctly agitated, but more to the point, it was TWO distinct voices.
I began scanning the trees and plants around the back yard, looking for the source of the sound. To my astonishment, appearing to bounce off the ground, the mason wall and the large shrub next to it, were two male Anna’s Hummingbirds locked in mortal combat, plumage flaring bright red and green on both.
Have you ever seen hummingbirds fight? They’re just NOT nice! No Marquis of Queensbury rules; not an ounce of quarter given. I watched in disbelief as their tiny talons were locked together, the larger of the two males deliberately picking up and slamming his opponent into the rocks on the ground. Lest I remind you, these little guys weigh less than an OUNCE and there the larger one was, repeatedly slamming his opponent to the ground.
My eyes got big as pie plates when I figured out what was going on, aghast at the pure carnage I was witnessing. Whereas most folks these days would immediately whip out their phone to capture it all on video, the thought never even entered my mind. I immediately sprang from my seat, running toward the two aviary combatants yelling, “Oh hell no, not on my watch! You two, break it up!” As I ran toward them, the battle went airborne, the smaller of the two struggling to get away from the onslaught the larger one was unleashing upon him. Just as fast as I spotted it and tried to break up the fight, the two were gone, almost leaving vapor trails from the speed at which they left.
Now what most people don’t know is that hummingbirds are extremely territorial and, to put it plainly, they are not even remotely nice. They are a small package of dynamite just waiting to explode on an unsuspecting foe. Put another way, I think of hummingbirds like a little dog with big dog attitude. It’s like little Zoe (a Fox/Jack Russell Terrier mix) deciding that she’s the same size as her Giant Doberman brother Reese. You and I know that she’s a small dog, but if you ask her, that little dog will just let you have it as if to say, “I’m a big dog. No really, I’m HUGE! And you will obey me because I am The Zoe.”
Jeweled plumage aside, male hummingbirds are really something when hummingbird feeders are placed for them to drink at. Currently, we have three feeders set up in the back yard and they are the site of constant aerial acrobatics of males showing dominance. As to the cast of characters, we have one big hummingbird called “Tweedy” that is the reigning patriarch of the hummingbird clan that lives in the neighborhood; “Arc”, the smaller male (who has an injured wing which, at rest, looks like an arc) and a smattering of indistinguishable smaller females who come to drink quite often.
Arc has been a constant resident of the feeders since he was a baby. Last year, Tweedy would stomach Arc and the females coming to feed, allowing them to take a drink and then chase them off as if to say, “MY FEEDER! Not yours. You’ve had your drink, now move along.” This morning, the fight was ON between Tweedy and Arc because you can tell that Tweedy’s just not into having Arc around anymore. What am I saying? Tweedy hates everyone. They’re his feeders and he’s not sharing.
After breaking up the fight between Tweedy and Arc, I went back to my news, back to the dismal bullyfest of incessant bickering, name calling, manhood-defending, hand-size-judging, wife-insulting, girl-hitting, pile of manure that has become the Republican side of the 2016 election cycle. Upon finishing the articles, I looked up to see Tweedy back on one of the feeders, the proud and apparent victor of the titanic clash.
Here’s where it gets funny.
After watching the hummingbirds battle it out, combined with reading the political headlines of the day, my brain put the two disparate concepts together. Suddenly, I realized that the White House has become one big proverbial hummingbird feeder. Tweedy and Arc? Well, they fit nicely as Drumpf and Cruz treating each other (and the rest of us) like it’s THEIR FEEDER and they’re not sharing! They’ll keep chasing each other off and pecking at each other until the other gives up or dies, because they are the one who wants the sole ability to “wet their beak” in the nectar of power, completely forgetting that it’s the average person (just like you and me) who makes the sucrose suspension and keeps filling the feeder.
Watching Tweedy slam Arc into the ground repeatedly is just another way that Mother Nature shows us the nature of politics. All I see is two little birds squabbling over something that we take down, wash and refill over and over again for a far longer period than the lifespan (or shelf-life) of those two very small, squabbling birds.
And while most people would simply whip out their cameras to take pictures of the carnage, I’m hopping out of my seat chasing them both off yelling, “OH HELL NO! Not on my watch! Break it up you two!”
Oscar Wilde in the 1895 play “The Importance of Being Earnest” once said, “To lose one parent, […] may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both seems like carelessness.”
While Wilde uses that quote to illustrate the sometimes ludicrous nature of “high” society, it has a more powerful message when you look at it through the eyes of a writer.
In today’s instant gratification, instant information culture, the amount of time we have to create copy/content has become extremely limited. Writing on deadline is not only a journalistic ideal, but a mandatory part of SEO writing as well. The unrelenting demand for content has come with a terrible side effect, the loss of accurate spelling, punctuation and sentence structure.
Every morning I start my day with a look through multiple digital media outlets. I start with The Wall Street Journal and New York Times; make my way down the coast to Atlanta and CNN; then to the West for The LA Times; across the pond to BBC News from London; then round out my digital globetrotting with the Associated Press and Reuters’ websites to read the breaking news. After that, it’s checking my local news on all three broadcast networks and finally sitting down with a print copy of the local newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal or “RJ.” Yeah, I consume a lot of news before I have finished breakfast.
The one thing that I have repeatedly noticed? Typos everywhere.
In our mad rush to sate audiences with fresh content, we’ve either forgotten to proofread or we have become far too reliant on spell-check. I catch typos with frightening regularity in large publications like The New York Times and USA Today. Every time I spot a typo or a fumbled sentence, I sit back and ask two questions:
Doesn’t the writer realize that typos damage the credibility of their story? Don’t they realize that they are damaging the reputation of their publication each time they don’t thoroughly check their work?
I’d hate to think that most news stories are entered through a smartphone, but odds are that’s closer to the truth than I even realize – because I have caught some errors that could only be attributed to auto-correct.
The argument can be made by those who think the typo is “okay” that people are lazy and don’t read past the headline. To that I ask, what about those who do read past the headline? Should the people actually reading the entire article be forced to put up with atrocious spelling and expect their work to be called “credible”?
My answer? Each time I see a typo, I can’t help but think that writers are dropping the ball and not doing their jobs right.
It’s pretty simple, right? It just says that when you spell well, your writing has a fighting chance to reach and impact an audience. But then again, I may be asking too much. After all, as a wise friend of mine once said, “Not everyone speaks Sheri,” meaning that I communicate differently than most everyone else.
I wrote script and cursive and read aloud from National Geographic by the time I was four and then wrote my first lines of computer code by the time I was eight. But it all boiled down to one thing, I have always known the importance of spelling. The reason that I began reading so early is because I was taught to sound out my words, using phonics to make sure I was pronouncing words correctly. When it came time to write, I used the inverse, sounding out the words to ensure their proper spelling on the page. Over my lifetime spelling has become my stock in trade, so when I see a typo or witness the desecration of the English language on social media, I cringe. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we all be cringing when we see a typo? I would think so, but maybe that’s just me.
When you write, you have to make sure that your word usage and spelling are accurate. I’m often told that I own “The Vocabulary of Awesome” because I use words that other people usually don’t. The truth is that really I don’t own “The Vocabulary of Awesome,” I just make sure that when I write that I use the perfect words to convey my thoughts or emotions. I have no fear of saying “I don’t know”, so going to a dictionary to look up a word’s proper spelling or definition doesn’t bother me one bit. At least I know that when I write, I can at least reach the bar of good spelling skills, which in the end, gives me outstanding credibility. (It makes me fun to read, too.)
Right now, in schools all over the world, they are taking handwriting out of the curriculum. To me, that is tantamount carelessly wiping an endangered species off the map. When we take handwriting away, we take away a sensory mechanism for teaching proper spelling. Besides, in our instant information/instant gratification culture, a handwritten letter sent by snail mail has become a treasured artifact.
So, for me, the next time you go on social media, write an article or attempt to communicate with the world, make sure what you write is spelled properly. It will do your credibility a world of good. Think of it this way, when you spell well, people take you seriously and your “street cred” (“cred” being short for the word “CREDIBILITY”) will skyrocket. If that fails to convince you, think of Oscar Wilde:
“One typo may be regarded as a misfortune. Two or more seems like carelessness.”
We have a new tradition at work: One hour every day spent writing. Some of it will go on the company site, some of it will be kept on side, but regardless, it’s going to be posted here so that my blog at LEAST gets a minor shot in the arm every day.
It’s only Tuesday and it’s already been a bad week. Yesterday began with $500 in car repairs, followed by one of the members of my far-reaching virtual family dying of complications due to breast cancer. I go into work the following day and, as is quickly becoming the norm, my office Internet goes out. It’s then that one of my office cohorts decides that it would be a grand idea to go to the local Starbucks to use the Internet and get some work done.
When we reconvened at the nearby Starbucks, I was already shaken, an emotional mess from the day previous, so I went outside to collect myself, carrying my full Venti Mocha Frappucino and hoping in vain that I could collect myself enough to get some work done. After a few minutes, finally in a mindset to get to work, I walk back in the door of the Starbucks and promptly get stuck, dropping the huge cup of chilled chocolate goodness I was carrying onto the floor. Upon impact, the contents of the cup splatters onto the floor and all over the handsome new graphic artist that just started work with us, promptly making a mess unlike the gods have ever seen.
I sigh heavily as I look down at the mess, realizing that it’s already not been an overwhelmingly great week, and come to find out, it’s only Tuesday.
The fellow writer from my office springs from his seat, the gentle giant of a man quickly cleaning up the sticky mess that is decorating the floor, my shoes and the hem of my comfy jeans. The remnants of my expensive coffee drink quickly become a huge chocolate smear on the floor, getting larger with every napkin taken from the dispenser to clean it up. He sends mischievous quips my way as I am covered in chocolate and embarrassment, trying desperately to hold up the back of my pants and some semblance of my dignity as I bend down to clean up the mess I have clumsily made.
And yeah, it’s only Tuesday.
I sit down and begin to write, looking at the door which caused the mess and now covered in coffee streaks, thinking to myself, “Please God, don’t let anyone slip on that…” Someone slipping on it would have only made my day that much more unbearable to take, knowing that not only is my car on the fritz, my friend is dead and my world seems to be falling apart, it would only make sense that my internal tragedy turns itself into someone else’s injury. After writing about slips, trips and falls for work, it only seems fitting that I would eventually take someone out.
Like I always accurately say about myself, “If I could step in it, trip over it, bump into it or burn myself with it, I usually do.” God gave me a double helping of brains and skipped grace altogether. Over the past 43 years, I have come to learn that having a high IQ does not necessarily translate into physical grace; instead, my intellect manifests itself in a series of awkward, often embarrassing, side-splitting comedic trips, stumbles and inevitable wipeouts. Never in my life have I seen someone clumsier than myself, and that’s saying something. If there is a curb, I can fall off of it and land flat on my face in under two seconds. Trust me, I’ve done it and have witnesses that will say, “Yep, she’s THAT clumsy.”
And yeah, it’s only Tuesday which means that I’ve still got three days left this week to maybe break my neck and write 10 more articles on slips, trips and falls as atonement for hosing the new guy down with a dropped Mocha Frappucino.
I guess that’s why I became a writer. It’s safe. After all, you can’t spill a cup of words onto people, that is, unless you are carrying a steaming hot cup of Alphabet Soup. Okay, bad example, but it’s safe to say that you’re immune from me spilling anything on you. Regardless, being a writer allows me to sit in one place, have liquids strategically placed so they don’t end up on my keyboard, computer screen, (or my office cohorts) and be able to tell stories that are compelling, often funny, and most of all, informative.
Outside of keeping the world-at-large safe from my clumsiness, I became a writer through a very organic process. I grew up surrounded by the oral tradition via the family stories told around my grandmother’s bedside in East Texas where she battled painful rheumatoid arthritis. Even though she was in pain, she always found a way to laugh and the laughter that came out of that room was unforgettable to me. It illustrated to the 4-year-old me that stories could help bridge gaps, they could raise spirits and that they could be used to teach. Even today, I help keep the family stories alive by digitally chronicling them so that they may be passed down to future generations. From the stories of practical jokes being played in the Southern Baptist church they attended to the tales of the hijinks they played on each other in the family’s cotton fields that they worked from pre-dawn until dusk every day of the early 1900’s, it sometimes seems like the stories my family contains are endless. There are even tales of family members coping with having to sit on an inordinately large ice block, barely covered by the thin seats of an old model T to keep cool on the long, hot drive from El Paso to Bryan, Texas.
But, it was in that old, white house at the end of a long gravel road that I learned the value of storytelling. You see, it is through stories that we chronicle the evolution of the human condition: its joys, its sorrows, its triumphs and the lessons to be learned through failures. As a little girl sitting on my father’s lap inside that very humble, worn farmhouse is where I first heard the tales of the invention of the telephone, tragic tales and first-hand accounts of the Great Depression, stories of farming technologies long past and given the gift of an almost first-hand view of a bygone age that is now only the stuff of memory quickly being lost to history.
So, as a writer, I can really only tell you what my sensory experience and vast amounts of research tell me so that I can internalize it, rationalize it, and bring it in written form to you, who has stopped to watch me epically fail at a Starbucks, but spin the experience to show you how and why I chose to construct my world of words.
And it’s only Tuesday. Who knows what the rest of the week may bring?
One of my best friends has asked me to write anecdotal recipes, so here ya go, the tale of a girl and her combined love of tools and cooking.
In my time on the planet, I’ve been exposed to all sorts of people. From growing up on construction sites helping my father do plan (blueprint) take-offs for window bids to the man who taught me how to SCUBA dive 25 years ago and loves to woodwork or restore vintage American Muscle (cars and motorcycles) while he’s not adding to the abundance of salt that clings effortlessly to his persona, I’ve met some truly groovy folks I don’t ever want to forget.
I have to admit, for a girl whose tech savvy is almost second to none, I have always gravitated to getting dirty because, let’s face it, it’s a novelty for me. Technology, for the most part, is a sterile environment. Being a mouse jockey means that I can create all kinds of things without getting the slightest bit dirty, not even a speck of dust under my fingernails.
Speaking of fingernails, one of the biggest influences in my life (who taught me more about the joys of getting dirty while exercising creative skills) was a man, who on top of being a motor-head with what seemed like a permanent automotive grease manicure, selflessly shared with me all he knew about tools, shop maintenance and work space organization. The best part? After a hard day of creating beautiful, useful things in his shop, oh, that man could COOK!
Back in the day, I grew up in a world of spoiled men. Women dominated the kitchen environment in a way that is seldom seen today. Back then, if you told a woman that a man could not only cook, but that he LOVED to cook, you know what happened? You got a woman passed out cold on the floor – or – with a look of shock on their face like they just saw a ghost. Guys can cook, I’m not saying they can’t, but old school chicks like me rub their eyes and do double takes when we find them. In my 20’s, if you got one that loved to cook and could clean on top of all that, you could have called Guinness because it was a friggin’ miracle. Now, not so much. Boys are coming into their own in the kitchen and I love it.
But in 43 years on this planet, I’ve only met two men who effortlessly stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me in the kitchen having a blast collaborating with me to create a great meal. One taught me how to change my spark plugs, SCUBA dive and make Baked Ziti, the other taught me how to organize a shop, maintenance tools, woodwork with a vintage planer, fix an engine block then promptly went into the kitchen and did knife work so beautiful and elegant that it would make you swoon on the spot; all the while growing his own heirloom tomatoes so huge and delicious you could make a meal out of just one.
I count myself very lucky that I have encountered individuals that are so diametrically opposed to my own nature but are kind enough to share their knowledge with me. Where I was once a “geek-in-distress”, I am now a “geek with two of her own toolboxes.” One for the shop and one for the kitchen.
But! My friends have given me the ultimate gift. They turned me into a damsel-in-a-dress that doesn’t fear tools. I don’t fear getting dirty and I definitely don’t fear rolling up my sleeves and putting hammer to object to get the job done on my own, whether it’s in the shop or in the kitchen.
I’m just thrilled because my motor head buddies helped me with one thing they never realized they were: Teaching me how to be safe in spite of my clumsy nature. As we’ve seen time and time again over the last five years, I’m not perfect by a long-shot because if I can step on it, step in it, trip over it or burn myself with it, I usually do. I’m so human it hurts (usually pretty bad). Trust me, I can attest to the fact that sometimes stupid hurts so bad it leaves permanent scarring.
Now since being safe is one of my highest priorities, one of the most important things one of my friends taught me about tools was:
The first criteria of a great tool is that it does the job it was designed to do.
Followed by the words of an intellectual (but not-so-handy) buddy of mine who said:
When the only tool you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.
What all that means is, simply, you have to have the right tool for the job. While my native tools are things like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, I once sat through an hour-long lecture about hammers from one of my friends that listed at least 13 different hammer types, from rawhide and lead-shot mallets to ball, framing, masonry and finishing hammers. The man was a friggin’ hammer almanac. If you gave him half the chance he’d probably tell you the right one to use in inclement weather conditions. But that’s cool…you know why? I can do the exact same thing when it comes to almost any piece of modern technology from the smartphone to advanced video game engines. Hey, everyone has a different skill set and I just love to learn. And if someone is willing to share their knowledge, I’m paying attention and taking notes.
But speaking of the combination of hammers and kitchens…
My mom is a HUGE fan of the Property Brothers on HGTV. She’s a “STOP EVERYTHING, NEW EPISODE TONIGHT” kind of fan because she’s constantly looking at her home and trying to figure out how it can be very efficient while extremely stylish. I like watching the renovations. It’s tech and getting dirty simultaneously. Plus I like looking at the 3D models they use in their “ideas” segment since one of my hobbies is skinning 3D models in Photoshop for use in video games.
So, while Mom was watching “Property Brothers at Home” which happens to take place right here in Vegas, I got out a head of red cabbage, a large Rubbermaid bowl and a tenderizing mallet and hammered together a fine salad, thinking “Yeah, Jonathan can put hammer to nail and build a house, but can he literally hammer together a salad? I know I can.”
Betcha you want to know how I did it, don’t ya?
Like any well-trained shop rat, let’s start with the tool list for this project. Remember, I pride myself on minimal cleanup, my current record for least amount of tools used on a dish is four: The Crab and Hearts of Palm Salad tool list comprised only of a pairing knife, a cutting board, a bowl and a fork.
Hammer Salad takes my minimalist tool approach but I still haven’t broken the 4-tool record (not yet at least).
Here’s what tools you’ll need:
A cutting board.
A chef’s knife.
A food processor. (Optional if you don’t want to julienne manually.)
A kitchen tenderizing mallet.
A large PLASTIC Rubbermaid bowl.
Why plastic? Because my sweethearts, a hammer in a glass bowl with my clumsy nature just screams “disaster”, so stick with the high-sided plastic ones, that way you can relieve stress by beating the fool out of what we’re putting in the bowl. And you’re going to need to, this is hearty material we’re working with.
Those two are the most important tools you’ll need.
Now for the ingredients:
A fresh head of red cabbage
I’m telling y’all, this is the easiest salad to make in the world. You’ll be hammering it out in no time flat.
Here’s how you do it:
Depending on the number of people you’re feeding, you can make the whole cabbage or just half, that’s completely up to you. Also, all of the ingredients are TO TASTE, meaning that you add more or less as your taste buds dictate.
Ready? Here we go!
First, you’ll need to wash the cabbage under cool water and remove one or two outer leaves until you get a good-looking undamaged head of cabbage.
Next, place the cabbage on your cutting board and slice it in half.
Remove the big white core from the cabbage so all you have left is purple goodness without the core.
Now here comes the hardest part, julienne the cabbage. It will look something like this:
You can either put the cabbage in the food processor or cut it up by hand. It’s up to you. As I’m clumsy, I prefer the food processor, but I can julienne-by-hand if needs be thanks to my pal who taught me some of his beautiful knife techniques.
Next, after you’ve julienned the cabbage, throw the cut-up cabbage into your bowl and if you’re just doing half of the cabbage, add three fingers of salt to it. If you’re making the whole head for a dinner party, throw in three fingers of salt twice.
(At this point you’re finished with the knife and cutting board so put it aside…because it’s HAMMER TIME!)
After you add the salt, I want you to pick up your hammer and just beat the holy terror out of that cabbage. Imagine that you are Thor holding Mjolnir and beating the cabbage like it’s Loki trying to hurt your fellow Avengers. I usually grab the hammer by the handle and then come down on the cabbage with the top of the mallet, not even using the spiky or flat sides, just using the top of it to really go to town on it, then rotating it to the spiky side (if needs be) to really get the salt pounded into the cabbage.
Don’t get too crazy or anything with hammering your cabbage, I don’t want to hear how the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Toons came in and turned you and your kitchen purple. Keep it in the bowl, not on the floor, not on your other half, brothers, sisters, children or the cat. Just focus all that Thor-like angst on the cabbage IN the bowl.
We are NOT looking for this:
So don’t be gettin’ all crazy on the cabbage. Giant Green Rage Monster is my job, not yours.
Cabbage is hearty stuff and you really have to let it know who’s boss if you want to get it to cooperate. But you have to admit, this is kind of fun, isn’t it?
Now, after the cabbage has been well-tenderized with the salt, you’re going to notice that it’s weeping a little, meaning that it’s getting juicy.
When you see the juice starting to form, add three fingers of sugar. (Twice if you’re making the whole head of cabbage.) You want to make sure that you’re sugar and salt are in equal proportions to make a nice taste balance.
Grab your hammer and stir the sugar in, then start hammering again, giving it a stir every so often. Two whacks, stir, two whacks, stir…that kind of action until you’ve got all the sugar pounded in to the cabbage.
BE CAREFUL, once you see the juice starting to form, if you get too nuts with the hammer, you’re going to be wearing it. (That’s why we like the high-sided bowl…containment!)
After you get the sugar and salt hammered in, take a taste! Your taste buds should be getting a balance of sugar and salt in each bite. If you taste one more than the other, balance it out by adding the opposite (too salty = add sugar, too sweet = add salt) until you get it just right.
Once your salt/sugar balance is right, it’s time for the vinegar. You’re going to add a splash (NOT TOO MUCH!), just enough to be able to coat the cabbage without overly adding too much liquid. (I stir everything together with the hammer…saves dirtying up a spoon for no reason. But, you do what you want, I am just sharing the recipe.)
After you put in the vinegar, you’ll notice that the cabbage will turn from a deep purple and white to a beautiful magenta color. Now take another taste. If all of the flavors balance, you’ve done it right.
Congratulations. You just made Red Cabbage Salad, a.k.a. Hammer Salad. One of the oldest family recipes in my arsenal.
For song of the day, let’s hear something that has the perfect tempo for hammering cabbage and cheers for the self-confidence that came from someone selflessly sharing their love and respect of hammers along with their excellent knife techniques with me. You know who you are. Thank you.
Note: I decided to edit this story today (5/13/2015) to clean it up a bit and add some photos that had disappeared during the migration between my old blog and the new site (along with adding the photo of me in my chain mail). At the time of the original writing in March of 2011, I was in school and playing World of Warcraft in my spare time.
I hope you enjoy the revamped version of “A Fish Story” taken from my time as a Naturalist and diver at Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay.
It’s time for a fish story.
While I was doing my bit of daily questing in WoW yesterday, I went and picked up the fishing daily called “Rock Lobster.” Before you even ask, yes, it’s named after the song by the B-52’s. However, here’s the part that sticks out: in the quest instructions it reminds you to watch out for sharks. And yes, there are some fairly large sharks in Stormwind Harbor. While doing the quest, it reminded me of one of my favorite fish stories, from my days working at an aquarium.
Well, how can you work at a predator-based aquarium filled with sharks and not at least have one colorful story to share?
At the turn of the millennium, part of my job as a Naturalist was to suit up in a wetsuit and scuba gear, (often chain mail too) and dive the aquarium’s exhibits. Back then, all of the departments, Aquarists, Dive Specialists, Educators (which included the Naturalists) and Engineering Staff, chipped in to share the load of cleaning the acrylic windows, artificial coral and give an occasional wave at the passing tourists. We were stakeholders in making sure the aquarium was the very best it could be so we could better share our love of the animals with the guests we interacted with on a daily basis. Along the way, I got the proud distinction of being the very first female Naturalist to dive the main exhibit at Shark Reef.
To put it in a nutshell, I’ve been bit in the hand and backside (along with a few other places) by sharks. Before you get excited, don’t worry, none of them were big enough to do any real damage, you just had to expect that given where you worked, it was just an occupational hazard. And YES, a shark really did bite me in the butt. Laugh if you must, but the baseball-sized bruise was nothing to laugh at, thank you very much.
One of my funnier stories about my time at the aquarium is the day I had a close encounter with a Zebra Shark who thought my head looked pretty tasty. Yes, you read right, my HEAD.
Back in the day, there was a juvenile female Zebra Shark by the name of “Priscilla” who lived in one of the exhibits. We all just called her “‘Scilla” (yes, after Elvis’ wife) for short.
Before we get into what ‘Scilla did on that warm spring afternoon, let’s talk about Zebra Sharks. Not to take the wind out of the Discovery Channel and Shark Week’s sails, I’m just give you a quick little precis, particularly about what’s going on with the business end since that’s what I encountered first hand (or head, in this case).
Zebra sharks patrol the ocean floor, much like a Nurse shark. Their staple diet are things like mollusks, crustaceans and other bottom dwellers along with the occasional fish. Short answer is that it feeds like a vacuum cleaner. How it works is that they literally suck in everything in front of their mouth with one big, quick gasp. To facilitate this feeding style, mother nature situated their mouths beneath their heads, here have a picture:
The “dangerous” teeth for a Zebra shark are located in the back of the mouth, but they don’t work like yours or mine, it works more like a meat grinder. The little teeth up front act purely to get some grip and hold onto their prey while they suck their food into the grinding teeth in the back. So basically, this shark (and others similar to it) is a swimming Hoover. Once she sucks something up, it’s going to have one hell of a time getting loose.
The other thing you’re going to see right away is that there are no big teeth in front, no, no, that would be too obvious. The part that makes this shark so adorable is that they look harmless, which we all know is the best way to conceal a mischievous spirit. Had ‘Scilla looked menacing, she wouldn’t have been able to pull the hijinks she did and get the ancillary nickname of “finned menace”.
Ok, so now that you are up to speed on the oral physiology of this fish, let’s go to the scene of the crime.
It was a wonderful Wednesday afternoon, and I got assigned to clean the second largest exhibit in the place, one known by the staff as “A7.” So, I get suited up, pull my pack (BC, Rig and Tank) onto the caddy, we make the five minute walk over to the exhibit and my dive buddy and I get into the water.
Cleaning an aquarium exhibit is a lot like cleaning your fish tank at home, except we were armed with pressure washers, scrub brushes and window cleaning gear. Where as you cleaning your home aquarium has you reaching into the tank, we swam in the exhibits. To be honest, you know those little aquarium decorations like the bubbling treasure chest and the little diver dude featured in Finding Nemo? I felt like a girl version of the little diver dude. But I digress.
So, there I was in the exhibit, swimming around cleaning fake coral. Not a bad way to spend two hours of your work day, is it? As was the norm, every time we got into the water, we became an immediate attraction for every tourist that passed by the exhibit windows. Dive after dive, I waved at drunk college students, drunk adults and families of all shapes and sizes. They squealed, “Oooh! Diver!” I thought, “Yeah! Oooh! Look at the Underwater Janitor.”
That afternoon I was doing my usual scrubbing on a piece of table coral when I looked up and saw a man at the window holding his infant daughter. So, I put my scrub brush into the pocket of my BC and went to do some ‘guest interaction’ time. I figured I would go play with the baby for a minute then go back to scrubbing. I swam up to the window to find the baby riveted on me and my bubbles. So, I took out my standard regulator (that’s the mouthpiece that gives you air, you know) and replaced it with my spare emergency one (also known as an ‘octopus’). I swam closer to the window and held out my regulator and tapped my purge button. (The purge button purges water from the regulator so you don’t breathe in water, it also happens to make a good bunch of entertaining bubbles for babies watching you dive.) As I held up the regulator, the baby reached for it on the other side of the acrylic, as if to say, “pacifier?” Ok, how novel is that for a kid, a bubbling pacifier? It was cute and the father was having a laugh riot watching the baby trying to grab hold of it. It was right in the middle of the cute series of events that ‘Scilla just had to get in on the action.
Before I go further, I must say this for ‘Scilla, I really liked that fish. She was beautiful, had some spunk and she also, on a previous dive, did something that I will never forget. A few months previous, my dive buddy for that exact same exhibit was my ex-husband, and for that particular dive, we used AGA Masks (underwater coms, very cool tech) that let you talk while you dive. Mid-way through the two-hour dive, out of nowhere, the headphones in my mask begin to blare with him swearing up a storm in French. The image of what I saw when I turned around is now burnt permanently into my memory. I spun around to find a 6’4″, 225 pound man standing in the middle of the exhibit for all to see, freaking out with ‘Scilla attached to his whatevers. She latched on and bit him in the groin and had no intention of letting go anytime soon. I don’t care who you are, that’s funny right there. The more he tried to pry the fish loose, the harder she bit down. Finally, by some miracle, he got her to let go, but all during the process, I was rendered helpless, I nearly drowned I was laughing so hard. Point to ‘Scilla! Fish 1, Ex-Husband 0. How, and more importantly WHY, that fish got attached to his crotch, I’ll never know, but every time I remember turning around in the exhibit only to see him freaking out with a shark attached so extremely (and uncomfortably) close to his privates, it still makes me laugh really hard. My point is, she was definitely a repeat offender. It didn’t matter who you were, if you were in the exhibit with ‘Scilla, you knew something was bound to happen because she held nothing and no one sacred. (Imagine a Jack Russell with fins…that was ‘Scilla.) Which leads us back to that Wednesday afternoon with me, ‘Scilla and the baby.
So there I am playing with the baby on the other side of the exhibit window and all of a sudden I feel this huge, painful YANK at the top of my head. I immediately stopped what I was doing and reached up to feel what was yanking at me. I reach up with both hands, and feeling around the object, I figure out…it’s ‘Scilla…and she’s got the top of my dive hood in her mouth along with a large chunk of my hair and some scalp. Only one exasperated word flashed through my mind as my eyes narrowed…”FISH.” Well, it was only a matter of time, wasn’t it? (It’s karma. This is what I get for laughing at my ex-husband.)
At seeing the shark intentionally attach itself to my head, the dad holding the baby went pale. He’s watching me with this shark stuck to the top of my head, the fish and its’ tail waving around like a fancy Vegas showgirl headdress! I’m smacking the fish with my hands, grabbing onto the bulk of its’ body with both hands and yanking at it, trying in vain to get it off. Meanwhile, the dad holding the baby yells to his wife, and with the wife comes about 50 people and they’re all watching me yanking on that stupid fish to get it off my head. Just as before, the more ya pull, the more ‘Scilla digs in.
After about five minutes of me with my arms up trying to remove the shark from my head, I finally give it all I’ve got, and in the process I removed the fish, and by extension, a chunk of my hair, my mask and my hood. (If you’d insert the sound of a cork coming out of a champagne bottle, you wouldn’t be far wrong.) I couldn’t see anything after I got the fish off my head, so I swam to the surface. When I got to the surface of the water, I spit out my regulator and yelled out for my dive tender, screaming, “Bonnie! I’ve been accosted!” She looks at me and says, “‘Scilla?” I laughed and said, “Yep.” It was then that Bonnie looked at me and said, “Sheri, where’s your hood and your mask?” I replied, “In ‘Scilla’s mouth,” at which we both erupted into laughter.
Looking down through the surface of the water to try to find the fish that decided to make off with some of my dive gear, I spot her swimming on the other side of the exhibit. I swim over, get my gear back, I put my hood and mask back on, put my regulator back in my mouth and submerge again, thinking that I was just going to go back to cleaning coral.
As I submerged, I glanced back to where the baby was before the whole mess began. And what do you think I was faced with? About 100 people with mouths hanging open who had just witnessed ‘Scilla and I battling it out, her stealing my stuff along with a little patch of my hair! I go back into the window and wave, but all I got were people holding up the “ok” sign with their hands, worried if I was okay or not. I gave them the “ok” sign in return and they all started clapping and cheering. I even played it up a bit as ‘Scilla swam by again, making moves like a boxer warming up. Lucky for me, the crowd moved on and I got back to work. When I got out, we walked back across to the locker room and all we heard was “did you see the diver get bit in the head?”
‘Scilla is still swimming around in that aquarium, albeit in a bigger exhibit, to this day. I still really do love that fish. She’s got style, on top of that, there weren’t many divers she didn’t accost at that aquarium. She grabbed just about any body part she felt like, heads, scalps, ears, fingers, arms, legs…whatevers…(it’s going to be a long, long time before I let that one go.) I’m still convinced she was like a puppy who just wanted lovin’s and attentions. She was a sweetheart, that was unless she was attached to one of your body parts.
I miss ‘Scilla sometimes, head biting and hair pulling aside, I’m always grateful to her because without her I wouldn’t have a great story to tell.
But I guess everyone has a fish story or two like that, don’t they?
For those of you who haven’t seen it, here is a photo of me in 2000 geared up in my chainmail, diving the main exhibit A13 or as it is known “The Shipwreck”: