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The Write Way

Friday 6 May 2011

I Can't Get by without My ...


You know that old adage, you never know what you've lost until it's gone?

It's true, but I'm sure you knew that.

I had it reinforced a couple of weeks ago when I was making dinner ... (Fade to homely kitchen scene.)

The menu for this particular meal was fresh salmon steaks, which I cook in a sandwich press ... No, really. You should try it. Just rub a couple of drops of sesame oil on each side of the salmon, a squeeze of lemon juice and some freshly ground black pepper. Heat up your double-sided sandwich press, add the salmon and close the press. It cooks in no time and is lovely and brown and nutty on the outside from the oil, and as pink as you want it on the inside.

I had a couple of salads to go with this -- just a tossed salad with lettuce, avocado, cucumber, tomato, red capsicum and thinly sliced red onion. I don't use any dressing on these salads, preferring to let the natural flavours shine.

There was also some coleslaw left over from the previous day's lunch and I'd decided to put that out, too, so we could finish it off and get rid of one more container from the fridge.

But as I started to set out things ready for cooking, I was getting hungrier and hungrier and thought that we probably needed something else to fill us at dinner. That way we wouldn't be tempted to get the cheese and bikkies out later with our coffee!

We've always been fans of the sweet potato, and I can remember my dad making sweet potato chips back in the 50s, so this gastronomic delight has always been part of my culinary repertoire. It's fascinating to see that the Big Chains have belatedly jumped on the bandwagon and are now producing endless variations on the theme of fried sweet potatoes. (My cynical side wonders if it's because they've discovered that SPs are cheaper than 'normal' potatoes.)

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen ...

A couple of years ago, I'd bought myself one of those gadget slicers, the ones you use to make really thin chips. It's brilliant and can produce evenly sized slices of potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions etc. Mine has four different attachments to produce slices of differing thickness, and for this night's chips, I'd selected the one that makes the thickest slices.

If you're familiar with these devices, you know how razor-sharp they are, and that they come with a guard that you use to hold the vegetable as you slice, so you don't slice your fingers ... or thumbs.

Ah, yes, I can see you know exactly where this story is going. But screw your courage to the sticking post and let's see it out to the bitter end ...

I had quickly and easily amassed a delightful pile of sweet potato slices, being careful to cut my potatoes in half and spike the segments with the guard before beginning the slicing ... until I came to the last potato, which was a bit smaller than the others and didn't warrant cutting in half. So I started to slice, keeping my hand well away from that vicious blade. As I sliced further down, I watched how much was left in my hand and thought, "Right after the next slice I'll use the g..."


I should have used the guard before that fateful slice.

I'd been holding the sweet potato in my right hand and slicing from left to right, which took a rather neat slice off the outer part of my right thumb.

Hmmm ...

The good news is that I had everything ready for our meal, which just had to be cooked by the Love of My Life, who arrived after my wail of anguish to see me doing a fine impersonation of the Statue of Liberty ... standing with my hand, swathed in tissues rapidly turning a pretty shade of arterial red, held high in the air.

The bad news is that the last pile of chips had to be consigned to the compost heap.

The wound didn't warrant a trip to the emergency department at the hospital, because being a slice, there was nothing to sew back together, so I opted instead for lots of bandages, antiseptic powder, elevation and immobility to staunch the flow of blood and eliminate infection, and mega-doses of Vitamin C to help with the healing from the inside out.

Which brings us to the realisation that opposable thumbs are pretty handy things to have -- you truly don't appreciate how much you rely on them until one is out of action. Try tying your shoelaces without an opposable thumb! Or manipulating a hair-brush to style and dry your hair. Or doing up fasteners on your underwear ... In fact, you simply can't over-exaggerate their importance.

And really, you can't, because 'exaggerate' already means to over-stress something ... so it's pointless to say you over, over-stress it. tells us it means 'to magnify beyond the limits of truth; overstate; represent disproportionately' and it comes from (where else) Latin, from the word exaggerare, meaning 'to heap up.' And isn't that just what we do when we exaggerate? We heap up the meaning, piling on more and more for dramatic effect.

My thumb is a little the worse for the encounter, but, as we always taught our children, I've looked for the positive aspect of this experience (or if not exactly positive, at least the lesson inherent in it) and have learnt that I will never (not ever) decide not to use the guard so thoughtfully provided by the manufacturers of sharp, slicing gadgets. Never!

So the moral of the story, Boys and Girls, is this: Look after your bits ... all of them!

And a cooking tale ...

Her husband did the shopping and brought home a large frozen chicken from the supermarket. He asked her to dress it for a meal on Sunday. She didn't have any clothes that fit the poor chicken, and for some reason her husband keeps counting to ten.

And now for something completely different ...

While this next isn't a way to prevent cutting yourself, it is a way to improve your general feeling of well-being and good health. The LoML and I have been practising these five exercises every morning for the past few weeks now and can definitely see improvements in energy levels, flexibility and fitness.

Because I've always enjoyed yoga, I found the exercises relatively easy to master, but the LoML had to work harder to begin with. However, after even this short time, we can both see a huge improvement in his ability to complete all five. It literally only takes 10 minutes each morning (or night ... or both if you're really keen) to run through the exercises, but you'll definitely feel better as a result!

This week's quiz:

Those fringy things on the end of your wrist are not just to stop your arms from fraying ... see how much you know about your hands and fingers:

carpus, metacarpus, collateral ligaments, phalanges, inter-phalangeal, proximal, extensor tendons, distal, articular cartilage, volar plate

1. the wrist bones collectively; the group of bones between the bones of the hand and the radius; the eight small bones of the human wrist that form the joint between the arm and the hand

2. the bones of the fingers or toes

3. joint closest to the knuckle

4. allow each finger joint to straighten; begin as muscles that arise from the backside of the forearm bones then travel towards the hand, where they eventually connect to others before crossing over the back of the wrist joint. As they travel into the fingers, they become the extensor hood, which flattens out to cover the top of the finger and sends out branches on each side that connect to the bones in the middle and end of the finger

5. tough bands of tissue that connect bones together; found on either side of each finger and thumb joint; function is to prevent abnormal sideways bending of each joint

6. white, shiny material with a rubbery consistency; function is to absorb shock and provide an extremely smooth surface to facilitate motion; exists essentially everywhere that two bony surfaces move against one another

7. part of the hand that includes the five bones between the fingers and the wrist; the knuckles

8. connects the proximal phalanx to the middle phalanx on the palm side of the joint; tightens as the joint is straightened and keeps the PIP joint from bending back too far

9. joints that separate the phalanges on each finger

10. joint closest to the end of the finger


And in case you've looked, but haven't really observed, may I take this opportunity to point out that your thumb only has one IP joint between the two thumb phalanges, while your fingers have two.

Interesting the things you know but never notice, eh?

Do you know why you have fingernails? No, not just so teenagers can paint them odd colours ...

Your fingernails actually have a couple of really important functions:

1. serve to enhance precise delicate movements of the distal digits through counter-pressure exerted on the pulp of the finger. The nail then acts as a counterforce when the end of the finger touches an object, thereby enhancing the sensitivity of the fingertip, even though there are no nerve endings in the nail itself.

2. the nail functions as a tool, enabling a so-called "extended precision grip" (e.g. pulling out a splinter in one's finger).

Here are some more fascinating facts about your fingers:

Nails grow an average of 3 millimetres a month. Age, health, climate, exercise and genetics can affect growth.

It takes 3-6 months for a fingernail to grow from cuticle to free edge.

Toenails grow slower than fingernails. It takes a toenail 12 months to grow from cuticle to free edge.

Nails and hair do not continue to grow after death. They only appear to grow due to the changes in the body and skin.

Nails grow from the matrix, which is located behind the cuticle under the skin, and grow out towards the free edge.

And you thought you weren't going to learn anything new today!

Last week's quiz:

Match up the disasters to see what our travellers missed:

drought, hurricane, cyclone, tornado, hypocentre, tsunami, typhoon, pyroclastic flow, avalanche, firestorm

1. an unusually large sea wave produced by a seaquake or undersea volcanic eruption - TSUNAMI

2. violent, tropical, cyclonic storm of the western North Atlantic, having wind speeds of or in excess of 72 miles per hour (32 m/sec); normally applied to such storms in the Atlantic Basin and the Pacific Ocean east of the International Date Line - HURRICANE

3. a deficiency of moisture that results in adverse impacts on people, animals, or vegetation over a sizeable area - DROUGHT

4. the place below ground where an earthquake starts - HYPOCENTRE

5. tropical cyclone or hurricane of the western Pacific area and the China seas; violent storm or tempest of India - TYPHOON

6. hot, fast-moving and high-density mixture of fine and coarse particles and gas formed during explosive eruptions or from the collapse of a lava dome; hot (300-800 degrees C (570-1470 degrees F)), dry, fast-moving (10 to more than 100 metres per second (20 to more than 200 miles per hour)) and high-density mixture of ash, pumice, rock fragments, and gas formed during explosive eruptions or from the collapse of a lava dome - PYROCLASTIC FLOW

7. a large-scale, atmospheric wind-and-pressure system characterised by low pressure at its centre and by circular wind motion, counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere - CYCLONE

8. huge fires caused by enormous numbers of separate fires all burning together - FIRESTORM

9. a localised, violently destructive windstorm occurring over land and characterised by a long, funnel-shaped cloud extending toward the ground and made visible by condensation and debris - TORNADO

10. a large mass of snow, ice, soil or rock, which detaches from a mountain slope and slides or falls suddenly downward; the sliding or falling of rocks, snow or other materials down the side of a mountain - AVALANCHE


Here's a quick-thinking waiter ...

A tourist was lunching in a restaurant in China where the specialty was duck. The waiter explained each dish as he brought it to the table. "This is the breast of the duck; this the leg of the duck; this is the wing of the duck; etc."

Then came a dish that the tourist knew was chicken. He waited for the explanation.


"Well?" he finally asked, "what's this?"

The waiter replied, "It's a friend of duck."

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Did you know that every newsletter is archived? So if you've missed anything since 1998 or want to revisit some favourites, you can do so any time!  

Don't forget to bookmark the page when you get there ... or even make it your Home Page. (For Internet Explorer, just click on Tools ... Internet Options ... General ... fill in and click OK. For Netscape, select Edit ... Preferences. Then select Navigator from the left menu, click Home Page and enter the URL above next to Location and click OK. For all the flash new browsers, you'll have to do a search on my mate google to find what to do. There's a search box on the archives page!)

Subscribe Here and Be Bribed!

If you've received this little missive from a friend, you can get your very own issue, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every Friday morning by clicking here: And I'm even prepared to offer a shameless bribe.  

Never-Ending Story

An Ape that wants to play Hamlet after being type-cast as King Kong, a talking anvil and that rottweiller ... Dr Morgenes is still caught in the nightmare that is the casting couch. Help him find a plot!  Just click on the Comments button at the end of the entry to add your contribution. If you have friends who fancy themselves as writers, invite them to contribute (just forward this newsletter in its entirety to them).

A Little Something Extra

Everything you want to know about fingernails (and some things that are not for the faint-hearted) here

First aid tips from the British Red Cross here

How to deal with some common forms of wounds here

And if you're interested in health-related matters, why not write about them? Use these tips from the US National Library of Medicine here

Oxymoron of the week: safety knife

Word of the week: Adage (n) a traditional saying expressing a common experience or observation; proverb.

This useful word comes from those useful Romans -- from the prefix ad- meaning 'to' and the verb aio 'to speak.'

And a Latin phrase to summon the family to dinner this weekend:

Venite ac capite!

[way-NEE-tay AHK kah-PEE-tay]

(Come and get it!)

Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders? How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king) Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)? Click here for these and more: 

Recommend this page to other writers by clicking the Recommend it! button below, then see what pages others are recommending here.

Kind regards,


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