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Big A, June 20, 2013
Posted June 20, 2013
Did you fail English class?
So, there's a man crawling through the desert.He'd decided to try his SUV in a little bit of cross-country travel, had great fun zooming over the badlands and through the sand, got lost, hit a big rock, and then he couldn't get it started again. There were no cell phone towers anywhere near, so his cell phone was useless. He had no family, his parents had died a few years before in an auto accident, and his few friends had no idea he was out here.He stayed with the car for a day or so, but his one bottle of water ran outand he was getting thirsty. He thought maybe he knew the direction back, now that he'd paid attention to the sun and thought he'd figured out which way was north, so he decided to start walking. He figured he only had to go about 30 miles or so and he'd be back to the small town he'd gotten gas in last.He thinks about walking at night to avoid the heat and sun, but based uponhow dark it actually was the night before, and given that he has no flashlight, he's afraid that he'll break a leg or step on a rattlesnake. So,he puts on some sun block, puts the rest in his pocket for reapplicationlater, brings an umbrella he'd had in the back of the SUV with him to givehim a little shade, pours the windshield wiper fluid into his water bottlein case he gets that desperate, brings his pocket knife in case he finds a cactus that looks like it might have water in it, and heads out in thedirection he thinks is right.He walks for the entire day. By the end of the day he's really thirsty. He'sbeen sweating all day, and his lips are starting to crack. He's reapplied the sunblock twice, and tried to stay under the umbrella, but he still feels sunburned. The windshield wiper fluid sloshing in the bottle in his pocket is really getting tempting now. He knows that it's mainly water and some ethanol and coloring, but he also knows that they add some kind of poison to it to keep people from drinking it. He wonders what the poison is, andwhether the poison would be worse than dying of thirst.He pushes on, trying to get to that small town before dark.By the end of the day he starts getting worried. He figures he's been walking at least 3 miles an hour, according to his watch for over 10 hours. That means that if his estimate was right that he should be close to thetown. But he doesn't recognize any of this. He had to cross a dry creek bed a mile or two back, and he doesn't remember coming through it in the SUV. He figures that maybe he got his direction off just a little and that the dry creek bed was just off to one side of his path. He tells himself that he's close, and that after dark he'll start seeing the town lights over one of these hills, and that'll be all he needs.As it gets dim enough that he starts stumbling over small rocks and things,he finds a spot and sits down to wait for full dark and the town lights.Full dark comes before he knows it. He must have dozed off. He stands backup and turns all the way around. He sees nothing but stars.He wakes up the next morning feeling absolutely lousy. His eyes are gummy and his mouth and nose feel like they're full of sand. He so thirsty that he can't even swallow. He barely got any sleep because it was so cold. He'd forgotten how cold it got at night in the desert and hadn't noticed it the night before because he'd been in his car.He knows the Rule of Threes - three minutes without air, three days without water, three weeks without food - then you die. Some people can make it a little longer, in the best situations. But the desert heat and having to walk and sweat isn't the best situation to be without water. He figures, unless he finds water, this is his last day.He rinses his mouth out with a little of the windshield wiper fluid. He waits a while after spitting that little bit out, to see if his mouth goes numb, or he feels dizzy or something. Has his mouth gone numb? Is it just inhis mind? He's not sure. He'll go a little farther, and if he still doesn'tfind water, he'll try drinking some of the fluid.Then he has to face his next, harder question - which way does he go from here? Does he keep walking the same way he was yesterday (assuming that he still knows which way that is), or does he try a new direction? He has no idea what to do.Looking at the hills and dunes around him, he thinks he knows the direction he was heading before. Just going by a feeling, he points himself somewhat to the left of that, and starts walking.As he walks, the day starts heating up. The desert, too cold just a couple of hours before, soon becomes an oven again. He sweats a little at first, and then stops. He starts getting worried at that - when you stop sweating he knows that means you're in trouble - usually right before heat stroke.He decides that it's time to try the windshield wiper fluid. He can't waitany longer - if he passes out, he's dead. He stops in the shade of a largerock, takes the bottle out, opens it, and takes a mouthful. He slowlyswallows it, making it last as long as he can. It feels so good in his dryand cracked throat that he doesn't even care about the nasty taste. He takesanother mouthful, and makes it last too. Slowly, he drinks half the bottle.He figures that since he's drinking it, he might as well drink enough tomake some difference and keep himself from passing out.He's quit worrying about the denaturing of the wiper fluid. If it kills him,it kills him - if he didn't drink it, he'd die anyway. Besides, he's prettysure that whatever substance they denature the fluid with is just designed to make you sick - their way of keeping winos from buying cheap wiper fluid for the ethanol content. He can handle throwing up, if it comes to that.He walks. He walks in the hot, dry, windless desert. Sand, rocks, hills,dunes, the occasional scrawny cactus or dried bush. No sign of water.Sometimes he'll see a little movement to one side or the other, but whatever moved is usually gone before he can focus his eyes on it. Probably birds, lizards, or mice. Maybe snakes, though they usually move more at night. He's careful to stay away from the movements.After a while, he begins to stagger. He's not sure if it's fatigue, heatstroke finally catching him, or maybe he was wrong and the denaturing of the wiper fluid was worse than he thought. He tries to steady himself, and keep going.After more walking, he comes to a large stretch of sand. This is good! Heknows he passed over a stretch of sand in the SUV - he remembers doingdonuts in it. Or at least he thinks he remembers it - he's getting woozyenough and tired enough that he's not sure what he remembers any more or ifhe's hallucinating. But he thinks he remembers it. So he heads off into it,trying to get to the other side, hoping that it gets him closer to the town.He was heading for a town, wasn't he? He thinks he was. He isn't sure any more. He's not even sure how long he's been walking any more. Is it still morning? Or has it moved into afternoon and the sun is going down again? It must be afternoon - it seems like it's been too long since he started out.He walks through the sand.After a while, he comes to a big dune in the sand. This is bad. He doesn'tremember any dunes when driving over the sand in his SUV. Or at least hedoesn't think he remembers any. This is bad.But, he has no other direction to go. Too late to turn back now. He figuresthat he'll get to the top of the dune and see if he can see anything fromthere that helps him find the town. He keeps going up the dune.Halfway up, he slips in the bad footing of the sand for the second or thirdtime, and falls to his knees. He doesn't feel like getting back up - he'lljust fall down again. So, he keeps going up the dune on his hand and knees.While crawling, if his throat weren't so dry, he'd laugh. He's finallygotten to the hackneyed image of a man lost in the desert - crawling throughthe sand on his hands and knees. If would be the perfect image, he imagines, if only his clothes were more ragged. The people crawling through the desertin the cartoons always had ragged clothes. But his have lasted without anyrips so far. Somebody will probably find his dessicated corpse half buried in the sand years from now, and his clothes will still be in fine shape -shake the sand out, and a good wash, and they'd be wearable again. He wishes his throat were wet enough to laugh. He coughs a little instead, and it hurts.He finally makes it to the top of the sand dune. Now that he's at the top,he struggles a little, but manages to stand up and look around. All he seesis sand. Sand, and more sand. Behind him, about a mile away, he thinks hesees the rocky ground he left to head into this sand. Ahead of him, moredunes, more sand. This isn't where he drove his SUV. This is Hell. Or close enough.Again, he doesn't know what to do. He decides to drink the rest of the wiperfluid while figuring it out. He takes out the bottle, and is removing thecap, when he glances to the side and sees something. Something in the sand. At the bottom of the dune, off to the side, he sees something strange. It's a flat area, in the sand. He stops taking the cap of the bottle off, and tries to look closer. The area seems to be circular. And it's dark - darker than the sand. And, there seems to be something in the middle of it, but he can't tell what it is. He looks as hard as he can, and still can tell fromhere. He's going to have to go down there and look.He puts the bottle back in his pocket, and starts to stumble down the dune.After a few steps, he realizes that he's in trouble - he's not going to be able to keep his balance. After a couple of more sliding, tottering steps, he falls and starts to roll down the dune. The sand it so hot when his body hits it that for a minute he thinks he's caught fire on the way down - like a movie car wreck flashing into flames as it goes over the cliff, before it ever even hits the ground. He closes his eyes and mouth, covers his face with his hands, and waits to stop rolling.He stops, at the bottom of the dune. After a minute or two, he finds enoughenergy to try to sit up and get the sand out of his face and clothes. Whenhe clears his eyes enough, he looks around to make sure that the dark spotin the sand it still there and he hadn't just imagined it.So, seeing the large, flat, dark spot on the sand is still there, he beginsto crawl towards it. He'd get up and walk towards it, but he doesn't seem tohave the energy to get up and walk right now. He must be in the final stagesof dehydration he figures, as he crawls. If this place in the sand doesn'thave water, he'll likely never make it anywhere else. This is his lastchance.He gets closer and closer, but still can't see what's in the middle of thedark area. His eyes won't quite focus any more for some reason. And liftinghis head up to look takes so much effort that he gives up trying. He justkeeps crawling.Finally, he reaches the area he'd seen from the dune. It takes him a minute of crawling on it before he realizes that he's no longer on sand - he's now crawling on some kind of dark stone. Stone with some kind of marking on it - a pattern cut into the stone. He's too tired to stand up and try to see what the pattern is - so he just keeps crawling. He crawls towards the center,where his blurry eyes still see something in the middle of the dark stonearea.His mind, detached in a strange way, notes that either his hands and knees are so burnt by the sand that they no longer feel pain, or that this darkstone, in the middle of a burning desert with a pounding, punishing sunoverhead, doesn't seem to be hot. It almost feels cool. He considers lyingdown on the nice cool surface.Cool, dark stone. Not a good sign. He must be hallucinating this. He'sprobably in the middle of a patch of sand, already lying face down anddying, and just imagining this whole thing. A desert mirage. Soon thebeautiful women carrying pitchers of water will come up and start giving hima drink. Then he'll know he's gone.He decides against laying down on the cool stone. If he's going to die herein the middle of this hallucination, he at least wants to see what's in thecenter before he goes. He keeps crawling.It's the third time that he hears the voice before he realizes what he'shearing. He would swear that someone just said, "Greetings, traveler. You donot look well. Do you hear me?"He stops crawling. He tries to look up from where he is on his hands andknees, but it's too much effort to lift his head. So he tries somethingdifferent - he leans back and tries to sit up on the stone. After a fewseconds, he catches his balance, avoids falling on his face, sits up, andtries to focus his eyes. Blurry. He rubs his eyes with the back of his handsand tries again. Better this time.Yep. He can see. He's sitting in the middle of a large, flat, dark expanseof stone. Directly next to him, about three feet away, is a white post orpole about two inches in diameter and sticking up about four or five feetout of the stone, at an angle.And wrapped around this white rod, tail with rattle on it hovering andseeming to be ready to start rattling, is what must be a fifteen foot longdesert diamondback rattlesnake, looking directly at him.He stares at the snake in shock. He doesn't have the energy to get up andrun away. He doesn't even have the energy to crawl away. This is it, hisfinal resting place. No matter what happens, he's not going to be able tomove from this spot.Well, at least dying of a bite from this monster should be quicker thandying of thirst. He'll face his end like a man. He struggles to sit up alittle straighter. The snake keeps watching him. He lifts one hand and wavesit in the snake's direction, feebly. The snake watches the hand for amoment, then goes back to watching the man, looking into his eyes.Hmmm. Maybe the snake had no interest in biting him? It hadn't rattled yet -that was a good sign. Maybe he wasn't going to die of snake bite after all.He then remembers that he'd looked up when he'd reached the center herebecause he thought he'd heard a voice. He was still very woozy - he waslikely to pass out soon, the sun still beat down on him even though he wasnow on cool stone. He still didn't have anything to drink. But maybe he hadactually heard a voice. This stone didn't look natural. Nor did that whitepost sticking up out of the stone. Someone had to have built this. Maybethey were still nearby. Maybe that was who talked to him. Maybe this snakewas even their pet, and that's why it wasn't biting.He tries to clear his throat to say, "Hello," but his throat is too dry. Allthat comes out is a coughing or wheezing sound. There is no way he's goingto be able to talk without something to drink. He feels his pocket, and thebottle with the wiper fluid is still there. He shakily pulls the bottle out,almost losing his balance and falling on his back in the process. This isn'tgood. He doesn't have much time left, by his reckoning, before he passesout.He gets the lid off of the bottle, manages to get the bottle to his lips,and pours some of the fluid into his mouth. He sloshes it around, and thenswallows it. He coughs a little. His throat feels better. Maybe he can talknow.He tries again. Ignoring the snake, he turns to look around him, hoping tospot the owner of this place, and croaks out, "Hello? Is there anyone here?"He hears, from his side, "Greetings. What is it that you want?"He turns his head, back towards the snake. That's where the sound had seemedto come from. The only thing he can think of is that there must be aspeaker, hidden under the snake, or maybe built into that post. He decidesto try asking for help."Please," he croaks again, suddenly feeling dizzy, "I'd love to not bethirsty any more. I've been a long time without water. Can you help me?"Looking in the direction of the snake, hoping to see where the voice wascoming from this time, he is shocked to see the snake rear back, open itsmouth, and speak. He hears it say, as the dizziness overtakes him and hefalls forward, face first on the stone, "Very well. Coming up."A piercing pain shoots through his shoulder. Suddenly he is awake. He sitsup and grabs his shoulder, wincing at the throbbing pain. He's momentarilydisoriented as he looks around, and then he remembers - the crawl across thesand, the dark area of stone, the snake. He sees the snake, still wrappedaround the tilted white post, still looking at him.He reaches up and feels his shoulder, where it hurts. It feels slightly wet.He pulls his fingers away and looks at them - blood. He feels his shoulderagain - his shirt has what feels like two holes in it - two puncture holes -they match up with the two aching spots of pain on his shoulder. He had beenbitten. By the snake."It'll feel better in a minute." He looks up - it's the snake talking. Hehadn't dreamed it. Suddenly he notices - he's not dizzy any more. And moreimportantly, he's not thirsty any more - at all!"Have I died? Is this the afterlife? Why are you biting me in theafterlife?""Sorry about that, but I had to bite you," says the snake. "That's the way Iwork. It all comes through the bite. Think of it as natural medicine.""You bit me to help me? Why aren't I thirsty any more? Did you give me adrink before you bit me? How did I drink enough while unconscious to not bethirsty any more? I haven't had a drink for over two days. Well, except forthe windshield wiper fluid... hold it, how in the world does a snake talk?Are you real? Are you some sort of Disney animation?""No," says the snake, "I'm real. As real as you or anyone is, anyway. Ididn't give you a drink. I bit you. That's how it works - it's what I do. Ibite. I don't have hands to give you a drink, even if I had water justsitting around here."The man sat stunned for a minute. Here he was, sitting in the middle of thedesert on some strange stone that should be hot but wasn't, talking to asnake that could talk back and had just bitten him. And he felt better. Notgreat - he was still starving and exhausted, but much better - he was nolonger thirsty. He had started to sweat again, but only slightly. He felthot, in this sun, but it was starting to get lower in the sky, and the coolstone beneath him was a relief he could notice now that he was no longerdying of thirst."I might suggest that we take care of that methanol you now have in yoursystem with the next request," continued the snake. "I can guess why youdrank it, but I'm not sure how much you drank, or how much methanol was leftin the wiper fluid. That stuff is nasty. It'll make you go blind in a day ortwo, if you drank enough of it.""Ummm, n-next request?" said the man. He put his hand back on his hurtingshoulder and backed away from the snake a little."That's the way it works. If you like, that is," explained the snake. "Youget three requests. Call them wishes, if you wish." The snake grinned at hisown joke, and the man drew back a little further from the show of fangs."But there are rules," the snake continued. "The first request is free. Thesecond requires an agreement of secrecy. The third requires the binding ofresponsibility." The snake looks at the man seriously."By the way," the snake says suddenly, "my name is Nathan. Old Nathan,Samuel used to call me. He gave me the name. Before that, most of the Boundused to just call me 'Snake'. But that got old, and Samuel wouldn't standfor it. He said that anything that could talk needed a name. He was big intonames. You can call me Nate, if you wish." Again, the snake grinned. "Sorryif I don't offer to shake, but I think you can understand - my shake soundssomewhat threatening." The snake give his rattle a little shake."Umm, my name is Jack," said the man, trying to absorb all of this. "JackSamson."Can I ask you a question?" Jack says suddenly. "What happened to thepoison...umm, in your bite. Why aren't I dying now? How did you do that?What do you mean by that's how you work?""That's more than one question," grins Nate. "But I'll still try to answerall of them. First, yes, you can ask me a question." The snake's grin getswider. "Second, the poison is in you. It changed you. You now no longer needto drink. That's what you asked for. Or, well, technically, you asked to notbe thirsty any more - but 'any more' is such a vague term. I decided to makeit permanent - now, as long as you live, you shouldn't need to drink much atall. Your body will conserve water very efficiently. You should be able toget enough just from the food you eat - much like a creature of the desert.You've been changed."For the third question," Nate continues, "you are still dying. Besides theeffects of that methanol in your system, you're a man - and men are mortal.In your current state, I give you no more than about another 50 years.Assuming you get out of this desert, alive, that is." Nate seemed vastlyamused at his own humor, and continued his wide grin."As for the fourth question," Nate said, looking more serious as far as Jackcould tell, as Jack was just now working on his ability to readtalking-snake emotions from snake facial features, "first you have to agreeto make a second request and become bound by the secrecy, or I can't tellyou.""Wait," joked Jack, "isn't this where you say you could tell me, but you'dhave to kill me?""I thought that was implied." Nate continued to look serious."Ummm...yeah." Jack leaned back a little as he remembered again that he wastalking to a fifteen foot poisonous reptile with a reputation for having anasty temper. "So, what is this 'Bound by Secrecy' stuff, and can you reallystop the effects of the methanol?" Jack thought for a second. "And, what doyou mean methanol, anyway? I thought these days they use ethanol in wiperfluid, and just denature it?""They may, I don't really know," said Nate. "I haven't gotten out in awhile. Maybe they do. All I know is that I smell methanol on your breath andon that bottle in your pocket. And the blue color of the liquid when youpulled it out to drink some let me guess that it was wiper fluid. I assumethat they still color wiper fluid blue?""Yeah, they do," said Jack."I figured," replied Nate. "As for being bound by secrecy - with thefulfillment of your next request, you will be bound to say nothing about me,this place, or any of the information I will tell you after that, when youdecide to go back out to your kind. You won't be allowed to talk about me,write about me, use sign language, charades, or even act in a way that willlead someone to guess correctly about me. You'll be bound to secrecy. Ofcourse, I'll also ask you to promise not to give me away, and as I'mguessing that you're a man of your word, you'll never test the bindinganyway, so you won't notice." Nate said the last part with utter confidence.Jack, who had always prided himself on being a man of his word, felt alittle nervous at this. "Ummm, hey, Nate, who are you? How did you knowthat? Are you, umm, omniscient, or something?"Well, Jack," said Nate sadly, "I can't tell you that, unless you make thesecond request." Nate looked away for a minute, then looked back."Umm, well, ok," said Jack, "what is this about a second request? What can Iask for? Are you allowed to tell me that?""Sure!" said Nate, brightening. "You're allowed to ask for changes. Changesto yourself. They're like wishes, but they can only affect you. Oh, andbefore you ask, I can't give you immortality. Or omniscience. Oromnipresence, for that matter. Though I might be able to make you gaseousand yet remain alive, and then you could spread through the atmosphere andsort of be omnipresent. But what good would that be - you still wouldn't beomniscient and thus still could only focus on one thing at a time. Not veryuseful, at least in my opinion." Nate stopped when he realized that Jack wasstaring at him."Well, anyway," continued Nate, "I'd probably suggest giving you permanentgood health. It would negate the methanol now in your system, you'd beimmune to most poisons and diseases, and you'd tend to live a very longtime, barring accident, of course. And you'll even have a tendency torecover from accidents well. It always seemed like a good choice for arequest to me.""Cure the methanol poisoning, huh?" said Jack. "And keep me healthy for along time? Hmmm. It doesn't sound bad at that. And it has to be a requestabout a change to me? I can't ask to be rich, right? Because that's notreally a change to me?""Right," nodded Nate."Could I ask to be a genius and permanently healthy?" Jack asked, hopefully."That takes two requests, Jack.""Yeah, I figured so," said Jack. "But I could ask to be a genius? I couldbecome the smartest scientist in the world? Or the best athlete?""Well, I could make you very smart," admitted Nate, "but that wouldn'tnecessarily make you the best scientist in the world. Or, I could make youvery athletic, but it wouldn't necessarily make you the best athlete either.You've heard the saying that 99% of genius is hard work? Well, there's sometruth to that. I can give you the talent, but I can't make you work hard. Itall depends on what you decide to do with it.""Hmmm," said Jack. "Ok, I think I understand. And I get a third request,after this one?""Maybe," said Nate, "it depends on what you decide then. There are morerules for the third request that I can only tell you about after the secondrequest. You know how it goes." Nate looked like he'd shrug, if he hadshoulders."Ok, well, since I'd rather not be blind in a day or two, and permanenthealth doesn't sound bad, then consider that my second request. Officially.Do I need to sign in blood or something?""No," said Nate. "Just hold out your hand. Or heel." Nate grinned. "Orwhatever part you want me to bite. I have to bite you again. Like I said,that's how it works - the poison, you know," Nate said apologetically.Jack winced a little and felt his shoulder, where the last bite was. Hey, itdidn't hurt any more. Just like Nate had said. That made Jack feel betterabout the biting business. But still, standing still while a fifteen footsnake sunk it's fangs into you. Jack stood up. Ignoring how good it felt tobe able to stand again, and the hunger starting to gnaw at his stomach, Jacktried to decide where he wanted to get bitten. Despite knowing that itwouldn't hurt for long, Jack knew that this wasn't going to be easy."Hey, Jack," Nate suddenly said, looking past Jack towards the dunes behindhim, "is that someone else coming up over there?"Jack spun around and looked. Who else could be out here in the middle ofnowhere? And did they bring food?Wait a minute, there was nobody over there. What was Nate...Jack let out a bellow as he felt two fangs sink into his rear end, throughhis jeans...Jack sat down carefully, favoring his more tender buttock. "I would havedecided, eventually, Nate. I was just thinking about it. You didn't have tohoodwink me like that.""I've been doing this a long time, Jack," said Nate, confidently. "Youhumans have a hard time sitting still and letting a snake bite you -especially one my size. And besides, admit it - it's only been a couple ofminutes and it already doesn't hurt any more, does it? That's because of thehealth benefit with this one. I told you that you'd heal quickly now.""Yeah, well, still," said Jack, "it's the principle of the thing. And nobodylikes being bitten in the butt! Couldn't you have gotten my calf orsomething instead?""More meat in the typical human butt," replied Nate. "And less chance youaccidentally kick me or move at the last second.""Yeah, right. So, tell me all of these wonderful secrets that I now qualifyto hear," answered Jack."Ok," said Nate. "Do you want to ask questions first, or do you want me tojust start talking?""Just talk," said Jack. "I'll sit here and try to not think about food.""We could go try to rustle up some food for you first, if you like,"answered Nate."Hey! You didn't tell me you had food around here, Nate!" Jack jumped up."What do we have? Am I in walking distance to town? Or can you magicallywhip up food along with your other powers?" Jack was almost shouting withexcitement. His stomach had been growling for hours."I was thinking more like I could flush something out of its hole and biteit for you, and you could skin it and eat it. Assuming you have a knife,that is," replied Nate, with the grin that Jack was starting to get used to."Ugh," said Jack, sitting back down. "I think I'll pass. I can last a littlelonger before I get desperate enough to eat desert rat, or whatever else itis you find out here. And there's nothing to burn - I'd have to eat it raw.No thanks. Just talk.""Ok," replied Nate, still grinning. "But I'd better hurry, before you startlooking at me as food.Nate reared back a little, looked around for a second, and then continued."You, Jack, are sitting in the middle of the Garden of Eden."Jack looked around at the sand and dunes and then looked back at Natesceptically."Well, that's the best I can figure it, anyway, Jack," said Nate. "Stand upand look at the symbol on the rock here." Nate gestured around the darkstone they were both sitting on with his nose.Jack stood up and looked. Carved into the stone in a bas-relief was arepresentation of a large tree. The angled-pole that Nate was wrapped aroundwas coming out of the trunk of the tree, right below where the main branchesleft the truck to reach out across the stone. It was very well done - itlooked more like a tree had been reduced to almost two dimensions andembedded in the stone than it did like a carving.Jack walked around and looked at the details in the fading light of thesetting sun. He wished he'd looked at it while the sun was higher in thesky.Wait! The sun was setting! That meant he was going to have to spend anothernight out here! Arrrgh!Jack looked out across the desert for a little bit, and then came back andstood next to Nate. "In all the excitement, I almost forgot, Nate," saidJack. "Which way is it back to town? And how far? I'm eventually going tohave to head back - I'm not sure I'll be able to survive by eating rawdesert critters for long. And even if I can, I'm not sure I'll want to.""It's about 30 miles that way." Nate pointed, with the rattle on his tailthis time. As far as Jack could tell, it was a direction at right angles tothe way he'd been going when he was crawling here. "But that's 30 miles bythe way the crow flies. It's about 40 by the way a man walks. You should beable to do it in about half a day with your improved endurance, if you headout early tomorrow, Jack."Jack looked out the way the snake had pointed for a few seconds more, andthen sat back down. It was getting dark. Not much he could do about headingout right now. And besides, Nate was just about to get to the interestingstuff. "Garden of Eden? As best as you can figure it?""Well, yeah, as best as I and Samuel could figure it anyway," said Nate. "Hefigured that the story just got a little mixed up. You know, snake, in a'tree', offering 'temptations', making bargains. That kind stuff. But hecould never quite figure out how the Hebrews found out about this spot fromacross the ocean. He worried about that for a while.""Garden of Eden, hunh?" said Jack. "How long have you been here, Nate?""No idea, really," replied Nate. "A long time. It never occurred to me tocount years, until recently, and by then, of course, it was too late. But Ido remember when this whole place was green, so I figure it's been thousandsof years, at least.""So, are you the snake that tempted Eve?" said Jack."Beats me," said Nate. "Maybe. I can't remember if the first one of yourkind that I talked to was female or not, and I never got a name, but itcould have been. And I suppose she could have considered my offer to grantrequests a 'temptation', though I've rarely had refusals.""Well, umm, how did you get here then? And why is that white pole stuck outof the stone there?" asked Jack."Dad left me here. Or, I assume it was my dad. It was another snake - muchbigger than I was back then. I remember talking to him, but I don't rememberif it was in a language, or just kind of understanding what he wanted. Butone day, he brought me to this stone, told me about it, and asked me to dosomething for him. I talked it over with him for a while, then agreed. I'vebeen here ever since."What is this place?" said Jack. "And what did he ask you to do?""Well, you see this pole here, sticking out of the stone?" Nate loosened hiscoils around the tilted white pole and showed Jack where it descended intothe stone. The pole was tilted at about a 45 degree angle and seemed toenter the stone in an eighteen inch slot cut into the stone. Jack leanedover and looked. The slot was dark and the pole went down into it as far asJack could see in the dim light. Jack reached out to touch the pole, butNate was suddenly there in the way."You can't touch that yet, Jack," said Nate."Why not?" asked Jack."I haven't explained it to you yet," replied Nate."Well, it kinda looks like a lever or something," said Jack. "You'd push itthat way, and it would move in the slot.""Yep, that's what it is," replied Nate."What does it do?" asked Jack. "End the world?""Oh, no," said Nate. "Nothing that drastic. It just ends humanity. I call it'The Lever of Doom'." For the last few words Nate had used a deeper, ringingvoice. He tried to look serious for a few seconds, and then gave up andgrinned.Jack was initially startled by Nate's pronouncement, but when Nate grinnedJack laughed. "Ha! You almost had me fooled for a second there. What does itreally do?""Oh, it really ends humanity, like I said," smirked Nate. "I just thoughtthe voice I used was funny, didn't you?"Nate continued to grin."A lever to end humanity?" asked Jack. "What in the world is that for? Whywould anyone need to end humanity?""Well," replied Nate, "I get the idea that maybe humanity was an experiment.Or maybe the Big Guy just thought, that if humanity started going reallybad, there should be a way to end it. I'm not really sure. All I know arethe rules, and the guesses that Samuel and I had about why it's here. Ididn't think to ask back when I started here.""Rules? What rules?" asked Jack."The rules are that I can't tell anybody about it or let them touch itunless they agree to be bound to secrecy by a bite. And that only one humancan be bound in that way at a time. That's it." explained Nate.Jack looked somewhat shocked. "You mean that I could pull the lever now?You'd let me end humanity?""Yep," replied Nate, "if you want to." Nate looked at Jack carefully. "Doyou want to, Jack?""Umm, no." said Jack, stepping a little further back from the lever. "Why inthe world would anyone want to end humanity? It'd take a psychotic to wantthat! Or worse, a suicidal psychotic, because it would kill him too,wouldn't it?""Yep," replied Nate, "being as he'd be human too.""Has anyone ever seriously considered it?" asked Nate. "Any of those boundto secrecy, that is?""Well, of course, I think they've all seriously considered it at one time oranother. Being given that kind of responsibility makes you sit down andthink, or so I'm told. Samuel considered it several times. He'd often getdisgusted with humanity, come out here, and just hold the lever for a while.But he never pulled it. Or you wouldn't be here." Nate grinned some more.Jack sat down, well back from the lever. He looked thoughtful and puzzled atthe same time. After a bit, he said, "So this makes me the Judge ofhumanity? I get to decide whether they keep going or just end? Me?""That seems to be it," agreed Nate."What kind of criteria do I use to decide?" said Jack. "How do I make thisdecision? Am I supposed to decide if they're good? Or too many of them arebad? Or that they're going the wrong way? Is there a set of rules for that?""Nope," replied Nate. "You pretty much just have to decide on your own. It'sup to you, however you want to decide it. I guess that you're just supposedto know.""But what if I get mad at someone? Or some girl dumps me and I feelhorrible? Couldn't I make a mistake? How do I know that I won't screw up?"protested Jack.Nate gave his kind of snake-like shrug again. "You don't. You just have totry your best, Jack."Jack sat there for a while, staring off into the desert that was rapidlygetting dark, chewing on a fingernail.Suddenly, Jack turned around and looked at the snake. "Nate, was Samuel theone bound to this before me?""Yep," replied Nate. "He was a good guy. Talked to me a lot. Taught me toread and brought me books. I think I still have a good pile of them buriedin the sand around here somewhere. I still miss him. He died a few monthsago.""Sounds like a good guy," agreed Jack. "How did he handle this, when youfirst told him. What did he do?""Well," said Nate, "he sat down for a while, thought about it for a bit, andthen asked me some questions, much like you're doing.""What did he ask you, if you're allowed to tell me?" asked Jack."He asked me about the third request," replied Nate."Aha!" It was Jack's turn to grin. "And what did you tell him?""I told him the rules for the third request. That to get the third requestyou have to agree to this whole thing. That if it ever comes to the pointthat you really think that humanity should be ended, that you'll come hereand end it. You won't avoid it, and you won't wimp out." Nate looked seriousagain. "And you'll be bound to do it too, Jack.""Hmmm." Jack looked back out into the darkness for a while.Nate watched him, waiting."Nate," continued Jack, quietly, eventually. "What did Samuel ask for withhis third request?"Nate sounded like he was grinning again as he replied, also quietly,"Wisdom, Jack. He asked for wisdom. As much as I could give him.""Ok," said Jack, suddenly, standing up and facing away from Nate, "give itto me.Nate looked at Jack's backside. "Give you what, Jack?""Give me that wisdom. The same stuff that Samuel asked for. If it helpedhim, maybe it'll help me too." Jack turned his head to look back over hisshoulder at Nate. "It did help him, right?""He said it did," replied Nate. "But he seemed a little quieter afterward.Like he had a lot to think about.""Well, yeah, I can see that," said Jack. "So, give it to me." Jack turned toface away from Nate again, bent over slightly and tensed up.Nate watched Jack tense up with a little exasperation. If he bit Jack now,Jack would likely jump out of his skin and maybe hurt them both."You remember that you'll be bound to destroy humanity if it ever looks likeit needs it, right Jack?" asked Nate, shifting position."Yeah, yeah, I got that," replied Jack, eyes squeezed tightly shut and bodytense, not noticing the change in direction of Nate's voice."And," continued Nate, from his new position, "do you remember that you'llturn bright purple, and grow big horns and extra eyes?""Yeah, yeah...Hey, wait a minute!" said Jack, opening his eyes,straightening up and turning around. "Purple?!" He didn't see Nate there.With the moonlight Jack could see that the lever extended up from its slotin the rock without the snake wrapped around it.Jack heard, from behind him, Nate's "Just Kidding!" right before he felt thenow familiar piercing pain, this time in the other buttock.Jack sat on the edge of the dark stone in the rapidly cooling air, his feetextending out into the sand. He stared out into the darkness, listening tothe wind stir the sand, occasionally rubbing his butt where he'd beenrecently bitten.Nate had left for a little while, had come back with a desert-rodent-shapedbulge somewhere in his middle, and was now wrapped back around the lever,his tongue flicking out into the desert night's air the only sign that hewas still awake.Occasionally Jack, with his toes absentmindedly digging in the sand while hethought, would ask Nate a question without turning around."Nate, do accidents count?"Nate lifted his head a little bit. "What do you mean, Jack?"Jack tilted his head back like he was looking at the stars. "You know,accidents. If I accidentally fall on the lever, without meaning to, doesthat still wipe out humanity?""Yeah, I'm pretty sure it does, Jack. I'd suggest you be careful about thatif you start feeling wobbly," said Nate with some amusement.A little later - "Does it have to be me that pulls the lever?" asked Jack."That's the rule, Jack. Nobody else can pull it," answered Nate."No," Jack shook his head, "I meant does it have to be my hand? Could I pullthe lever with a rope tied around it? Or push it with a stick? Or throw arock?""Yes, those should work," replied Nate. "Though I'm not sure how complicatedyou could get. Samuel thought about trying to build some kind of remotecontrol for it once, but gave it up. Everything he'd build would be gone bythe next sunrise, if it was touching the stone, or over it. I told him thatin the past others that had been bound had tried to bury the lever so theywouldn't be tempted to pull it, but every time the stones or sand orwhatever had disappeared.""Wow," said Jack, "Cool." Jack leaned back until only his elbows kept himoff of the stone and looked up into the sky."Nate, how long did Samuel live? One of his wishes was for health too,right?" asked Jack."Yes," replied Nate, "it was. He lived 167 years, Jack.""Wow, 167 years. That's almost 140 more years I'll live if I live as long.Do you know what he died of, Nate?""He died of getting tired of living, Jack," Nate said, sounding somewhatsad.Jack turned his head to look at Nate in the starlight.Nate looked back. "Samuel knew he wasn't going to be able to stay insociety. He figured that they'd eventually see him still alive and startquestioning it, so he decided that he'd have to disappear after a while. Hefaked his death once, but changed his mind - he decided it was too early andhe could stay for a little longer. He wasn't very fond of mankind, but heliked the attention. Most of the time, anyway."His daughter and then his wife dying almost did him in though. He didn'tstay in society much longer after that. He eventually came out here to spendtime talking to me and thinking about pulling the lever. A few months ago hetold me he'd had enough. It was his time.""And then he just died?" asked Jack.Nate shook his head a little. "He made his forth request, Jack. There's onlyone thing you can ask for the fourth request. The last bite.After a bit Nate continued, "He told me that he was tired, that it was histime. He reassured me that someone new would show up soon, like they alwayshad.After another pause, Nate finished, "Samuel's body disappeared off the stonewith the sunrise."Jack lay back down and looked at the sky, leaving Nate alone with hismemories. It was a long time until Jack's breathing evened out into sleep.Jack woke with the sunrise the next morning. He was a little chilled withthe morning desert air, but overall was feeling pretty good. Well, exceptthat his stomach was grumbling and he wasn't willing to eat raw desert rat.So, after getting directions to town from Nate, making sure he knew how toget back, and reassuring Nate that he'd be back soon, Jack started the longwalk back to town. With his new health and Nate's good directions, he madeit back easily.Jack caught a bus back to the city, and showed up for work the next day,little worse for the wear and with a story about getting lost in the desert
and walking back out. Within a couple of days Jack had talked a friend witha tow truck into going back out into the desert with him to fetch the SUV.They found it after a couple of hours of searching and towed it back withoutincident. Jack was careful not to even look in the direction of Nate'slever, though their path back didn't come within sight of it.Before the next weekend, Jack had gone to a couple of stores, including abook store, and had gotten his SUV back from the mechanic, with a warning toavoid any more joyriding in the desert. On Saturday, Jack headed back to seeNate.Jack parked a little way out of the small town near Nate, loaded up his newbackpack with camping gear and the things he was bringing for Nate, and thenstarted walking. He figured that walking would leave the least trail, and heknew that while not many people camped in the desert, it wasn't unheard of,and shouldn't really raise suspicions.Jack had brought more books for Nate - recent books, magazines, newspapers.Some things that would catch Nate up with what was happening in the world,others that were just good books to read. He spent the weekend with Nate,and then headed out again, telling Nate that he'd be back again soon, butthat he had things to do first.Over four months later Jack was back to see Nate again. This time he broughta laptop with him - a specially modified laptop. It had a solar recharger,special filters and seals to keep out the sand, a satellite link-up, and aspecial keyboard and joystick that Jack hoped that a fifteen-footrattlesnake would be able to use. And, it had been hacked to not give outits location to the satellite.After that Jack could e-mail Nate to keep in touch, but still visited himfairly regularly - at least once or twice a year.After the first year, Jack quit his job. For some reason, with the wisdom he'd been given, and the knowledge that he could live for over 150 years,working in a nine to five job for someone else didn't seem that worthwhileany more. Jack went back to school.Eventually, Jack started writing. Perhaps because of the wisdom, or perhapsbecause of his new perspective, he wrote well. People liked what he wrote,and he became well known for it. After a time, Jack bought an RV and startedtraveling around the country for book signings and readings.But, he still remembered to drop by and visit Nate occasionally.On one of the visits Nate seemed quieter than usual. Not that Nate had beena fountain of joy lately. Jack's best guess was that Nate was still missingSamuel, and though Jack had tried, he still hadn't been able to replaceSamuel in Nate's eyes. Nate had been getting quieter each visit. But on thisvisit Nate didn't even speak when Jack walked up to the lever. He nodded atJack, and then went back to staring into the desert. Jack, respecting Nate'ssilence, sat down and waited.After a few minutes, Nate spoke. "Jack, I have someone to introduce you to."Jack looked surprised. "Someone to introduce me to?" Jack looked around, and then looked carefully back at Nate. "This something to do with the Big Guy?"No, no," replied Nate. "This is more personal. I want you to meet my son."Nate looked over at the nearest sand dune. "Sammy!"Jack watched as a four foot long desert rattlesnake crawled from behind thedune and up to the stone base of the lever."Yo, Jack," said the new, much smaller snake."Yo, Sammy" replied Jack. Jack looked at Nate. "Named after Samuel, Iassume?"Nate nodded. "Jack, I've got a favor to ask you. Could you show Sammy aroundfor me?" Nate unwrapped himself from the lever and slithered over to theedge of the stone and looked across the sands. "When Samuel first told meabout the world, and brought me books and pictures, I wished that I could go see it. I wanted to see the great forests, the canyons, the cities, even theother deserts, to see if they felt and smelled the same. I want my son tohave that chance - to see the world. Before he becomes bound here like I have been."He's seen it in pictures, over the computer that you brought me. But I hear that it's not the same. That being there is different. I want him to havethat. Think you can do that for me, Jack?"Jack nodded. This was obviously very important to Nate, so Jack didn't evenjoke about taking a talking rattlesnake out to see the world. "Yeah, I cando that for you, Nate. Is that all you need?" Jack could sense that wassomething more.Nate looked at Sammy. Sammy looked back at Nate for a second and then said,"Oh, yeah. Ummm, I've gotta go pack. Back in a little bit Jack. Nice to meetya!" Sammy slithered back over the dune and out of sight.Nate watched Sammy disappear and then looked back at Jack. "Jack, this is myfirst son. My first offspring through all the years. You don't even want toknow what it took for me to find a mate." Nate grinned to himself. "Butanyway, I had a son for a reason. I'm tired. I'm ready for it to be over. Ineeded a replacement."Jack considered this for a minute. "So, you're ready to come see the world,and you wanted him to watch the lever while you were gone?"Nate shook his head. "No, Jack - you're a better guesser than that. You'vealready figured out - I'm bound here - there's only one way for me to leavehere. And I'm ready. It's my time to die."Jack looked more closely at Nate. He could tell Nate had thought aboutthis - probably for quite a while. Jack had trouble imagining what it wouldbe like to be as old as Nate, but Jack could already tell that in anotherhundred or two hundred years, he might be getting tired of life himself.Jack could understand Samuel's decision, and now Nate's. So, all Jack saidwas, "What do you want me to do?"Nate nodded. "Thanks, Jack. I only want two things. One - show Sammy aroundthe world - let him get his fill of it, until he's ready to come back hereand take over. Two - give me the fourth request."I can't just decide to die, not any more than you can. I won't even die ofold age like you eventually will, even though it'll be a long time from now.I need to be killed. Once Sammy is back here, ready to take over, I'll beable to die. And I need you to kill me."I've even thought about how. Poisons and other drugs won't work on me. AndI've seen pictures of snakes that were shot - some of them live for days, sothat's out too. So, I want you to bring back a sword.Nate turned away to look back to the dune that Sammy had gone behind. "I'dsay an axe, but that's somewhat undignified - putting my head on the groundor a chopping block like that. No, I like a sword. A time-honored way ofgoing out. A dignified way to die. And, most importantly, it should work,even on me."You willing to do that for me, Jack?" Nate turned back to look at Jack."Yeah, Nate," replied Jack solemnly, "I think I can handle that."Nate nodded. "Good!" He turned back toward the dune and shouted, "Sammy!Jack's about ready to leave!" Then quietly, "Thanks, Jack."Jack didn't have anything to say to that, so he waited for Sammy to make itback to the lever, nodded to him, nodded a final time to Nate, and thenheaded into the desert with Sammy following.Over the next several years Sammy and Jack kept in touch with Nate throughe-mail as they went about their adventures. They made a goal of visitingevery country in the world, and did a respectable job of it. Sammy had anatural gift for languages, as Jack expected he would, and even ended upacting as a translator for Jack in a few of the countries. Jack managed tokeep the talking rattlesnake hidden, even so, and by the time they werenearing the end of their tour of countries, Sammy had only been spotted afew times. While there were several people that had seen enough to startlethem greatly, nobody had enough evidence to prove anything, and while a fewwild rumors and storied followed Jack and Sammy around, nothing ever hit thenewspapers or the public in general.When they finished the tour of countries, Jack suggested that they try someundersea diving. They did. And spelunking. They did that too. Sammy finallydrew the line at visiting Antarctica. He'd come to realize that Jack wasstalling. After talking to his Dad about it over e-mail, he figured out thatJack probably didn't want to have to kill Nate. Nate told Sammy that humanscould be squeamish about killing friends and acquaintances.So, Sammy eventually put his tail down (as he didn't have a foot) and toldJack that it was time - he was ready to go back and take up his duties fromhis dad. Jack, delayed it a little more by insisting that they go back toJapan and buy an appropriate sword. He even stretched it a little more bygetting lessons in how to use the sword. But, eventually, he'd learned asmuch as he was likely to without dedicating his life to it, and wasdefinitely competent enough to take the head off of a snake. It was time tohead back and see Nate.When they got back to the US, Jack got the old RV out of storage where heand Sammy had left it after their tour of the fifty states, he loaded upSammy and the sword, and they headed for the desert.When they got to the small town that Jack had been trying to find thoseyears ago when he'd met Nate, Jack was in a funk. He didn't really feel likewalking all of the way out there. Not only that, but he'd forgotten tofigure the travel time correctly, and it was late afternoon. They'd eitherhave to spend the night in town and walk out tomorrow, or walk in the dark.As Jack was afraid that if he waited one more night he might lose hisresolve, he decided that he'd go ahead and drive the RV out there. It wasonly going to be this once, and Jack would go back and cover the tracksafterward. They ought to be able to make it out there by nightfall if theydrove, and then they could get it over tonight.Jack told Sammy to e-mail Nate that they were coming as he drove out ofsight of the town on the road. They then pulled off the road and headed outinto the desert.Everything went well, until they got to the sand dunes. Jack had beennursing the RV along the whole time, over the rocks, through the creek beds,revving the engine the few times they almost got stuck. When they came tothe dunes, Jack didn't really think about it, he just downshifted and headedup the first one. By the third dune, Jack started to regret that he'ddecided to try driving on the sand. The RV was fishtailling and losingtraction. Jack was having to work it up each dune slowly and was trying tokeep from losing control each time they came over the top and slid down theother side. Sammy had come up to sit in the passenger seat, coiled up andlaughing at Jack's driving.As they came over the top of the fourth dune, the biggest one yet, Jack sawthat this was the final dune - the stone, the lever, and somewhere Nate,waited below. Jack put on the brakes, but he'd gone a little too far. The RVstarted slipping down the other side.Jack tried turning the wheel, but he didn't have enough traction. He pumpedthe brakes - no response. They started sliding down the hill, faster andfaster.Jack felt a shock go through him as he suddenly realized that they wereheading for the lever. He looked down - the RV was directly on course forit. If Jack didn't do something, the RV would hit it. He was about to endhumanity.Jack steered more frantically, trying to get traction. It still wasn'tworking. The dune was too steep, and the sand too loose. In a split second,Jack realized that his only chance would be once he hit the stone around thelever - he should have traction on the stone for just a second before he hitthe lever - he wouldn't have time to stop, but he should be able to steeraway.Jack took a better grip on the steering wheel and tried to turn the RV alittle bit - every little bit would help. He'd have to time his turn justright.The RV got to the bottom of the dune, sliding at an amazing speed in thesand. Just before they reached the stone Jack looked across it to check thatthey were still heading for the lever. They were. But Jack noticed somethingelse that he hadn't seen from the top of the dune. Nate wasn't wrappedaround the lever. He was off to the side of the lever, but still on thestone, waiting for them. The problem was, he was waiting on the same side ofthe lever that Jack had picked to steer towards to avoid the lever. The RVwas already starting to drift that way a little in its mad rush across thesand and there was no way that Jack was going to be able to go around thelever to the other side.Jack had an instant of realization. He was either going to have to hit thelever, or run over Nate. He glanced over at Sammy and saw that Sammyrealized the same thing.Jack took a firmer grip on the steering wheel as the RV ran up on the stone.Shouting to Sammy as he pulled the steering wheel, "BETTER NATE THAN LEVER," he ran over the snake.
This joke was also a personality profile test... It was the subject of a recent Educational Psychology Master's Thesis, soon to be published, which investigated the way that someone responds to a webpage such as this correlates to certain personality tendencies. The research confirmed a statistically significant correlation which strongly suggests a dependably predictive positive relationship between how a person responds to this page and certain aspects of his or her psychological profile. Thus, it is called the Personality Profile Assessment Test Hypothesis.While the actual results looked at several complex factors, and depended heavily on questionnaires filled out by volunteers upon completion of their experience, I will simplify the results by discussing three main groups and their profiles. While these profiles may not be exactly fitting of each person within each group, they do strongly suggest a statistically significant likelihood of profile similarity.11% of those who see this page take their time, enjoying the joke as they read it, enjoying the build up to the punch line, and even if the punch line itself wasn’t particularly humorous, they tended to enjoy the process.56% begin scroll down to the punch line either before starting to read the joke or within a short period of time- usually 20 seconds or less. The vast majority of this group choose not to read the joke.33% read at least 1/3 of the joke, with the intention of reading it all, but then begin to question their decision and the investment of time they are making. They go back and forth between deciding to continuing or to skip to the end (this vacillating may be unconscious at the time, and happen in a matter of moments). The vast majority in this group give up before finishing ½ of the joke, and scroll to the end.People in the first group, who read the entire joke, tend to enjoy the journey of life, and take their time as they move towards a goal. When traveling, they tend to thoroughly enjoy the process, and are not uptight or stressed about single-mindedly getting to their destination. They also tend to be very attentive, patient and long lasting lovers, and enjoy intimacy and physical connectivity whether or not it is carried to completion.Those in the second group, who scroll to the end before reading more than a few sentences of the joke, tend to avoid surprises and the unknown. They prefer to have a regular schedule and not to step out of their routine. They tend to be efficient, but are often lacking in enjoyment, spontaneity and passion. They tend to be less patient and more interested in the destination than the journey. When on a trip, they tend to focus on getting where they are going, rather than enjoying the process. During intimacy, they tend to not be able to enjoy it unless they are certain it will be taken to completion. The idea of just “playing around” a while, engaging in physical intimacy without the promise of full completion is, rather than simply enjoyable and connective, considered to be “cruel” and a “teasing” and is met with resentment. This group’s ability to enjoy depends largely on their need to know what is going to happen. They tend to be more self-focused lovers, and tend not to last very long in satisfying the other partner if their own satisfaction has happened or is within easy reach. The third group, who decided not to read the entire joke after reading a third or more of it, tend to be commitment-phobic and lack the ability to move forward to completion when things become challenging. They are often procrastinators and frequently give up on tasks when they become more difficult. They tend to prefer to have big dreams than act on them in the real, challenging world. A significantly higher percentage of this group had Cesarean birth, and may not have had the benefit of that early experience of struggle and effort being rewarded with accomplishment. This group tends to not take big vacations which would take more effort to plan and implement, and tends to stay close to home or even stay home during time off. Promotions and career moves which are within reach but still require some effort and focus are frequently not fully tried for, although the perception will be they were passed up. In intimate relationships, this group tends to start out romantic and passionate, but it quickly fades and is replaced by lackadaisicalness and indifference, characterized in part by a sense of feeling it is not worth the effort to continue having a passionate, energized and complete experience during intimacy. There is a tendency to “peter out” both in intimacy and in other aspects of life, and to take the easier road, even if it leads to a less fulfilling life.
And that folks, is the longest joke in the world.
Posted June 21, 2013
cant wait til i can afford a bentley. first thing i'll do is go post information about a bucs fan on the saints board
Broccoli is a edible green plant in the cabbage family, whose large flower head is used as a vegetable. The word broccoli, from the Italian plural of broccolo, refers to "the flowering top of a cabbage". Broccoli is usually boiled or steamed but may be eaten raw and has become popular as a raw vegetable in hors d'œuvre trays. The leaves may also be eaten.
Broccoli is classified in the Italica cultivar group of the species Brassica oleracea. Broccoli has large flower heads, usually green in color, arranged in a tree-like structure on branches sprouting from a thick, edible stalk. The mass of flower heads is surrounded by leaves. Broccoli most closely resembles cauliflower, which is a different cultivar group of the same species.
Broccoli is a man-made plant  , derived from careful breeding of cultivated leafy cole crops in the Northern Mediterranean in about the 6th century BCE. Since the Roman Empire, broccoli has been considered a uniquely valuable food among Italians. Broccoli was brought to England from Antwerp in the mid-18th century by Peter Scheemakers. Broccoli was first introduced to the United States by Italian immigrants but did not become widely known there until the 1920s.
Broccoli is high in vitamin C and dietary fiber; it also contains multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties, such as diindolylmethane and small amounts of selenium. A single serving provides more than 30 mg of vitamin C and a half-cup provides 52 mg of vitamin C. The 3,3'-Diindolylmethane found in broccoli is a potent modulator of the innate immune response system with anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer activity. Broccoli also contains the compound glucoraphanin, which can be processed into an anti-cancer compound sulforaphane, though the benefits of broccoli are greatly reduced if the vegetable is boiled. Broccoli is also an excellent source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.
Boiling broccoli reduces the levels of suspected anti-carcinogenic compounds, such as sulforaphane, with losses of 20–30% after five minutes, 40–50% after ten minutes, and 77% after thirty minutes. However, other preparation methods such as steaming,microwaving, and stir frying had no significant effect on the compounds.
Broccoli has the highest levels of carotenoids in the brassica family. It is particularly rich in lutein and also provides a modest amount of beta-carotene.
A high intake of broccoli has been found to reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Broccoli consumption may also help prevent heart disease.
Broccoli sprouts are often suggested for their health benefits.
There are three commonly grown types of broccoli. The most familiar is Calabrese broccoli, often referred to simply as "broccoli", named after Calabria in Italy. It has large (10 to 20 cm) green heads and thick stalks. It is a cool season annual crop. Sprouting broccoli has a larger number of heads with many thin stalks. Purple cauliflower is a type of broccoli sold in southern Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. It has a head shaped like cauliflower, but consisting of tiny flower buds. It sometimes, but not always, has a purple cast to the tips of the flower buds.
Other cultivar groups of Brassica oleracea include cabbage (Capitata Group), cauliflower and Romanesco broccoli (Botrytis Group), kale and collard greens (Acephala Group), kohlrabi (Gongylodes Group), and Brussels sprouts (Gemmifera Group). Chinese broccoli (Alboglabra Group) is also a cultivar group of Brassica oleracea.Rapini, sometimes called "broccoli rabe" among other names, forms similar but smaller heads, and is actually a type of turnip (Brassica rapa). Broccolini or "Tender Stem Broccoli" is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli.
Broccoli is a cool-weather crop that does poorly in hot summer weather. Broccoli grows best when exposed to an average daily temperature between 18 and 23 °C (64 and 73 °F). When the cluster of flowers, also referred to as a "head" of broccoli, appear in the center of the plant, the cluster is green. Garden pruners or shears are used to cut the head about an inch from the tip. Broccoli should be harvested before the flowers on the head bloom bright yellow.
While the heading broccoli variety performs poorly in hot weather, mainly due to insects infestation, the sprouting variety is more resistant, though attention must be paid to sucking insects (such as aphids), caterpillars and whiteflies. Spraying of bacillus thuringiensis can control caterpillar attacks, while a citronella vase may ward off whiteflies.
Cauliflower is one of several vegetables in the species Brassica oleracea, in the family Brassicaceae. It is an annual plant that reproduces by seed. Typically, only the head (the white curd) is eaten. The cauliflower head is composed of a white inflorescence meristem. Cauliflower heads resemble those in broccoli, which differs in having flower buds.
Its name is from Latin caulis (cabbage) and flower,.Brassica oleracea also includes cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, and collard greens, though they are of different cultivar groups.
For such a highly modified plant, cauliflower has a long history. François Pierre La Varenne employed chouxfleurs in Le cuisinier françois. They were introduced to France from Genoa in the 16th century, and are featured in Olivier de Serres' Théâtre de l'agriculture (1600), as cauli-fiori "as the Italians call it, which are still rather rare in France; they hold an honorable place in the garden because of their delicacy", but they did not commonly appear on grand tables until the time of Louis XIV.
There are four major groups of cauliflower.
There are hundreds of historic and current commercial varieties used around the world. A comprehensive list of about 80 North American varieties is maintained at North Carolina State University.
Cauliflower is low in fat, low in carbohydrates but high in dietary fiber, folate, water, and vitamin C, possessing a high nutritional density.
Cauliflower contains several phytochemicals, common in the cabbage family, that may be beneficial to human health.
Boiling reduces the levels of these compounds, with losses of 20–30% after five minutes, 40–50% after ten minutes, and 75% after thirty minutes. However, other preparation methods, such as steaming, microwaving, and stir frying, have no significant effect on the compounds.
A high intake of cauliflower has been associated with reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
Cauliflower can be roasted, boiled, fried, steamed, or eaten raw. Steaming or microwaving better preserves anticancer compounds than boiling. When cooking, the outer leaves and thick stalks are removed, leaving only the florets. The leaves are also edible, but are most often discarded. The florets should be broken into similar-sized pieces so they are cooked evenly. After eight minutes of steaming, or five minutes of boiling, the florets should be soft, but not mushy (depending on size). Stirring while cooking can break the florets into smaller, uneven pieces.
Low carbohydrate dieters can use cauliflower as a reasonable substitute for potatoes; while they can produce a similar texture, or mouth feel, they lack the starch of potatoes.
Cauliflower has been noticed by mathematicians for its distinct fractal dimension, predicted to be about 2.8.
The carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus; etymology: from Late Latin carōta, from Greek καρότον karōton, originally from the Indo-European root ker- (horn), due to its horn-like shape) is a root vegetable, usually orange in colour, though purple, red, white, and yellow varieties exist. It has a crisp texture when fresh. The most commonly eaten part of a carrot is a taproot, although the greens are sometimes eaten as well. It is a domesticated form of the wild carrot Daucus carota, native to Europe and southwestern Asia. The domestic carrot has been selectively bred for its greatly enlarged and more palatable, less woody-textured edible taproot. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that world production of carrots and turnips (these plants are combined by the FAO for reporting purposes) for calendar year 2011 was almost 35.658 million tonnes. Almost half were grown in China.
Soon after germination, carrot seedlings show a distinct demarcation between the taproot and the hypocotyl. The latter is thicker and lacks lateral roots. At the upper end of the hypocotyl is the seed leaf. The first true leaf appears about 10–15 days after germination. Subsequent leaves, produced from the stem nodes, are alternating (with a single leaf attached to a node, and the leaves growing in alternate directions) and compound, and arranged in a spiral. The leaf blades are pinnate. As the plant grows, the bases of the cotyledon are pushed apart. The stem, located just above the ground, is compressed and the internodes are not distinct. When the seed stalk elongates, the tip of the stem narrows and becomes pointed, extends upward, and becomes a highly branched inflorescence. The stems grow to 60–200 cm (20–80 in) tall.
Most of the taproot consists of parenchymatous outer cortex (phloem) and an inner core (xylem). High-quality carrots have a large proportion of cortex compared to core. Although a completely xylem-free carrot is not possible, some cultivars have small and deeply pigmented cores; the taproot can appear to lack a core when the colour of the cortex and core are similar in intensity. Taproots typically have a conical shape, although cylindrical and round cultivars are available. The root diameter can range from 1 cm (0.4 in) to as much as 10 cm (4 in) at the widest part. The root length ranges from 5 cm (2.0 in) to 50 cm (20 in), although most are between 10 and 25 cm (4 and 10 in).
Flower development begins when the flat apical meristem changes from producing leaves to an uplifted conical meristem capable of producing stem elongation and an inflorescence. The inflorescence is a compound umbel, and each umbel contains several umbellets. The first (primary) umbel occurs at the end of the main floral stem; smaller secondary umbels grow from the main branch, and these further branch into third, fourth, and even later-flowering umbels. A large primary umbel can contain up to 50 umbellets, each of which may have as many as 50 flowers; subsequent umbels have fewer flowers. Flowers are small and white, sometimes with a light green or yellow tint. They consist of five petals, five stamens, and an entire calyx. The anthers usually dehisce and the stamens fall off before the stigma becomes receptive to receive pollen. The anthers of the brown male sterile flowers degenerate and shrivel before anthesis. In the other type of male sterile flower, the stamens are replaced by petals, and these petals do not fall off. A nectar-containing disc is present on the upper surface of the carpels.
Flower development is protandrous, so the anthers release their pollen before the stigma of the same flower is receptive. The arrangement is centripetal, meaning the oldest flowers are near the edge and the youngest flowers are in the center. Flowers usually first open at the periphery of the primary umbel, followed about a week later on the secondary umbels, and then in subsequent weeks in higher-order umbels. The usual flowering period of individual umbels is 7 to 10 days, so a plant can be in the process of flowering for 30–50 days. The distinctive umbels and floral nectaries attract pollinating insects. After fertilization and as seeds develop, the outer umbellets of an umbel bend inward causing the umbel shape to change from slightly convex or fairly flat to concave, and when cupped it resembles a bird's nest.
The fruit that develops is a schizocarp consisting of two mericarps; each mericarp is an achene or true seed. The paired mericarps are easily separated when they are dry. Premature separation (shattering) before harvest is undesirable because it can result in seed loss. Mature seeds are flattened on the commissural side that faced the septum of the ovary. The flattened side has five longitudinal ribs. The bristly hairs that protrude from some ribs are usually removed by abrasion during milling and cleaning. Seeds also contain oil ducts and canals. Seeds vary somewhat in size, ranging from less than 500 to more than 1000 seeds per gram.
The carrot is a diploid species, and has nine relatively short, uniform-length chromosomes (2n=9). The genome size is estimated to be 473 mega base pairs, which is four times larger than Arabidopsis thaliana, one-fifth the size of the maize genome, and about the same size as the rice genome.
The wild ancestors of the carrot are likely to have come from Iran and Afghanistan, which remain the centre of diversity of Daucus carota, the wild carrot. Selective breeding over the centuries of a naturally occurring subspecies of the wild carrot, Daucus carota subsp. sativus, to reduce bitterness, increase sweetness and minimise the woody core, has produced the familiar garden vegetable.
In early use, carrots were grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds, not their roots. Carrot seeds have been found in Switzerland and Southern Germany dating to 2000–3000 BC. Some relatives of the carrot are still grown for their leaves and seeds, such as parsley, fennel, dill and cumin. The first mention of the root in classical sources is in the 1st century. The modern carrot originated in Afghanistan about 1100 years ago. It appears to have been introduced to Europe via Spain by the Moors in the 8th century. The 12th-century Arab Andalusian agriculturist, Ibn al-'Awwam, describes both red and yellow carrots;Simeon Seth also mentions both colours in the 11th century. Cultivated carrots appeared in China in the 14th century, and in Japan in the 18th century. Orange-coloured carrots appeared in the Netherlands in the 17th century. These, the modern carrots, were intended by the antiquary John Aubrey (1626–1697) when he noted in his memoranda "Carrots were first sown at Beckington in Somersetshire Some very old Man there [in 1668] did remember their first bringing hither." European settlers introduced the carrot to the United States in the 17th century.
Polyacetylenes can be found in Apiaceae vegetables like carrots where they show cytotoxic activities.Falcarinol and falcarindiol (cis-heptadeca-1,9-diene-4,6-diyne-3,8-diol) are such compounds. This latter compound shows antifungal activity towards Mycocentrospora acerina and Cladosporium cladosporioides. Falcarindiol is the main compound responsible for bitterness in carrots.
Other compounds such as pyrrolidine (present in the leaves),6-hydroxymellein,6-methoxymellein, eugenin, 2,4,5-trimethoxybenzaldehyde (gazarin) or (Z)-3-acetoxy-heptadeca-1,9-diene-4,6-diin-8-ol (falcarindiol 3-acetate) can also be found in carrot.
Most carrot cultivars are about 88% water, 7% sugar, 1% protein, 1% fibre, 1% ash, and 0.2% fat. The fibre comprises mostly cellulose, with smaller proportions of hemicellulose and lignin. Carrots contain almost no starch.Free sugars in carrot include sucrose, glucose, xylose and fructose. Nitrite and nitrate contents are about 40 and 0.41 milligrams per 100 grams (fresh), respectively. Most of the taste of the vegetable is due to glutamic acid and other free amino acids. Other acids present in trace amounts include succinic acid, α-ketoglutaric acid, lactic acid and glycolic acid; the major phenolic acid is caffeic acid.
The carrot gets its characteristic and bright orange colour from β-carotene, and lesser amounts of α-carotene and γ-carotene. α and β-carotenes are partly metabolised into vitamin A in humans. β-carotene is the predominant carotenoid, although there are lesser amounts of α-carotene and γ-carotene. There are typically between 6000 and 54,000 micrograms of carotenoids per 100 grams of carrot root. Carrot extracts are used by poultry producers to improve animal skin and alter the colour of egg yolk. Massive overconsumption of carrots can cause carotenosis, a benign condition in which the skin turns orange. Carrots are also rich in antioxidants and minerals.Ethnomedically, the roots are used to as an emmenagogue (to increase blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus), a carminative (to reduce flatulence), to treat digestive problems, intestinal parasites, and tonsillitis or constipation.
Lack of vitamin A can cause poor vision, including night vision, and these can be restored by adding vitamin A to the diet. An urban legend states that eating large quantities of carrots will allow one to see in the dark. This myth developed from stories about British gunners in World War II, who were able to shoot down German planes at night. The rumour arose during the Battle of Britain when the RAF circulated a story about their pilots' carrot consumption in an attempt to cover up the discovery and effective use of radar technologies in engaging enemy planes, as well as the use of red light (which does not destroy night vision) in aircraft instruments. It reinforced existing German beliefs, and helped to encourage Britons who were trying to improve their night vision during the blackout to grow and eat the vegetable, which was not rationed like most other foodstuffs. A "Dr. Carrot" advertising campaign encouraged its consumption.
Carrots can be eaten in a variety of ways. Only 3% of the β-carotene in raw carrots is released during digestion: this can be improved to 39% by pulping, cooking and adding cooking oil. Alternatively they may be chopped and boiled, fried or steamed, and cooked in soups and stews, as well as baby and pet foods. A well-known dish is carrots julienne. Together with onion and celery, carrots are one of the primary vegetables used in a mirepoix to make various broths.
The greens are edible as a leaf vegetable, but are only occasionally eaten by humans; some sources suggest that the greens contain toxic alkaloids. When used for this purpose, they are harvested young in high-density plantings, before significant root development, and typically used stir-fried, or in salads. Some people are allergic to carrots. In a 2010 study on the prevalence of food allergies in Europe, 3.6 percent of young adults showed some degree of sensitivity to carrots. Because the major carrot allergen, the protein Dauc c 1.0104, is cross-reactive with homologues in birch pollen (Bet v 1) and mugwort pollen (Art v 1), most carrot allergy sufferers are also allergic to pollen from these plants.
In India carrots are used in a variety of ways, as salads or as vegetables added to spicy rice or daal dishes. A popular variation in north India is the Gajar Ka Halwa carrot dessert, which has carrots grated and cooked in milk until the whole mixture is solid, after which nuts and butter are added. Carrot salads are usually made with grated carrots in western parts with a seasoning of mustard seeds and green chillies popped in hot oil, while adding carrots to rice usually is in julienne shape.
The variety of carrot found in north India is rare everywhere except in Central Asia and other contiguous regions, and is now growing in popularity in larger cosmopolitan cities in South India. The north Indian carrot is pink-red comparable to plum or raspberry or deep red apple in colour (without a touch of yellow or blue) while most other carrot varieties in the world vary from orange to yellow in colour, comparable to hallowe'en pumpkins.
Since the late 1980s, baby carrots or mini-carrots (carrots that have been peeled and cut into uniform cylinders) have been a popular ready-to-eat snack food available in many supermarkets. Carrots are puréed and used as baby food, dehydrated to make chips, flakes, and powder, and thinly sliced and deep-fried, like potato chips.
The sweetness of carrots allows the vegetable to be used in some fruit-like roles. Grated carrots are used in carrot cakes, as well as carrot puddings, an old English dish thought to have originated in the early 19th century. Carrots can also be used alone or with fruits in jam and preserves. Carrot juice is also widely marketed, especially as a health drink, either stand-alone or blended with fruits and other vegetables.
Carrots are useful companion plants for gardeners. There is experimental evidence that growing it intercropped with tomatoes increases tomato production. If left to flower, it (like any umbellifer) attracts predatory wasps that kill many garden pests.
Carrots grow best in full sun but tolerate some shade. The optimum growth temperature is between 16 and 21 °C (61 and 70 °F). In order to avoid growing deformed carrots it is better to plant them in loose soil free from rocks. They thrive in raised garden beds. High nitrogen levels should be avoided, as this will cause the vegetables to become hairy and misshapen. The seeds, which are 1–3 mm in diameter, should be sown about 2 cm deep. Carrots take around four months to mature and it is suggested that carrot seeds are sown from mid-February to July.
There are several diseases that can reduce the yield and market market of carrots. The most devastating carrot disease is Alternaria leaf blight, which has been known to eradicate entire crops. A bacterial leaf blight caused by Xanthomonas campestris can also be destructive in warm, humid areas. Root knot nematodes (Meloidogyne species) can cause stubby or forked roots, or galls. Cavity spot, caused by the oomycetes Pythium violae and Pythium sulcatum, results in irregularly shaped, depressed lesions on the taproots.
Physical damage can also reduce the value of carrot crops. The two main forms of damage are splitting, whereby a longitudinal crack develops during growth that can be a few centimetres to the entire length of the root, and breaking, which occurs postharvest. These disorders can affect over 30% of commercial crops. Factors associated with high levels of splitting include wide plant spacing, early sowing, lengthy growth durations, and genotype.
Carrot cultivars can be grouped into two broad classes, eastern carrots and western carrots. More recently, a number of novelty cultivars have been bred for particular characteristics.
The city of Holtville, California, promotes itself as "Carrot Capital of the World", and holds an annual festival devoted entirely to the carrot.
Eastern carrots were domesticated in Central Asia, probably in modern-day Iran and Afghanistan in the 10th century, or possibly earlier. Specimens of the eastern carrot that survive to the present day are commonly purple or yellow, and often have branched roots. The purple colour common in these carrots comes from anthocyanin pigments.
The western carrot emerged in the Netherlands in the 17th century, its orange colour making it popular in those countries as an emblem of the House of Orange and the struggle for Dutch independence. The orange colour results from abundant carotenes in these cultivars.
Western carrot cultivars are commonly classified by their root shape:
One particular variety lacks the usual orange pigment from carotenes, owing its white colour to a recessive gene for tocopherol (vitamin E). Derived from Daucus carota L. and patented at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the variety is intended to supplement the dietary intake of Vitamin E.
Carrot is one of the top-ten most economically important vegetables crops in the world. In 2011, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 35.658 million tonnes of carrots and turnips were produced worldwide for human consumption, grown on 1,184,000 hectares (2,926,000 acres). With 16.233 million tonnes, China was by far the largest producer and accounted for 45.5% of the global output, followed by Russia (1.735 million tonnes), the United States (1.342), Uzbekistan (1.222), Poland (0.887), Ukraine (0.864), and the United Kingdom (0.694). About 61% of world carrot production occurred in Asia, followed by the Europe (24.2%) and the Americas (North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean) (9.7%). Less than 4% of the world's 2011 total was produced in Africa. Global production has increased from 21.4 million tonnes in 2000, 13.7 million tonnes in 1990, 10.4 million tonnes in 1980, and 7.85 million tonnes in 1970. The rate of increase in the global production of carrots has been greater than the world's population growth rate, and greater than the overall increase in world vegetable production. Europe was traditionally the major centre of production, but was overtaken by Asia in 1997. The growth in global production is largely the result of increases in production area, rather than average yield. Modest improvements in the latter can be attributed to optimised agricultural practices, the development of better cultivars (including hybrids), and increased farm mechanisation.
Carrots can be stored for several months in the refrigerator or over winter in a moist, cool place. For long term storage, unwashed carrots can be placed in a bucket between layers of sand, a 50/50 mix of sand and wood shavings, or in soil. A temperature range of 32 to 40°F (0 to 5°C) is best.
The turnip or white turnip (Brassica rapa subsp. rapa) is a root vegetable commonly grown in temperate climates worldwide for its white, bulbous taproot. Small, tender varieties are grown for human consumption, while larger varieties are grown as feed for livestock.
In the north of England and Scotland, the turnip is called neep; the word turnip itself is an old compound of neep. Neep often also refers to the larger, yellow rutabaga root vegetable which is also known as the "swede" (from "Swedish turnip").
The most common type of turnip is mostly white-skinned apart from the upper 1–6 centimeters, which protrude above the ground and are purple, red, or greenish wherever sunlight has fallen. This above-ground part develops from stem tissue, but is fused with the root. The interior flesh is entirely white. The entire root is roughly conical, but can be occasionally global, about 5–20 centimeters in diameter, and lacks side roots. The taproot (the normal root below the swollen storage root) is thin and 10 centimeters or more in length; it is trimmed off before marketing. The leaves grow directly from the above-ground shoulder of the root, with little or no visible crown or neck (as found in rutabagas).
Turnip leaves are sometimes eaten as "turnip greens" ("turnip tops" in the UK), and they resemble mustard greens in flavor. Turnip greens are a common side dish in southeastern US cooking, primarily during late fall and winter. Smaller leaves are preferred; however, any bitter taste of larger leaves can be reduced by pouring off the water from initial boiling and replacing it with fresh water. Varieties specifically grown for the leaves resemble mustard greens more than those grown for the roots, with small or no storage roots. Varieties of B. rapa that have been developed only for the use of leaves are called Chinese cabbage. Both leaves and root have a pungent flavor similar to raw cabbage or radishes that becomes mild after cooking.
Turnip roots weigh up to about one kilogram, although they can be harvested when smaller. Size is partly a function of variety and partly a function of the length of time the turnip has grown. Most very small turnips (also called baby turnips) are specialty varieties. These are only available when freshly harvested and do not keep well. Most baby turnips can be eaten whole, including their leaves. Baby turnips come in yellow-, orange-, and red-fleshed varieties as well as white-fleshed. Their flavor is mild, so they can be eaten raw in salads like radishes and other vegetables.
The turnip's root is high in vitamin C. The green leaves of the turnip top ("turnip greens") are a good source of vitamin A, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K and calcium. Turnip greens are high in lutein (8.5 mg / 100 g).
One medium raw turnip (122 g) contains the following nutritional information according to the USDA:
Like rutabaga, turnip contains bitter cyanoglucosides that release small amounts of cyanide. Sensitivity to the bitterness of these cyanoglucosides is controlled by a paired gene. Subjects who have inherited two copies of the "sensitive" gene find turnips twice as bitter as those who have two "insensitive" genes, and thus may find turnips and other cyanoglucoside-containing foods intolerably bitter.
There is evidence that the turnip was domesticated before the 15th century BC; it was grown in India at this time for its oil-bearing seeds. The turnip was a well-established crop in Hellenistic and Roman times, which leads to the assumption that it was brought into cultivation earlier. Sappho, a Greek poet from the 7th century BC, calls one of her paramours Gongýla, "turnip". Zohary and Hopf note, however, "there are almost no archaeological records available" to help determine its earlier history and domestication. Wild forms of the hot turnip and its relatives the mustards and radishes are found over west Asia and Europe, suggesting their domestication took place somewhere in that area. However Zohary and Hopf conclude, "Suggestions as to the origins of these plants are necessarily based on linguistic considerations."
The 1881 Household Cyclopedia gives these instructions for field cultivation of turnips:
The benefits derived from turnip husbandry are of great magnitude; light soils are cultivated with profit and facility; abundance of food is provided for man and beast; the earth is turned to the uses for which it is physically calculated, and by being suitably cleaned with this preparatory crop, a bed is provided for grass seeds, wherein they flourish and prosper with greater vigor than after any other preparation.
The first ploughing is given immediately after harvest, or as soon as the wheat seed is finished, either in length or across the field, as circumstances may seem to require. In this state the ground remains till the oat seed is finished, when a second ploughing is given to it, usually in a contrary direction to the first. It is then repeatedly harrowed, often rolled between the harrowings and every particle of root-weeds carefully picked off with the hand; a third ploughing is then bestowed, and the other operations are repeated. In this stage, if the ground has not been very foul, the seed process.
The next part of the process is the sowing of the seed; this may be performed by drilling machines of different sizes and constructions, through all acting on the same principle. A machine drawn by a horse in a pair of shafts, sows two drills at a time and answers extremely well, where the ground is flat, and the drills properly made up. The weight of the machine ensures a regularity of sowing hardly to be gained by those of a different size and construction. From two to three pounds of seed are sown upon the acre (2 to 3 kg/hectare), though the smallest of these quantities will give many more plants in ordinary seasons than are necessary; but as the seed is not an expensive article the greater part of farmers incline to sow thick, which both provides against the danger of part of the seed perishing, and gives the young plants an advantage at the outset.
Turnips are sown from the beginning to the end of June, but the second and third weeks of the month are, by judicious farmers, accounted the most proper time. Some people have sown as early as May, and with advantage, but these early fields are apt to run to seed before winter, especially if the autumn be favorable to vegetation. As a general rule it may be laid down that the earliest sowings should be on the latest soils; plants on such soils are often long before they make any great progress, and, in the end, may be far behind those in other situations, which were much later sown. The hot turnip plant, indeed, does not thrive rapidly till its roots reach the dung, and the previous nourishment afforded them is often so scanty as to stunt them altogether before they get so far.
The first thing to be done in this process is to run a horse-hoe, called a scraper, along the intervals, keeping at such a distance from the young plants that they shall not be injured; this operation destroys all the annual weeds which have sprung up, and leaves the plants standing in regular stripes or rows. The hand hoeing then commences, by which the turnips are all singled out at a distance of from 8–12 inches, and the redundant ones drawn into the spaces between the rows. The singling out of the young plants is an operation of great importance, for an error committed in this process can hardly be afterward rectified. Boys and girls are always employed as hoers; but a steady and trusty man-servant is usually set over them to see that the work is properly executed.
In eight or ten days, or such a length of time as circumstances may require, a horse-hoe of a different construction from the scraper is used. This, in fact, is generally a small plough, of the same kind with that commonly wrought, but of smaller dimensions. By this implement, the earth is pared away from the sides of the drills, and a sort of new ridge formed in the middle of the former interval. The hand-hoers are again set to work, and every weed and superfluous turnip is cut up; afterward the horse-hoe is employed to separate the earth, which it formerly threw into the furrows, and lay it back to the sides of the drills. On dry lands this is done by the scraper, but where the least tendency to moisture prevails, the small plough is used, in order that the furrows may be perfectly cleaned out. This latter mode, indeed, is very generally practiced.
As a root crop, turnips grow best in cool weather; hot temperatures cause the roots to become woody and bad-tasting. They are typically planted in the spring in cold-weather climates (such as the northern US and Canada) where the growing season is only 3–4 months. In temperate climates (ones with a growing season of 5–6 months), turnips may also be planted in late summer for a second fall crop. In warm-weather climates (7 or more month growing season), they are planted in the fall. 55–60 days is the average time from planting to harvest.
Turnips are a biennial plant, taking two years from germination to reproduction. The root spends the first year growing and storing nutrients, and the second year flowers, produces seeds, and dies. The flowers of the turnip are tall and yellow, with the seeds forming in pea-like pods. In areas with less than 7 month growing seasons, temperatures are too cold for the roots to survive the winter months. In order to produce seeds, it's necessary to pull the turnip and store it overwinter, taking care not to damage the leaves. During the spring, it may be set back in the ground to complete its life cycle.
Pliny the Elder considered the turnip one of the most important vegetables of his day, rating it "directly after cereals or at all events after the bean, since its utility surpasses that of any other plant". Pliny praised it as a source of fodder for farm animals, noting that this vegetable is not particular about the type of soil it grows in and that - because it can be left in the ground until the next harvest - it "prevents the effects of famine" for humans (N.H. 18.34).
The Macomber turnip (actually a rutabaga) dating from the late 19th century features in one of the very few historic markers for a vegetable, on Main Road in Westport, Massachusetts.
In England, around 1700, Turnip Townshend promoted the use of turnips in a four-year crop-rotation system that enabled year-round livestock production.
In the south of England and Scotland, the smaller white vegetable is often called neeps or turnips, while it is the larger rutabagas which are referred to as swedes. Turnips or neeps are mashed and eaten with haggis, traditionally on Burns Night.
Turnip lanterns are an old tradition; since inaugural Halloween festivals in Ireland and Scotland, turnips (rutabaga) have been carved out and used as candle lanterns. At Samhain, candle lanterns carved from turnips — samhnag — were part of the traditional Celtic festival. Large turnips were hollowed out, carved with faces and placed in windows, used to ward off harmful spirits. At Halloween in Scotland in 1895, masqueraders in disguise carried lanterns made out of scooped out turnips.
In Nordic countries turnips provided the staple crop before their replacement by the potato in the 18th century. The cross between turnip and cabbage, rutabaga, was possibly first produced in Scandinavia.
In Turkey, particularly in the area near Adana, turnips are used to flavor şaljam, a juice made from purple carrots and spices served ice cold. In Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon, turnips are pickled.
In Japan pickled turnips are also popular and are sometimes stir fried with salt/soysauce. Turnip greens are included in the ritual of the Festival of Seven Herbs, called suzuna.
In the Southern United States, stewed turnips are eaten as a root vegetable in the autumn and winter. The greens of the turnip are harvested and eaten all year. Turnip greens may be cooked with a ham hock or piece of fat pork meat, the juice produced in the stewing process prized as pot liquor. Stewed turnip greens are often eaten with vinegar.
In the Tyrolean Alps of Austria, raw shredded turnip-root is served in a chilled remoulade in the absence of other fresh greens as a winter salad.
In Iran, boiled turnip-roots (with salt) are a common household remedy for cough and cold.
In the Punjab and Kashmir regions of India and Pakistan turnips are used in variety of dishes, most notably shab-daig.
The low popularity of turnips (nabos) in Brazil, traditionally regarded as distasteful, or at least somewhat disagreeable and unpleasant to the first bite, and that – to the popular knowledge – only feature significantly in the country's Japanese cuisine (as daikon – actually a big and white variety of radish, vegetable there known as rabanete), is often a source of humor. Part of this bias reportedly stems from the Middle Ages, where, for the reason of being inexpensive, turnips became [in Iberia and thus in Iberian-descended cultures] associated with the poor, and avoided in the diet of the nobility.
The turnip is an old vegetable charge in heraldry. It was used by Leonhard von Keutschach, prince-archbishop of Salzburg. The turnip is still the heart shield in the arms of Keutschach am See.
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