* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we used to have a secret family recipe. It's not a secret any more, thanks to Becky Cardwell, whose gift for translating bad Japanese into even worse English is something to behold.

Iron Chef Japan Judges Critique Dishes Prepared By A Soccer Mom Using Peanut Butter As Theme Ingredient

By: Becky Cardwell

Appetizer: Pascal Celery Stalks Covered in Aromatic Peanut Paste and Sprinkled With Organic Dehydrated Grapes

Judge #1 — Superb fusion of ingredient.

Judge #2 — Attractively refreshing, but sadly texture of parched grape seems to lose authority in velvet of pasted peanut. I would have felt greater affection for more corpulent combustion of flavor.

Judge #3 — Elegantly presented, so succulent to my eye. They should name this delight “Small insects resting on a piece of lumber.”

Main Course: Sweet Plantains and Dry Roasted Nut Spread Served Amid Two Slices of Leavened Rye

Judge #1 — I am appreciative of the presentation, however I feel as though an excessiveness of the exotic fruit would have made this more likable to my oral cavity.

Judge #2 — The taste is lethargic and left my mouth lonely. I hate being angry but I don’t think I enjoy this.

Judge #3 — Sadly, my palate has become jaded from the charm of the first dish.

Dessert: Crisp Pomaceous Fruit Wedges Dipped in A Creamy Peanut Coulis

Judge #1 — Although the arrangement is not overly jovial, I was immediately given intense satisfaction when I laid this ambrosia upon my taste buds. Where can I go to eat more of this delight?

Judge #2 — My mass could be greatly compromised were I to indulge in this mouth-watering pleasantness on all of the days. I am grateful for the machine which allows me to exert energy after.

Judge #3 — Delicious! This dish makes me feel rich. I am bestowing upon this opulence two opposable fingers up.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we enjoy a quantum paradox now and then. We believe it is possible to simultaneously read and not read the following piece by Jeff Dutre. But we'd rather you just read it and stop screwing around.

An Interview With Schrödinger’s Cat

By: Jeff Dutre

With the release this summer of Schrödinger’s Cat’s memoirs (Schrödinger’s Cat: My Life Out Of The Box) the famous feline has come out of retirement and is busier than ever. Although he is older, heavier and a bit grayer around the whiskers, he still resembles the youthful, courageous animal who climbed into Erwin Schrödinger’s steel chamber in 1935 and changed the course of quantum theory forever.

We caught up with him in his publicist’s office for a saucer of raw milk and this candid conversation:

Q: How did you first become involved with Schrödinger?

A: I didn’t know any better! [LAUGHS] Actually, my living arrangement at the time was less than satisfactory.

Q: I read somewhere that you were homeless?

A: No, I was never a stray cat. I was living with an elderly woman and her eight-year-old grandson. She wasn’t a bad lady, but I found her grandson to be a rather disagreeable child, a budding sadist, if you will. He was forever confining me in small containers. I suspect he was hoping I wouldn’t survive confinement, but I always disappointed him. After waiting several hours, he’d open the container, expecting to find my dead carcass, but instead I’d leap out and use his head as a springboard to reach the top of a cupboard where the old woman kept a bottle of schnapps. I was drinking in those days.

Q: Sounds like a dysfunctional environment.

A: The old lady was drunk most afternoons, often forgetting to fill my food dish, and the boy’s behavior grew more sadistic, with longer and longer confinements. I knew I had to better myself and become self-supporting.

Q: Did you have a plan?

A: I looked at myself in the mirror one day and asked my reflection “What are my strengths? What is it I love to do, that I can turn into a vocation?” And my reply was “Well, I enjoy sitting motionless for long periods of time. I enjoy reading books about quantum systems and pondering the observer’s paradox. I enjoy licking myself.” And so, I started finding work where I could utilize my skills. At first, I posed for photographers and artists.

Q: In your book, there are several photos from that period. Specifically, cat calendars.

A: I was making decent money doing the calendars, although I’m not proud of some of the explicit stuff, like the “Cats Licking Themselves” calendar. If I hadn’t been so desperate, then perhaps I wouldn’t have accepted such an assignment.

Q: How did you finally meet Schrödinger?

A: Did you read my book, or did you just look at the calendar shots? To make a long story short, I answered an ad in Naturwissenschaften (Natural Sciences): “Cat wanted for scientific experiment. Good pay. Easy work. No treadmills or electrodes involved.”

Q: Did you know what you were getting into?

A: Well, if I’d known I’d be locked in a box with hydrocyanic acid, I wouldn’t have called Schrödinger! He never mentioned that part until much later! All I knew was I would get paid for sitting quietly in a locked container. I told him about my experiences with the boy, and that’s when Schrödinger said I was perfect for the job. The next day I was on a boat to Austria.

Q: You have been compared to Ham the Astrochimp, the first chimp in space, for your bravery and pioneering spirit in the service of Science.

A: Frankly, I’ve never welcomed the comparison. I met Ham in the early sixties, when we were on a lecture tour of elementary schools, and I found him less of a scientist and more of a glorified stunt pilot. He didn’t seem to care about the larger issues of the universe and our place in it. Instead, he was all about “Look at me and my shiny spacesuit!”

Q: Did you enjoy lecturing?

A: The children weren’t as excited with me as they were with Ham. I can’t blame them, really. He was much more of a showman. He handed out lollipops and sang patriotic songs. How do you compete with that? I’m proud to say I never pandered. I’d show up with my prepared material and a professional attitude. Maybe my slide show was a bit dry. I always did my best to get the kids interested in the quantum theory of superposition, but most of them just wanted to pet me.

Q: What was Schrödinger like?

A: Very serious. He never wanted to play. I’d drop a catnip mouse in front of him, hoping he’d toss it for me to chase, but he was too wrapped up in his work and his letters to Einstein.

Q: How did your relationship with Schrödinger end?

A: Late one night, after we’d returned from a cocktail party, we were enjoying a few highballs in his kitchen before bed. “Erwin,” I asked him. “Why a cat? Why not a hamster, or a mouse, or a small dog? Why did you choose a cat for your famous thought experiment?” He looked straight at me, and I’ll never forget this, he looked straight at me and replied “Because I don’t like cats.”

Q: Wow.

A: I got up off his kitchen table, walked out of his apartment, and never saw him again.

Q: One more question: What was it like being both dead and alive simultaneously?

A: I would describe it as Verschrankung. I was conscious, but only vaguely aware of the passing of time. I wasn’t at all concerned about the Geiger counter, the hammer, or the hydrocyanic acid. Without an outside observer, all possible outcomes had occurred, so why worry? I remember licking myself. That, I remember clearly.

Q: What’s next for you? How do you top Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment?

A: I’m going to leap off this table and use your head as a springboard to reach the top of that cupboard where my publicist keeps a bottle of schnapps. This book tour has been exceedingly stressful.

Q: What? Is this some sort of OUCH! Oh my God, I’m bleeding!

A: [FROM THE CUPBOARD] Not until I actually observe you bleeding!

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are still awaiting news that Jaws 5 is going into production. Until then, be satisfied with this piece by Richard Turck, his first for us.

Surviving A Shark Attack

By: Richard Turck

One of our greatest fears is being attacked by a shark. Whenever we hear about them on the news or read about them in the paper we can’t help but shudder. Clearly, there is good reason for this. Getting attacked by a shark is absolutely devastating. Sharks are basically living submarines with razor sharp teeth and a hunger for warm blood. Because of the amount of fear that is associated with such an attack, I’ve decided to go through some of the ways I would try and survive the ordeal, because let’s face it, most people who are attacked by a shark are never attacked again, because they’re dead. I want to try and change that.

Before I talk about how I would survive a shark attack I first want to talk about how I can reduce my chances of being on the menu to begin with. One of the more obvious things I can do is stay out of the water. It has been statistically proven that you are 35 percent less likely to be attacked by a shark while in your home than in the ocean. That’s a significant decrease and should be taken seriously. If I do decide to go into the ocean I just have to be sure to play it safe. That means no swimming too far off shore, no eating raw hamburger, and no pretending to be a seal. I also want to steer away from any activity that could potentially cause myself to bleed, like slitting my wrists. Sure, it can be fun, but how will I feel if I accidentally kill myself and then get attacked by a shark? There’s absolutely no way I can survive this attack if I’m already dead, and that’s my objective, to survive a shark attack.

Now that I’ve gone through some of the obvious ways to avoid an attack, I want to get to the heart of the matter, having a shark encounter and living to tell about it. In order to accomplish this I need to hone my threat detection skills. I need to be able to look at a shark and know it’s a shark without even asking. This means utilizing all of my senses. If I see a gray triangle pop out of the water from afar, for instance, the best thing I can do is swim over and touch it. Is it smooth? Is it leathery? Is it eating me? All of these characteristics point toward shark.

Once I’ve determined that it is indeed a shark, it’s time to survive. One important thing I have to remember is to remain calm. Sharks are very outgoing and are attracted to commotion and excitement. If I want to survive I have to keep a low profile and avoid being the center of attention. This means no splashing, no screaming, and no dancing. I may even want to try discussing politics to really bore the shark into finding more interesting prey.

If this works and the shark swims away, great, but if it doesn’t then I have to continue to remain completely motionless until I’m absolutely certain the shark is chewing on me. At this point, once my leg is good and mangled, I have to keep one thing in mind: sharks are meat eaters. This is important because I’m going to contort my mangled leg to look like a piece of broccoli. With any luck the shark will take one look and be completely turned off.

If for some reason this doesn’t work, the only thing I can do is hold my breath, close my eyes, and hope the shark thinks I’m dead. Then, when it comes back around to finish eating me, I’ll suddenly open my eyes and it just might think I’m a zombie. The one thing I have working for me here is that 85 percent of sharks don’t know what a zombie even is. Most things won’t eat what they can’t recognize. This is survival. Anything is worth a shot, even head games.

If I remain calm and use these survival tricks I can significantly increase my likelihood of staying alive. I just have to keep in mind that sharks aren’t much different than you and me. They too need to eat, breathe, and are wary of zombies. With all of these facts at my disposal, I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself not only coming out of a shark attack alive, but with a story to tell.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where every day's a holiday. If you're at work, take some time off right now to read this week's piece by a man who has obviously taken a holiday from reason. NOTE: One of our contributors, Eric Metaxas, has written a stunning new biography of the German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pastor who took part in the attempted assassination of Hitler and paid for it with his own life. The link to the Amazon page for the book is in our Blogroll to the right.

Happy Holidays

By: David Martin

MEMO – December 15, 2009 – Christmas holidays
To: Brad Richards
Regional Director

From: Dave Martin
Sales Coordinator

As I’m sure you’re aware, the holiday season is upon us. Like most of our workforce, I will be celebrating Christmas and therefore would like to take holidays for the period between Christmas and New Year’s. As a practicing Christian, this would allow me to celebrate the birth of our Lord with my loving family.

MEMO – March 15, 2010 – Jewish holidays
Thank you very much for approving annual leave for Good Friday (April 1st) and Easter Monday (April 5th). My family appreciates your generosity in allowing me to join them in celebrating these important Christian holidays. While I will be joining my family in these celebrations, I have personally converted to Judaism and therefore would request that, in accordance with paragraph 6.02.07(b) of our company’s human resources policy manual, I also be given the entire week of March 30th off, which, of course, is Passover, one of the most important holidays for my newly chosen people.

MEMO – September 1, 2010 – Muslim Holidays
Thank you for granting me time off for Rosh Hashanah on September 9th and 10th and also Friday September 17th to allow me to prepare for Yom Kippur on September 18th. As I told the mediator at the time, I felt it was important to fully explore my new cultural roots. As it turns out, however, my Jewish studies have led me to adopt another Abrahamaic faith, namely Islam. I will therefore be fasting for Ramadan and would greatly appreciate a couple of days off before the important feast of Eid al-Fitr on the 9th.

MEMO – November 3, 2010 – Baha’i Holidays
I was as surprised as you that the Baha’i faith would be for me. But it really is and it turns out that November is the perfect month to celebrate that new faith as there are three separate holidays. If you could see fit to grant me time off for the Birth of Baha’u’llah (November 12th), the Day of the Covenant (November 26th) and the Ascension of ‘Abdul-Baha (November 28th), it would be much appreciated and would almost certainly avoid the necessity of what I am sure you would agree would be prolonged and unwanted litigation.

MEMO – January 15, 2011 – Buddhist holidays
The secret of happiness lies in the mind’s release from worldly ties. I do not know if you are a follower of the Buddha. If you are, you will know the peace of mind that can come from a study of his great wisdom. And if you are, you will also know that February 3rd is the Chinese New Year and February 8th is Nirvana Day. I trust that I will be granted the time off to pursue my new faith. You are, of course, welcome to join me on my spiritual quest for those two important days. Given the obvious stress you have been under lately, it might do you a world of good.

MEMO – February 15, 2011 – Hindu holidays
I’m sorry for the short notice but I’m going to need to take time off on March 1st and 3rd which, no doubt, you are aware mark Hola Mohalla and Maha Shivratri. I’m sure I’m not the first person to pursue Eastern religions and make that easy spiritual step from Buddhism to Hinduism. It seems so natural and right and these two days of reflection and devotion will undoubtedly help to clarify my new revelations.

MEMO – March 8, 2011 – Scientology holiday
Thanks so much for the Hindu holidays or as my people say: “Namasté.” Or at least that’s what my people would have said before I saw the interstellar light and converted to Scientology. Did you know that L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday is March 13th? Well, it is and I’d really appreciate a day off to fully partake in the special celebrations. This may necessitate another reduction in my workload but, as before, I’m sure we can solve this problem together if we really try.

MEMO – March 9, 2011
To: Dave Martin
Sales Coordinator

From: Brad Richards
Regional Director

Re: Upcoming Holidays

Dave, take all the religious holidays you want. You’re fired.