One of the authors I really like is A. J. Jacobs. His first book was The Know-It-All (One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World)
. In this tome, Jacobs, a pop-culture junkie and magazine editor, presents a memoire of the year he spent reading all 32 volumes of the 2002 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica
(that's 33,000 pages with some 44 million words). This may sound boring, but his recounting is actually very funny and informative.
Jacob’s next book was The Year of Living Biblically (One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible)
. This documents his attempt to obey all of the rules in the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. In addition to the more well-known rules like the Ten Commandments, the Bible contains hundreds and hundreds of less publicized rules, like not wearing clothes made of mixed fibers, one’s obligation to play a ten-string harp, and one’s responsibility to stone adulterers – Jacobs tries to do it all. Once again, the result is both humorous and educational.
Quite apart from anything else, you have to respect Jacobs’ wife, who puts up with more than most women I know. In his third book, My Life as an Experiment (One Man's Humble Quest to Improve Himself by Living as a Woman, Becoming George Washington, Telling No Lies, and Other Radical Tests)
, Jacobs does all sorts of things like going undercover as a woman, living by George Washington’s moral code, impersonating a movie star, practicing "radical honesty," and outsourcing every part of his life to India (including reading bedtime stories to his kids).
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about…
The reason for this column is that I just started reading Jacob’s latest work – Drop Dead Healthy (One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection)
. As the official blurb on Amazon says:
Hospitalized with a freak case of tropical pneumonia, goaded by his wife telling him, “I don’t want to be a widow at forty-five,” and ashamed of a middle-aged body best described as “a python that swallowed a goat,” A.J. Jacobs felt compelled to change his ways and get healthy. And he didn’t want only to lose weight, or finish a triathlon, or lower his cholesterol. His ambitions were far greater: maximal health from head to toe.
The task was epic. He consulted an army of experts— sleep consultants and sex clinicians, nutritionists and dermatologists. He subjected himself to dozens of different workouts—from Strollercize classes to Finger Fitness sessions, from bouldering with cavemen to a treadmill desk. And he took in a cartload of diets: raw foods, veganism, high protein, calorie restriction, extreme chewing, and dozens more. He bought gadgets and helmets, earphones and juicers. He poked and he pinched. He counted and he measured.
The story of his transformation is not only brilliantly entertaining, but it just may be the healthiest book ever written. It will make you laugh until your sides split and endorphins flood your bloodstream. It will alter the contours of your brain, imprinting you with better habits of hygiene and diet. It will move you emotionally and get you moving physically in surprising ways. And it will give you occasion to reflect on the body’s many mysteries and the ultimate pursuit of health: a well-lived life.
I’ve only read the first couple of chapters thus far, but I’ve already decided to make some changes in my own life. One of these changes is to actually eat some lunch. My usual modus operandi when I wake in the morning is to grab a cup of coffee as I race out of the door heading for my office. Once ensconced in my command chair, I often work straight through the day with nothing to eat. It’s not that I don’t like eating, you understand – I love food – it’s just that I get sucked into whatever I’m doing and the day races by without my being aware of the time passing.
Of course this lifestyle really is not good for me at all. It’s time for a change. So last night I threw a quick cabbage soup together. All I did was to remove the outer leaves from a small (softball-sized) cabbage, chop the body of this potent vegetable (second only to the mighty sprout*) into quarters, and dropped them into a saucepan along with a couple of diced onions, a few cloves of finely diced garlic, some chicken stock, one pound of 99% lean ground turkey, a dash of salt, a lot of black pepper, some hot crushed red pepper, and some Italian herbs (they were in the spice cupboard). After simmering for an hour or so, the result is lunch for at least four days.
*Who amongst us could forget that classic book The Sprouts of Wrath? (No, of course I'm not talking about that boring book by John Steinbeck. I'm talking about the four-volume Brentford Triangle Trilogy [yes, four volumes, live with it], by Robert Rankin, including East of Ealing, The Brentford Triangle, and The Antipope.)
I brought a container of this elixir into the office with me today. I just heated it up in the microwave in the shared kitchen. I note that people seem to be giving my office a wide berth as they pass by my door. The problem is that this little rascal looks unappealing and it smells appalling, but it actually tastes rather good and it’s got to be mega-healthy for me. I’ve just taken my first step on the road to a set of rippling six-pack abs. Watch this space…
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