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Showing posts from November 13, 2011

Know-It-All -- Writer's Poke #339

A.J. Jacobs is a humorous gimmick writer that tackles absurd topics and takes them to their logical extreme conclusions.
The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Be the Smartest Person in the World was the first book of his that I discovered. To accomplish his task, Jacobs spent a year reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. His book captures the experience of reading entry after entry, and he shares some of the more unusual items of interest he picked up while reading, as the blurb on notes, “33,000 pages, 44 million words, 10 billion years of history.” He also describes the attitudes and reactions of friends and family. Seems as though a lot of people thought Jacobs was a bit nuts attempting to accomplish this task. After all, who sits down to read an entire encyclopedia?

Jacobs continues to crank out rather silly “life experience” books; they all seem rather artificial, because he assigns himself some weird task, and then he writes about it. In one book, he attempt…

Lemon AIDS -- Writer's Poke #338

Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang served as South Africa’s Minster of Health from 1999 to 2008; she was rather notorious for her views on AIDS, arguing that a diet of lemons, beetroots, and garlic was a fine way to delay the development of HIV. As far as I know, this woman wasn’t stupid. She was a real doctor, having received medical training in South Africa, the Soviet Union, Tanzania, and Belgium. So why did she support a nutritional approach as the best way to combat HIV as opposed, say, to using a more conventional (and scientifically-based) approach, such as treating the disease with anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs)? Politics. Apparently South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki, didn’t believe that HIV caused AIDS, and so, until his cabinet finally overruled him and voted that it did in 2002, ARVs weren’t available to the general population. Africa was, and still is, trying to find itself. Tshabalala-Msimang supported the idea that Western medicine didn’t always know best, and that Africa should…