Category Archives: Book Reviews

A Warning to Vegan Converts

Worried 002 I am reading (actually, listening to) Michael Pollan’s new book, Cooked.  Am I enjoying it?  Well, yes and no.  “Yes,” to the expanding of my foodview (I think this is a new word I’ve invented but not yet patented…so use it without charge) but “no” to my vegan commitment.  Halfway through the book I have learned so much about what it means to actually cook my own food.

            We do a lot of cooking around my house.  My wife is a gourmet-quality cook.  She loves to make tried and true recipes and to try new recipes.  Alas, she is in poor health and I have taken over a lot of culinary responsibilities.  So, I was very interested in what one of my favorite authors had to say about the subject.  As with all Mr. Pollan’s books, I am enlightened, inspired and encouraged to keep the culinary faith.

            I became a vegan after doing a lot of research about what clogs up the circulatory system of Americans.  (You may know that heart attacks are the leading cause of death for those who eat the American way.)  I found that I have a lot of plaque in my veins and arteries and decided to look into ways to reverse the condition.  That led me to begin eating a no-fat (or very low fat) plant-based diet.  It is satisfying, inexpensive and delicious.  But, you see, I am a convert to this way of eating from the vein and artery-clogging omnivorous way I have eaten for decades.  That means that my mouth still waters at visions of various forms of meat.  I am eating the no-fat plant-based way for health reasons only. 

            If you fall into my category, it means you retain strong memories of succulent sausages, bacon, steaks, barbeque ribs, lamb chops, roasts, etc.  After listening to the first part of Mr. Pollan’s book, I wanted nothing more than to find a whole-hog barbecue joint and chow-down.  I wanted to find me some good Texas brisket or cabrito and, fat dripping from my chin, enter into a kind of carnivore nirvana.  Be warned: Michael, a committed omnivore, will make you think twice about, well…sinning.

            I am happy to report that I have righteously remained vegan…so far.  One day at a time.  We all have to die of something but I would like to be as healthy as possible and then, when my time comes peacefully, painlessly drop dead.  At my age, departure is not too far off and I could say I prefer to leave this life with fried chicken in stomach.  But, since I am already noticing some benefits of veganism, I think I will continue with the oats, peas, beans and barley…etc.

            My garden will help.  In spite of the funky weather and bad knees, I am steadily getting things planted.  I look forward to harvesting baskets of summer fruit.

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Filed under American Diet, Book Review, Book Reviews, Cardiovascular Concerns, Diet, Food, Heart, Home and Garden, Vegan, Veganism, Vegetable Gardening

The 10,000 Hour Rule

Among the things I wish I had learned before it was too late was the 10,000 hour rule.  Malcolm Gladwell’s amazing book, Outliers, was my first exposure to this principle.  Stated simply: If you want to become an expert in any given endeavor, it is necessary to involve yourself (study and practice) for a minimum of 10,000 hours.  You want to be a great musician?  Learn the basics of music and your instrument and then practice for 10,000 hours.  You want to be a great scientist?  Get the basics of your field and then research, experiment, collaborate, etc. for 10,000 hours.  Baker, butcher, chef, artist, salesperson, preacher, teacher, actor, you name it…after 10,000 hours of serious pursuit you will achieve expert status.  You can read more here.

My attention, sadly, has always been divided.  I have always had too many irons in the fire.  I have been too interested in too many things.  I see something that interests me and I think, “Hey, I can do that!”  Maybe so…but without the dedicated pursuit and practice…no achievement of expertise.  Now, I find myself at the “twilight years” able to converse about many things but not as a maven, guru, whiz-kid, ace, go-to-guy, virtuoso or hotshot.

I may come close in a couple of areas where I have some native ability, but it’s a bit too late to become a real expert.  What was needed was to find my passion of passions and then focus, focus and focus.  Hopefully, it is not too late for you.

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Filed under Aging, Biography, Book Reviews, Ignorance, Initiative, Life, Music, Preaching/Teaching, Science

Talk Show Host

Ten Reasons I am Qualified

I wonder if there is any place I can audition to become a talk show host?  Let me modestly say I believe I have the talents to be the next star of a news show or a talk show on national TV.  Even though I am not blond (does white hair count?), beautiful, Irish or British, after watching some of these shows, I seem to have other necessary prerequisite skills.

  1. I am always right about everything (always have been) and willing to remind listeners and guests of that fact.
  2. I have a passable voice but, most important of all, I can be loud and/or shrill when necessary.
  3. I can interrupt anyone at any time having practiced this skill for many years with my wife, children and others, especially at family gatherings (other than funerals).
  4. I can also talk over others when what I want to say is obviously more important than what they are saying.
  5. I know how to ask a question and then refuse to let the guest answer it by virtue of skill number four.
  6. I know how to ask a leading, off-the-subject, off-the-wall, personal or embarrassing question just to see my guests squirm uncomfortably.
  7. I am confident (and how!) I can invite an “expert” on to my show to interview and then prove I know more about their field than he or she does.  This is especially important for guests I disagree with or don’t particularly like.
  8. I can also talk so much that we run out of time to let the expert explain whatever it is that they are experts of/on/about.
  9. I am adept at interviewing authors without ever reading any of their books except the title, the introduction, the conclusion and the cover notes.  I’m going to cut them off at three minutes flat anyway.
  10. When someone is too disgusted with my tactics to appear on my show, I have a number of things I can call them: Pinhead, dweeb, coward, sleazy, etc.

Finally, I don’t care what everybody else is saying, I am not a narcissist.

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Filed under Bigotry, Book Reviews, Discussion, Humor, Hypocrisy, Ignorance, Integrity, Philosophy, Politics, Ridicule, Selflessness

BLINK — a book review

blink.jpg I listen to audio books. I download from a service called Audible.com. I pay a certain amount each month and I can download two full-length books on a little digital player and, with a little FM broadcasting thingy which I plug into my car’s 12 volt outlet I can listen to books on my five hour round trips from Abilene to Lubbock where I teach.

I have listened to many fine books (and a few duds) and learned a great deal. I listen to novels which are entertaining or listen to non-fiction (science, history, biographies, etc.) which is educational. Occasionally I hear something absolutely sensational. Two books by Malcolm Gladwell fit into that category.

Some time ago I listened to his book, The Tipping Point. I was blown away. In the last few days I have listened to his book, Blink, and it’s happened again. I recommend both books highly but right now I want to talk about Blink. The subtitle is “The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.” Once you read this book you will never think about the way we think the same way.

What if I told you there is a psychologist who can predict the longevity of a marriage by spending only a few minutes observing a couple? What if I told you about some folks who, based on a few minutes listening to a physician talk to a patient, can accurately predict whether he will ever be sued? What if I told you about antiquities experts who can tell you whether a piece is a fake with just a glance?

In this book you will learn about the amazing accuracy of snap decisions. You will learn how what we hear and see can subconsciously impact the way we act. You will learn how, in many cases, a little slice of information is better than a lot of data.

The information in this little 254 page book can change the way you do business, the way you sell, the way you interact with other people…your world.

A special note to those who work with organizations (companies, churches, ministries, etc.) get this book and read it.

Malcolm Gladwell. 2005. Blink, Little, Brown and Company, New York, Boston.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Love and Marriage, Mind, Preaching/Teaching, Science