You don't know me, but I'm your 12th cousin

AJ Jacobs is getting ready to host the world's largest family reunion. He has invited Barack Obama, who is his aunt's fifth great aunt's husband's father's wife's 7th great nephew. And since you are AJ and Barack's cousin, you are invited, too! Read the rest

Gweek podcast 137: The Horrors of Ancient Medicine

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In each episode of Gweek, I invite a guest or two to join me in a discussion about recommended media, apps, and gadgets. This time my guests were:

Janelle Hessig, a bay Area cartoonist and writer and the marketing director at Last Gasp Publishing.

A.J. Jacobs, a writer, a human guinea pig, and the author of four New York Times Bestsellers, including the Year of Living Biblically, for which he followed the hundreds of rules of the Bible as literally as possible, from the 10 commandments to growing a huge beard.

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Show Notes:

Janelle's picks:

Prisoner art & inventions.

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Are you A.J. Jacob's Cousin?

A.J. Jacobs, author of a number of excellent books about self-experimentation, is planning on hosting the world's largest family reunion. (The current record is held by by the Porteau-Boileve family in France: 4,514 relatives.) He's inviting as many relatives as he can, including former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg who is A.J.'s wife’s great-uncle’s wife’s first cousin once removed’s husband’s uncle’s wife’s son’s wife’s first cousin once removed’s husband’s brother’s wife’s nephew.

He announced his plans on an episode of the Gweek podcast a few weeks ago, and he just shared the news with the readers of the New York Times, too:

My journey started a few months ago. I got an email from a stranger named Jules Feldman who lives on a kibbutz in Israel. He had read one of my books. He wrote: “We have in our database about 80,000 relatives of yours. You are an eighth cousin of my wife who, in my opinion, is a fine lady.” I’m also, he said, related to Karl Marx and several European aristocrats.

The email had a bit of a creepy National Security Agency privacy-invasion vibe. But it was also, in a strange way, profoundly comforting. There I was, alone in my office, connected to 80,000 other humans. In a world where extended families lose touch as they spread across time zones, this seemed remarkable.

But why stop at 80,000? I discovered websites like WikiTree, WeRelate and Geni (which was recently acquired by MyHeritage) that allow you to expand your tree into million-tentacled monsters.

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Gweek 100: A.J. Jacobs, extreme self-experimenter

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In this episode, I talked to A.J. Jacobs, the author of some of my favorite books. In his 2005 book, The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, A.J. committed himself to read the entire print edition of Encyclopedia Britannica. In 2007 he wrote The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, he lived by the rules of the Bible, and ended up wearing a white robe and a very full beard. And in Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection, A.J. followed a bunch of extreme self-improvement techniques, including a raw food diet, the paleo diet, libido boosting techniques, and unusual exercise regimens.

Here's what we talked about:

A.J.'s new advice column for Esquire. "I post a quandary from a reader on my Facebook page, and then my 100,000 followers weigh in with advice, rants, wisdom, encouragement, condemnations, etc. Then I curate the best/most interesting/funniest advice and put it in a column, along with my own take on the topic. So it's like a stadium-full of Ann Landerses and Dan Savages."

A.J.'s latest article for Esquire. "It was called The Overly Documented Life, and it was about the delights and hazards of video-recording your life 24 hours a day for three months. Read the rest