Good Reads, Fast Breaking Edition

If you want to learn to appreciate food, try to eat nothing for a week.

I did this experiment recently when I decided to go on a fast for a week, reducing my food from three meals a day to one or two apples, and then to nothing but unsweetened tea and unsalted vegetable broth.

After all this time of traveling, after all these months on the road, after eating quite a bit of junk food and some pretty amazing uber-schnitzels (check this post by Earl Baron to get all the details!), I just felt the need to give my alimetary organs some rest. So I convinced my friend Rudi (whom I’m visiting here in Vienna) to join me for a cure.

Some interesting observations:

  • Not eating (for a couple of days!) is not as hard as it sounds. Even though I’m not a person to get hungry easily, I love to eat. But after not eating for a day or two, the hunger simply disappears. Sure, there is appetite when you pass some delicious restaurants on the street, but other than that, things were pretty much okay for me.
  • Energy levels stay higher than expected. I was still able to write and to walk around the city for most of the fasting days. While I got some withdrawal symptoms (like a slight headache, probably due to the lack of coffee), my body was feeling fine overall.
  • The environment matters. I was lucky to be here in quite a relaxed atmosphere – but fasting in the city probably isn’t the best thing to do. Next time, I would rather go to some quiet place somewhere in the countryside.
  • Mental silence. The sleep is amazing. So is just sitting on a couch. At some point, the body surely is exhausted, but the clarity of mind is astounding. I felt way less distracted, my mind way less cluttered during the fasting days than I normally feel. No more thoughts rushing through my head, just a state of calmness and tranquility. If you want to make some big decisions, fasting might be one way to find the peace of mind that you need.
  • Enough is enough. That said, the described calmness and tranquility is of course entirely dependent upon knowing that I could start eating again any moment I wanted. It’s hard to even imagine how much it must suck to not have enough food when you need it. On the fifth day of zero food, I awoke tired. It cost me quite a bit of effort just to leave my bed, and there was no way to even imagine having more of that broth. (Or more of that fasting tea, for that matter!) Instead, my body was longing for something fresh. So I decided to eat half an apple…
  • Food is a-ma-zing! …and half an apple was all it needed. Boom. As I chewed it – slowly, thoroughly – pure vital energy rushed back into my whole body. That apple tasted like paradise and damnit, my brain looooved the fructose! Funky colors everywhere… this is how an LSD trip must look like. That piece of apple provided me with enough energy to walk through half of the city, visit the Schiele exposition in the Leopold Museum for the second time, and even get some decent amount of work done.

Since then, I slowly started eating again. Everything tastes more intense than ever. I am more aware of the textures, the temperature, the spices of everything I eat.

Fasting has been an interesting experiment and was also probably a good preparation for experimenting with raw food at some later point.

Now, on to some of the great stuff I read during the last weeks (or months – it has been a long time without a new edition of Good Reads…)!


I make it a personal rule never to do anything that I don’t really care about. It is surprising how much this cuts out. It sounds trite and obvious, but try it. Write down the three to five things in the world that you care most about – they could be people or causes or abstract qualities such as truth and beauty. I doubt that your car will figure on the list.

Richard Koch is at times a bit weird in this Boing Boing interview, but what he says about applying the 80-20 principle to time is certainly inspiring.


Make it great, no matter how long it takes. There’s no such thing as too many drafts. There’s no such thing as too much time spent. As you well know, a great book can last forever. A great book can change a person’s life. A mediocre book is just commerce. (David Shank)

Practical Tips on Writing a Book from 23 Authors. This post was the rave a couple of months ago. If you haven’t seen it, here’s your second chance. And if you have, it’s worth another look!


“I don’t usually have guests this deep.” – Crazy German film director Werner Herzog at The Colbert Report. Pure gold.


Number 17 was, according to the bank officials, the most alarming one as it is achievable with no particular effort. Basically the student steals time. She shows how one can jam a banks activity up to a halt and at the same time bring along consistent losses of money.

Blasbichler’s Twentyone: An Austrian professor gives his architecture students the assignment to plan a bank robbery and then invites the bank representatives to an exposition presenting the results. As you might have guessed, number 17 was especially appealing to me!


The simple fact of the matter is that trying to be perfectly likable is incompatible with loving relationships. Sooner or later, for example, you’re going to find yourself in a hideous, screaming fight, and you’ll hear coming out of your mouth things that you yourself don’t like at all, things that shatter your self-image as a fair, kind, cool, attractive, in-control, funny, likable person. Something realer than likability has come out in you, and suddenly you’re having an actual life.


And yet pain hurts but it doesn’t kill. When you consider the alternative — an anesthetized dream of self-sufficiency, abetted by technology — pain emerges as the natural product and natural indicator of being alive in a resistant world. To go through a life painlessly is to have not lived. Even just to say to yourself, “Oh, I’ll get to that love and pain stuff later, maybe in my 30s” is to consign yourself to 10 years of merely taking up space on the planet and burning up its resources. Of being (and I mean this in the most damning sense of the word) a consumer.

Jonathan Franzen on going for what hurts. Such a good read.


How do you achieve laser focus?
The single most important thing I do to “achieve laser focus and concentration” is to work in such a way that I don’t need “laser focus and concentration” to get my work done.
This has to be done the night before.
I always quit all online work at least 2 hours before bedtime and print whatever I’m working on.
Then I go into any other room with program listings, blank paper, and pens (especially red!) and plan out all of tomorrow’s work.
All analysis, design, and refactoring must be done at this time. I do not allow myself to sleep until the next day’s work is laid out. I also do not allow myself to get back onto the computer. The idea is to have a clear “vision” of what I am going to accomplish the next day. The clearer the better.
This does 2 things. First, I think about it all night (maybe even dream about it). Second, I can’t wait to get started the next day.
I always wake up and start programming immediately. Once I get going, it’s easy to keep going. Any difficulties are probably because I didn’t plan well enough the night before.

This is a free book for programmers by Ed Weissman. While I’m not a programmer, I still found much of his stuff to be extremely interesting and valuable. It’s more about philosophy and approaches to work and meta-type of stuff. Other people’s approaches to productivity can always be inspiring. Call me a nerd, but you still might want to check it out.


As we consume food, we also consume information. Yet few of us make deliberate decisions on what kind of information to consume or how much. We do make unconscious, non-deliberate decisions though— we’re naturally drawn towards the opinions we agree with, whether it be through following our friends on twitter or the mass media we consume. We naturally avoid diversity in the news we consume— you won’t find many conservatives watching MSNBC or being fans of Keith Olbermann, and you’re not going to make any liberal friends happy turning on Glenn Beck in their living rooms.

You’re a happy vegetarian? Vegan, even? So why do you still consume all that junk food for your brain? Maybe it could be a good idea to go infovegan?


So I did some more math. If I freed up one hour a day it would give me 365 hours. Broken into 8-hour days, that would give me 45 days of time. To do the thing I said I most wanted to do, but “just didn’t have the time.”

Together with Good Reads veterans Michael Johnston and Kirk Tuck, David duChemin is one of my favorite photobloggers. Here’s a post on finding time for stuff otherwise left undone.


Once you’ve started, you keep it rolling. You can’t afford to have anything stop it.

How to write a book in three days. Wow. This would be like ten novels during NaNoWriMo!