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Guest Blog-star: AJ Jacobs!

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To paraphrase the late great Phil Hartman on the Simpsons, you might remember me from such mental_floss backpages as G,H,I or J. I'm the author of the book The Know-It-All, which was about the year I spent reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z and trying to learn everything in the world (including such important knowledge as the fact that opossums have 13 nipples). I write the Know-It-All column for the_floss about facts from each letter.

My new book just came out, and

this time I wrestled with a tome that is shorter than Britannica, but arguably more complicated: The Bible.

The book is called THE YEAR OF LIVING BIBLICALLY: ONE MAN'S HUMBLE QUEST TO FOLLOW THE BIBLE AS LITERALLY AS POSSIBLE. It's about how I spent a year trying to abide by all the rules in the Bible, from the famous (The Ten Commandments, love thy neighbor) all the way down to the often-ignored (don't wear clothes made of mixed fibers, don't shave your beard, stone adulterers).The year was fascinating and educational. Life-changing even. And I hope the book "“ which I tried to fill with equal parts reverence and irreverence "“ takes you along on that journey. I know it's not biblical to boast, so please excuse me for this, but so far, it seems to have been embraced by both religious and secular readers: this month I'm on the cover of an evangelical Christian magazine, and I'm also featured in both Playboy and Penthouse. Hallelujah!

I'm going to be blogging throughout the week. I thought I'd start with just a few pieces of

My favorite biblical trivia

  • I read dozens of different versions of the Bible in my year of living biblically. Jewish bibles. Christian bibles. A friend of mine sent me a Hip Hop Bible, in which the 23rd Psalm was rendered "The Lord is All That" (the traditional translation: The Lord is my shepherd.)
  • It's a good bet that, at some time or other in history, every single passage in the Bible has been taken as literal. Consider: In the third century, the scholar Origen is said to have interpreted literally Matthew 19:12 -- "There are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven" --- and castrated himself. Origen later became a preeminent theologian of his age "“ and an advocate of figurative interpretation.
  • The most infamous typo in Bible history: The Wicked Bible from 1631. The problem? It omitted the word "˜not' in Chapter 20, Verse 14 of Exodus, resulting in the commandment: "THOU SHALT COMMIT ADULTERY." Which must have caused a few perplexed readers and dozens of unnecessary extra-marital affairs.
  • Peter Bales, a 16th century Brit was famous for his microscopic writing, and produced a Bible the size of a walnut.
  • The Red Sea is a mistranslation. The true translation is most likely The Sea of Reeds.

More tomorrow! Bless you all.

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Let Alexa Help You Brine a Turkey This Thanksgiving
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There’s a reason most of us only cook turkey once a year: The bird is notoriously easy to overcook. You could rely on gravy and cranberry sauce to salvage your dried-out turkey this Thanksgiving, or you could follow cooking advice from the experts.

Brining a turkey is the best way to guarantee it retains its moisture after hours in the oven. The process is also time-consuming, so do yourself a favor this year and let Alexa be your sous chef.

“Morton Brine Time” is a new skill from the cloud-based home assistant. If you own an Amazon Echo you can download it for free by going online or by asking Alexa to enable it. Once it’s set up, start asking Alexa for brining tips and step-by-step recipes customized to the size of your turkey. Two recipes were developed by Richard Blais, the celebrity chef and restaurateur best known for his Top Chef win and Food Network appearances.

Whether you go for a wet brine (soaking your turkey in water, salt, sugar, and spices) or a dry one (just salt and spices), the process isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. And the knowledge that your bird will come out succulent and juicy will definitely take some stress out of the holiday.

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Rey Del Rio/Getty Images
Big Questions
Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.


Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.


Patrick Smith/Getty Images

In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.


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