A belated Happy New Year to you all. The end-of-the-year crunch is over, and I’m ready to begin another year of blogging after some badly-needed time off. (A big thank-you to the Older Brother for putting up a fresh post while I was still on vacation.)
My goal before starting a new year was to get all my digital files organized. Part of the end-of-the-year crunch for me was finishing the updated version of Fat Head, which will be out soon. (I’ll write more on that when it’s available.) Video files take up enormous hard-drive space, and I’d gotten into the habit of buying an external drive, filling it up, then buying another one.
As a result, I ended up with multiple drives that each contained some combination of family video projects, music projects, programming projects, and Fat Head materials … old version, new version, video interviews for the upcoming book, speeches, YouTube videos, cruise roast, graphics, etc. Good lucking finding that one specific file when I needed it. I’d end up plugging in a drive, searching the contents, plugging in another drive, searching the contents, lather, rinse, repeat, say bad words, repeat again. Since gargantuan external drives are relatively new, I also had an entirely different set of files burned to dozens and dozens of DVDs.
So both before and after our trip to Illinois, I spent long days cataloging everything on my existing drives and DVDs and then organizing everything on new drives. Now there’s one drive for all Fat Head materials, one drive for all the family videos, one for all my music projects, etc. (Actually, there are two identical drives for each category. I never rely on a single backup.)
I bought Chareva a new iMac for Christmas, so she’s going through a similar process now, organizing the hundreds of graphics she’s produced for me over the years. She’ll need to be able to find them when she starts illustrating the book and companion DVD that’s on our to-do list for the year.
The other big project was organizing the hundreds of articles and studies I’ve collected since making Fat Head. In the past, I tried savings links or files in folders on my hard drive, but that didn’t help much. I had a folder named Cancer and another named Sugar. Okay, so I come across a study suggesting that fructose may drive cancer … which folder do I choose? And will I remember which one I chose later?
Then there was the issue of useless file names. Download a PDF of a study, and it may have a name along the lines of AJCN.2010-v131.213:217.pdf. I have a good memory, but it’s not exactly photographic, so of course I lost track of which files contained which studies. A reader would email to ask if I knew of any studies on, say, low-carb diets and kidney issues, and I’d think, “Sure, I have one … somewhere.”
Besides the links and files I find and download into folders, I constantly receive emails from readers that include links to articles or studies. Before I went back to full-time programming work, I was pretty good about opening each one, reading it, and filing it. When my schedule filled up with work, commuting to work, the farm, etc., I got into a bad habit of posting on the ones that sparked my immediate interest while letting the others pile up in an Outlook folder.
So while scanning the contents of my emails and research folders over the holidays, I said to myself, “These should all be logged into some kind of searchable database. I’m getting ready to write a book, and I can’t waste hours trying to find a particular study every time I need a reference. If only I knew a good database programmer. Hey, wait a minute …”
I built the database program during my down-time in Chicago. Among other features, it will grab the URL of whatever page is active in Firefox and copy it to a field. Clicking that field will open the link.
Since I discovered that quite a few links I’d saved have since gone dead, I added a feature that will download the page to a folder on my hard drive and link to the local copy as well. I can enter a brief summary for each record and tag it with multiple categories … which means now I can find the studies that belong in both Sugar and Cancer, or in Low-Carb Diets and Saturated Fat and Heart Disease.
Building the program was the fun part. The tedious part was opening every single link or PDF I’ve collected over the past few years and logging it into the database. That’s pretty much all I’ve done for the past week. (And yes, I know I haven’t checked comments in the past few days. I’ll get to that tonight.) I just finished processing all the files late last night. The research database now contains more than 500 entries.
As I plowed through my Outlook folders, I was floored by the sheer volume of information readers have sent me over the years. In case I don’t say this often enough, Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for all the links to articles and research so many of you have provided. I can’t post on everything I receive, but believe me, a lot of it will end up in the book or be passed along to other readers who write to ask questions – especially now that I can search the database in a matter of seconds.
I figure the best way I can show my gratitude is to start sharing more of what I’ve collected with the audience for this blog. I like picking apart bad studies, and I believe it’s beneficial for readers to understand why they’re bad studies. But I also believe it will be beneficial for readers to see more of the research that’s out there – if only to help them stifle the well-meaning friends and family members who think whole grains are wonderful but a high-fat diet will kill them.
I’ve now got a slew of interesting studies, some going back as far as the 1950s, logged in my database. So I’m going to create a new post category called Study Spotlight or something like that and write frequent posts on the research I’ve collected – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
That’s my New Year’s resolution. I wish you all a happy and healthy 2013.