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.

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17 Responses to “Happy New Year”
  1. John T. says:

    Fantastic news, I knew you said no Fat-Head 2 but an update would be fantastic.

  2. Pussyfoot says:

    The database idea is great, but you just reinvented something that already exists: tagging. See http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/window-on-windows/tag-your-files-for-easier-searches-in-windows-7/4024

    The advantage of building something myself (which I enjoy) is that I can program it to do exactly what I want.

  3. Elenor says:

    “never rely on a single backup”

    Leo Laporte says (that some famous in the tech world guy recommends):
    “For back-up: it’s three-two-one. Three copies, on two different media, one off-site.”

    I’ve always backed up to *three* external hard drives (just because I got three really pretty ones: a red one, a blue one, and a silver one (named Thing One, Thing Two, and HiYo Silver). The plan originally was to carry away one of the externals each time I left the house — so if the place burned down or was robbed, I had an offsite copy with me… But of course, that NEVER happened! So, just last week I began doing *actual* off-site back-up (using Carbonite).

    Welcome back, we’ve missed you and I look forward to your study dis-assembly!

    I actually do have three backups of all the Fat Head materials all the videos of my girls (which are some of my most treasured possessions). The third copies are sitting in my mom’s basement in Illinois, just in case.

  4. Rabbi Hirsch Meisels says:

    Will you sell the software?

    No, I don’t want the hassle of supporting it. The back-end database is SQL Server, which was easy to set up before Windows 7 came along. Now it requires jumping through all kinds of security hoops. The software system I sell to law firms uses a SQL Server database, and I have to walk every single client through the setup now. Before Windows 7, they could just run my installation program and be done with it.

  5. Laura F says:

    Is one of your goals this year to write that children’s book you’ve mentioned before? Please? I bought Sarah Fragoso’s “Paleo Pals” book and my children thought it was super lame. They would go for something that was written with your sense of humour.

    That’s right, we’re committed to finishing it this year. That was part of the motivation for me to get all my source files organized.

  6. Lori says:

    I do a lot of organizing this time of year, too. Being winter, there’s no yardwork to compete for my time and energy.

    I’m looking forward to the updated Fathead movie.

    I always try to clean out the junk and organize what’s left at the end of each year. I will be engaging in weekend yard work, however. I want to tackle the remaining briar patches on the land while the weeds and other forms of overgrowth are dormant and easy to navigate.

  7. Tom Welsh says:

    I never had nearly as much stuff as you do, but I heartily recommend Copernic Desktop Search (CDS). You’ll wan the Pro version, as the free version has a size limit on its index that you will certainly exceed. It’s nice to pull up a search window, type in a word or phrase, and immediately see all the emails, files, etc. that contain it.

    http://www.copernic.com/en/products/desktop-search/index.html

  8. Angel says:

    Happy New Year to you too, and thanks for all the work you do in furthering the cause!

    Happy New Year to you too.

  9. Tom Welsh says:

    And, by the way, any time you want to make a fortune – just sell that database you wrote! Can you imagine how many other people would find it useful? It’s the kind of thing that is so great that potential customers haven’t even grasped what it is they want yet. Like the Sony Walkman when it was first launched.

    I hope to make the fortune by finishing that book and selling it — along with the updated Fat Head and the soundtrack album when we finish it.

  10. DeniseW says:

    Very excited to see the updated movie and books!

  11. Kathy says:

    So glad you’re back. You are on my “daily” list and I was getting increasingly frustrated waiting for your return. I plow through a lot of nutrition blog entries and it is such a joy to read your posts. Most of what I read is like work. Yours are clear and concise – refreshing!

    It’s nice to be missed. It’s also nice to be back.

  12. nonegiven says:

    iDrive is the only one I found that could backup a network drive.

  13. Underground says:

    Sounds like you need a NAS server, such as a Synology http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822108112 .

    Nice. You might consider running the application minimized and tying it to a hot key so you can just highlight a URL hit that and it will check for dupes and open the editing dialog.

    If you wanted to get fancy you could even have it automatically parse and categorize incoming email, extracting links and documents for review.

    For small scale desktop DB apps, an embedded version like SQLite (public domain) http://www.sqlite.org/ can be pretty useful and really minimize your deployment issues.

    I’ll look into SQLite for desktop apps. My law-firm software has to be client-server, since there are usually at least a few attorneys or paralegals using it. So I put up with the configuration issues.

  14. Craig says:

    On your note thanking readers:

    I’ve learned a lot from the comments on your blog posts over the past couple years. I try to make it a point to read the comments since they tend to contain so much useful discussion. You do a great job of promoting a lively community in your comments by responding thoughtfully and allowing a variety of opinions while not being scared to ban folks who are obviously just looking to troll and be obnoxious.

    I love that the low-carb world is full of people who want to really understand the science behind things instead of just parroting back sound bites.

    It reminds me of an Underground Wellness podcast I heard once where the guest mentioned to Sean something along the lines of, “I won’t delve into the details since I don’t want to bore or confuse your listeners.” He told them that the majority of his listeners are ready and willing to look up additional information and re-listen until they fully understand something so don’t hesitate to dive into the deeper science.

    I’m always impressed by how knowledgeable the readers are. Same goes for members of the Fat Head Facebook group.

  15. Tracey says:

    Welcome back Tom – really looking forward to hearing about some of those studies, partly because i really enjoy your humourous analyses of them, but mostly because I’m too darn lazy to trawl through them myself *blush*.

    Also having gone waaaay off track for the last 18 months and sabotaging myself, I’m back on track….today was day four of being sugar, wheat and caffeine free. I will add coffee back in to my day in a or so….I’m not that much of an angel. Figured I might as well go public, it’ll help me stay on track I hope.

    Happy New Year FatHeads :)

    Good luck staying on course.

  16. Ryan says:

    Fellow programmer here! I always knew processed carbs weren’t good, but I also thought fat was really bad. I always thought a paleo or modified paleo diet made perfect sense, but I’ve been trained to believe that you cannot survive without the energy that whole wheat bread/pasta & brown/wild rice provides. You’d be unable to finish a workout and your mind would be cloudy.

    The part of your movie about carbs/sugar/fat/insulin made perfect sense. You explained it in a way that anyone can understand. Now I know exactly whats going on in my body when I eat that crap. Knowing WHY it’s bad has actually made me NOT WANT IT for the first time in my life. I don’t even crave it, which is shocking to me.

    I’m a pretty active, healthy guy, 6’3″ 215. By cutting out processed carbs, I’ve dropped 7 pounds in 12 days. I’m starting to wonder just how trim I could be if I keep this up. I’m not going hungry and my mood and energy levels are way up. Thanks!

    That’s a great start to a new year.

  17. Dan says:

    Cool app. I wrote a very similar app a couple of years ago when I was writing a newsletter. Couldn’t live without it then. As an aside, sold a variant of that app to a subsidiary of the NYT. This subsidiary aggregates data, repackages it and then sells it as their own for big, big Hollywood dollars. What made me laugh was, this was near a time when the NYT was chastising bloggers as nothing more than aggregators and not ‘real’ reporters. Do as they say, not as they do?

    The New York Times just doesn’t like it when bloggers point out their reporters’ mistakes and break stories the NYT would rather ignore.

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