Archive for November, 2015

When we bought the farm in June of 2011, we were told renovations on the house would take until the end of September. Then the end of October. We finally moved in near the end of November – two days before Thanksgiving, to be exact. The timing seemed rather inconvenient back then, but I’ve come to appreciate it. Now everything Thanksgiving, I remember to give thanks for everything that led to us living here and everything since.

We had intended to rent the house where we living for another year.  The landlord agreed, then later announced that he might have a buyer for the house, so we had to leave — in six weeks.  It was class-A jerk behavior on his part, but in retrospect, he did us a huge favor.

Chareva immediately began scouring the real-estate listings and spotted this place for sale, which led to us driving out for a look. As you may recall, I wasn’t impressed. The land and the house were both in awful shape, and I was ready to move on and keep looking.

Here are some before pictures, in case you’ve forgotten (or never knew) what kind of condition this place was in when I first saw it.

Those are the front pastures.  The area behind the house was even worse.  It was so scary, I don’t have pictures — I didn’t dare fight my way through the briar and the shoulder-high weeds to take any.

But Chareva’s artist brain saw what it all could be, not what it was, and talked me into buying it. I’ll be forever grateful to her for that. Yeah, it’s been a never-ending job to get the land into usable shape and keep it there, but that’s how I discovered the joy of working myself into a state of Dog Tired Satisfied.

I’m thankful I was given the opportunity to take what was once a weeds-and-briar jungle and turn it into this:

I’m thankful for these ladies and all the eggs they give us.

I’m thankful for all the work Chareva put into her big ol’ garden, which is still giving us fresh greens in November.

I’m thankful for the work that made the front pastures a great place to play. This is how I’ve been spending most of Thanksgiving week so far:

I’m thankful that at age 57, I have the energy to both put in the work and enjoy the play. That in turn means I’m thankful for all the doctors, researchers, authors and bloggers whose work has become part of the Wisdom of Crowds. (One of those bloggers is here playing disc golf all week, as you can tell from the video and pictures.)

And as always, I’m thankful for all of you who read this blog and keep the conversation going with your comments.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


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I wrote a couple of posts back in the day titled This Is Why We Do What We Do. (Here and here if you want to check them out.)


Okay, this is a case of perfect timing, so I need to interrupt myself. I literally just now pasted in the link for the second “This Is Why We Do What We Do” post. That post opened like this:

I received one of those hate mails this week, full of the usual brilliant observations:

Your film was obviously paid for by McDonald’s … Super Size Me was awesome and a really important film because it alerted people to the dangers of fast food … your on-camera experts must be beef-industry hacks if they say saturated fat isn’t bad for you … you think you’re funny but you’re not, you’re just really annoying … your film sucked so bad, I stopped watching before the end … etc., etc., etc.

Later in that post, I quoted from one of the many “thank you for changing my life” emails I’ve received to explain why these goofs who think they’re going to hurt my feelings with a nasty email are dreaming.

About five seconds after pasting in the link, my email program dinged at me. So I checked the email and read this:

I just wanted to tell you I saw FatHead.
Or, should I say, CrapHead.
Because I just saw a full load of bologna. Literally, the worst movie ever.
You sir, Tom Naughton, can go to hell, or better yet, one of the places you defend in CrapHead, and die.
No one will miss you.
And no one will remember CrapHead in 10 years.
Have a nice day.

Another angry little pissant who thinks he’s going to hurt my feelings. You can’t make this stuff up.

Anyway, back to the original topic.

While taking time off to finish the draft of the book, I received a couple more reminders of why we do what we do. One came in the form of a conversation with a co-worker who has type 2 diabetes. His A1C has been climbing, and he’s concerned that he’ll die young, or lose his vision, or suffer some other calamity. I asked him about his diet.

He’s been told almost nothing by his doctor, and the little advice he’s gotten has been lousy. I asked what he eats. Breakfast is usually an apple and a banana, but sometimes he has oatmeal. He was told that’s good for him.

And your other meals?

Well, for lunch he usually has a sandwich. But he uses stone-ground wheat bread, because he was told that’s good for him too.

I explained that he needs to stop filling up on sugars and starches in the morning and try eating bacon and eggs instead. He didn’t disagree, but asked, “So … eggs are okay?”

You can understand his suspicion, of course. We were all told for decades that eggs will clog our arteries because of the cholesterol. The USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee has finally backed off that warning (a mere 35 years too late), but I don’t think most people got the memo.

So here’s a guy worried that his type 2 diabetes will kill him, and he’s been told eggs are bad, but oatmeal and wheat bread are good. No wonder his A1C is climbing.

The other reminder of why we do what we do arrived in an email. Here’s part of it:

Hi, Tom-

I’m a long time reader of your blog and have emailed you a few times in the past. I just needed to send you a message for a quick rant on some extreme frustration I recently had. I work in mental health as an outpatient clinic therapist and recently had a patient who couldn’t come to our last appointment because she went to the ER for chest pain. Turns out she had a heart attack. She’s only 36 years old, but is overweight, smokes, not a good diet, no exercise, and has a strong family history.

She came in after being released from the hospital. The real kicker is this: she’s been told to eliminate saturated fat from her diet to the point of it only being 7% of her diet. She was told no butter, no fatty meats, blah blah blah. They also put her on a statin even though her cholesterol was ok.

The hospital staff apparently was quoting directly from the USDA guidelines. As for the statin … don’t get me started.

Then….she followed up with this comment, “But what’s great is I saw that Graham Crackers have no saturated fat, so I can eat the s#%*@ out of those.” My internal response? NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

NOOOOO, indeed. Out of curiosity, I looked up the ingredients and macronutrients from a (ahem) “nutrition” label for graham crackers online. The ingredients:

Enriched flour, sugar, graham flour, vegetable oil (cottonseed and partially hydrogenated soybean oil and/or canola oil), molasses, corn syrup.

Refined wheat, sugar and hydrogenated oils.  Nope, no threats to cardiovascular health there.

Here are the calories, carbs, etc:

Hmmm, there’s a gram of saturated fat in there, so perhaps those crackers will kill her after all.  The email continues:

How can doctors still believe this jargon? How can one honestly believe a Graham Cracker is better than an Egg?

Good question. We’re living in a profoundly silly age where food-like products made from refined grains are considered health foods, while real foods humans have been eating forever are considered killers — because they contain fat.

But that’s why we do what we do. That’s why I’m determined to finish this book project, and then jump straight into the film/DVD version.

————– Update ——————

More laughs. The pissant whose email I quoted above sent another one on Friday:

Angry loser? Me? You sound like a whiner or a kid that just lost his favorite toy or a bad football player like Adrian Peterson when the NFL suspends him for beating up his child.
You don’t know me pal. I’m a powerful citizen of the US of A, the greatest country in the world.
I have powerful friends that can f@#$ you up, just like they did with Kobe or Armstrong.
Remember good, and write it down Mr.Nutjob, I’m Mr. Hands, I have power, I have influences, and I can beat you up anytime soon.
You f@#$%ing moron.
At least you had the time to answer mi e-mail.
Have a nice day a-hole.

Well, I believe him, of course.  That’s what powerful and influential people with powerful friends do:  they send angry emails to film directors whose films they don’t like.  Then they return to their video games until Mom calls them for dinner.

Figuring perhaps a reply will cause his pissant head to explode, I sent one:

Sure, send your powerful friends on over to f@#$ me up.  I’ll introduce them to my rottweilers and my Mossbergs.

You can’t make this stuff up.


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Whew! It’s nearly 4:00 PM, and I made my deadline an hour ago. Then I celebrated with a round of disc golf. I don’t know what my final score was, because my brain was too busy saying “The book is done! The book is done!” to bother remembering strokes.

Actually, “done” would be stretching the truth. The first draft is done. That’s huge, because it means I’ve said everything I want to say. Now I’ll do what I always do with a long piece of work: let it cool for several days, then give it a full read-through, then say everything again, only better. Second and third drafts are usually where I come up with a lot of ideas for adding humor into the mix.

My primary tool for writing isn’t a computer. It’s a recorder, for a couple of reasons. The recorder allows me to “write” while commuting to Nashville. Most writing time is actually thinking time, and I find it easy to think in a car. Back in the day, I wrote most of my new standup material by dictating during long road trips.

I use the recorder first even when I’m at home and could type on the computer. As I learned the hard way when I first tried doing standup, written English and spoken English are related, but not the same. If you’ve ever heard someone give a speech that sounded like a term paper read aloud, you know what I mean. Natural speech has a different rhythm. When I was a journalism major, the broadcast news professor insisted we learn to write TV copy by using what he called the “Hey, Joe, Didja Know” method. Turn to an imaginary person and tell him the story. Then write that down. Otherwise, you’ll probably write copy that looks fine on paper but sounds clunky spoken aloud.

This is a book, which of course means people will be reading it. But it’s a book for kids, so I want the text to read almost like someone talking. We also plan to produce a companion DVD, so I figured I may as well put the language in a to-be-heard format from the beginning.

We’ve got a loooong way to go to finish the entire project. Chareva has a ton of cartoons and graphics to draw, plus she’s learning InDesign so she can design the book. I haven’t used After Effects or other animation software in years, so I need to seriously upgrade my skillset and learn the latest version.

But the first draft is done. That’s the best birthday present I’ve given myself since the Fat Head premiere party on my 50th.

And now it’s time for my annual indulgence in pizza-with-everything and a few craft beers.  I’m pretty sure I deserve it.


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Almost there on the book.  I’ve got to finish the last full chapter, then I’ll be writing a wrap-up chapter — the title of which will be something like “It’s perfectly good to be good instead of perfect.”

So I may just make that self-imposed deadline, which comes around on Saturday … along with my 57th birthday.

Back to it …


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I had a couple of interesting items land in my inbox recently. One was an article about an analysis of statin trials. Specifically, the investigators (who reported their findings in the British Medical Journal) looked at the statistics on all-cause mortality.

That, of course, is the figure that matters – or should matter – more than any other. It’s also a figure the makers of statins don’t like to announce. They’d much rather talk about those tiny reductions in heart-attack rates. But if people on statins don’t live any longer on average despite having fewer heart attacks, you ought to be very suspicious. Here’s why:

Suppose I develop a new drug that’s basically rat poison in pill form. Then I conduct a trial in which one group takes the drug and another group takes the placebo. In which group will fewer people die of heart attacks?

The rat-poison group, of course. The poison will kill them before a heart attack can.  But if I want to sell my drug, I’d trumpet the reduction in heart-attack deaths.

Anyway, let’s see what the BMJ analysis says about all-cause mortality in statin trials:

6 studies for primary prevention and 5 for secondary prevention with a follow-up between 2.0 and 6.1 years were identified. Death was postponed between −5 and 19 days in primary prevention trials …

I haven’t taken a math class in quite some time, but I’m pretty sure if death is postponed by -5 days, that means the statin-takers died five days sooner. On a positive note, statin-takers lived an average of 19 days longer in one trial.

Well, the statin enthusiasts like to tell us that while statins may not be all that with a side of fries for primary prevention (that is, preventing a first heart attack), they’re just awesome for preventing a second heart attack. So let’s continue.

… and between −10 and 27 days in secondary prevention trials. The median postponement of death for primary and secondary prevention trials were 3.2 and 4.1 days, respectively.

The statin enthusiasts are clearly correct. The results are better for secondary prevention.  Compared to primary prevention, death was postponed by nine-tenths of an extra day! That certainly justifies taking a powerful prescription drug with a low incidence of side effects, as the statin-makers assure us.

Which brings us to the second item to land in my inbox. The subject line of the email was New Boob Statins Toxic Side Effects.

Holy crap, I thought, you mean statins cause toxic boobs now too?

Turns out I was confused by a typo. The email was from author and science junkie David Evans, letting me know his new book (not boob) Statins Toxic Side Effects is available.

I told him about my confusion in a reply, and he responded with some links to studies showing that statins probably contribute to man-boobs. That might not be a toxic effect, but it’s not a pretty one, either. (Well, I suppose somewhere in the world there’s a female impersonator who looks better with the statin-induced boobs, but you get my point.)

Anyway, on to the book.

The subtitle is Evidence From 500 Scientific Papers. Yes, 500. On the off chance that you have any lingering doubts whether statins produce nasty side-effects, this book will convince you.

The format is the same as in Evans’ other two books, Low Cholesterol Leads To An Early Death and Cholesterol And Saturated Fat Prevent Heart Disease. (He also has an outstanding blog called Healthy Diets And Science, with a gazillion studies organized by topic.)

The studies are organized into chapters with titles such as The common association between statin use and muscle damage and Statins exacerbate asthma and inhibit lung function and exercise. For each of the 500 studies, there’s a consumer-friendly title written by Evans, a citation so you can look up the study yourself, and a summary of the study’s findings, with occasional commentary by Evans.

Thumbing through this thick book and reading some study summaries, I kept shaking my head, thinking of all the people I know who are on statins because the doctor said so.  When my doctor suggested thinking about a statin because of my “elevated” (read: normal) cholesterol, I replied, “I wouldn’t take a statin unless you had a gun to my head and I was convinced you’d pull the trigger.”  He didn’t argue.

Chapter 20 provides citations and summaries of articles written by health professionals who dare to question the statins-for-everyone trend. There are titles (again, the consumer-friendly versions by Evans) like UK doctors virtually compelled to write prescriptions for statins against their better judgment and Doctors’ low awareness of statin side-effects.

Chapter 21 is a bullet-point summary of the negative side-effects attributed to statins in studies. It runs on for two-and-half pages. That should tell you everything you need to know about a drug that by gosh might just extend your life for up to four days.

This isn’t, of course, a book you’ll sit down and read for pleasure while nursing a glass of red wine and a side of bacon. It’s a reference that will save you lord-only-know-how-many hours of research on the internet. I’ll be glad it’s on my bookshelf the next time some statin-pushing doctor sends me an email telling me I’ve just GOT to stop scaring people away from those wunnerful, wunnerful life-saving drugs.

You should be scared.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.


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