Archive for February, 2017

Sorry (he said again) for the long absence. We’re in pedal-to-the-metal mode, trying to wrap up the book and make some serious headway on the film. After all, we’re supposed to premiere the film in late May. I believe we’ll get it done, but YOWZA, we’ve got a lot to do between now and then.

The book is (we think) in its final form. Now we have to upload it to the printer and have a printed copy sent back to us.

Meanwhile, we’ve been spending a lot of time doing this.

The fancy voice-over booth in the pictures is a closet in my office. When I was recording my narration, I had to hire a junior audio engineer to operate the controls in Adobe Audition.

I’ve got pretty much the whole family doing voices. We drove to Illinois over the recent three-day weekend so I could record The Older Brother’s Younger Sons as three of the main characters – again, in a closet. I even got The Older Brother to step in and do a few lines for other characters.

Chareva drew around 200 cartoons for the book. After a breather lasting approximately 15 minutes, she had to get drawing again for the film. In a book, you can pick and choose which bits of text to support with an illustration. In a film, there’s no picking and choosing. You can’t just toss up a title that says WE CHOSE NOT TO ILLUSTRATE THIS SECTION. Something has to be on screen every second.

So while I’ve been pounding through Adobe After Effects tutorials and learning to animate, Chareva’s been busy drawing cartoons that aren’t in the book.  She’s also been redrawing her book characters in the style required for animation. Each character has to be drawn as body parts that can be linked at the joints and rotated. Characters who talk need seven mouth shapes. Characters who do things with their hands need several different hand shapes.

That’s Marty Metabolism, one of the main characters, on Chareva’s screen below. She has to draw him from five different angles, with different head positions in some of those angles.

And here’s Marty again at his control panel. The control panel had to be drawn — from three different angles — with parts that can be moved in the animation software.

It’s a ton of work, but I hope it will all be worth it.

I’ll post when I can.


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When we finished Chareva’s big spring project a couple of years ago, we had two chicken yards and two areas for gardens, all within a big square surrounded by fences. In addition to being talented egg-makers, chickens do a bang-up job of fertilizing the ground. So part of the plan was to eventually rotate the chicken yards and the gardens.

Most of our weekend and evening time lately has been dedicated to the book and the companion film, which is why I’ve only been posting once per week or so. But on Super Bowl Sunday, Chareva asked if I’d mind spending some time before the big game working outdoors, preparing the chicken yards for the big rotation.

“If we’re going to rotate the chickens and the gardens later this year, we really need to break up the ground in those chicken yards so I can plant my vegetables. I know we have a tiller, but it’s just too much of a bucking bronco for a little ol’ gal like me to handle. I need a big, handsome, masculine male to rescue me from this awful situation and tame that beast of a machine. Would you be willing to step into that heroic role for me, my dear, wonderful, impressively strong husband? I’d be ever so grateful.”

That’s not exactly what she said, but it’s what I heard.

So even though the Guinness Extra Stout was already cold and the pre-game shows were already mildly interesting, I replied, “Well now, don’t you worry your pretty head, little lady. I’ll slide on my boots and tame that beast for you.”

That’s not exactly what I said, but it’s what I heard.

The tiller is heavy and doesn’t roll especially well, so I’d already gotten a leg workout by the time I finished dragging it up the steep hill to the chicken yards. The nets I put up over the chicken yards have sagged (raising them will be another weekend project), which means I often had to duck as I took the bucking, jumping tiller for a first pass around one of the chicken yards. As usual when tilling ground in our part of Tennessee, I turned over more rocks than soil.

I was stuffed up from my first real head cold in a couple of years, so I took a break after the first pass to catch my breath. I told Chareva that with the hard ground broken up, I’d take the tiller around a second time. Then I’d do the same for the other chicken yard. Then I’d call it a day and get back to Super Bowl festivities.

“Actually, I only used that story about needing a big, strong man to do the tilling to lure you out here in your work clothes. We’ve had hay piling up in the chicken coops for two years, and now it’s thoroughly mixed with with chicken $@#% and urine. That’s perfect fertilizer for the gardens. So even though you have a runny nose and sound a bit like a deep-voiced Elmer Fudd with your cold and all, I want you to stop the relatively pleasant job of tilling the ground and spend a couple of hours in the chicken coops — stooping of course, since you can’t possibly stand up in there — and use a pitch fork to dig up all that $@#%-soaked hay and toss it outside so I can start spreading it on the ground.”

That’s not exactly what she said, but it’s what I heard.

“Are you @#$%ing kidding me?”

That’s exactly what I said.

She explained that it had just occurred to her that yes, we should till the chicken yards, but we should get the large loads of chicken-generated fertilizer out of the coops first.  That way we could till it into the soil.  I tried to think of a reason her explanation didn’t make perfect sense, but couldn’t.  After all, our old chicken yard in the front pasture became a jungle once we moved the chickens out back. That’s how fertile the ground is now, thanks to all the chicken droppings.

So I grabbed a pitch fork and squeezed myself into the first chicken coop, then began excavating layers and layers of old hay. I banged my head and elbows a few times in the tight quarters, which gave me the opportunity to hear what a deep-voiced Elmer Fudd sounds like when saying words the Warner Brothers censors would have never allowed in a cartoon.

The chickens were delighted by the whole process and jumped on each new pile of hay I tossed out the doors, looking for (and apparently finding) yummy grubs and bugs to eat. They also began spreading the hay around for us by kicking and scratching at it.

Meanwhile, Chareva took some of the hay and spread it over what will be her spring gardens. The current chicken yards will become summer gardens, and we’ll build new coops and hang new nets before moving the chickens up the hill.

I finally finished pitch-forking and shoveling the old hay out of the coops sometime in the mid-afternoon. By the time I sat down in front of the TV with my first cold Guinness, I was pretty sure I’d earned it.

Sometimes farm work is chicken-$@#% work. But that goes with the territory. I’m pretty sure the fresh vegetables will be worth it.


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Well, I guess fans of the Atlanta Falcons are stuffing themselves with saturated fat today.  Meanwhile, fans of the New England Patriots – who saw their team stage the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history – are probably cutting back on saturated fat and possibly losing a few pounds by eating less overall.

I know this because of a study I stumbled across in my database.  Here are some quotes from an NPR online article about the study:

Backing a losing NFL team isn’t just bad for your pride.  It’s bad for your waistline.

A study that links sports outcomes with the eating behavior of fans finds that backers of NFL teams eat more food and fattier food the day after a loss. Backers of winning teams, by contrast, eat lighter food, and in moderation.

Dangit.  Since Atlanta is in Georgia, this is going to add fuel to that whole “southerners are fatter than northerners” myth.  It is a myth, by the way.  As I explained in a previous post, the belief that southerners are fatter is the result of those danged Yankees lying about their weight in phone surveys.  But back to the NPR article:

After a defeat, the researchers found that saturated fat consumption went up by 16 percent, while after a victory it decreased by 9 percent. “After a victory, people eat better,” says Pierre Chandon, a professor of marketing at the business school INSEAD in France. “After a defeat, people eat a lot worse.”

In many ways, the research fits with what we already know about the psychology of eating. When many of us feel miserable, we’ll down a big bag of candy. Call it a form of self-medication – when your happiness levels are low, junk food and high-calorie food provide the brain with much-needed pleasure.

Wait a minute … something here doesn’t quite make sense.  Let’s put toggle back and forth between two of those sentences:

Backers of NFL teams eat more food and fattier food the day after a loss.

When many of us feel miserable, we’ll down a big bag of candy.

Backers of NFL teams eat more food and fattier food the day after a loss.

When many of us feel miserable, we’ll down a big bag of candy.

I could’ve sworn people eat candy for the sugar, not the saturated fat.  And yet the study seems to be saying people comfort themselves after their NFL team loses by eating more saturated fat.  Let’s read on.

Chandon and his co-author Yann Cornil, also at INSEAD, find the same thing happening with sports defeats. They tracked the eating behavior of people in cities with NFL teams and measured how eating changed after victories and defeats.

Chandon says the connection between eating and sports outcomes was off the charts in the cities where following the local football team was tantamount to a religion.

“When we look at the behavior of people living in cities where football is really important — places like Green Bay, Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, then the performance of the team has an even greater impact on what they eat,” Chandon says.

After a loss, people in those cities eat 28 percent more saturated fat. A win swayed them over to eat 16 percent less saturated fat. “So, in those cities, people are even more responsive to the wining or the losing of the football team,” says Chandon.

Maybe that’s why the people in San Diego didn’t vote to build the Chargers a new stadium.  Given the team’s lousy record in recent years, perhaps voters figured they’d eat less if the Chargers did their losing somewhere else.

In one part of their study, the researchers found that asking people to remember terrible sports defeats had even bigger effects on what they ate – defeats lead to a 45 percent increase in saturated fat consumption.

Well then, for heavenssakes, don’t ever talk to me about the 1984 Cubs, the 1989 Cubs or the 2003 Cubs.  I might go crazy on saturated fat.

The most interesting part of Chandon’s research might not be the effects of defeats, but the effect that victories seem to have on fans. Winning seems to make people think long-term – they look forward to the next match, for example. The satisfaction of winning increases the capacity of people to withstand difficult choices – to pick the salad over the fries.

Now that you mention it, I finally began to truly appreciate the taste of lettuce right after the last play of the 2016 World Series.  I just didn’t make the connection.

But I still don’t see why the researchers focused so much on saturated fat.  So I took a peek at the study.  Here’s the relevant portion:

We examined two measures of unhealthy eating: saturated-fat consumption and total food-based caloric consumption, both of which are major contributors to cardiovascular diseases and obesity (Hu et al., 1997).  Unlike other macronutrients, which are present in all kinds of foods, saturated fats are present mostly in highly processed, calorie-rich, nutrient-poor “junk” food (e.g., pizza, cakes and cookies, dairy-based desserts).

Well, there you have it.  Unlike the other macronutrients (which would be protein and carbohydrates), saturated fat is present mostly in highly processed junk foods, according to the study authors.

The only things wrong with that statement are 1) saturated fat isn’t a macronutrient (fat is), 2) saturated fats are present in all kinds of unprocessed and natural foods (meats, eggs, whole milk, yogurt, cheeses), and 3) carbohydrates are most definitely present in countless processed junk foods … including pizza, cakes and cookies, dairy-based desserts.

In fact, I’m going to step out a limb here and say that when people eat comfort foods like pizza, cakes and cookies, dairy-based desserts, etc., it’s because they want the sugar and flour.  After all, plenty of cakes and cookies these days are made with vegetable oils.  And as the article said, When many of us feel miserable, we’ll down a big bag of candy.

So the researchers made the usual guilt-by-association mistake:  they see people stuffing themselves with foods that contain saturated fat and sugar, or saturated fat and white flour, or saturated fat and sugar and white flour, and assume the problem is the saturated fat – because the stuff is so unhealthy, ya know.  Dr. Hu at Harvard said so, which means it must be true.

Chandon says he had seen the effects of the research firsthand. The same thing applies to soccer, he explains: “As a Frenchman, both the performance and the behavior of the French soccer team were so distressing, I’m sure it’s part of the reason why I gained so much weight lately.”

Let me offer some advice, Professor Chandon:  the next time the French soccer team loses, skip the pizza, cakes and cookies, diary-based desserts, etc., and just eat more bacon.  I promise you won’t gain any weight.


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