From The News … Sort Of

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This isn’t exactly a From The News post because the topics are from real life instead of news articles. Nonetheless …

Food and virtual drummers

The virtual drummer in Logic Pro, which I use to record and produce music, got me thinking about diets. Yeah, it’s a strange connection to make, but that’s how I roll.  I’ll explain.

If you’re a longtime reader, you’ve probably noticed I’m not sticking to my longtime schedule of two posts per week. That’s because there are only so many hours in a week, and I’ve decided I need to finish a music project.

When Fat Head hit Netflix and the streaming services, I received quite a few emails from people asking me where they could buy the music from the film. For a long time, I answered We’re working on that. It was true when I said it. The film’s composer and I had planned to expand some of the short bits of music (“Sugar, sugar … makes me want to be with you …”) into full songs and release them on iTunes. Then he ran into some family and personal issues, including a serious health problem, and eventually told me he needed to abandon the project.

I wrote all the music for Fat Head Kids myself, save for the Fat Head theme that plays for a few seconds. I also wrote two of the songs for the original Fat Head. I’m taking those songs plus some new ones and rolling them into a collection I’ll probably call something like Songs From My Fat Head.

Which brings me back to the virtual drummer in Logic Pro: I friggin’ love the virtual drummer. It’s not a simple drum machine, and the drums aren’t synthesized; they’re real drums played by real drummers and recorded perfectly by Apple engineers.

To add drums to a song, you pick from one of several virtual drummers (all with their own styles and drum kits), then choose from a list of beat presets. Then within that preset, you drag around what Apple calls the hockey puck – in the graphic below, it’s the gold circle. You can also choose options on the right to determine which specific drums are played, the beat pattern for the snare and kick drum, etc.

Here’s a closer look at the hockey-puck portion:

As you can see, moving the puck around sets whether the drummer plays louder or softer, and simpler or more complex patterns. But no matter what you choose, you get a real drummer playing real drums. In the YouTube clip below, you can hear the virtual drummer at work in the opening music.

So why in the heck does the virtual drummer make me think about diets? Because I believe too many people are ridiculously tribal about their preferred diet. Everyone should be on a vegan diet. Or a meat-only diet. Or a high-carb, low-fat diet. Or a ketogenic diet. Blah-blah-blah.

People can be healthy on all kinds of real-food diets. The diet that works best for me might be very unlike the diet that works best for you. As long as we’re talking about real, unprocessed foods, I believe choosing a healthy diet is a bit like that hockey-puck selector, except it looks like this:

Insisting that everyone should be on the same diet is like insisting all songs should use the same drummer playing the same style.  Find the beat that works for you.

Food and the sun

I recently wrote a post about why I don’t need sunscreen anymore. Since switching from frankenfats to real fats, I just don’t burn like I did back in the day. The previous week provided another example.

My nephew Grant (The Older Brother’s Middle Son) was in town because his wife Mirjam, a nurse practitioner in a surgical practice, attended a medical conference in Nashville. (As you may recall, she stitched up my thumb in our kitchen a couple of years ago when I held my pistol incorrectly and got whacked by the slide.) While Mirjam was in sessions downtown, Grant and their two boys came down our way.

Grant is quite a talented actor, by the way. He’s currently working on one degree in theater and another to teach special ed. If you’ve seen Fat Head Kids (or just watched the clip above), you’ve heard him as the voices of Mr. Spot and Marty Metabolism.

During the few days he was here, we played two rounds of disc golf – an hour in the Tennessee sun each time.  We also played nine of holes of actual golf – another two hours in the Tennessee sun. Back in the day, if I hadn’t slathered myself with sunscreen, my arms and neck would have gotten fried.

I took these pictures this morning to demonstrate what all that time being in the sun does to me now. You can see my face and neck are just a bit tanned, but there’s not much difference between them and my chest, which was covered.

Same with my arms. I pulled my sleeve up to show the upper-arm area that was covered. Again, the lower arms are tanned, but not burnt. Just a hint of a reddish tone, but I’m mostly Irish, after all. My skin has a slight reddish tone even if it’s winter and I don’t leave the house. (The brown spot near my elbow is a bruise, in case you’re wondering.)

Real fats make for healthy skin that simply isn’t as prone to burn.

Food and mood

There’s a chapter in the Fat Head Kids book and film titled Food Sets The Mood. As I explained in the book, one of the most touching emails I’ve ever received was from a woman whose teenage son went from being a rage-aholic to a calm, happy kid after Fat Head inspired them to change their diets. A good diet keeps the brain happy.

When Grant and I played nine holes of golf this weekend, it was my first time swinging golf clubs in at least seven years. I haven’t even been to a driving range during that span. When he suggested we play nine holes, I had to go find my clubs in the back of the garage.

Back in my standup days, I played golf all the time. I also became enraged over my bad shots rather frequently. I apparently believed that despite having little inborn athletic ability, I should be able to play a round of golf without topping, slicing and hooking the ball.

I topped, sliced and hooked quite a few balls during the nine holes I played with Grant. I lost three balls out of bounds and one in a pond. My most explosive reaction all day was something like, “Ugh. Bad shot.”

Of course, playing my first round in at least seven years, I wasn’t expecting greatness. I also knew not to compare my game to Grant’s. I’m 60. He’s 31. He’s also a bit of a beast who served two tours in Iraq and then completed Army Ranger school, where the failure rate is something like 65%. He’s way stronger and more athletic than I was at any age.

So he’d smack a drive waaaay down the fairway, then I’d hit a drive about the distance he gets with a five-iron. Didn’t bother me at all. Despite my string of double and triple bogies (with one very lucky birdie tossed in), I was in a great mood the whole game.

Maybe I’m just older and more mature now. But I can’t help but wonder if my golf-course temper-tantrums back in the day were partly the result of riding on the blood-sugar roller-coaster.

Food and awesome food

Chareva and I were married 19 years ago today. Since Grant and Mirjam were in town over the weekend, we decided it would be more fun to celebrate on Saturday and go out to dinner with them. They’d never tried a Brazilian steakhouse, so we went to Rodizio Grill in downtown Nashville.

The food was, of course, simply awesome, and they keep bringing it until you signal them to stop.  Meat, meat, more meat, even more meat, followed by several sides of meat. I believe I ate at least one vegetable from the salad bar, but I don’t remember what it was.

That’s Grant and Mirjam below.  Sorry about the poor lighting.

Since we were celebrating our anniversary, I asked the staff to please seat me directly below a bright light that would make my bald head glow in any pictures. As you can see, they were happy to oblige.

We all noticed something about stuffing ourselves with meat: it’s not the same ohmygodI’mgonnaburst feeling you get from stuffing yourself with pasta, or pizza, or bread, or anything heavy on grains. I was full, but not at all uncomfortable. As Grant put it, “If the sun was still out, I could play another nine.” I’ve never said anything like that after eating pizza.

Food and booze

I drank more alcohol on Saturday night than I typically drink in a couple of months. I had a scotch before dinner, a glass of wine with dinner, and a Rusty Nail (scotch and Drambuie) for dessert. After Chareva (who has zero taste for alcohol) drove us home, Grant and I engaged in our usual habit of staying up way too late talking. We smoked cigars outside and split a small bottle of Jameson’s. Then we drank another four beers apiece.

This was over several hours, of course (we finally called it a night at 4:00 a.m.), but that’s a lot of booze for one night. But here’s what I find interesting: I felt fine on Sunday. No dizziness, no nausea. The only side effect was low energy, like when I don’t get a good night’s sleep. The only explanation I can come up with is that stuffing myself with all that good meat at dinner offset the effects of the booze somehow. I’m pretty sure if I drank that much after a big plate of pasta, I’d still be in bed.

I’m not recommending anyone try repeating the experiment, of course. I’m sure my liver isn’t happy with me, despite the lack of a hangover.

Be careful with those fireworks

If you’re grossed out by graphic pictures of injuries, stop reading now. Go and enjoy the Fourth of July and I’ll see you next week.

Still here? Okay, you were warned.

I hope I don’t need to say this to people who read health blogs, but please don’t be stupid with fireworks this week. As I mentioned, Grant’s wife Mirjam is a nurse practitioner in a surgical practice. She told us that every Fourth of July week, without fail, they end up treating several people who decided to be stupid and light M-80s or cherry bombs, then throw them. Here’s a picture from her Hold My Beer files:

That’s what an M-80 can do to your hand. So please, let’s be careful out there. Forget the M-80s. If you set off fireworks (like we’ve done here on the Fat Head farm), follow the friggin’ directions, including the safety precautions.

Enjoy your holiday.


The Farm Report: The Chicken-Killer Is Gone … We Hope

We’ve lost five more chickens since my post a week ago. Chareva checked the fences and the nets. I checked the fences and the nets. We can’t for the life of us figure out how a critter was able to get in.

I still want to know, but we’re hoping it’s a moot point, at least for now.  Two suspects in the Chicken Mass Murder of 2019 are now gone.

We spent Thursday through Saturday in Atlanta to take a tour of Georgia Tech, which is high on Sara’s list of possible choices for college. Chareva’s younger brother took care of the chickens while we were gone and reported three more dead. Damnit.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I have a trail cam.  I set it facing the chicken yard earlier last week, but apparently didn’t set it for night vision. All the pictures were of the chickens enjoying the daylight.

We returned from our Atlanta trip early Saturday evening.  We found this critter in the trap I’d set:

Yes, possums kill chickens, but I had my doubts this was our predator. I’d set the trap almost every night for more than a week. Whatever was killing the chickens wasn’t interested in the bait. Seemed a bit unlikely a chicken-killer would suddenly develop a change in dinner preferences. Of course, I sent the possum to possum heaven just in case.

My suspicions that the predator was still at large were confirmed when Chareva found another dead chicken this morning. I uttered a string of ancient curses known only to small-time farmers and looked up how to set the night vision on the trail cam.

This afternoon, Chareva and the girls went out for a bit of shopping and other errands. When they came home, Alana ran upstairs to inform me they’d spotted a raccoon hiding under my car. Yikes. If a raccoon is out and about during daylight hours, there’s a strong possibility it has rabies.

I grabbed my trusty Ruger, went outside and squatted down on the driveway, drawing a bead on the raccoon’s head and making sure I wasn’t at an angle where I’d hit a back tire if I missed. Chareva flipped open an upstairs window and suggested that shooting anything under my car was asking for trouble … like, say, a ricochet that hits a pipe. (Those weren’t her exact words, but you get the idea. The word dumbass was definitely not used as far as I recall.) She offered to drive the car forward to expose the raccoon.

Okay, I said, but he’s going to run.

And run he did. As soon as his cover moved away, he took off. Fortunately, he ran directly away from me, so I didn’t have to swing the rifle side to side. I put the red dot from my scope on his butt and hit him with the first shot.

He ran into some underbrush, but I figured he was making a beeline for the forest and correctly guessed he was about to run up against a fence. I hustled over there and saw he was already struggling to climb the fence. I put him out of his misery.

So Rocky Racoon IX may have been our chicken-killer. But I’m putting the trail cam out tonight anyway. If we lose any more chickens, I’d sure as heck like to identify the killer.


The Farm Report: Rocky Raccoon IX Decided Father’s Day Should Be Labor Day

I hope all you fathers out there had relaxing Father’s Day. Mine wasn’t relaxing, but it was highly appropriate: I spent a chunk of the day laboring to protect the little ones … chickens, in this case.

A few days ago, Chareva informed me she found three dead chickens in the coop.

What?! No way! We built the Fort Knox of chicken yards!

Turns out Fort Knox isn’t so impenetrable if you leave the side door open. Somewhere in the course of rearranging and extending the nets to cover Chareva’s garden, we left a big ol’ gap between the garden and the chicken yard. I’m not sure how we failed to notice the big ol’ gap, but fail we did. Granted, the critter had to climb a fence to reach the gap in the nets, but it was only a matter of time. Once I spotted the gap, I felt a bit stooopid for not noticing it earlier.

We’ve been working on the chicken yard where we plan to move the chickens. Last month we finished putting up the poles, then endured the process of unfurling a thoroughly furled net and coaxing it up and over the poles.  Now it’s up there nice and high.

We also repurposed the last of the pavers the previous owner left behind to create a don’t even try digging under this barrier. The only problem is that we didn’t have enough pavers to create a double layer.

That means we also didn’t have enough pavers to create a barrier between the two old chicken yards. As we found out the hard way a few years ago, a raccoon will happily let itself into the unprotected chicken yard nearest the forest, then burrow under the fence that separates that yard from the adjoining yard.

In other words, the re-netted chicken yard isn’t ready for prime time quite yet.  Not until we make a few trips to Home Depot and buy more pavers.

So rather than move the chickens, we made another stooopid decision: we told ourselves if we pulled the tarp down over the current chicken coop and locked the chickens in there at night, they’d be fine for another day or two. After all, Rocky Raccoon IX had already eaten his fill and probably wouldn’t be back that night … right? I set a trap with a can of cat food inside just in case, figuring he’d rather go for the easy meal.

Two dead chickens on Sunday morning told us that 1) Rocky Raccoon IX isn’t a believer in intermittent fasting, 2) he prefers fresh chicken to cans of cat food, and 3) he’s perfectly capable of lifting a tarp, reaching into the coop and killing a chicken.

So we spent Sunday afternoon doing construction. At least the rain that had been forecast held off.

I didn’t take pictures because I was busy uttering ancient curses known only to small-time farmers who have to do hot, sweaty work on Father’s Day, but the construction job boiled down to adding a second layer of fencing on top of the fence that separates the garden and the chicken yard. Then we lowered the net a bit on that side and tied it to the top of the fence.  Trust me, it was more work than the brief description suggests.

The remaining chickens were all alive and well this morning. Either Rocky Raccoon IX couldn’t find his way in, or he took the night off.

In the meantime, I reset the trap. If we’ve learned anything about raccoons, it’s this: once they discover a supply of chickens, they never stop trying to treat themselves to chicken dinners. The only permanent solution is to send them to raccoon heaven.


That ‘White Meat Raises Your Cholesterol As Much As Red Meat!’ Study Is A Pile of Chicken $#@%

You probably saw the headlines, like this one from CNN: white meat raises your bad cholesterol just as much as red meat!  It’s complete nonsense.  Here’s why.  Transcript is below.

Hello, I’m Tom Naughton and this is the Fat Head Report.

Believe it or not, it’s already time for another edition of Meat Will Kill You.

For more than 40 years, the experts have been telling us that to avoid heart disease, we should eat less beef and more chicken. And we did.

Well, now that they’ve decided we should all be vegetarians — to save the planet you know — it was only a matter of time before they started going after chicken.

Take a look at this headline. White meat is just as bad for you as red beef when it comes to your cholesterol level, study says.

The article is about a study where researchers put people on a diet that was either high or low in saturated fat, then had them take turns eating a diet where the proteins came from plants, or chicken, or beef.

And here’s what they found.

Plant proteins had the healthiest impact on blood cholesterol, while the effects of white and red meats on participants’ cholesterol levels were identical when saturated fat levels were equivalent.

Now wait a second. Beef is much higher in saturated fat than chicken. So how do you get people eating chicken to consume as much saturated fat as people eating beef?

Well, it turns out the researchers kept the saturated fat and the same by adding butter. It’s right there in the study. The diet based on chicken included more butter.

Which means this study doesn’t tell us anything about chicken. It simply tells us that saturated fat raises LDL. Doesn’t matter if the saturated fat comes from beef or butter.

Ahh, yes, it’s scary stuff. So the real message is to avoid beef and butter, right? Wrong.

You don’t develop heart disease because your body makes too much LDL. You develop heart disease because your body makes the wrong kind of LDL.

When your coronary arteries become damaged or inflamed, LDL shows up to repair the damage. But if your body is producing LDL that’s small and dense, then those particles can become embedded in your arteries and trigger the formation of a plaque.

Here are a couple of quotes from studies on LDL particle size and heart disease:

LDL particles showed the strongest association with cardiovascular events when the particle composition, rather than the total concentration, was investigated.

The LDL subclass pattern characterized by a preponderance of small, dense LDL particles was significantly associated with a threefold increased risk of myocardial infarction.

Large, fluffy LDL isn’t the kind that becomes embedded in your arteries. In fact, large LDL not only won’t kill you, it appears to be protective.

People who produce a lot of large LDL are less likely to develop cancer. They’re less likely to become depressed. They’re less likely to come down with nasty infections.

And that’s why a number of studies have shown that older people with high LDL Live longer than older people with low LDL.

So with that in mind, let’s go back to that study telling us that white meat is just as bad as red meat.

Yes, when people ate beef, or chicken with butter, their LDL went up. But that’s because they produced more large LDL. They did not produce more small LDL. It’s right there in the study.

So for me, the real take away message from the latest Meat Will Kill You study is this. If you like beef, go ahead and eat it. And if you’d rather have chicken, add some butter.


Cirque du Chareva

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A couple of years ago, the girls became interested in trapeze and aerial silks. They began taking lessons at Expression City in nearby Brentwood.  Sara eventually lost interest, but Alana stuck with it, which makes me happy because it’s good exercise. (Sara prefers lifting weights at the gym with Dad.)

After driving the girls to classes for more than a year, Chareva decided what the heck, maybe she’d take some classes herself. She eventually signed up for aerial silks, trapeze and something called a lyra – a big hoop.

She’s talked about her classes, but I didn’t have much of a clue what kind of routines she was practicing. I just noticed her arm and back muscles, which were already pretty well-defined, became more defined and a bit bigger as well.

The school puts on two showcases per year, and a couple of weeks ago I finally got to see what Chareva has been doing in those classes. Pardon me for bragging on my wife, but I was more than a little impressed with her strength and agility. (I was also a little scared, because I don’t like heights and the performances are up high. Please don’t fall please don’t fall please don’t fall …)

Chareva is 46 years old — the oldest student in her classes. She’s doing some of these routines with women who are decades younger. Yes, it helps that she inherited jock genes from her father. But we’ve all seen people who inherited jock genes become schlubs by age 40 because of bad lifestyle choices. Chareva has kept herself in shape by eating well, working on the farm, and hitting the gym with me.

Anyway, here’s a sample of the three routines she performed at the showcase:

Alana had two impressive performances as well, but being a full-fledged teenager, she doesn’t want the world watching her on video. Maybe next year.


The Older Brother’s Oldest Son’s Fat Head Pizza – Director’s Cut!

Hey Fat Heads! – Long time.

As probably anyone who’s a fellow member of the LCHF/keto/low-carb/etc cult knows, The Oldest Son put up what turned out to be one of the most riotously popular recipes in the history of the interweb several years ago (original here).

As a matter of fact, I just Googled “Fat Head Pizza”  and got about 69,100,000 results. (!)

It’s logged almost 700 comments on the post and is still going strong.

Over the years, The Oldest Son has been doing occasional tweaks that improved the taste, texture, and prep. Of course, we always volunteered to try them out. The usual verdict was –  “hey, that’s even better – maybe you should update the recipe.”

As we’re coming up on the six year anniversary in a few weeks, he went ahead and put the updated version together. Update your bookmarks!


The Older Brother


The post about a pizza post Informally known as “Fat Head Pizza” turns six!

I’m going to start the same way I did back in 2013 by giving credit to where I found this legendary crust: We wanted to help popularize it since there weren’t as many of the great sites we have today, and this crust was exactly what people were looking for. Something close enough to fool people into thinking they were eating “real” pizza. I simply tested different toppings and did a step-by-step with pictures.

Throughout the years, “Did you see that pizza crust recipe Fat Head found?” evolved into, “Have you heard of Fat Head Pizza?” Ironically, on multiple occasions, I’ve been asked the latter. I’ll tell them the backstory, but it is a great feeling to know how popular Tom’s site and the community of people researching good science has grown.

How I make The Crust today:
2 C Mozzarella, shredded
1 C Parmesan, shredded
3 oz Cream Cheese
2 Eggs
.25 C Flaxseed meal (ground, not whole)
1.25 C Blanched Almond Flour (or 1.5C almond meal and omit flaxseed)
1 Tbl Whole Fennel
Garlic Salt (the Duct Tape of food): about 1tsp, to taste, from the shaker
Coconut Flour: pinch or two to lightly coat the parchment

Sauce of choice: pizza, ranch, pesto
Sliced cheese: enough to cover the pizza, around 15 slices –typically 1.5 packages
Fully cooked meat and/or veggie of choice
Seasonings (basil, Italian, pepper, etc)

-Set oven to 415(F) and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle a LIGHT dusting of coconut flour on the parchment.

-Microwave (or however you prefer) the parm, mozz and cream cheese 1 min, stir with fork, then another 30sec. Beat the eggs while waiting.

-Stir in eggs, almond, flax and fennel. Start with fork, then wet hands and “knead the dough”. Pick up and roll outside-to-in to mix well.

-Wet hands again and form a roll the length of the cookie sheet. Wet hands, spread it to the edges, repeat as needed.

-Poke holes, sprinkle with garlic salt, then put in oven and set a timer for around 14 minutes

-Once slightly browned, take out and turn the broiler on high. Add sauce and remaining toppings.

– Broil until the cheese starts to bubble and browns to your preference. And there you are:

Great for weekly meal prep. To reheat in the microwave, only do about 20 sec increments. We’ve been told the crust freezes well.  Enjoy!

Combos I make the most:
Munster w/ bacon and chicken. Ranch dressing en lieu of pizza sauce
Provolone w/ peperoni and olives. Pesto sauce (or pizza sauce topped w/ whole basil leaves)
Pepper jack w/ sausage, roasted bell pepper, onion and olives. Pizza sauce

One successful experiment was pan fried slices of Spam with curry seasoning, then cut into squares. Sort of my version of a Hawaiian pizza but without pineapple because…I just refuse.

Pepperoni = delightful. Toasted pepperoni = is this Heaven?

Before you make the crust, line another cookie sheet with parchment or foil and spread pepperoni. (I always line cookie sheets for easier cleanup.) Bake about five minutes—just until they’re crisp. A minute more and they’re burnt, so set a timer and keep watch. Can also toast them under the broiler while you’re adding the toppings to the crust. A fun challenge is to not eat any while the crust is cooking. I’ve won that challenge zero times.

Updates from 2013:

I used to check every few minutes to poke holes in the large bubbles, but one time, while watching an intense PGA match, I forgot to set a timer. Fortunately, a pizza commercial came on which prompted me to jump out of the couch and frantically open the oven to find a perfectly browned and flattened crust. This scientific method led me to discover that 14min at 415(F) is perfect with my oven and less work.

Coconut flour: Great pizzas made with traditional ingredients sit on top of some flour. This adds flavor. A LIGHT dusting of coconut is the best substitute. Too much and it dries the crust out, so just grab a pinch or two and sprinkle by hand.

Flax seed: I need blanched almond flour (compared to almond meal) for most other recipes, so that’s all I buy now. Flax adds back some of that grain taste and texture, if you prefer.

Along that line, I like the taste and firmness of the parm/mozz combo now instead of just mozzarella for the crust.

Fennel is another way to give it that traditional aroma. Your kitchen will smell like pizza parlor.

Sliced vs shredded cheese for the top: just another personal preference. As a Midwesterner, I love cheese. Cheese loves me. But thin slices help me regulate how much I’m adding and keeps it evenly dispersed so I can taste more of the sauce and toppings instead of just a brick-o-cheese. Plus, there are a ton of options.

Thanks for reading!