I have been asked to weigh in on Global Warming, and I can tell you that I am opposed to the dogma of Global Warming. I realize that I am not a climatologist, but there are certain facts that are indisputable. One is that world temperatures peaked in the 1990s and have been cooling ever since.  Here in Central Texas, we have been getting progressively colder winters. Last winter saw record-breaking cold (13 degrees) and more sub-freezing days over the course of the winter than in 50 years.  Two, over Earth history, temperatures have fluctuated a lot, but there is no consistent correlation with higher CO2 levels, i.e., there have been warm periods with lower CO2 and cold periods with higher CO2. So, other factors are always involved. And one of them is number three on our list: sunspot activity. Sunspot activity is in decline, and we are approaching what is called a “solar minimum.” This is not in dispute. And solar minimums are associated with decreasing temperatures, including ice-ages.  And speaking of ice-ages, we’re due for one.  Most inter-glacial periods last for 10,000 years.  Ours has already lasted for 11,000. So, we are overdue for an ice-age, and it is now known that the transition to an ice-age can take place very quickly.

But, what if the fearmongers of global warming are right and it comes true? It would by no means be an unmitigated curse.  Yes, there would be the coastal flooding problems, but there would be time to prepare for that. But what about the boon to agriculture? Think about all the immense swaths of untapped virgin farmland across large stretches of Russia and Canada (the two largest countries in the world) that would become arable because of longer growing seasons.  It would be a boon not just to those two countries but to the entire world as food became plentiful and cheap.

Remember what we are talking about with global warming: we are talking about more solar energy reaching the Earth. And solar energy is the ultimate source of all energy on Earth with the exception of hydropower which harnesses gravitational energy.  But all the rest comes from the sun, directly or indirectly. So, would it be so terrible if we had more of it?

But again, unfortunately, it looks like there is a greater chance of global cooling than global warming in the decades ahead, and I truly regret it.

Politically, I urge you to vote against anything and everything that pertains to governmental attempts to combat global warming.  It’s all part of the march to tyranny, in my opinion. That doesn't mean that you should not be conservative about your fuel use, your so-called "carbon footprint," because there are other reasons  to do so which are valid, such as reducing air pollution.  But indubitably,  the  global warming mantra is part  of the statist, globalist, power-driven mentality that is the enemy of humankind.

People ask me how I can stand the summers in Texas. But, I tell them that it’s no problem for me because I have watermelon, and I have swimming.  I swim practically every day in the summer, usually in the late afternoon. And it completely relieves the oppression of the summer heat. I was a competitive swimmer in high school, and I have been swimming ever since.  Swimming is my favorite fitness activity- that along with bicycling.  And I swim all year long, although not nearly as much in the winter.  Here in Austin where I live, there are public pools that are open all year, including ones that are non-chlorinated.  My rule is that if it’s sunny and in the 60s, I’m good to go for swimming, whether it’s December, January, or February.

Swimming is surely one of the best exercises.  It sets your whole body in motion and uses all of your muscles- although the upper body much more than the lower body.  And, swimming is truly a natural movement.  Swimming is a primordial activity, meaning that it was something that prehistoric humans (who were anatomically the same as you and me) were doing tens of thousands of years ago.  It’s significant that American researchers found primitive people in the Amazon swimming the front crawl.  And, Australian researchers found primitive people on the Solomon Islands swimming the front crawl as well- half a world away.

Today, it is common to refer to the front crawl as the “freestyle” but that’s really a misnomer.  It started being called the freestyle because in competitive swimming, when you have  a race in which any stroke is permitted, the crawl is the stroke that everyone  chooses to swim because it is the fastest and most efficient stroke.  But, the crawl is a much better description of what the stroke involves.

Let’s pursue that idea of crawling through the water. We know that when a baby crawls, it is a natural activity that is mediated instinctively. No one has to teach a baby how to do it.  And it involves the same brain centers that control the natural cadence of walking.  Swimming the crawl is to aquatic locomotion as walking is to terrestrial locomotion. Am I saying that swimming the crawl is as natural and instinctive to a human as swimming the dog paddle is to a dog? Not quite, but close.

Swimming does good things to your body.  For one thing, it stretches you out, especially when you swim the crawl.  When you reach that arm forward, you are stretching the distance between your hand and your feet.  It’s the only common exercise I know of that does that.  There was an episode of Seinfeld in which Kramer began swimming in the East River because the YMCA pool was too crowded.   And he said, “An hour in that chop, and I come out two inches taller.” That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the general idea is true.

And swimming does good things for your mind too. It’s a stress reliever.  When you swim the crawl, the natural cadence of the brain takes over.  You focus on the movement.  It  takes over your mind. And of course, your whole world is different. You’re in this aquatic environment which is very stimulating and very different.  Get into the water and start swimming the crawl, and do it earnestly.  I don’t mean strain yourself, but really try to cut through the water diligently.  Then see if you can worry, fret, and fume  about something at the same time.  You can't.  It's impossible. Swimming clears your mind.  You come out of the water mentally refreshed and renewed.

When I swim in natural water, such as a river or creek or lake, I feel closer to my  ancient human roots than at any other time.  In Austin, we have the Barton Creek Greenbelt, and with good Spring rains, the creek fills with fresh, soft rain water, and it’s fabulous to swim there.  The college kids go there to mix and mingle and drink beer.  But, I go there to swim. Sadly, there were no Spring rains this year, and the creek remained dry as a bone.  But, I am already hoping for next year.

A study in the journal Neurology found an association between olive oil consumption and a lower risk of stroke. This was a French study involving 7,625 participants.

Cécilia Samieri, PhD, of the University of Bordeaux and her associates analyzed data from 7,625 participants aged 65 and older in the Three-City Study involving Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier, France. Olive oil consumption frequency was determined from dietary intake documented upon enrollment between 1999 and 2000, and was categorized as no use, moderate use, or intensive use (characterized by the use of olive oil multiple times daily, both as a dressing and in cooking).

During a median follow-up period of 5.25 years, 148 strokes occurred in the study population. Adjusted analysis of the data revealed a 41 percent lower risk of stroke among intensive olive oil users compared to those who reported no use. The protective association was found for ischemic stroke, but not hemorrhagic stroke.

In a secondary study of 1,245 subjects for whom plasma fatty acid measurements were available, those with the highest levels of plasma oleic acid (a biological marker of oleic acid intake from olive oil) had a 73 percent reduction in stroke risk compared to those whose levels were lowest.

American Academy of Neurology member Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD of Columbia University remarked in an accompanying editorial that "Although the Mediterranean-type diet shares many features with many other healthy dietary patterns, it is distinct in its high fat content, mainly from olive oil."

"Our research suggests that a new set of dietary recommendations should be issued to prevent stroke in people 65 and older," commented Dr Samieri, who is affiliated with the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Bordeaux. "Stroke is so common in older people and olive oil would be an inexpensive and easy way to help prevent it."

It’s noteworthy to me that this protective effect from olive oil was observed without any kind of dietary restrictions. This is France we’re talking about,  and French cooking.  Besides using olive oil, they also use vast amounts of butter, meat, and other foods that are suspected of being atherogenic. Yet, without limiting anything else, the inclusion of olive oil made a startling difference in stroke risk.

However, I believe it makes a big difference whether you use olive oil as a dressing on a big green salad or if you fry lamb chops in it. Imagine if, in addition to using a high quality extra-virgin olive oil, you largely steer your daily diet towards unrefined plant foods, including many fruits and vegetables, plus leafy greens (both raw and cooked) and legumes, whole grains, etc. I dare say that you are going to do fabulously well.

I use extra-virgin olive oil every day, and it is the only oil I use.

 

I was prompted to write this piece after reading that the majority of Americans don’t see a dentist even once a year.  And if they are not seeing a dentist, it means they are not getting their teeth professionally cleaned.  I have my teeth professionally cleaned every 4 months, and I have the dentist examine my mouth once a year, which includes 4 bitewing x-rays, to see between the teeth.  The total cost of this care per year is about $350.

Americans need to realize that oral decay, and particularly chronic gingivitis, can ruin your health. The link between rotten gums and heart disease is proven.  The infective process in the gums leads to the dispersion of plaque-inducing, inflammatory molecules throughout the blood stream, causing heart attacks.  Gum disease increases your overall risk of dying- by a wide margin. You are a ticking time bomb if you have bad gums.

Obviously, prevention relies on sound nutrition and good dental hygiene at home.  Green vegetables, beans, and raw nuts are the best foods for teeth-building, and they comprise a big part of my diet. And although I’m a big fan of fruits, and I eat my share, the fact is that fruits do not serve your teeth as well. If your diet is too high in fruit, your teeth will definitely suffer. The sugars in the fruit are, obviously, an issue, and so are the fruit acids, which can dissolve dental enamel. In moderation, fruits are fine, but don’t eat fruits at the expense of vegetables and other plant foods.  Grains, too, are not considered the best for your teeth.  As I said: vegetables, beans, and nuts are where it’s at when it comes to building strong teeth.

As regards dental hygiene at home, I try to brush after every meal, and I floss thoroughly at least once a day.  Sometimes, I will floss twice a day. For instance, if I have had oatmeal, I will floss immediately afterwards because oatmeal tends to accumulate a lot between the teeth.

Keep in mind that I have a goal: to live a long life and never require dentures. Dentures are one aspect of aging that I would like to skip. To do that, it’s going to take superior nutrition and diligent dental hygiene.  But, knowing how important it is, I am up for the task.

A recent study found that not only do millions of Americans forgo dental care, but millions live in areas that are underserved by dentists.  “A severe shortage of dentists in rural and minority areas is contributing to the persistent and systemic barriers to oral health care,” the report noted. The economic downturn is also taking a toll. It is estimated that 5 million American children are not seeing dentists at all because of their parents’ lack of money.  And, the report said that two-thirds of American seniors do not obtain adequate dental care due to insufficient income. This is really a tragedy. And yet, they keep telling us that we are the richest country in the world.

"We have the lowest ratio of dentists to population that we have had in 100 years," says Shelly Gehshan, who directs the Pew Children's Dental Campaign. "This is a serious problem that leaves 40 to 50 million people out of reach of a dentist at any given moment."

I urge you to make your teeth a priority. The few hundred dollars I spend each year on professional dental care is worth every penny, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s a paltry sum, so why worry about it.  Besides, I economize in other ways; for instance, I don't buy medical insurance. I say, get your priorities straight, and your teeth are a priority.

My figs are in. They started earlier this year, around June 20 instead of the usual first week of July, and that’s because of the relentless sun we’ve had since April. Presently, I am harvesting the Celeste fig, which is the most popular Southern fig.  It is small and round and very sweet, and very easy to grow, being cold-hardy, drought-hardy, insect-hardy, and disease-hardy.  I also have a late fig called the Green Ischia, which is from the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples off the coast of Italy, where my maternal grandparents were born and raised. The Green Ischia stays green on the outside even when ripe, but inside, they are a beautiful strawberry red, and even the flavor reminds me of strawberry.

If you are living in zone 8 or lower, meaning as far north as Oklahoma, Arkansas, and in a line across to North Carolina, but much further north in California, you really should plant a fig tree.  They are easy to grow and do not require good, rich soil.  I live on the fringe of the Texas Hill Country where the soil is very shallow. It goes down about 2 inches, and then you get to this hard, white, caliche rock. And from that point on, it’s more like mining in a quarry than digging in the dirt. Yet, the figs will grow in it.

The fig tree is really an amazing tree. It can freeze all the way down to the ground in the winter, but then come out again from the root in the spring and replace itself within two seasons. The resilience of the fig tree is unbelievable.  Here in Austin, Texas, a lot of people will plant a fig tree, but in many cases, that is the last time they do anything for it. They don’t water it, feed it, prune it, shape it, or protect it in anyway.  Despite that, the tree will often deliver some fruit.  But, a fig tree responds well to any help you give it, and when you give them as much help as I give mine, they really take off. My fig trees are 25 feet tall, which is too tall for me to harvest the higher fruit, but I don’t mind sharing with the birds and squirrels.

Nutritionally, figs are not particularly high in vitamins, but they are very high in minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and iron.  And, that may be why they thrive in Central Texas because our calcium-based, caliche soils have an inexhaustible supply of calcium and other minerals.

There was an old saying in the South, “I don’t give a fig,” an expression of disregard and contempt, and what it was based on was the profusion of figs during the summer that were so plentiful and abundant that they were considered free for the taking.  I know the feeling.  I invite friends and family to come over and pick figs, and I wouldn’t dream of charging anybody. I’m just glad to see the fruit not go to waste.

So, if you have a sunny yard, front or back, by all means plant a fig tree. It is a life force you will definitely enjoy having in your living space.