Category Archives: Health

Everyday maps for the mildly paranoid

If you read my post on Alamere Falls, you’ll know that I spent most of the trip worrying about Poison Oak.

So I have to admit, I suffer from mild paranoia and hypochondria at times (not that I let it stop me from traveling), so I thought I’d share some everyday maps for people of a similar affliction.

1.  UV Radiation Map

The EPA posts updates on how strong UV rays are each day. I check this before deciding whether or not to use dreaded sunscreen or just put on my hat. All those news articles about the indisputable efficacy of sunscreen have made me faintly paranoid, since I rarely use or have used the stuff.

2. National Allergy Forecast

Everyone seems to suffer at least mildly from allergies. Mine have gotten worse of the years in the Bay Area. After learning that it was causing me yearly sinus infections, I became more paranoid about allergies, so much that I check this map nearly daily to see whether or not I have to take a Zyrtec. (Unlike most hypos, I hate taking stuff when I don’t have to.)

3. Crime Mapping

There isn’t much you can do about this one, except shutter up and make sure take a Maglite or Pit Bull on your evening stroll. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to know how much and what kind of crime occurs in your area. After learning my neighborhood was relatively safe, I stopped carrying my Maglite with me. As for the Pit Bull, there’s no way in hell I’d ever get one of those “pets.”

And, last, but not least . . .

4. Registered Sex Offenders in Your Neighborhood (CA folks only)

Nothing stokes your paranoia like knowing where your neighborhood pedophiles are. You might want to think twice before checking this one out. I’m not sure if there are non-CA equivalents, but if you’re in California it’s your right to know. As to whether you want to, that’s a different question.

Generally, that’s enough for me. But here’s some other ideas I’ve yet to venture into: earthquake and flood risk maps, traffic accidents per capita, and suspected haunted houses.

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Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Crime, Health, Maps, Weird


Alcohol Belts of Europe

Europe has three alcohol belts. The vodka belt in the northeast, the beer belt in the northwest and the wine belt in the south.

Also included in the wine belt here are Israel, Lebanon and Armenia, where wine is often drunk. Notably, the wine region is the least prone to alcoholism; the people there like to sip their drinks with meals, and have cultural and genetic defenses against heavy drinking. All brewed fruits are considered wine: that includes not just grapes in the whole region, but apples in northern Spain, France and England, as well as Pomegranates in Armenia (if you haven’t tried pomegranate wine, get yourself a bottle immediately).

Fruits, not growing in such large quantities further north, means that grains have to be brewed and made into beer, or potatoes and grains mixed and made into vodka. Heavy drinking prevails in the vodka and beer belts, though it’s far worse in the vodka belt, where alcoholism is almost a cultural norm among men. In fact, the place where Orthodox Russian civilization begins and Western European civilization ends (this can be somewhat blurry, mind you) is at the end of the beer belt, in Poland, Finland and the Baltic States.

All of these regions overlap, and they have their origin in climate and geology, though such climactic differences have resulted in some rather large cultural differences on the European continent.

My ideal part would be an overlapping region of the wine belt and beer belt, my two favorite drinks. Southern German, the Czech Republic, Austria… these regions also make the best beer, because they can experiment more with different temperatures and variations including fruits.


Jamon Iberico: Healthy Snack

Most people have been hypnotized by the MSM to believe that ham is evil, bad and unhealthy. Fat and protein? Bad. Sugar, starch and tub margarine? Eat your heart out (literally).

Well, turns out the quality Spanish hams (especially jamón ibérico and jamón serrano) have some formidable health benefits—see here and here—or just look below for snipets of each article.

The fat of Iberico bellota ham contains over 55% oleic acid (a mono-unsaturated fatty acid). Rigorous scientific studies have shown that these fats exercise a beneficial effect on cholesterol in the blood by increasing the amount of good (HDL) cholesterol and reducing bad (LDL) cholesterol. Only virgin olive oil has a higher oleic acid content.

The total proportion of unsaturated fatty acids in cured Iberico hams that have consumed a diet of acorns is over 75%, making it the most “cardiohealthy” of all animal fats, even healthier than some fats of plant origin. The breed of pigs is not the only explanation; their staple diet of acorns and grasses also plays an important role.

In addition to its beneficial effect on cholesterol, Iberico ham provides proteins, vitamins B1, B6, B12 and folic acid, all highly beneficial for the nervous system and proper functioning of the brain. It is also rich in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, and in minerals such as copper, essential for bones and cartilage; calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus and finally, selenium, which has been attributed with antiaging properties.

And, additionally, the fact that jamon iberico comes from the Black Iberian Pig, gives its consumers a health boost.

Remember that this is a ham from an extraordinary pig who traces his lineage back to the time of the cavemen. The Cerdo Ibérico has quite a different DNA than the meat of run-of-the mill pink pigs you are used to buying. In addition, their diet of herbs, grasses and acorns are a significant factor.

But because ham is salty, cured and not very cheap, it’s best used as a snack (with tomato, bread, olive oil and oregano is always good) rather than a full meal.

Also, this is quality ham. The processed ham is going to be just as bad in Spain as in the USA. So buy quality, eat in light quantities and enjoy without any guilt. Ham, after all, is just as vital to the Spanish Mediterranean diet as wine and olive oil.

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Posted by on May 13, 2011 in Culture, Food, Health, Spain