Friday, July 31, 2015

Final Zinc and Ceruloplasmin Test

I wanted bad news to get an explanation as to why I feel like this.  Nope.  The result is surprisingly GOOD, which is actually somewhat disappointing to me.
Here are the numbers:
Ceruloplasmin- 25.9 (plus 2.9)
Zinc- 115 (plus 47)- SHOCKER.
I did not test total copper and am not concerned about my bound/unbound percentage.

I boosted the ceruloplasmin without taking the Liver Beef glandular.  Earlier in the year, I had been taking it 1-2x/week.  However, since starting on the methylation treatments in late March-early April, I have been off it completely.  I posed the following question to Health Coach 7: Can hydroxy B-12 raise copper/Cp or at least prevent loss?  He never answered but I found out myself.  My theory was correct.  B-12 supplementation apparently is helpful for copper deficiency.  I hoped to eventually boost my ceruloplasmin to 25.0, which is the low end of the optimal range and I've done it with 0.9 units to spare.  I was very pleased with this number.

Zinc: Since zinc and copper are direct antagonists of each other, I expected that my rise in copper would be accompanied by a DROP in zinc.  Instead, the opposite has occurred.  The optimal range for zinc is 100-130 so mine is PERFECT.  What accounts for this rise?  Stopping the Liver Beef, no doubt.  Health Coach did advise against me taking it and at least this once, he was right.  Liver Beef contains not only copper but also significant amounts of Vitamin A and Iron, which is known to suppress zinc.  Why did I feel better after taking zinc?  Probably the sulfur toxicity.  I may be able to continue taking it but the dose must be low. 

In any event, I pronounce myself cured of zinc/copper dysregulation.  I should be feeling better but I am not!

It is clear to me that the sulfur toxicity MUST be dealt with but I have literally tried everything with no success.  Where to go from here?
I really don't know.  Perhaps there is a chance that zinc alone without the TMG will better allow me to tolerate the ADHS but that seems unlikely.  I could re-order the Sparga but keep the dosage low. 

I have made an appointment to get my dental amalgams removed in mid-September just after my Pennsylvania half marathon but it seems unlikely that it will make much difference.  I have only 3 amalgam fillings and only 2 teeth are affected so if there is a mercury toxicity, it is likely not very significant.  My friend Carrie has 13 and stands to benefit a lot more than I do.

 I did think of 2 important points about mercury toxicity.  First, according to my hair test, I am a very poor eliminator of toxic metals so even if my mouth is not loaded with it, damage is still possible.  Second, as I have stated previously, a HIGH cysteine and LOW methionine is a strong indicator of mercury toxicity.  In my case, both are LOW but cysteine is high RELATIVE to methionine.  Just like calcium and magnesium on a hair test.  Both may read high but if your Mag is low RELATIVE to Cal, a deficiency is likely.  I said before that this was an option of near last resort but there are few if any other viable alternatives.

The current plan is to continue "training" as best as I can for the next 3 months.  If those last 2 half marathons take 3 hours each, SO WHAT!  The Half2Run Challenge will be done come hell or high water.  I still could get lucky with a 1:45-1:50 if I hit a window of decent energy.    I am 3 months away from my deadline.  If it doesn't turn around by then, I'm taking 2 months of inactivity and then I will become a casual jogger.  The blog will stay up but I will be posting very infrequently and the training updates will be gone for good.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Training 7/23-8/2

7/23- First full day off the Sparga was no sudden miracle.  Workout was a 1 Mile time trial at Gold's in a time of 7:49.  I was better than yesterday however and I managed fairly even splits though the sub-8 was in doubt until the final lap. First day back on the TMG, which is intended to improve methionine, which I am SEVERELY deficient and I have a strong feeling that this deficiency is responsible for the instability.

7/24- AM- Maybe another faint glimmer of hope.  On the 2nd full day off the Sparga, I improved by 40 seconds to 7:09 with splits of 3:33-3:36.  Clearly had more energy but legs remain very stiff and sore for no good reason.

PM- Lakeshore 2.5 in tough humid conditions.  Finished with a moving time of 18:49 (7:32 pace) but did stop to squat and get a drink at the halfway point.

7/25- BTC group run.  I only planned on 5 so I had to ditch the group in Mile 3 to take the cutoff route back.  Finished a hilly route in a time of 38:40 (7:44 pace).  Struggled a bit in the last 2 miles but managed to keep it under 8 all the way.

7/26- AM.  Vestavia Mile trial.  I was hoping for a sub-6:30 and managed a 6:15 with good splits (93-96-96-90).  That's minus 53 in the last 2 days and minus 93 in the last 3.  How I wish it was this easy to improve in the 5s.

PM- Interesting better with or without test this time with the TMG.  2 miles at Gold's in 14:50 then popped a pill and ran the next 2 in 14:40.  Felt only a slight difference in energy with the extra pill but 5 ticks per mile is not enough to be considered significant. Had to squat again but that's probably detox.  Good thing I was indoors. Overall time was 29:30 for 4 miles (7:23 pace).  Totaled 23 miles on the week.
7/27- Gold's 3 in 21:54 (7:18 pace).  Performance was similar to yesterday but did feel a bit more loose in the legs.  A 5K would have been in the mid-22s but I was not going all out.  I'm planning on trying another Mile tomorrow and think I have a chance at a sub-6:00.  My best time since starting the methylation support is only a 6:12. 

Update:  I have ordered another lab test.  This time I will test only zinc and ceruloplasmin.  I'm not worried about unbound copper.  The test will reveal what, if any effect B-12 has on Cp.  I have not tried Liver recently but doubt that I can tolerate it.  If I need zinc, which is possible, I should be able to tolerate it now that my methylation has improved.  I want to try methionine and cysteine soon but as long as I am improving, I'm sticking with the current formula.  That said, I could collapse tomorrow.  4 straight non-horrible days is one of my longest streaks of the year.

7/28- The collapse did indeed come today.  Spain Park Mile in 7:50.  Splits were 1:36-2:00-2:13-2:01 and needed a rally just to secure a sub-8.  Heavy and slow from the start and the power cut off completely after just 200 meters.  TMG (methylation) is the culprit yet I desperately need it.  Catch 22.  I'm hoping to see a severe zinc deficit on my lab test.  Methionine and cysteine are OUT!  I may need to go back on Sparga at a lower dose.

PM- Better with or without test with zinc on Wisteria.  Ran the first HALF mile downhill in 5:30 (11:00 pace) after getting worse with more TMG.  Popped a zinc pill and immediately improved to 4:20 (8:40 pace) going uphill.  Lab test is tomorrow.

7/29- Worked only a half day but the afternoon included a trip to the denty for a cleaning.  I've made an appointment to get my amalgams out in late September.  From there, it was to the lab for the zinc and ceruloplasmin blood test.
Trak Shak 3 in 23:51 (7:57 pace).  A non-horrible day but just barely.  I didn't have much more to give but the zinc most definitely made a difference.  Splits were 7:47-8:03-8:01.

7/30- 3 miles at Gold's in 23:00 (7:40 pace).  It was a zinc test.  Passed 1.5 in 11:49, which was almost exactly the same as yesterday then popped 1 more zinc and finished with an 11:11 (7:27 pace vs 7:53 in the fist half).  That's not a radical difference but it IS enough to be considered significant.  I should get the blood test back tomorrow.  As it stands, I need the ADHS or else my Na and K will go through the roof but I cannot take it without TMG.  I cannot tolerate TMG without zinc.  IT SUCKS TO BE ME!

7/31- BAD!  No attempt to run, which is a shame because it's cooler and less humid today.  I cannot take a whole TMG even with the extra zinc.  Without any TMG, I probably cannot tolerate the ADHS.

8/1-BTC social run was a complete disaster.  1 Mile in 9:26.  I am now completely intolerant to TMG.  I'm going to order Sparga again but doubt that it will work.

8/2- Very modest improvement to 8:22 on Wisteria.

I'm beginning to think that dental amalgam removal is my only remaining option.  There are risks involved and I intend to fully question the denty and get Yasko's opinion.  Yes, there is a risk that I will get worse but at this point, it's a risk that I am willing to take.  Although I get an occasional 3 day window in which I do a little better, the overall trend has been sharply downhill.  I am FAR worse now than I was just 2 months ago when I was preparing for the Asheville 10K.  I will make another attempt to go completely sugar free and will give the Sparga another try.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sparga/Additional tests

This week has been HORRIBLE thus far.  I barely made 3 @ sub-8 pace on Monday and failed the last 2 days.  Sparga is the culprit.   It's a product that is related to asparagus in concentrated liquid form that is simply added to a cup of water to make it nearly tasteless.  Supposedly, it can clear a CBS mutation in about 3 months and usually is not necessary to take for life.

 I've been on this stuff for about 6 weeks but have been very aggressive with the dose.  It calls for 8-10 drops but also says that it can be taken 2-3 times per day.  I've been taking it twice a day for about a month.  It was the only sulfur detox treatment that I had been able to tolerate for any length of time.  I did one better with or without test on it and found that my speed was nearly identical either way.  It was not this Monday night that I recognized that I became MUCH stiffer after my evening dosage and a 2nd dose confirmed it.  It is possible that I am releasing sulfur that was trapped in organ as was the case with copper last year.  If that's true, I will get better eventually but it takes time and I have lost patience.

The only good news is that it seems that I CAN tolerate TMG, which produces methionine (I tested at 2 vs a reference range of 7-35).  If I'm bold, I may try adding some methionine itself along with cysteine.  I'm still taking a little extra Cal/Mag and B-12 with no problem.  Extra zinc could be an option.

I need to do another zinc/ceruloplasmin test.  A big question that I had is whether or not B-12 can raise copper and Cp.  Health Coach 7 NEVER answered.  Again, go with Yasko instead!  I'll find out myself by next week.

I'll hold off on the free UAA re-test until mid-late August.  I want to see improvements in my taurine and methionine more than anything else.

I see the dentist next week for a cleaning.  I'm not going to rush into getting amalgams removed but it remains an option to consider.

I have signed up for the Montour Trail half marathon (PA) on 9/12 and it's gonna suck!
I will sign up for Greenville half (SC) on 10/31 shortly, which finishes the Half2Run challenge.
The time limit for both races is 3.5 hours (16 minute pace) so even if I have to walk most of it, finishing is a pretty safe bet no matter how terrible I feel.
The end of October will be my deadline.  I'm semi-retired now but if I have not made significant steady progress by then, it's time to hang it up officially .

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Future road trips

The one thing that I will miss the most is all the travel involved with racing.  Of course, I can still do it but there are a lot of places that I would not go without a race.  Here's a breakdown of places that I'd like to go.  The yes/probably/maybe/doubtful/no indicates whether or not I'd go without a race:

Ocean City, Maryland- I spent a summer here and liked the area and there is a fast course here in April.  I've raced on the Great Lakes, Pacific coast and Gulf coast but not the Atlantic in the USA.  I suppose you could count Halifax, Nova Scotia though.  One thing that I never did when I lived here was drive all the way up and down the Delmarva peninsula, which I would certainly do this time.  It would be a nice trip but I likely would NOT do it without a race.

Dallas, Texas- I've raced in Austin and it was my crowning achievement but Austin is not culturally similar to the rest of Texas and I figure Dallas is my best choice for that.  There are a lot of good options in the early Spring and late Fall here.  In this case, YES, I would make the trip to see Bush-43's presidential library.  I'm a Carter baby and I've seen the library of every president that has served in my lifetime except W's.  That would make it worth the trip.

San Diego, California- I chose a good one for California with 13.1 LA but have wanted to race here as well.  Dubbed America's Finest City, there are several options here but would likely choose a half here in mid-August where I could go from temps in the mid-90s with high humidity to sunny and 75.  I've never been more than ankle deep in the Pacific but August in San Diego might be warm enough to swim.  Maybe, I would go there without a race.

New England double- In October, there is a race in Connecticut on Saturday followed by another in Rhode Island on Sunday.  Obviously, I am in no condition for that any time soon.  I MIGHT go here anyway because I feel like I'm cheating on the 50 states project.  I have very faint memories of being in Massachusetts but no memory of Connecticut and Rhode Island.  I may have to go back to truly count those 2.

Anchorage, Alaska- The race to run here held near the summer solstice with nearly 24 hours of daylight and the average temps are usually around 60 here by early summer vs 90 in Birmingham. YES, I would go here regardless.  I've been to 48 states already and I've got to finish now.

Hawaii- Same deal here but it will be awfully depressing to go here without a woman.

Calgary, Alberta, Canada-  This is the only international city on my list that I would even consider visiting without a race.  I'd probably fly into Spokane and make the scenic drive through British Columbia and expect the border crossing to go without a hitch.  I hear the Canadian Rockies are really beautiful too.

Liverpool, England- I'd fly to London and take the train to run a RNR event here.  I could also stop in Birmingham just for fun and cross the border into Scotland to get in touch with my roots.  I am approximately 20% Scottish according to 23andme DNA.  I'd probably enjoy this trip but traveling alone across the ocean just doesn't appeal to me.

Cape Town, South Africa- One of the most beautiful cities in the world and reportedly safe for tourists.  It is home to the "most beautiful marathon" which encompasses the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.  Hence, the name 2 Oceans.  There's plenty to see and do aside from racing here but I definitely would not go here alone.

Jerusalem, Israel, Hong Kong and Sydney Australia fit the same category.  All would be great trips but too depressing to visit alone.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Training 7/13-7/19

Another faint glimmer of hope recently.  Since receiving the UAA results, I have been VERY aggressive with the Sparga and have upped my Cal in an attempt to control my sulfur toxicity.  Since then, it appears that my tolerance to methyl donors has improved.

7/13- AM- Went off ADHS and had a good morning session.  2 miles in 13:50 with an even pace.
PM- Magic wore off.  Time was up to 16:40 over the same distance.

7/14- No attempt to run.  Took half a TMG (methyl) and seemed to tolerate it well.

7/15- Trak Shak 3 in about 22:30 (7:30 pace).  I was working at the end but was able to keep it fairly even.  Caught in rain in Mile 3 but fortunately no lightning.  ADHS dose has been upped to 3.

7/16- Took a full methyl pill and tolerated 5 ADHS.  Came through 3 mile in 21:43 but was fading (7:25 3rd mile) after a pair of 7:09s to start.  Popped a 6th pill and was able to do another 2 in 14:41 for an overall time of 36:24 (7:17 pace) for 5 miles minus the stop.

7/17- Steamy 3 on Wisteria in 23:24 (7:48 pace).  Not bad but was hoping for better.  Pace slipped to the 8:00 range on the up side.

7/18- BAD.  Hoping for 7 at the BTC group run.  I had to stop at 2 in 15:47 then walked for a bit then worked hard for an 8:07 in Mile 3.  This breaks a string of 3 straight non-horrible days.

7/19- BAD to worse.  Came through 1 Mile in 7:50 then collapsed and slow jogged the next mile.

BLEAK.  I'm shutting down the training log until further notice.  Only 8 weeks until my next half marathon.  Looking like a time in the neighborhood of 3 hours is to be expected.

Friday, July 10, 2015

New products and testing

I DESPERATELY need to support the methionine.  I need to know how close I am to being able to tolerate it.

 I have ordered sulfate testing strips from Yasko.  I assume that the values correlate well with taurine.  How does it work?  You have to urinate on a strip of paper, which turns colors based on your level of sulfur.  I don't know what colors are which yet but supposedly, one color is over 1600, then it goes to 1200-1600, which is where I am now.  Then, it keeps going down in increments of 400.  I believe that I need to be in the 400-800 range before starting methyl.  Then, it needs to be continually monitored.

I am also ordered an SHMT spray and more Hydroxy B12.  Not much else to report.  I will add to this later.  SHMT helps convert glycine to serine, which is one of the amino acids in which I am low.

So far so good with the minute dose of the SHMT spray.  The strips arrived and I'm not entirely clear on how to use them but the test strip is 4 pink squares which turn orange if the sulfate levels exceed a certain point.
If all 4 squares change, you are over 1600 then it goes down in increments of 400.

I have tested several times above 1600 but word on the street is that it must be tested throughout the day to get an accurate picture.  At the end of the day, I really don't care what my result is so long as I can tolerate the methyl donors that I desperately need.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Urinary Amino Acid Test Results

43 Amino acids were tested.  I'm not going to list all of them, just the highlights and low lights.
The reference range in this case is the middle 95% of all results tested.  The top and bottom 2.5% are flagged as abnormal.  Keep in mind that a healthy person is much LESS likely to get tested so if you are outside the range, you've got a serious deficiency or excess. It's probably best to be between the 16th-84th percentile to be considered anywhere near optimal.

The expected abnormalities:
My mitochondrial function is weak, which prevents me from reaching my max heart rate.  I already knew that but that's about the least of my problems.

-Ammonia, which was perfectly normal in the blood, was a bit on the high side here.  The reference range was 9K-39K and I was 31K, which put me around the 85th percentile.  Maybe that raises a yellow flag but it's not severe.  Does it explain my intolerance to ammonia reducing treatments?  I don't know but I doubt it.

-Taurine: The upper limit of the reference range was 1200 and I was just over at 1210.  I expected it to be through the roof (over 2500) so I guess that's a pleasant surprise and supposedly, the alanine reduces it further.  With that being said, that's still a BAD result and indicates compromised lung function.  I'm in the 98th percentile so only 2 percent of patients tested are worse off than I am in this regard.  I need to shoot for below 800 before I can tolerate any methyl donors and I've got quite a ways to go.

Cysteine, Butyrate, Serine and PEA were all low but not severely so.  I know that cysteine is involved in methylation,  Butyrate has to do with ammonia detox and PEA is a neurotransmitter precursor.  Not too worried about those right now but I will attempt to address the Serine with SHMT.

-Several other neurotransmitter precursors such as tyrosine, tryptophan and a couple others tested on the low side of normal but within the range.  Not too worried about those either.

- The glutamine/glutamate ratio along with GABA was barely normal.  The spray, which targeted that GAD mutation has failed.  The doc suggested another spray called SHMT.  I will consider that one down the road.

The SHOCKER was beta alanine.  I expected it to be very low because it is a taurine antagonist.  NOPE.  It was SKY HIGH!  The reference range was anything below 21 and my value was 50.  I had been supplementing with it with success last week but not surprisingly, it quit working soon after.  PERHAPS, it did its job and lowered taurine a bit last week.  I don't know what ill effects can occur when that one gets too high and I don't plan on finding out from personal experience.  Regardless, this is VERY BAD NEWS and eliminates yet another promising option.

What more can I do to reduce the taurine?  I've officially run out of options.  I can probably tolerate occasional CBS RNA drops but must keep the dose VERY low.  I also will increase the Cal/Mag.  At the end of the day, I may be forced to shut it down and just endure a rough 2 months while doing whatever is necessary to get the taurine below 800.

Why is it so important to get the taurine below 800?
   That is the point in which it is safe to start treating the methylation cycle and I DESPERATELY need to treat it.  My worst deficiency is Methionine, the starting point of the methylation cycle.  The reference range was 7-35 units.  I am at 2!  Though unconfirmed by the doctor, I am 95% sure that this is the cause of my extreme mineral sensitivity!!  Until I get the taurine below 800, there is nothing I can do about it.  

How do I know that Methionine is the problem and why not treat it now?
  First off, a 2 is a SEVERE deficiency.   A 7 would be in the 2.5th percentile so a 2 must be in the 0.5-0.1st percentile, which means that 99.5-99.9% of SICK patients are better off than I am in this regard.  Think back to my history.  Just a half a pill made the difference between a personal record and a mediocre performance.  There HAD to be a severe issue somewhere that was causing such extreme reactions.  TMG, which supports methylation is designed to convert homocysteine into methionine.  When I took it, it DID indeed knock out the sensitivity to zinc and copper that plagued me throughout the year last racing season.  Unfortunately, it also exacerbated the excess taurine and sulfur burden and actually made me feel worse overall. Again, if I can get the taurine down below 800, that won't happen.

Mercury toxicity:
I've read that yes, low methionine may be an indicator of mercury but it's usually accompanied by an elevated cysteine whereas my cysteine was also low.  I'm still considering amalgam removal but will not do anything rash.  Pectasol may be a better option and yes, TMG removes mercury as well.

Plan going forward:
I'm not real hopeful.
-CBS drops to lower taurine, which I will take almost no matter what ill-effects I face.
-increase Cal/Mag
-limit methyl folate
-I'll finish the Sparga even though it's ineffective.

This doctor is allowing me to do a re-test for free and overall, her prices are more reasonable than Health Coach 7.  I'm sure she does that for all patients but that's a really nice thing to do.  When seeking professional help, I recommend Dr. Amy Yasko, NOT Health Coach 7.  By the way, I STILL have not gotten the recording of the consult with Dr. Jeff from HC7.  Screw 'em!

My re-test will be done in about 6 weeks and I'll have the results in about 8 weeks.  In the meantime, it's gonna SUCK!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Training 7/6-7/12

7/6- AM  Only took half an alanine pill just to see what would happen.  I saw gradual improvement.  Did 2 miles at Gold's in 14:38 (7:19 pace) with splits of 7:13-7:25.  3rd mile likely would have been close to 8 however.

PM- Took another alanine plus taurine just to see if I could tolerate it.  I could not.  2 miles on Lakeshore in 16:56 (8:28 pace) with splits of 7:53-9:03.  Got home and tried more alanine and it was no better.  Maybe worse.
  UPDATE:  Got my urine test results back and I am NOT happy.  Stay tuned for the results and a rant coming.  I am indeed burdened by sulfur and taurine but not as badly as I feared.  The cause of the sensitivity is likely a low methionine level but I can't do anything about it now because of the high taurine.

7/7-  Beta alanine has failed.  WHY SHOULD I EVEN TRY ANYMORE?

7/8- Looking more and more like I am screwed.  CBS drops have failed again.

7/9- AM- 1.5 miles in 12:52 (8:35 pace).  Very poor but I found some solace in the fact that I improved after taking B-12.
PM- 2 miles in 15:26 (7:43 pace) plus a cool.

7/10- 1 Mile in 9:45 and it looks like ADHS is the culprit.  I am officially screwed if I have to stop these pills.

7/11- Cut the ADHS down to 1 pill and improved the Mile to 7:43.  Took just a trace of TMG and ran the next 3 in 22:10 (7:23 pace).  I got the sulfate test strips and the results are alarming.  Still premature to discuss it and I'm not sure if I did the test correctly.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Rant: People Who Hate the South

This post could be controversial but I need to get a few things off my chest.  This post is primarily a response to anti-Southern blogs posts that I recently found.
  WARNING: This post contains lots of profanity.  Where does all this hate come from?  Some folks are simply misguided and have bought into the Hollywood stereotypes.  Their attitude might change if they actually spent some time in the South outside of tourist areas.  Others like the author of the above blog are truly bigoted and do not practice the tolerance that they preach.

As a preface, I have lived on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line and have traveled to 48 U.S states and 5 foreign countries so I know what I'm talking about.  If I could choose anywhere that I could live, it would be right here in Birmingham, Alabama.    I will not deny that the South has its share of problems but the purpose of this post is to offer a rebuttal to anti-Southern sentiments, many of which I believe to be unfair generalizations.

1.Still fighting the Civil War:
Like most Southerners, I have little interest in the politics of the 1860s.  My concern is preserving Southern speech, manners, culture and values and I want it to retain a distinctive flavor from the rest of the country.  If that means that I am still fighting the war, then I am guilty as charged.  Southerners are proud of their culture and do not take kindly to being told how you did things up north.  By the same token, if I were to move to New England and frequently talked about how they should do things like down south, chances are that I'd get a rather chilly reception. Respect the culture and you will most likely get along fine.

2. Uneducated
Lack of education is probably the 2nd most common negative stereotype of Southerners.  Critics point to low standardized test scores and lower graduation rates from high school.  The truth is that it is more difficult to get a diploma in Alabama.  In Pennsylvania, you could get away with taking courses such as Science & Society, Pre-Algebra and Consumer Math.  In Alabama, Algebra 1 and Geometry are almost always required for graduation and some schools require Basic Chemistry and Algebra 2.  Thus, it should not be a surprise that graduation rates are lower.  Some of the low test scores can be explained by the fact that a higher percentage of Southern children attend private schools, which are not required to release test scores.  Students who attend private schools tend to do better on SATs and ACTs entrance exams.  With that being said even if Southerners are less educated, that should never be a barrier to friendship and I find it somewhat offensive that some people feel that way.  Regardless of a person's status in this life, he or she may very well be a great person who can enrich your life if you took the time to get to know them.

3. Racism:
I need to be careful how I word this section.  I am certainly not proud of Alabama's racist past and do not deny that terrible things took place here in the 1950s and '60s.  I don't think that words can express the pain that was inflicted upon black people.  However, with that being said, things have changed a great deal in the last 50 years.  In fact, resistance to integration faded by the early '70s, nearly a decade before I was even born.  Unfortunately, I have encountered a couple of "in your face" types who casually use the n-word but overall, I have seen more positive interaction among the races here in Birmingham than anywhere else that I have lived.  As far as the Confederate Battle Flag, in light of the tragedy in Charleston, I support its removal from government buildings because it has been co-opted by hate groups. Banning it from tailgate parties goes too far however and I find that taking a show such as Dukes of Hazzard off the air is ridiculous.

4. Culture:
Many people applaud sexual promiscuity and recreational drug use in the name of tolerance for different lifestyles despite the fact that it can lead to death and disease.  If you like any of the following things, you may find that those same people find YOUR lifestyle to be offensive:
-driving big  pickup trucks
- country and southern rock music
-speaking with a southern accent
-hunting and fishing
-attend an evangelical church

5. Religion and Politics:
If voters in the Northeast and West Coast had their way, the USA would be a socialist country in the mold of the European Union.  They see the South as their biggest obstacle towards that objective.

A fairly large percentage of people have become openly hostile to evangelical Christianity in recent years.  Quite often, they are referred to as "fundamentalists" who are nearly on the same level as the Taliban and ISIS.  Rosie O'Donnell once said that "radical Christianity" is as dangerous as radical Islam.  Have you even been to a church service? Read up on sharia law before making such an ignorant statement.   Church of the Highlands, Birmingham's largest mega church, performs massive outreach to prisons and low income communities and has teamed with Prayer Force United for prayer walks in the poorest and highest crime areas.  These efforts have helped reduce the crime and the recidivism rate yet you never hear about it in the media.  I'm normally tolerant of opposing views but in one case, I make an exception.  If you equate evangelicals and conservative Catholics with radical Isalm, I don't want you as a friend.  As for me, I do not believe that the Earth was literally created in 6 days just 7,000 years ago.  I do believe that I am not merely a product of evolution from apes but rather, I was created in the image of God.  Does that mean that I am somehow anti-Science or anti-intellectual?  Some would say so.

So, what do I like so much about the South?
Nobody thinks that I am dumb because of my southern accent.  Yes, I like good and tasty food, the warm climate and low cost of living.  I am proud that the region leads the nation in charitable giving and military personnel but it is primarily the friendly people who share my values.  Smiles from strangers on the street are common here and I usually don't give it much thought.  Occasionally, I will get big and heartfelt smile from a person that I don't even know, which should brighten anyone's day. A couple of times, I walked into a bar alone on a road trip and was invited by a group of people to join their table. On several occasions, Southern women who I barely knew have greeted me not just with a smile but with a hug and yes they turned out to be very nice when I got to know them.

Yes, let's respect that cultural differences do exist within our country but at the end of the day, we are all Americans.  Charlie Daniels recently posted that it's time to unite and do away with the hyphenated labels.  Right on, brother.