Beginning of 2017 and So Long to 2016

The holidays have come and gone.  I’m glad for it.  The too loud Christmas music and fireworks on New Year’s Eve were getting to cause me sensory overload.  I’m glad that things are going to start to return to normal.  I haven’t experienced any normal for a long time.  2016 was indeed an odd year.  Many of the heroes of my childhood, namely John Glenn, David Bowie, Muhammed Ali, etc. died that year.  I guess the older I get the more I’ll see the heroes of my childhood die off.  But as old heroes die off, new heroes will step up and take their place.

I spoke to my counselor right before New Year’s.  He and I agreed that I’m doing well enough that I only need to see him only once a month.  As tough as 2016 was for me I did escape the year without having to go to the mental hospital.  I’ve now avoided that place for three years.  I think the older I get the more I am able to deal with the ups and downs of my mental illness.  The last breakdown I had was before Halloween and the last one I had before that was back in July 2016.  And both of these breakdowns were less intense and less long lived than breakdowns in previous years.  Maybe I am getting on top of this mess.

Talked to my landlord the other day.  She said I’ll be getting my new paint for my walls and new carpet by the end of January.  I have been anxiously waiting for new carpet and a new paint job for months.  I have lived in my current apartment for over ten years.  I haven’t have much done to the place since I moved in.  And the carpet and paint on the walls are probably over twenty years old.  They are due.  I haven’t complained about them in the past simply because I knew whatever complaints I made would be ignored and not taken seriously.  I have had legitimate complaints over the years not taken seriously by my bosses, coworkers, teachers, classmates, and even family members.  So I am now to where I don’t complain unless it’s a major crisis because, from past experience, I know I won’t be taken seriously.  I never understood way complaints of subordinates and renters were never taken seriously  by those in authority.  I may be in my mid thirties but I still don’t trust authority figures because for years my complaints were always ignored.  That could be one of the reasons I isolate and don’t socialize.  I just know from past experience that my opinions are just not valued.  They never have been.  I don’t expect them to ever be valued really.  I have just been burned too many times.

I am glad the madness of the holidays and the insanity of the election are over.  Both have made my life very difficult for many months.  I am tired of having to hold my tongue for fear of offending a friend who doesn’t think exactly as I do.  I am tired of always fighting crowds and traffic every time I want to leave my apartment. I am tired of always feeling like I have to hole up and hide out just to protect my sanity.  I am ready for some things to return to normal.  I won’t miss 2016.  I only hope 2017 is a better and more hopeful year.  I got tired of seeing angry and hopeless people every time I turned on the tv, logged on to Facebook, or left my apartment.

 

Science and Tech Advances of 2016

Now that we are nearing the end of the calendar year 2016, I thought I’d take a little time to evaluate some of what has happened in the last twelve months.  This post is going to be mainly about science and tech advances.  Celebrity deaths and politics have already been covered at length in other parts of the internet. But I truly don’t think enough attention is paid to science and technology by the public at large.  Politicians tend to think wealth is created through taxes.  Lawyers tend to think wealth is created via law suits and judicial rulings.  Business operators tend to think wealth is generated through sales.  Yet it is the scientists and researchers that develop technologies that can start previously undreamed of industries.  I wish more people were as enthusiastic about science as I am.  I guess I was spoiled by growing up around books, having parents who encouraged me to learn and ask questions, and having teachers who made science, reading, history, and math interesting.

The source for this list is mainly wikipedia. This is not meant to be a definitive or exhaustive list, it’s mainly for illustrative purposes. Sometimes the major breakthroughs and improvements receive little note in the press.

1. Glycerol 3-phosphate phosphatase (G3PP), an enzyme that prevents sugar being stored as fat, is identified by scientists at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre.

2. Light-activated nanoparticles able to kill over 90% of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are demonstrated at the University of Colorado Boulder.

3.  Lockheed Martin announces the “Segmented Planar Imaging Detector for Electro-optical Reconnaissance” (SPIDER), a new way of dramatically shrinking the size of telescopes, by using hundreds to thousands of tiny lenses. The diameter does not change, but the SPIDER system is thinner and does not need multiple mirrors.

4. The University of New South Wales announces that it will begin human trials of the Phoenix99, a fully implantable bionic eye.

5.  Google announces a breakthrough in artificial intelligence with a program able to beat the European champion of the board game Go.

6.  Researchers demonstrate that graphene can be successfully interfaced with neurons, while maintaining the integrity of these vital nerve cells. It is believed this could lead to much improved brain implants for restoring sensory functions.

7. Scientists in the United Kingdom are given the go-ahead by regulators to genetically modify human embryos by using CRISPR-Cas9 and related techniques.

8. Scientists at the LIGO, Virgo and GEO600 announce the first direct detection of a gravitational wave predicted by the general relativity theory of Albert Einstein.

9. Scientists report unprecedented success using T-cells to treat cancer. In one trial, 94 percent of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia saw their symptoms disappear entirely.

10. The University of Southampton announces a major step forward in creating “5D” data storage that can survive for billions of years.

11.  Boston Dynamics reveals the latest version of its “Atlas” humanoid robot, featuring highly dynamic movements and reactions in both indoor and outdoor environments.

12. Paleontologists report the discovery of a pregnant Tyrannosaurus rex, shedding light on the evolution of egg-laying as well as gender differences in the dinosaur.

13. Researchers at Rutgers and Stanford universities develop a novel way to inject healthy human nerve cells into mouse brains, with potential for treating Parkinson’s disease and other brain-related conditions, though human trials are likely 10–20 years away.

14. Researchers at the University of Toronto use stem cell therapy to reverse age-related osteoporosis in mice.

15.  Case Western Reserve University announces an optical sensor a million times more sensitive than the current best available, with potential for improving early cancer detection.

16. A study by the University of Southern California concludes that drinking even moderate amounts of coffee can significantly reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

17.  SpaceX successfully lands the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket (SpaceX CRS-8) on a floating drone ship for the first time.

18. By adding a one-atom thick layer of graphene to solar panels, Chinese scientists report that electricity can be generated from raindrops.

19. Scientists announce Breakthrough Starshot, a Breakthrough Initiatives program, to develop a proof-of-concept fleet of small centimeter-sized light sail spacecraft, named StarChip, capable of making the journey to Alpha Centauri, the nearest extrasolar star system, at speeds of 20% and 15% of the speed of light, taking between 20 and 30 years to reach the star system, respectively, and about 4 years to notify Earth of a successful arrival.

20. A quadriplegic man, Ian Burkhart from Ohio, is able to perform complex functional movements with his fingers after a chip was implanted in his brain.

21. An international team reports synthesising ultra-long carbyne inside double-walled nanotubes. This exotic form of carbon is even stronger than graphene.

22. BioViva USA reports the first successful use of gene therapy to extend the length of telomeres in a human patient.

23. Scientists announce the discovery of an extensive reef system near the Amazon River, covering an estimated 3,600 square miles (9,300 km2).

24. A team at Stanford University reveals “OceanOne”, a humanoid robot capable of moving around the seabed using thrusters.

25. Astronomers discover three potentially Earth-like planets in the habitable zone of an ultracool brown dwarf star (TRAPPIST-1) just 40 light years away from Earth.

26. NASA’s Kepler mission verifies 1,284 new exoplanets – the single largest finding of planets to date.

27. Samsung announces a 256 gigabyte microSD card.

28. Scientists at IBM Research announce a storage memory breakthrough by reliably storing three bits of data per cell using a new memory technology known as phase-change memory (PCM). The results could provide fast and easy storage to capture the exponential growth of data in the future.

29. A detailed report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds no risk to human health from genetic modifications of food.

30. Researchers at the University of Virginia Health System find that the Oct4 gene, once thought to be inactive in adults, actually plays a vital role in preventing heart attacks and strokes. The gene could delay at least some of the effects of aging.

31. India conducts the first successful launch of a new space plane, called the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV), which is delivered to a height of 65 kilometres (40 mi).

32. A survey of 216,000 adolescents from all 50 US states finds the number of teens with marijuana-related problems is declining and marijuana use is falling, despite the fact that more US states are legalising or decriminalising the drug.

33. Strimvelis, an ex-vivo stem cell gene therapy for adenosine deaminase deficiency, and the first gene therapy for children, is granted regulatory approval by the European Commission.

34. Worldwide, renewable energy grew at its fastest ever rate in 2015, according to a report by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).

This list is getting longer than I thought.  I’m breaking this into two blog entries.

 

Thoughts On 2015 and Looking Ahead to 2016

Another year has come to pass.  We humans have survived yet another lap around the mother star.  2015 has had, like all years, it’s ups and downs.  Some really cool stuff happened like the sending a space probe to Pluto, vertically landing a rocket (I knew I should have bought SpaceX stock several months ago), and discovering water on Mars are just a few of the highlights I can think of right off hand.  This was ‘the future year’ of Back To The Future II.  My enjoyment of the internet and wearable electronics outweigh my disappointment of not having a flying car and not having a computerized Ronald Reagan taking my order at a 1980s nostalgia restaurant.

Looking back on 2015, I accomplished most of my goals.  I set goals every year instead of resolutions.  I actually write down my goals (i.e. make at least 30 blog posts, get my amateur radio license, get rid of my clutter, etc.) and I rewrite them at the end of every month in a journal just to remind myself to keep going.  The two goals I’m most proud of are getting my Amateur radio license and having more visitors to this blog in 2015 than 2014.  The only real goal I didn’t accomplish was losing another sixty pounds.  I started off well as I lost fifteen pounds in the winter months to start 2015.  But things fell apart about late May.  Having a college buddy visit for a whole week in June when we went out to eat and hit sports bars several nights in a row didn’t help the cause.  Things got even worse after the week in the Black Hills for Matt’s wedding.  I’m not blaming my lack of staying on track with diet and exercise on my best friend but friends do sometimes get you in trouble.  But those are the friends you should hang onto.  If the worst Matt causes me to do is eat like a horse for much of a summer, well there are worse things he could have involved me in.  But he’s one of these tall guys who’s skinnier than a rail and can eat whatever he wants and not gain an ounce.  He’s only a few pounds heavier than when he graduated college thirteen years ago.  I simply won’t even try to keep up with guys like him anymore.  In August, my last living grandparent died.  Went through several weeks of pulling all night internet research and computer game marathons at least three nights per week.  That caused even more weight gain and mental health issues.  My car wreck in late October didn’t help the effort any as it made exercise nearly impossible as I had a few weeks of chronic back pain.  But that’s all cleared now.  It wasn’t until mid November did things return to a sense of normal.  And now I’m where I started 2015, at least weight wise.

I also decided to get somewhat more cultured in 2015.  To this end I watched a few foreign movies on Netflix.  Also watched some classic movies like Citizen Kane, some Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns, and saw 2001: A Space Odyssey.  The only Stanley Kubrick movie I saw previously was Full Metal Jacket.  I guess my impression of 2001 was it looked like a mashup of Jane Goodall, Buckminster Fuller, and Carl Sagan on bad acid trips.  This was the sixties after all.

For 2016 goals, I want to lose at least sixty pounds.  I also want to post to this blog at least forty times.  I want to have more visitors to this blog in 2016 than 2015. I want to write poetry again as I’ve been lazy about that for two years.  I want to revive some of my older writing ideas.  In years past I wrote rough drafts for two truly lousy novels. I’m going to see if I can find those old files and dust off the cobwebs.I want to continue to save at least ten percent of my monthly pay.  I’m saving up in part because I want to take a couple good old fashioned American road trip in a few years.  I haven’t been to the East Coast before.  That is one place I want to visit.  I’d love to see autumn in New England and visit some of the old Revolutionary and Civil War battle sites in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.  Sometime within the next five to seven years I’d love to visit the Deep South too.  I have a couple college friends from Alabama who are always raving about the barbecue places and good diners down there.  Here in Nebraska, we don’t really have a specialty besides steaks and prime rib.  In short I have a few goals for 2016 and beyond.

 

Confessions of a Schizophrenic and Christmas

santa

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, and Happy Birthday Sir Isaac Newton!  In short, just have a good day overall regardless where you live or how you believe.  I spent a few days in my childhood home village in rural Nebraska.  Didn’t really go anywhere because there really isn’t that many places to go there.  My parents and I had our Christmas celebration this afternoon over ham and pumpkin pie.  I hadn’t been anywhere outside of my current hometown for any real length since my grandmother’s funeral.  I almost forgot how much I enjoy road trips and traveling.  This was the first Christmas I didn’t have any living grandparents.  But most people lose their grandparents long before they hit their thirties.

Overall, besides of a short lived but hard hitting psychotic break a few days ago, this year was a quiet and rather uneventful holiday season.  I was purposely avoiding shopping malls and box stores.  Things are beginning to get back to more normal with my life.  Had my first psychotic break of 2015 in early October that was rather nasty but thank God short lived. Unfortunately, my psychotic breaks involved a lot of anger and shouting.  I never developed the ability to just break down and sob for my break downs.  I think many men with mental illness take out their issues on others in scary and unsettling ways.  For me, it’s actually a cry for help and desire for releasing tensions instead of wanting to come across as threatening and dangerous.

I am afraid that after my family passes away I’ll lose a major source for releasing tension and anxiety.  They are also a source of interesting and intelligent conversation as they are quite intelligent too.  Tragically I don’t relate that well to most people because I am not interested in the mundane and the issues of daily living.  I just cannot stand to rehash current events for hours on end.  I see five minutes of a minor news story that gets replayed dozens of times over a few days of a news cycle and I no longer wish to discuss it.  I also have little desire to complain about anything I can’t do anything about.  That’s why I don’t vent about politics, current events, the failures of my favorite sports teams, etc.  And it’s almost painful for me to listen to conversations between average people.  Especially so when people bring up the same problems over and over they have no interest in making better.  I fear the death of my family members as much as I fear the death of my best friends.

I have never gotten violent during even the worst of my breakdowns, at least never to other people.  When I was in college I used to punch wood doors and shelves.  But I have never gotten violent towards anyone even after almost twenty years of mental health problems.  I haven’t been in a fight with anyone since I was thirteen years old, and most of those fights were with my older brother and cousins.  I am afraid of winding in prison or getting seriously hurt in the wrong circumstances during a future breakdown.  In my case while the fire burns hot and bright, it also goes out quite quickly.  I only hope symptoms and problems with schizophrenia get less severe with age, especially if an outright cure is never found. I know some people with mental health issues like autism spectrum and others don’t care to be cured.  For me I would give practically anything to be cured from schizophrenia.  I would even sign up for experimental treatments and procedures if they ever became available.

In other news, I have gotten more focused and serious about dieting and exercise.  I lost thirteen pounds in the last two and half months.  I am back into exercising almost every day as my back is no longer hurting from my car accident.  I got my car fixed as good as ever.  I’m also sitting down and planning out my goals for 2016 as the year 2015 is drawing to a close in a few days.  I accomplished several of my goals for this year, namely getting my amateur radio license back, having more blog posts and visitors this year than 2014, got to be in my best friend’s wedding party, read a few dozen books and audio books, completed a couple free courses on khan academy,  stayed out of debt, and built up my savings more.  The biggest goal I didn’t accomplish was my goal of losing sixty pounds.  I weigh the same now as I did at the end of 2014.  So while I didn’t accomplish my biggest goal, I didn’t completely give up the lifestyle change.  I just have to do better in 2016.