December 11 2019

Only two weeks until Christmas.  2019 is going to be passing into 2020 soon after.  2019 has been a long year for me.  I think spending much of my time at home made this year go slower than usual.  It was a year of changes for me.  I sold my car so I’m no longer driving.  I lift arm weights regularly.  I gave up most fast food.  I gave up most sugary food.  I broke down and hired outside help to keep my home livable.  I now have help with cleaning and laundry.  I gave up on a few friendships once it became painfully obvious some of my friends and I no longer had the same interests or values.  I guess people do change over the years.  It’s usually so gradual that we don’t notice it until afterwards.  I am beginning to overcome some of my anxiety about people.  Guests don’t bother me much anymore.  I still get slightly paranoid when I hear people talking out in my hallway.

I didn’t watch much tv or news this year.  I can’t relate to many tv shows.  I even cancelled my Netflix subscription.  Most of what I watch anymore is youtube or live sports.  The news is depressing, but I get that’s what catches the attention.  We have plenty of good news stories that will never get mentioned simply because good news doesn’t catch the attention.  I didn’t read as much as I would have liked either, outside of online science and tech articles.  I guess it’s been kind of a less eventful year, at least for me.

Getting Back Into Better Physical Health After A Few Years Of Setbacks

Happy Monday to everyone out there.  It’s the first Monday of December, or Cyber Monday for those of us who prefer to shop online.  I didn’t brave the crowds on Black Friday this year.  I did that with my dad one year when I was in college.  It was a headache.  I’m glad I did it once just to say I did, but I don’t want to make it a regular thing.  I just stayed home and watched football this last weekend.  My cleaning lady was kind enough to bring me some traditional Thanksgiving cuisine.

I have my annual physical checkup tomorrow morning.  I hadn’t been looking forward to it until just yesterday.  My last physical was July 2018.  I think I’ve lost some weight but I’m not exactly sure.  I know my clothes fit so much better and I can easily move around my apartment, certainly much easier than I could a year ago.  I started lifting arm weights back at the beginning of spring.  I do those three to four times a week.  I usually do only 10 and 15 pound weights but I try to lots of reps.  I doubt with my body build (barrel chested, short limbs for as tall as I am) I’ll ever look like Mr. Universe.  But that’s not the point.  The point is to improve at least a little with each passing day.

I have made changes to my diet over the last couple years.  I haven’t even eaten at McDonalds or Taco Bell this year.  When I do dine out, it’s almost always a sit down place like a pizzeria or Chinese place.  I’ve eaten fried food only once since the end of summer, and that was because my neighbors made fried chicken and offered me a couple pieces.  I don’t regularly drink soda pop anymore, only when I order delivery pizza and Chinese anymore.  Sugared soda makes me feel bloated and sluggish anymore. When I was on my high school’s football team the coach didn’t want us drinking soda pop or anything with carbonation during the season, believing it made it tougher to breathe and could cause muscle cramps.  Maybe there was some truth to that.  I know I feel better on days when I don’t eat much for sugar or carbs as opposed to days I do.  Most of the meat I eat anymore is grilled pork or chicken.  I also try to eat mixed vegetables at least once a day.  I found it’s so much easier for me to eat veggies if I have them in soup or stew.  I know it’s probably high in salt but it’s vegetables I probably wouldn’t get otherwise.  As far as fluids go, it’s always water, coffee, or black tea if I’m not dining out or getting delivery.  Fortunately my town has pretty good drinking water, so I don’t have to buy bottled water.

Overall I’m slowly regaining my stamina and losing my paranoia about other people.  While I still don’t venture out into public very much, I do leave my apartment door unlocked except for when I’m asleep or taking a bath.  I answer my phone all the time unless I’m in bed or in the bath tub.  I refuse to talk on the phone when taking a bath or using the toilet, even with family.   I also sleep better too.  I usually sleep for about six hours straight at night, wake up for a couple hours in the middle of the night, and go back to sleep and wake up for good at sunrise.  Most nights anymore I’m in bed around 8pm only to wake at 2am.  This is a major change for me as in my younger years I used to stay up all night at least once a week.  A couple years ago I did most of my sleeping in the day and ran all my errands at night.  I guess people do change over the years.  Sometimes it’s so gradual it isn’t really noticed until after the fact.

About the only negative effect of going to bed early is that most of my friends are night owls.  When I am awake and fully going, they are usually at work.  So I have to catch them on weekends or holidays.  And even listening to their gripes about work doesn’t bother me very much anymore, certainly not like it did even six months ago.  I don’t know what prompted this change, but I’ll take it.

Just this morning I found a couple sweaters in my closet I hadn’t worn for a couple years because they didn’t fit.  I held onto them because I wanted to lose weight and winters in Nebraska can be quite cold.  Found out they both fit okay.  One fits well even though it’s still an inch or two short on my torso.  Another was an extra tall that was too tight to wear for the last couple years.  It now fits.  But I have always preferred not wearing tight clothes and for years I have preferred wearing short sleeves, even on dress shirts.  I also have a dress shirt that now fits well that I hadn’t worn in two years until I tried it on this morning.  I’m now beginning to wonder how well my winter coats now fit.  I have a heavy duty winter coat and a nice dress coat that both were tight at the end of last winter.  I have to try them on today.  I have a really nice black leather jacket I haven’t worn in several years that I just hung onto because it was the nicest coat I ever worn, was a Christmas gift years ago, and offered more incentive to get back into shape.  I am sure I still can’t fit into it, hopefully by Christmas 2020.

I think I’ve lost weight, but I know I feel better overall than I did this time last year.  We hired my cleaning lady right before Christmas last year.  And it has made a difference in just one year of even once a week cleaning, and not in just the appearance of my home.  I am regaining my confidence around other people, I don’t get as easily irritated or annoyed, I leave my door unlocked except for when I go to bed.  Used to be I kept the door locked at all times.  I’m not paranoid about my landlord anymore even though I still don’t talk to her very often.  I am regaining my stamina, granted slowly.  And I don’t tolerate rude behavior from people as much.  Rather than make a scene about it, I usually just make a point of avoiding those people, whether online or in person.  I still have aches and pains at times, usually when I wake up in the mornings.  But even those clear up more quickly than even six months ago.  I make a point to stand up every hour or two for a few minutes.  Used to be I sat for hours on end, especially if I was working on research for the blog or engrossed in a computer game.  I don’t even play computer games as much anymore.  I still do almost every day, but it’s no longer playing for hours on end.  Sheesh, I even find myself more restless and wanting to fidget quite often.  I have always craved mental exercise.  But now I’m beginning to crave physical activity more with each passing week.

Several years ago I set a goal of being at my old college weight by the end of the decade.  And I was well on my way to goal until my car accident four years ago.  That set me back.    I went into a deep depression and was often experiencing back pain.  I got depressed, stopped being active, went though about two or three years where I ate very unhealthy, and gained a lot of weight.  It was also a set back when three of my best friends in my apartment complex died within six months of each other.  It was also a time when most people I knew were depressed, anxious, and short tempered too.  It was one of those things that just built on itself.  I still have the goal of being back at my old college weight, it’s just that the timeline changed.  Sure I had a few down years, 2016 and 2017 were the toughest.  Even though I’m still a long way from were I ultimately want to be, I am definitely back in the right track again.

Independence Day, History, Technology, and Making A Better World

Independence Day is a few days away here in USA.  It is a time to reflect on sacrifices of current and previous generations of military personnel during times of war and crisis in my nation’s history.  It is also a time that the public at large gets some refresher courses on American history.  One of my Independence Day traditions is to watch the fireworks after dark while I have songs like “America the Beautiful” playing courtesy of Google’s Youtube (both tech firms that were started in the USA).

While it is a celebration of the USA’s beginnings and struggles to become what we are (and what we can become in future generations), for me it is also a time to remember the efforts of non military personnel and brilliant leaders.  I remember the contributions to the USA and the world of immigrants like Nikola Tesla and Andrew Carnegie (among numerous others) in the fields of science, industry, and commerce.  While they were not born here, it was here in USA that they had the opportunity to follow their dreams.

I remember the science breakthroughs in agriculture and food production led by such people as Norman Bourlag, the Armour family, the Cargil family, and Roswell Garst that made crops and food available to, not just Americans, but to billions of people all over the world that will probably not know their names.  In fact, we now have more people on earth being overweight (slightly over 2 billion) than we do have people suffering from insufficient food (around 800 million).

I remember that it was computer scientists and engineers from America that were among the big drivers in getting personal computers and internet access made available to the public at large. It was this year (2019) that we crossed the threshold where now slightly over 50 percent of the world’s population has access to internet, whether it be smart phones or tablets or full size computers.  It was also primarily American scientists and engineers (and immigrants working in American based firms) that got GPS navigation going.

I know some people (myself included) sometimes get irritated by American pop culture, tv shows, music, etc.  But no one forced me or anyone else to pay attention to our culture.  I, and many others, sometimes get upset about how much war my nation has fought over the course of history.  Yet, most previous powerful nations annexed or colonized the territories and peoples they won wars over. Many powerful nations in past eras colonized territories that weren’t on even the same continents as the home nation. Yes, our practices of slavery and taking land from the Native Americans will be a dark mark against my nation for the rest of history.  But many nations won’t even acknowledge their past sins and transgressions.  A couple of weeks ago I heard there were talks before congressional committees about possible reparations for past practices during slavery.  The idea of reparations can be debated one way or another ad nauseam, but at least there is even talk about attempting to make amends for past sins.  Every civilization as far back as we can tell had some form of slavery, indentured servitude, etc.  Yet it wasn’t until a few centuries ago that people began to acknowledge that the idea of one human owning another the same way one would own a building or a horse, even in past times, as disgusting and barbaric.  Now slavery is officially illegal in every country of the world.  It still goes on in the forms of human trafficking, sex slavery, etc.  But even two hundred years ago, that would have been acceptable in the entire world.  I don’t write this to justify my nation’s past sins.  We certainly made our mistakes.  I won’t hide our mistakes. But I also won’t hide the progress my nation or my species progress.

On another note, many advances we take for granted in 2019 were pioneered in the USA. This includes things like electric light bulbs, telephones, airplanes, people on the moon, common pharmaceutic medications, do it yourself investing in the stock markets, television broadcasts, much of what computers, internet, and cell phones have become.  Even with our current internal strifes and issues, the USA is still a world leader in the emerging fields of Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing, nanotechnology, fusion technology, robotics, autonomous automobiles and drones, etc.  Even though our government officially pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreements, many local and state governments, along with private businesses and industries, are still implementing nonpolluting technologies and power generation.  Many businesses and individuals, are voluntarily severely limiting their uses of disposable plastics.  Even the people I personally know who are skeptical of the sciences behind climate change, most of them still recycle their garbage, take car pools to work, limit their uses of pesticides, use less water than previous generations, drive fuel efficient cars, use solar panels to power anything that can be by traditional grids, or allow wind turbines and solar panels to be built on their farms and ranches.  Even though our elected leaders may not see that renewable and recycling tech are the future, most of my countrymen see that it is even if they don’t accept or understand the science behind climate change or environmental pollution.

I know I am often tough on my friends, family, countrymen, etc.  But I am tough because I know even ordinary people are capable of accomplishing great things.  Even though I see ignorance and stupidity every day, I also see people doing great things and changing for the better every day.  Sure the ignorant and hurtful actions catch our attention more because it is natural for us to pay more attention to negativity than positive news.  I wasn’t born an optimist.  I had to become one by forcing myself to find out the good that is going on out in the world and in my hometown.  And thanks to inventions like internet, search engines, and social media, it is far easier to find such good news than even twenty years ago.  Sure some people will abuse such tech.  Every tech in history has been abused by at least one person or group.  A sharpened stone tied to a long stick can kill a deer and feed a family just as easily as it can kill another man and be used to enslave his survivors.  And on it goes.

I should wrap this up.  Sure much bad has been done in the name of my nation and science.  Yet, much good has been done too.  We rarely acknowledge anyone’s decency simply because we are not hardwired to do so.  Many cool things are happening right now.  And among the leaders forcing these positive changes are American scientists, engineers, medical personnel, teachers, craftsmen, construction workers, factory workers, farmers, students with dreams, business people, etc.  It is an eventful and hopeful time to be alive.  I am grateful to live in a college town in America in the early 21st century.