Changes Over One Lifetime

I’m going off subject for this post.  Today, June 28 2018 would have been my grandmother’s 100th birthday.  She died of a stroke in 2015 at the age of 97.  Fortunately for our family, she was very sharp mentally right up until her stroke.  She would often talk about the things she saw and experienced in her lifetime.  Grandma Foster could just as easily recall events from her teenage years during the Great Depression as she could events that happened within the last week.  In some ways, she was like having a local historian in our family.

Today I would like to talk about some of the changes that occurred since my grandmother’s birth that early summer day in 1918.  One hundred years isn’t really a long time in terms of our recorded civilizations, let alone on the time frame of the cosmos.  But we have seen many changes.  And I would like to mention some of these.

In 1918, when my Grandma Foster was born, World War I was still going on.  The Spanish Flu Pandemic was at it’s hight.  The old Ottoman Empire was still in existence.  The Russian Revolution was going on.  China was still a very poor country.  India was still a possession of the British Empire.  Much of Africa was divided into European colonies.  Automobiles had been available to the working and middle classes for only a handful of years.  Industrial magnates like John Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Nikola Tesla, etc. were still alive.  It was mostly urban areas in America and Europe that had electricity.  Coal and steam powered almost all industrial processes.

Technologies that my Grandma Foster saw rise during her lifetime included regular radio broadcasts, anti biotic medications, hybrid crops, nitrogen based chemical fertilizers, radar, reliable rockets, nuclear weapons and energy, jet propulsion, reliable airline travel, television, computers, more fuel efficient automobiles, plastics, reliable contraceptive pills, super highway systems, easily available credit cards, lasers, the beginnings of space exploration, organ transplants, test tube children, cellular phones, active searches for alien intelligences beyond our solar system,  high speed railways (granted not so much in America as in Europe and East Asia), the internet, near free information via wikipedia, near free self broadcasting via youtube and podcasting, social media, the beginnings of inexpensive renewable power, the rise of automated drone technology, the rise of robotics, the human genome project, the beginnings of affordable electric automobiles, the discovery of anti matter, and the early research into fusion power, genetic engineering, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence.

Cultural changes my Grandma Foster saw witness to involved women’s suffrage, the beginning and end of Prohibition, the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Communist Russia, World War II, the decline of children in the work force, the increase of women in the work force, the assassination of Gandhi, the Civil Rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s, the rise of rock and roll music, the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Pearl Harbor, the assassination of John Kennedy, the turmoil of the 1960s, the rise of cable and satellite television, the first people on the moon, the fears of nuclear war and it’s after effects, the popularization of hip hop music and urban culture, the launch of space probes to almost all of our solar system, the Hubble Telescope, the popularization of science fiction and futurism, the rise of awareness of industrial pollution and the beginnings of the efforts to undo the effects thereof, the AIDS epidemic, the end of colonialization, the rise of China as an industrial and scientific power, the rise of the United Nations and globalization, the beginnings of the decline of nationalist furvor that was the norm for most of civilization, the rise of the European Union, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the War on Terrorism, the first black man to be U.S. president, the first women Supreme Court justices, the beginnings of the declines in the marganializations of religious, sexual, cultural, etc. minorities, the beginnings of plans to colonize space, the realizations of the potential benefits and drawbacks of artificial intelligence, and the rise of better treatment for the disabled, mentally ill, and pretty much anyone who didn’t conform to the average norm.

All of this I mentioned was just in the lifetime of someone I was blood relation to.  As you could see, the rate of changes only accelerated as time went forward.  I’m sure there are changes I forgot to mention.  My grandmother was old enough to remember people who were Civil War veterans and probably met people who were born into slavery or at least their children.  I write all of this to state that yes, the world changes over time.  People change over time, and not just because older generations die off and younger ones take their places.  I think of some of the changes I’ve seen just in my 38 years living as a human.  I really don’t recognize much of what I saw in the mid 1980s now and some of the attitudes and practices of even my childhood has me wondering “what were we thinking” and even “what was I thinking.”  Change is constant.  Change is inevitable even if not predictable or even in coming.  Or as one science fiction writer put “The future is already here.  It just isn’t evenly distributed.”

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Weight Loss, Exercise, and Mental Health. Winter Edition

doctor-2          mental-health

It’s been awhile since I last reported on my ongoing project of losing weight, maintaining mental equilibrium, and working on improving myself overall.  For awhile, from late October through most of November, I wasn’t losing nor gaining weight.  In early December, I had a flare up of the symptoms of schizophrenia and I had a second day of flare ups in mid January.  I met with my psych nurse, readjusted some of my meds, and found out that I had lost 10 pounds since late November.  I’m now down 65 pounds overall.  We had a fairly cold, but dry, December and first half of January.  I wasn’t exercising outdoors much, having moved my routines indoors.  I added small arm weights to my routine an average of twice a week.  I have found if I stretch before and after lifting, I don’t really feel sore the morning after lifting.  I had heard that some football coaches were doing this stretching after practices and games and they were seeing less pulled muscle problems in their players.  I gave it a try and it seems to work.  I still won’t work the same muscles two days in a row no matter how good they feel.

Another indoor exercise I do is just putting on dance music on my iPod, throw on the headphones, and dance to the tunes for about thirty minutes at a time.  I do this usually three days a week on average.  Since I live in a top floor apartment with squeaky floors, I do have to be care where and when I do this.  If I do this at night, I usually have to dance in my living room or kitchen.  No reason to wake up my downstairs neighbors if I do this at 9pm or later.

Even when I walked outdoors during the summer and fall, I did usually thirty minutes per day probably four to five days per week.  I made it a point to have at least one day a week off from exercise entirely, just for recuperating and breaking up the routine mentally.  I didn’t start out walking thirty minutes per day.  When I started this ‘life style overhaul’ I could walk only 1/4 of a mile in one shot without sitting down.  Pretty sad I had let myself slide so bad.  And yes, it was my fault.  I used the idea that my psych meds were promoting my weight gain and I couldn’t do anything about it.  Yes I could do something about it.  I had to reexamine everything I was doing.  I needed to know exactly what I was eating, what I was doing for exercise, how much water I was drinking, and how much I was sleeping.  After looking everything over, I saw what I was doing poorly (almost everything), and had to adjust accordingly.

On March 17, 2014, I began my exercise routine and keeping my day to day health journal. When most people in my hometown were doing the St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl (I live in a college town after all), I was doing a different type of crawl because I was sore from my first day of exercise.  I had been sedentary all winter, slept probably 11 to 12 hours most days, so I was out of practice and I was feeling it.  But within a couple of weeks, I stretched that 1/4 mile to 1/3 of a mile.  Within six weeks of beginning, I was doing at least 2/3 of a mile.  By the middle of June I was easily doing one mile without stopping. When Labor Day rolled around I could walk for one hour at a time but I was slightly sore for the next day, but it wasn’t the kind of pain crawl I was doing in March.  By the first of October I found out I was down 50 pounds overall.  The day after Halloween, I was down 55 pounds overall and, unknown to me at the time, I came to my first ‘plateau’.  I went through at least a six week period when I didn’t lose or gain.  I had heard about the possibility of having one of these periods.  I wasn’t terribly surprised that after 55 pounds lost, my body would go through a while of resetting itself.

The human body is quite amazing in that it regulates itself and is very adaptable.  I imagine my body might have thought it was experiencing a period of calorie shortages and was hording as much energy as it could.  Remember, that for most of human history, a person didn’t always have a consistent food supply.  There were the proverbial times of feasts and famines.  So the body adapted to become stingy with it’s on hand calories and to crave sources of easy calories like carbs, sugars, and proteins.  It is only within the last few generations we’ve had such strong food security with so little effort.  And, in western countries like USA, we’re doing this with probably only one percent of the work force actually working in farming and food production.

I’m dead convinced that one of the reasons for such tragic rates of obesity (and I needed to and still need to listen to this as much as anyone) in western nations was that we kept the eating habits our great grandparents had but did only a fraction of the physical labor.  In my own family, as far as I can tell, our entire family worked in farming, sharecropping, etc. as far back as we can trace.  My parents were the first generation of their families to either not grow up on a farm or not work on one.  I tell this aside simply to state many people have lost contact with how much time and work it really takes to grow crops, raise farm animals, hunt, fish, and gather wild food.  So we often eat food, and waste it, with little appreciation of how much work it took to get it from farm to dining room table.  And, as we’ve gone from a farming and manufacturing based economy to a knowledge based and service economy, we are seeing the foolishness of keeping the same eating habits without the corresponding physical activity.  Either the physical activity has to increase, the food consumption has to decline, or ideally both happens.  We saw the bad effects of smoking and excessing alcohol consumption and adjusted accordingly, starting about forty years ago.  I believe we’re now starting to make adjustments as a society to the problems of obesity and associated sicknesses.  Had I not taken steps to address my problems with obesity and physical health problems, then no amount of mental health successes were going to matter.

Sure I still have flare ups of mental illness problems even with as much weight I’ve lost.  I’ll probably be fighting mental illness issues for a long time, barring some major medical breakthroughs in the treatment of brain issues.  I do have hope that major breakthroughs will be happening, especially when I think that there are teams of scientists, researchers, engineers, etc. all over the world just thinking about how to improve what we have and just dreaming up entirely new ways to do things.  Theses are quite exciting times we live in, especially for those of us who pay attention to technology breakthroughs.  A good site I stumbled on that details breakthroughs we as a species have done since 2000 and projected new breakthroughs for many decades to come is futuretimeline.net.  There have to be literally dozens of sites such as this detailing tech breakthroughs.  I often lose sight of the big picture during days of struggle.  We do live in exciting times though challenging times.  But with challenges come opportunities.  Who knows what advances in the treatment of all illness, let alone mental illness, the next few decades and years will bring?