The Only Constant Is Change

When I was young I was a high achiever. Did really well in school, was involved in school activities year round. Started helping out on my uncle’s farm during the summers when I was ten years old. Had a really good academic scholarship cover a good chunk of my college expenses. Graduated college debt free. May not have been overly popular but had excellent friends anyway.

But, the mental illness really ramped up shortly in the mid 2000s. The illness made it impossible to hold a job for long. Lost many of my friends and family. Had to go on disability. Have to take meds for the rest of my life. Will probably have a shorter life because of the illness. But it doesn’t bother me as much anymore, certainly not like fifteen years ago.

I’ve accepted that my career died before it got started. I’ve accepted that I’ll never have kids. I’m alright with that I’ll never have the big house, picket fence, SUV, and apple pie kind of life. I’ve accepted that I had question everything I took for granted in my youth. I’m even starting to accept that the pandemic isn’t going to end anytime soon.

In some ways I’m glad I have the life I do. I’m glad that I get to spend most of my days reading, writing, and learning things that most people simply don’t have the time for. I spend at least six hours a day reading online articles and journals. Spend a lot of time listening to science, economics, history, and philosophy talks on youtube. It’s almost like being a modern day monk.

I would say I accepted living in poverty, but let’s face it: even living below poverty level in modern America puts me ahead of most people alive today, let alone the past. Will Rodgers was right when he said America would be the first country in the world to go to the poor house in an automobile. Don’t even need to own said automobile anymore as long as you have a smartphone and an Uber account. Sold my car two years ago and my lifestyle hasn’t decreased at all. If anything, I feel less stress because I don’t have to worry about traffic, gas, and maintenance. Things like portable computers were science fiction when I growing up in the 1980s.

I think we tend to overestimate how much can change in only a year or two but vastly underestimate how much can change in ten to twenty years. Just looking in the living room of my apartment, most of the electronics didn’t exist in 2001. I don’t think even LED lighting was available back then. Even my memory foam mattress and shoes came about within the last twenty years I think. I don’t even subscribe to cable tv anymore. Can get all the tv I need on my laptop and game console. If only I didn’t have to buy a new phone or laptop every few years. Even in the movies and tv shows I watched in college in the early 2000s, I chuckle about some of the tech in those shows. Phone booths, land lines, and flip phones were extensively used even in The Matrix movies. Even today, we have many of the tech advances of the Star Trek series. We’re still not close to cracking Warp Drive though. But, what is a 3D printer if not an early version of a Replicator?

I will probably never have much money. But I really don’t need to. Certainly not like I would have 25 years ago. A person doesn’t really need much money anymore if they can stay out of debt. Granted that is a huge task. Housing, health care, and education have increased in cost far faster than inflation. But, even education can be real cheap if you play your cards right. There isn’t much I can’t learn with a few minutes of Google search or a few how to videos on youtube. And trade schools and community colleges don’t cost nearly as much as even public universities. I’ve heard of electricians and plumbers making more than even lawyers. In short, there are more options than even twenty years ago. If only people could stop fighting on social media.

Thoughts On My School Years

Schools in my town are back in session for fall. High school and college football will be starting in a couple weeks. I was on my high school’s football team back in the late 90s. Since I attended a small high school (My senior class had only 30 students when we graduated), it was easier to get involved in school activities than in most schools. In addition to playing football, I did school play for two years, pep band for basketball games, competitive speech, and a couple years of track. Even though I’ve been out of high school since 1999, I don’t go all Glory Days like the old Bruce Springsteen song. Those four years of high school and five years of college seemed to last forever when I was going through. Time really does speed up the longer you’ve been alive. I mentioned this to my then 90 year old grandmother when she just chuckled and said “You have no idea just how fast it’s gonna get.”

While I may have learned more history, philosophy, science, tech, etc. in binge watching youtube videos for 10 years, would I have desired to do such if I didn’t have good teachers in my youth and parents who encouraged me to read at a very young age? The idea that school can teach something everything they need to know about life and working by age 22 is not feasable. Especially with as fast as science, tech, and industry changes anymore. And these changes aren’t slowing down. I’m amazed at the amount of changes I’ve seen just in the last two years, let alone the last twenty. I can imagine my twelve year old niece chuckling every time her dad talks about the old dial up internet and even land based phone lines. I’m sure my seventeen year old nephew rolls his eyes when he thinks about people like me who have never used virtual reality head sets or 3D printers. I don’t even have a TikTok account. I don’t even make videos on youtube. I probably would get a larger audience doing videos about mental illness issues, but is it really worth the hassle of dealing with more trolls and arguments in comment sections? I still think it’s amazing there are kids on youtube and tiktok making over a million dollars a year and they aren’t even old enough to join the military or vote. I guess the possibility to make a living off anything you are good at is now there. That wasn’t the case twenty five years ago.

If anything, the purpose of school should be teaching kids how to learn long after their last day of high school. I did the math and my youngest nephew won’t hit even current retirement age until the late 2070s. We don’t know what will and won’t be available by then. We might not even need most people to have jobs by then if automation and AI takes off like I think it could. But, then again, some predictions will be laughably way off. Some economists back in the 1930s thought that people would need to work only 15 hours a week instead of 40 by 2030. Hell, I’d be thrilled if we could get the work week back down to 40 hours by then. And wages haven’t even tried to keep up with cost of living and productivity since the late 1970s. No way could anyone working a job requiring only a high school degree can support a house and six kids anymore outside of truck driving, sales, and trades in 2021. Most people I know younger than me are working two jobs and still barely breaking even. Any wonder why younger people are revolting against the current order? I wish my cohorts and I had that kind of courage fifteen years ago.

Things I’m Looking Forward To In The Future

I’m composing of list of things that probably will be coming within the next generation or so that I am looking forward to. My entire life I’ve been accused of being too much of a dreamer and having false hopes. I’ve even had people tell me I think long term too much. I’ve always been bothered by how short sighted most people, at least in my culture, seem to be. But here goes with the list.

Things I’m Looking Forward To In The Future

People back on the Moon

People on Mars

5G tech

3D printed houses

Eradication of malaria

Seeing people my age and younger in places of power, wealth, and influence

Seeing my nephews and niece start careers and families

Being seen as a wise old man instead of a young smart ass with attitude problems

Blockchain tech truly come of age

Having people do favors for me because of my age and not feel guilty

Being old enough to not only know what others think doesn’t matter, but not being able to remember anyway

Truly amazing Virtual Reality

Seeing friends and classmates become grandparents

Not repeating the mistakes of my elders and previous generations

Lab grown replacement organs

Mile tall skyscrapers

Fusion energy

Having a robot neighbor

Cures for mental illnesses (It’s my blog, I can dream can’t I?)

Riding in a driverless car

Getting to watch what amazing breakthroughs come by the time I die

The end of the pandemic

The end of cable news

The end of unneeded paper work

The end of junk mail

Personalized medical treatment

Getting to watch the development of the next trillion dollar industry. My bets are on biotech and space based resources

Just knowing we have armies of really smart scientists, engineers, doctors, artists, etc. figuring out new things and solutions while normal people cry doom and gloom. Then again, good news never has sold well

November 21 2020

Stayed up late again last night. Been listening to audiobooks quite a bit lately. Bought some groceries yesterday. Looks like I’ll be spending the rest of the month at home. My town passed a mask mandate through late February 2021. Glad I bought a box of masks last week.

The loneliness gets to me sometimes. I’m not irritated or paranoid about it. Just kind of sad. 2020 is going to be a year for the history books. And in almost every way imaginable. I’m still amazed workable vaccines were developed in only one year. I just hope enough people use these vaccines and practice preventative measures enough we can end this pandemic soon.

I doubt we will have a complete return to the normal ways of previous years. I don’t plan on doing much shopping in person anymore. I’m completely at ease for having doctors’ appointments online. I already got rid of my car last year. I had grown to hate driving the last few years before I gave it up. I have gotten pretty decent at cooking my own meals. I enjoy watching movies in my own home with my own snacks and no one kicking the back of my chair. I have thought for years that doctors, nurses, scientists, engineers, etc. don’t get the recognition and respect they deserve. I think the same way about delivery drivers and minimum wage workers.

Progress didn’t stop during 2020. It actually sped up, often out of necessity. I read a couple days ago that now over 65 percent of the world has internet access and over 90 percent now has electricity. The change over to renewable power is going faster too. Read another article a couple days ago that over 90 percent of new electrical generating capacity is now clean energy like wind, solar, hydroelectric, etc. Politicians can talk all they wish about saving the coal and oil industries, but even the economics of cheaper renewables are working against this. It is now profitable to install green tech. I don’t think some of my friends would have seen the free market as ushering in green tech. Maybe we will head off the worst of climate change because the finances now make sense. Pity the tech wasn’t there twenty years ago.

As far as other progress goes, I read some places are now experimenting with flying drone taxis. Supposedly Dubai is supposed to have this service within the next two years. So everyone complaining about no flying cars can finally keep quiet and fly off. Personally I think a person born in the late 1800s, if they saw the world today would probably be more impressed with internet access than anything flying.

As bad as this pandemic has been, it could have been so much worse. Even if this would have hit back as recently as the 1980s, it would have been much uglier. I’m still amazed at how much work can be done from home. Couldn’t have done this without reliable internet. With vaccines set to be mass produced, I can start to see the end of the pandemic is in sight.

June 27 2020

Alternating between hopeless optimism and slight irritability the last few days.  Had my neighbors over for the afternoon a few days ago.  Other than that, haven’t had much for guests or in person socializing for the last two weeks.  I am still working on my audiobooks.  Still messing with my computer games.  Been usually going to bed shortly after sunset.  Usually wake in the middle of the night, read some articles or play some computer games for a few hours, then go back to sleep for another few hours.  My aches and pains are still the worst in the mornings.  After I stretch out, move around, and take my morning vitamins with breakfast I’m good for the rest of the day.  Standing up and walking around at least once an hour helps keeps the aches and stiffness down.

See that some places are bringing back the quarantines for the coronavirus.  Here in the USA, big quarantines are now in the southern states and west.  I don’t know what the answer is, or if there even is a best answer.  If we stay shut down too long, we will make sure the hospitals don’t get overrun.  But many small businesses will go bankrupt.  We already have 40 million people on unemployment.  I think we are going through one of those ordeals will we will see an almost unrecognizable world once this pandemic burns out.  I think many things will be better, like allowing for more work from home options and people taking health and cleanliness more seriously.  But it’s already been a very painful process and we’re only six or seven months into this crisis.

I find myself overwhelmed sometimes.  By the pandemic, social unrest, economic problems, etc.  Yet, at other times hopeful too.  Many changes that were needing addressed, whether it was public health, bigotry, work life balance, environmental issues, supply chains for essential goods and services, lack of understanding and appreciation for science and tech advances, changes in the work place, the rise of automation and early AI, etc. are now at the forefront of social discourse.  These conversations are being had in the halls of congresses, academic institutions, business enterprises, and among common citizens like never before.  While it would have saved much heartache and many lives had these conversations taken place sooner, they are now being had by almost everyone.  It seems we humans are often at our best during times of crisis.  This current pandemic and social unrest are probably the first time in human history that all the nations of the world are facing the same problems all at once.  That alone is going to get far more minds working on solving problems.  I sometimes get discouraged in the day to day grinds.  But I am also hopeful at other times.  We now have several possibilities for a covid vaccine in human trials.  And we didn’t even know what covid 19 was this time in 2019.  And it’s not just the US, China, etc. working on this.  If this pandemic had to hit, at least it didn’t happen back in the 1980s before internet was available to the common citizens and our medical science wasn’t as advanced.

We Knew The Problems, We Didn’t Act Accordingly

Haven’t left my apartment since last weekend.  Been sleeping more too.  2020 has been an insane year, to say the least.  Pandemics.  Protests.  Quarantines.  Broken supply chains.  Private space flight takes astronauts to the space station.  Yes, 2020 will be a year for the history books.

While all these things are overwhelming for me, I try to stay grounded and positive.  I try to tell people around what’s actually going right.  I tell people that I am hopeful that all of our current troubles are hopefully the birth pains of a more humane and balanced way of living and interacting with the world.  We were foolish to base so much of our manufacturing overseas, especially essential medicines and protective gear.  Militarizing the police was not a good idea.  The uncomfortable conversations about bigotry have been put off for far too long.  Our governments spending too much money and passing the debts off to future generations have gone on for too long.  The gaps between the wealthy and the poor have gotten unmanageable.  The middle class, a key ingredient in any stable and free society, has been under siege financially for too long.  Many people in their twenties and thirties don’t see how they can ever afford a house or children when they already have a small fortune in  student loans.  They were told, like I was, a college degree was necessary to get any jobs beyond frying chicken or pumping gas.  Then they get out of college and the good paying jobs their parents and grandparents had aren’t there.  And now automation is probably going to take over a significant portion of jobs in most industries.  Any wonder most people are scared and angry?

Most of this has been building for at least a couple decades now.  Workers in my parents’ generation knew that social security wasn’t going to be enough to cover their retirements.  Yet, too many of them didn’t save and invest enough to make up the difference.  Now they can’t afford to retire and creating a log jam of millions of younger people overqualified for the entry level jobs they have available.  We knew that too many police officers weren’t being held accountable for using excessive and deadly force, primarily in black and brown neighborhoods, yet we wouldn’t hold them or corrupted local politicians and judges accountable.  Doctors and scientists have been warning us for decades a major pandemic was extremely likely in our lifetimes.  We knew, but we refused to prepare.  We knew about the potential dangers of climate change since at least the 1960s.  Sure, rivers are less polluted in many countries, electric cars are becoming reliable, solar and wind power becoming cheaper than coal in many countries, power storage is becoming more feasible, and nuclear fusion is in development.  But we are starting to see the effects of what scientists have been warning for decades.  We knew a major stock market crash was due once my parents’ generation started retiring and selling off their retirement funds.  We didn’t do enough to prepare, either as nations or individuals.  Wages for most workers haven’t budged in terms of inflation since at least the early 80s, even though workers have gotten more productive and are demanded more from employers.  We treated customer service workers like garbage for decades.  I saw it everyday I worked.  I even received enough abuse from customers, bosses, and coworkers alike I will never work in customer service again.  I don’t care if my disability does get cut off, I’d rather starve to death than be treated worse than an animal.

2020 is indeed a very stressful year for most people.  It was made worse because problems we’ve known about for decades were either never addressed or addressed inadequately.  Hopefully 2020 will be a year when we start to make right the wrongs and bad decisions of previous decades and eras.  I don’t know what it’s like to be black or any other racial minority.  And I never will.  I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman either.  And I never will.  I don’t understand their problems.  But I do want be empathic and be part of making right the wrongs of the past and present.

Thoughts on My Upcoming 40th Birthday

I’ll be turning 40 years old in two weeks.  I guess the days drag slowly but the years go fast.  I sometimes lose track of time during the day to day grind.  I’ve been a bit more nostalgic than usual lately.  Been listening more to the music I liked back in college and high school.  While I don’t buy into the whole ‘older music is better than new’, I do like a lot of the things that came out in the late 90s and early 2000s.  But, then again those years were real significant to me.  It was when I was growing into the man I would eventually become.  In those years, I had my first dates, my first kiss, travelled to Mexico for a couple weeks, actually had good physical health, could stay up all night and still do a full day of classes with little more than a couple Pop Tarts and a cup of coffee.

It seems the only true constant in life is change.  I risk sounding like an old man when I say I’m amazed at all the changes I’ve seen just in my lifetime.  I’m old enough I remember the last few years of the Cold War.  Even as a nine year old growing up in rural Nebraska, I knew that the Berlin Wall coming down was significant.  I was in fourth grade when my elementary school got a bunch of Apple II GS computers.  I felt like I joined the future right then and there.  Now those are ancient relics compared to what we have now.  I may sometimes give my elders a hard time for not being comfortable with computers, but my nephews would give me the exact same hard time for being uncomfortable with VR programs and 3D printers.  My thirteen year old nephew set up a VR flying program for my father, a licensed pilot and former Air Force pilot.  I don’t know how to do this.  Maybe I could after watching a few tutorials on youtube, but not until then.

Just in my forty years, I’ve seen computers go from clunky desk tops to fit in your coat pocket supercomputers that happen to make phone calls.  I’ve seen the electric car become reliable.  I’ve seen the internet become as much as a game changer as the printing press and steam engine in previous eras.  Saw 9/11 and the subsequent wars.  Saw China become a world power.  Saw the European Union and Brexit both.  Saw the rise of Populist politics on all sides in many countries.  I’m seeing the Covid 19 pandemic play out in real time.  Saw the rise of robotics and the beginnings of AI.  Saw the Human Genome Project get completed.  Saw the rise of social media and tech giants like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc.  Saw Apple’s renaissance.  Saw the decline of video rental stores.  I’m witnessing the decline of traditional retail (and many of my previous jobs were in retail).  I’m seeing the beginning of driverless cars (I imagine our grandkids will find that term as quaint as ‘horseless carriage’ was in the early 1900s).  Heck I’m even seeing researchers trying to slow down the aging process.  And these are just the things that are in the headlines everyday.

I don’t know if I have another forty years left in this life, but it has been an exciting ride so far.  I would love to make it to 2060, if for no other reason than to just see what else plays out.  We do live in troubling times, with the pandemic and protests turning violent on an almost daily basis.  I remain hopeful that these are the birth pains of a changed for the better civilization that makes more efforts to not repeat the wrongs of past eras.  Granted, some days it isn’t easy.

Quarantine With Mental Illness: April 27 2020

Been under self quarantine for over six weeks now.  I’m still holding good on my necessary medications and most of my cleaning supplies.  Ran out of frozen meat yesterday.  I won’t get paid until May 1, but I have plenty of non perishable food.  I’ll make it through, it’s just a matter of doing it.

I try to talk to my family and at least one friend every day.  I haven’t been spending as much time on computer games lately.  Still listen to audiobooks and watch science and tech videos on youtube.  Sometimes I just want to sleep all the time, even with the warmer weather and longer days.

Been reading more online articles, mainly about science and tech.  I am convinced that many tech trends will be sped up because of this outbreak.  I still avoid news channels.

 

April 1 2020 Social Distancing

Got my social security payment this morning.  I ordered a few groceries and supplies.  Mostly meat and cleaning agents.  I should have those delivered this afternoon.  I have to drop off my rent check and do laundry today.  I do my laundry at least once a week.

Still doing well mentally.  I haven’t had a breakdown in over a month now.  I’m pleasantly surprised that I’m holding it together in spite the stressful time we’re in.  I think it helped that I got prepared earlier than most people.  I haven’t even had to leave my apartment complex in over two weeks.  I sleep a lot now.  I usually sleep at least ten hours a day.  I’ve heard sleep helps boost immune defenses and, for me, reduces stress.  I was doing breathing exercises in bed yesterday and was relaxed enough I fell asleep for over three hours.

I actually don’t have much problems with aches and pains except for when I wake up in the mornings.  I make a point of standing up at least once an hour no matter what I’m doing.  I haven’t read much other than online articles this week.  I still watch some youtube videos.  Much of what I watch are videos on the line of what positives will come from this pandemic and what tech will advance faster because of covid 19.  One thing I do see happening is that more companies will allow more work from home options.  Another is that grocery and medication home delivery services will become real popular.  I also see that fewer people will harass others via social media interactions.  I was starting to see this already.  It isn’t as bad now as it was three to five years ago.

I started lifting weights every day.  I just don’t work the same muscles two days in a row.  When I was seriously lifting in high school and college, I usually lifted five to six days a week but worked individual muscles no more than three times a week.

The days are starting to go quicker now.  For the first week of the self quarantine, the days felt like weeks.  It wasn’t so much that I wasn’t leaving my apartment complex, it was that even that option went away.  But, like many things, I adapted within several days.  I do still have some minor maintenance issues in my place that could be taken care of quickly.  But, for now, only vitally necessary maintenance is getting done.  So glad I got my new floor and paint before all this mess hit.

End of the Year

Been a bit of an up and down year for me.  I’ve had several positives like finding a new general practice doctor and restarting my weight lifting routine.  Even though my lungs are still weak, my physical strength is almost as good as it was when I was in my late twenties.  I have employed a cleaning lady for a year.  The apartment feels more like a home than a hide out.  I redecorated my apartment.  I put up some art work done by friends and a few classic battle flags.  My personal favorites are the old U.S. Betsy Ross flag and the Pirate Ship flag.  I ordered several through amazon as they were on sale. While the flags look excellent, they are also bigger than I expected.  I currently have three on my walls. I’d love to hang all of them but I don’t think I have enough wall room.

As far as drawbacks go, I lost confidence in myself to drive my car.  So I sold my car to one of my dad’s friends.  It was an older, but lower mileage, car.  I no longer drove enough to justify having it.  And it was doing no one any good just sitting in a parking space.  I still isolate some, but I have reestablished contact with some of my old college friends and extended family I had lost contact with over the last few years.  I suppose after being a regular on social media for a few years, I have figured out what to post and what not to mention.  I think most people are at least starting to adapt.  I’ve noticed I’ve been involved in fewer online arguments than even three years ago.

I almost never have back pain anymore.  But I still get short of breath if I’m really active.  My physical therapist said I retained most of my physical strength even if I lost a lot of my lung capacity and my heart needed to get stronger.  In addition to lifting weights, I also make a point of walking around and doing stretches in my apartment every couple hours.  I am now on a blood pressure medication.  I have noticed I don’t need as much sleep as I did before I started the medication.  I’m also regaining stamina more quickly than before.

As far as science news goes for 2019, there were some really cool happenings.  A probe was landed on the dark side of the moon by the Chinese.  A few more probes were sent to Mars.  Self landing and reusable rockets are becoming almost common occurrences.  The world now has almost five billion people with access to the internet.  Strides in life extension medicine have been made.  There is now at least one company, started by a young man in his twenties, that is now removing garbage from the Pacific Ocean.  Plans are being made to start cleaning up orbital space garbage.  I bet my grandparents when they were watching the USA vs USSR space race back in the 1960s didn’t think this would become a problem so soon.  And now private companies and small countries are sending up probes.  Definitely not my parents’ space race anymore.

Even an electric powered pickup truck is now in development by the guys at Tesla.  I joked about that a few years ago.  Maybe my joke about custom making a fishing pole on a 3D printer or buying camping supplies with Bitcoins aren’t far behind.  And I’m sure there are already people who can build computers and moon shine stills from scratch (see my Nerdy Redneck posts).  Now it looks like it is starting to happen.  I also saw that a cross country self driving truck delivery was made here in USA a few weeks ago.  There was a driver present but the only time he took over was for things like refueling and maybe road construction.  Ten years ago this was science fiction.  Looks like I’ll be telling my brother’s kids to not consider being a truck driver or taxi cab driver.  Even the small college town I live in has a few Uber drivers now.  Before my car accident I applied to Uber, thinking I could make a few dollars ferrying around college kids on the weekends.  I was turned down because my car was too old.  One of my friend’s, her husband works for an Uber like company.  Made decent money but worked long hours and was rarely home.

2019 has been an eventful year overall.  Much of it has been good news, some of it bad.  The bad news is going to get more attention simply because that is what the human mind notices first.  Brilliant survival strategy in the Stone Age but can drive us insane when most of the basics are already met for most people in our world.  According to a scholar named Yuval Noah Harrai, our world now has more people suffering health problems from eating too much as opposed to not getting enough food.  Our great grandparents would have never imagined that.  As much as I enjoy futurism and tech predictions, I would be foolish to say what isn’t possible for the citizens of 2120, especially after how much change I’ve personally witnessed since I graduated high school in 1999.  My best friend and I were among the first families in our small farming town to subscribe to internet.  I didn’t have my own email address until I was 18.  And it was my friend who taught me how to get free music (which I never did) and free dirty pics (guilty as charged).  My eight year old nephew is enamored with my mother’s old mechanical type writer.  I never used one myself but learned how to type on an electric type writer when I was in junior high.  The change over to computers was easy in comparison.  Maybe my nephew’s kids will be surprised that we had to type on computers, rather then just think and communicate that way.  Or it could be something completely out of the blue we can’t imagine yet.  If the 2010s are any indication, the 2020s will be even more eventful and sometimes chaotic.  It’s only going to get more interesting and eventful.