Looking Back Year 2017

Year 2017 remained a good and productive year. Like last year I made good progress in my technological skill development. For Year 2018, I have set myself very ambitious goals and hoping that it will be another productive learning and skill-enhancement year with many new opportunities.

Last year, I started a new tradition of writing a “Looking Back Year” post at the end of the year 2016. For my 2017 year-end ‘looking back’, I am starting slightly different than the previous year. Because I started maintaining two non-index private blogs – Tinjurewp (professional) and a general here mainly for myself and sharing with close friends and families – I thought it made sense to write a separate year-end post for each blog site.

I began 2017 with a five-category watch list (weather, politics, technology, opioid addition, health & wellness) in my old Tinjure Blog (contents are now move to this site). The objective of my posts in this blog (general) is not to provide my personal opinion on the topic, but only to record and make a brief observational note. In my opinion, the rest belongs to its readers!

Below I will summarize my 2017 posts on each subject and summarize my opinion on each category.

Technology & Work Force

There is on-going national debate on role of technology in current middle-class job loss. Since the creation of a vibrant working force requires and involves several factors, the current debate is who is more responsible for this job loss. Is it robots killing jobs? Is China taking our jobs? Or is it Government trade policies that are responsible?

To get better understanding, I started making lists of selected investigative news reports from prestigious media outlets (eg. The Washington Post & The New York Times). There are 24 articles listed in my post in this category. Every article is interesting but this Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein of The Washington Post is quite a story to understand what is fueling current political anxiety in rural America. For more in-depth understanding what is going on here, here is my selected post list.

Opioids Addiction Epidemic

In 2017, major newspapers, TV news, & other news outlets were dominated with stories on the opioids addiction epidemic, alarming death rates from overdose, and related topics on daily basis. I have been reading these articles regularly and compiled a selective lists of article published in major newspapers like New York Times, Washington Posts and other prestigious national news outlets.

In my post, I have listed 114 articles on opioids addiction epidemics & overdose deaths in 2017. Every story is heart breaking but following articles stand out to me:

  1. A Story of Truth, Lies & American Addition – The Washington Post. Of all the stories I read on the topic, this 2016 heart-breaking story almost made me cry. This is a beautifully written story about a vivid survival struggle of an addict named Amanda, doing everything right but still a victim of her addiction.
  2. The Addicts Next Doorby Margaret Talbot (The New Yorker)This is a story about West Virginia, which has the highest overdose death rate in the country. In the article, Ms. Talbot writes about how the locals are fighting to save their neighbors—and their towns—from destruction.
  3. Drug Dealer, M.D.: Misunderstandings and Good Intentions Fueled Opioid Epidemic by Anna Limbke, MD, Stanford Medicine. In the book, she explores the origin of prescription opioids epidemic problem in US from a doctor’s perspective.
  4. The drug industry’s triumph over the DEA– by Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein (Washington Post). In this a Washington Post and ‘60 Minutes’ investigation, the reporters write how amid a targeted lobbying effort, Congress weakened the DEA’s ability to go after drug distributors, even as opioid-related deaths continue to rise, providing another view of the issue from a law & policy perspective.
  5. The Family That Built an Empire of Pain – by Patrick Radden Keefe (The New Yorker). This is story about The Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin (active ingredient oxycodone, a chemical cousin of heroine). Since 1999, over two hundred thousands Americans have died because of OxyContin & prescription opioids overdose. A must-read article to understand the entire prescription overdose epidemic.
Political Watch

As much as I try to stay away from politics and remain a casual political observer only, I am dragged into it on a daily basis because politics dominates all our news outlets. At the same time, I would also like to be an informed citizen; I must remain informed about what is going on around me. For that reason I watch, listen and read about politics on limited basis.

Since politics is outside of my area of expertise, and I leave it for others to talk and write about. In my opinion, beside daily political talks, two topics dominated the news – Russia investigation and ‘Fake News’ – a term coined by President Trump. The following two articles helped to better understand on these two topics:

  1. The Atlantic has a cover story What Putin Really Wants by reporter Julia Ioffe reporting that this “was a very emotional, tactical decision. People were very upset about the Panama Papers.” This detailed article provides a picture from the Russian perspective that was not covered by US media outlets.
  2. In this our current environment of untruthful or “fake” news & information spreading around in print, television, and mobile devices, Philip Fernbach and Steven Sloman explain in this Why We Believe Obvious Untruths how our brain processes obvious untruthful information. This is a very interesting article to understand why and how we believe obvious “fake” information.

The outcome of the last presidential election and the success of the #MeeToo social media campaign reminded us that how timing is so important for the success of any political or social campaign.

Health & Wellness

With a desire to live a healthier life style, I have started compiling a list of news posts on Yoga, short exercises, aging & physical training, healthy diets, and tips to pain relief without medication. I am especially interested in articles that are simple and do not involve expensive equipment or gym memberships. For example, this Really, Really Short Workouts by Tata Parker-pope, founding editor of Well (The New York Times) provides useful tips, resources and helpful graphic illustration to follow.

My current list is not well organized but I plan to better organize it in 2018. Most of the listed articles are compiled from The New York Times, as it runs the Well and Healthy Living sections, which I find very useful for easy reference whenever needed.

Weather & Sports Watch

We Minnesotans always remain curious about our daily weather outlook, and many of us about sports as well. We all enjoyed a beautiful 2017 summer and very mild winter season. Lately, we are experiencing biting arctic polar vortex weather, which we can’t escape away from this time of the year here in Minnesota.

In sports, our Vikings beat all of our expectations this year. During the last season, we were near the bottom of the league but this year we are doing really well. We all feel proud of our state team this year, that they playing playoff games with an eye to playing 52nd SuperBowl in our own home stadium. What a great successful comeback story!

Other Inspiring General Topics

There were many other headlines that both inspired us as well as scared us. Here are my few selected ones:

  1. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams” by Matthew Walker, PhD, Drector of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley.
  2. Adam Popescu‘s Simple Ways to Be Better at Remembering in the New York Times highlights how our brain processes information and suggests simple ways to better remember them.
  3. In The New York Times’s Take Naps at Work. Apologize to No One, Tim Herrera writes about the benefit of short power naps at work.
  4. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave a commencement address to the 2017 class at Harvard University from where he dropped out about 10 years before. His address was very personal as well as inspirational with a message to the Millennial generation “to keep our society moving forward, we have a generational challenge — to not only create new jobs, but create a renewed sense of purpose.
  5. The New York Times OP-ED How to Build Resilient Kids, Even After a Loss by Sharyl Sandberg is very inspiring article to read. The OP-ED post was adopted from her new book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant. She has a very admiring personality by opening up her personal life and educating others from her own experience. Very powerful and brave civic duty!
  6. Washington Post has a very interesting article The career pivot is the ultimate test of self-reinvention by Susan Svrluga, a higher education reporter about starting a new career at an older age. She has documented stories of a few successful professionals starting over a new career to reinvent a new career and rebuild passion at older age. This is very fitting article to my own case as well.
  7. Melinda Gates (co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) shares her perspective “I spent my career in technology. I wasn’t prepared for its effect on my kids” in The Washington Post. It is a interesting read with her own personal experience raising her two iGen daughters in the current internet era.
Looking Forward to Year 2018

In 2017 we exposed our bitter political, economic, social & racial divisions to the entire world. Let’s hope that we will be able to heal these divisions and reclaim our hopeful, aspiring side of the country that still remains the magnet of the world!

Note: Some contents of this posts are cross-posted in its other post too.

Happy New Year 2018