The Saratoga Sun -

It wasn't all bad

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It’s 2017, and there are a lot of people who are happy to see 2016 go. The year saw a rather contentious and seemingly interminable election; ISIS; terrorism; increasing tensions with Russia; unrest at home about race issues and some indications that fascism is on the comeback in many parts of the world, including those that should know better. We lost a lot of celebrities and musicians, too.

So as happy as many are to see 2016 behind them, it’s also important to look back and see some of the positive things that happened in 2016, and there were a few. Ranging from important to whimsical to personal, here is my list of good stuff that happened in 2016.

Veteran homelessness is down. Overall, the rate of veteran homelessness has been cut in half since 2010, with the largest single decline coming in 2016, when veteran homelessness decreased 17 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The 17 percent decrease in 2016 was quadruple the decline of the previous year.

The percentage of Americans graduating high school hit an all-time high of 83.2 percent, with many of the biggest gains seen in minority populations which historically have had lower graduation rates than white students. The U.S. also hit a record low in the numbers of teen births.

The nation’s unemployment rate at the end of 2016, 4.6 percent, was the lowest since 2008 and the beginning of the financial crisis. Toward the end of 2016, we saw more workforce participation and even began to see median pay increase, both signs of a relatively strong job market.

The Dow Jones industrial average saw record highs that flirted with the 20,000 point mark, nearly double the Dow’s level in November 2008 during the Great Recession.

A 50-year Civil War between the government and leftist guerillas in Colombia came to end.

The Zika virus was downgraded as a threat, and scientists are close to coming up with a vaccine. Also, a British man who had HIV showed no signs of the virus in his body after an experimental treatment with antiretroviral drugs. The treatment shows some promise as a potential cure for HIV.

The “Ice Bucket Challenge,” often derided as “slacktivism” by critics, provided enough funding for a medical breakthrough in the fight against ALS, a fatal neurodegenerative disease. The Americas were also declared free of measles by the World Health Organization.

So there were a few good things that happened that benefited a lot of people. Here are few good things that happened in 2016 that maybe aren’t as momentous as the list above, but for me personally are important.

Alfa Romeo started selling the Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde in the U.S. after 20 years of the marque being absent from the country. Fiat also brought the 124 Spider back these fair shores, and even brought along an Abarth version of the 124 for good measure. If you’ve always wanted a quick Italian car but didn’t want to spend more than the average American’s house is worth on a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, 2016 was a great year for you since there are now downright affordable Italian sports cars and touring sedans on sale here.

My honorary nephew in Missouri, Nolan, turned a year old. He and I share the same birthday and he’s a great kid.

I found the world’s best recipe for making bagels at home. One thing I always used to complain about was that no matter where in the world I went, I could never get bagels as good as the ones in Montréal (never let anyone tell you the best bagels are from New York City; it simply isn’t true). Now, with a good recipe, some practice and some strange ingredients that I had to drive to Fort Collins to find, I’m happy to say the second best bagels I’ve ever had come out of my own oven.

Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, former presenters for BBC’s Top Gear, started their new show on Amazon, The Grand Tour, and it’s pretty good.

After a lot of travails, tears and sleepless nights, I finally decided to cut someone out of my life who was not good for me to be around. It wasn’t easy, and for a long time I wondered if I made the right choice when I told this person to get out of my life and leave me alone. Every passing day, it becomes more and more clear that I made the right choice.

The Montréal Canadiens’ trade of P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber wound up being a pretty damn good move rather than the terribly ill-advised disaster almost everyone thought it was going to be. Les Habitants started 2017 in first place in their division.

The Cubs won the World Series for the first time since 1908. During that year the Ottoman Empire was still a thing, and the Ford Model T had just been designed. I’ll concede that I’m not really a Cubs fan, but I can’t help myself; I’m a sucker for a story about the underdog finally winning.

There’s no doubt that 2016 was a terrible year for a lot of people. If the Grateful Dead and their quasi-Dystopian song “Touch of Grey”—the band’s only song to land on the Billboard top 40—is right and every silver lining has a touch of grey, then it must be true as well that every bit of grey has a bit of silver lining.

It’s hard to tell whether 2017 will be markedly better than 2016. I know a lot of people think it’s going to be a hell of a lot worse. Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re not. But one thing that seems evident is that every year, every day, no matter how bad they are, there’s always something good going on.

Sometimes we just need to slow down and look for all the little miracles.

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