Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Tonight, I will drink my one Guinness of the year. Here's why.

Today, I celebrate the life of Albert C. Cizauskas. Born this day in 1920, now deceased, he was a diplomat for the United States, a writer, and an international economist. He was my father.

In 2002, he died from complications connected with Parkinson's Disease.

Two evenings before he died, Dad was no longer able to drink but only slurp water from a sponge. My wife was sitting at his bedside, re-hydrating the sponge. Sipping a Guinness Stout, she did a triple take: the glass of water, the pint of beer, the water. She re-hydrated the sponge in the Guinness and gave it to Dad. He sucked the sponge dry, several times. That was to be my father's last earthly pleasure. A beer. A stout. A Guinness Stout.

Since that year, I have always drunk one >Guinness Stout —my one Guinness of the year— every year on his birthday, March 1st, in his honor.


Compute to cure Parkinson's, Alzheimer's

A few years after my father's death, I linked my home computer into a worldwide distributed computing effort —called Folding@Home— run by researchers at Stanford University to better understand protein folding errors, believed to be a cause of Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cystic fibrosis, and other neurodegenerative diseases, as well as many cancers.

Folding@home virtually simulates protein folding and other types of molecular processes by harnessing the idle processing resources of thousands of personal computers owned by volunteers who have installed the software. At present, there are 105,000 PCs and laptops around the world outputting 93,000 teraflops of computing power to form, in effect, the world's largest supercomputer.


And why protein folding?
Proteins are biology's workhorses- its ‘nanomachines.’ Proteins help your body break down food into energy, regulate your moods, and fight disease. Before proteins can carry out these important functions, they assemble themselves, or ‘fold.’ While protein folding is critical and fundamental to virtually all of biology much of the process remains a mystery. When proteins do not fold correctly (misfolding), there can be serious health consequences, including many well-known diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Mad Cow (BSE), CJD, ALS, AIDS, Huntington's, Parkinson's disease, and many cancers. If we better understand protein misfolding we can design drugs and therapies to combat these illnesses.

Microflora and fauna —bacteria, yeast, and viruses— are living creatures sharing the Earth with humans. God gave us the tools and brainpower to survive with them or despite them, a mutual struggle for life. But I do not believe that She meant for our own bodies to be our own enemies.

Thus, I run Folding@Home —not only in memory of my father and my mother— but in communion to prevent future victims of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and cancer.

Folding@Home costs nothing to download and run; it's secure; it takes up very little computing room on a PC, Apple, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. In fact, a user can easily control when the process occurs and how much. Please consider running it, yourself, for someone whom you know is suffering.

For several years after her husband's death, my mother would join me on 1 March in a Guinness toast. Tonight, I'll be drinking that one Guinness Stout to honor both of my parents. My computer will be working @home, doing the heavy lifting.


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