PROVOCATIVE QUESTION #43 – WHO AM I? WHO ARE YOU? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #43

Fandango’s question this week is nature versus nurture, a frequently asked but never entirely answered question. I was personally firmly in the “nurture” camp for many years. I simply didn’t see how our genetics could be responsible for so much of our behavior.

The question:

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of studying about this and it turns out that much more of “who we are” is based on our genetic makeup than on our “training.” Training is like a very thin shell. It tells us how to behave. How to act in a social situation.

This shell doesn’t tell us who we are. That thin exterior aspect of us is personality while inside,  the yolk and the white are mostly DNA and genes. We may “act like” one parent and “be” like another. Our “guts” so to speak are powered by a double helix which defines our intelligence, our bones, our muscles, our ability to focus, our tenacity, our ability to deal with pain. Our willingness to put up with disappointment and failure. Stubbornness. Flexibility. The speed at which our minds work. The shape of our heart and our immune system.

These aren’t things we define as “personality,” but they are the fundamentals that make us who we are. We can look like anyone in our family tree and BE nothing like them. We can BE just like them and look entirely different.

No, I didn’t want to believe it either, but study after study after study has shown the same thing: the “face” we show to the world is mostly nurturing, but what is inside us is almost entirely nurture. You don’t have to argue the point with me. All those studies are available online these days.

Talent tends to be inherited. Our willingness to fight for what we believe is handed down. It may not “look” the same, but functionally, is IS the same.

Too confusing?

I’m confused too, but over the years I have come to believe it. Even when I don’t like what it tells me is true. Even when the resemblance is to someone I don’t much like and who I would like to not be associated with.

As for elaboration, I got a lot of my mental tenacity from my father, who I loathed and I got absolutely none of my mother’s ability to enjoy sports. My mother was very physical, very active, very ‘just do it.’ I’m almost the exact opposite — except mentally, maybe.

I was nothing like my brother, except if you scratched the skin, we were very similar. Different manners, similar reasons for being who we were. My sister and I were nothing alike, but we had the identical voice and vocal patterns.

Our helix is very complicated and we carry strong inherited traits often from very long ago. Nothing is ever simple.

MIRRORED IMAGES – Marilyn Armstrong

DNA is a funny thing. It doesn’t kick in all at the same time. That’s why, as a toddler, you can be the spitting image of dad, but by the time you’re 30, you look like a clone of your maternal grandmother. When you are old, you look in the mirror and say … “Mom??” Because she died years ago, yet there she is. Alive. In you.

We carry the physical imprint of our ancestors. It’s obvious and visible.

Less evident are the emotional footprints left in our psyches. Positive and negative, our parents and many others change us, leave bits of themselves behind for us to absorb. Good and ill. Relationships and marriages we should have skipped. Friends who were there for us in our darkest hours and those who weren’t. The doctor who took our case when we had no money or insurance. The one who botched the surgery and left us hanging out to die. It’s all there, imprinted in the way we see the world and react to it.

We are such untidy packages, made up of bits and pieces. Funny and sad, honest and untruthful. Self-pitying and brave. Lazy, yet determined. No one is of a single piece. No one is all good, all bad, all anything except all human.

Me? Today’s me is much changed from the young, idealist who planned to fix the world. Now I know I won’t fix it. I try to make a few little tweaks here and there, but the big bad world needs to look at younger souls to get the job done. Assuming the job can be done and assuming anyone has the power and will to give it a go.

I sound shockingly like my mother. My opinions, my way of expressing them. I thought she was so cynical, so lacking in faith. She made me crazy and I loved her anyway … and now, I am her.

The plain-spoken way she had of saying what she meant without bothering to pretty it up or disguise it with polite protestations. And the tenacity. Like a dog with a bone, she never let go and neither do I. Whatever it is, I worry it to death. It gets me into trouble. With everyone.

Yet I wouldn’t change it. It is my most useful and least pleasant character trait. It’s abrasive and annoying, but it’s the thing I appreciate most in me and which has best served me professionally (less so personally).

SeidenFamily 1963

The whole famdamily. I’m the one with rolled up jeans.

My fuse is too short (dad), but usually under control (mom), except when it isn’t (dad). My humor rarely fails me (mom) and being able to see the funny side of disaster is a saving grace in a life fraught with crises. Arthritis makes it hard for me to do much (I think I have an entire family tree to thank for that piece of DNA). The cancer is plain scary (mom, brother, grandma, grandpa) and the heart disease (dad, you just never stop giving do you?) is an unpleasant surprise. I didn’t get a really healthy package to work with. I can’t seem to fix things as fast as they break down.

Intellectual curiosity? Definitely mom. Passion for books? Mom again. Ability to tell a funny story? Okay dad, you get a point on that one. All those jokes you told over the years … gads, I’m still telling some of them. They were hoary 50 years ago, no less now. And dad, thanks for this great line. I still use it:


“It isn’t what you don’t know that’ll get you. It’s what you do know that’s wrong.” — Albert Friedman, terrible father, great salesman.


For everyone who gave me a piece of themselves to carry along this strange path called life, I give a hearty: “Thanks. I think.”

WHEN DO I LOOK LIKE ME? – Marilyn Armstrong

Considering one thing and another, I have always been sure I could not possibly be related to the people who raised me. I suspect everyone, especially as a child, is sure they are a misplaced orphan. Sadly, there was always one problem from which I could never escape.

I look just like them. Both of them. They didn’t look alike, so how could this be?

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Apparently, you change as you age. So you can look exactly like dad when you’re three, but exactly like mom when you’re sixty. Periodically, depending on how the genetic package rolls, you can resemble one or the other — or both  — at any given point in time.

I used to look like my father, but I got older. Now, look like my mother.

I wonder if I’ll ever look like me? Whatever that means.

I know nothing about what brought me into the world any more than I know what will take me out. Probably, that’s just as well. I think I lack curiosity about my fate which others apparently have a strong need to know. I never felt any serious desire to research my ancestry or get my DNA checked. When I did it, it was a fun birthday present for Garry and I.

What was, is. What will be, will occur. I’m not in charge and never was. I am okay enjoying as much of the now as I can while I’m still part of it.

Yet, every now and then, I wonder if it’s possible I was actually put here by a transiting starcraft. An intergalactic seed dropped from the sky that somehow, wound up in this world. In this peculiar place. A bit of pollen falling from a drifting craft on its way to somewhere in an infinite beyond.

It could be true.

FEELING A BIT WAN – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Thursday – WAN

After yesterday’s doctor visit, having to go to yet another doctor seems like charging up the same hill — and there’s a guy at the top with a machine gun. Nonetheless, gotta do it. I still don’t know where to put my head. I feel like I carry poisonous genes and have passed them down the line.

But, speaking of wan, I’m still in the process of trying to work my way out of anemia — the last of the repairable issues on my medical agenda. I’ve actually found an iron pill that seems to work and doesn’t make me ill. I’m not taking enough of it, I know, but it beats out the nothing I was taking before.

I’m beginning to really resent DNA.

Junco and I think a House Finch

Isn’t what you inherit supposed to be a sort of grab-bag? You get some of the stuff, but not ALL of it? Because I seem to have collected everything and be in the process of passing it along.

The good news? Yesterday’s doctor seemed to think that I didn’t look particularly anemic now. My gums have stopped being pale and that’s a good sign. Now all I have to do is worry whether or not I’ve managed to pass everything along to another generation. Or two.

So feeling wan? Literally and figuratively. At the same time!

Are We All Related?

We ALL came from Africa. No, really. Every human being on earth came from Africa. Even Republicans.

ScienceSwitch

Each one of us shares a common ancestor in our family tree, and according to math, this person lived only around 3000 years ago. Even though we have no idea who that person is, we are basically related. WHAT’S UP, COUSINS?!

THIS IS COOL. I WANT TO LEARN SOMETHING ELSE, TOO!

Video via – It’s Okay To Be Smart
Further Readings And References @ JSTOR, ASHG and Nature

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INHERITANCE WITHOUT MUCH VALUE

It was my anniversary present — from me to we. I am not searching for my ancestors  because I more or less know who they were. Interesting, not fascinating. Not the kind of things you write very long saga tales about. More, I was curious about the very ancient ancestors — the Neanderthals and other early humans and what, if anything, do they have to do with me and mine?

Turns out, I still don’t know. Because MyHeritage DNA doesn’t tell you any of that. Nothing. If you want that information, you have to go somewhere else and search, or pay a lot of money to MyHeritage for the opportunity to connect with people who are at most, very mildly interested in your existence. To be fair, I didn’t feel all that excited about it either. But I was curious, so I paid the money and got nothing much.

We sent them our DNA and discovered what we already knew. Garry is widely mixed with European and African ancestors and I am Jewish. Very Jewish. As far as MyHeritage is concerned, back to the dawn of time which is illogical because no one was anything to the dawn of time. Otherwise, there wasn’t a surprise in the package.

I am almost entirely Ashkenazi with a wee bit of Sephardi and a hint of Baltic — probably the guy no one talks about. I had been hoping for something more entertaining and certainly more information. Some minimal analysis would have been a nice touch. What we got were numbers and a map. No analysis. Not even a summary paragraph. Nor reference material or links or anything to work with.

Garry was more entertaining than me, but not exactly shocking. We knew about his Irish grandparents. We expected — and found — lots more Europeans and many more Africans, almost equally mixed. And we expected that. Garry’s DNA is a broad brush across Europe and Africa.

Garry even has a 1.7% Ashkenazi Jewish in there (maybe we’re related?) … and a 2.1% Middle Eastern component. I, on the other hand, am Jewish. Except for that tiny bit of Baltic. So where does my weird B+ blood type come from?

I was disappointed. The results are skimpy. Within the limits of what they did, I suppose they are accurate — but it doesn’t feel like they did anything much. No depth to this material and the lack of any kind of analysis? Really? If you want real information, they want a lot more money. But if this is all the information they can retrieve from the DNA, more money isn’t going to get us deeper analysis. To get deeper analysis, you’d need deeper information gathering and that’s missing. What they really want to do is run your family tree information against other family trees to look for matches. If that’s what you want, join Ancestry.com. You’ll get more information there.

They offer links to “relatives” here, but if you want to get in touch with them, that costs more. Of course.  There were more links for me than for Garry, but that’s because Ashkenazi Jews are closely related and have been studied more than most groups. Otherwise, the information MyHeritageDNA gets seems more dependent on how much data you give them than anything they retrieve from your DNA.

MyHeritageDNA doesn’t dig for information. If what you are looking for is something that will agree with what you know, this might be just what you need. If you are looking for a deeper or broader understanding of your ancestral history … well … this ain’t it. 23andMe gets better reviews for about the same price. Ancestry.com gets reviews just like this one, but provides nominally more analysis of results — but at a price.

Of course, any analysis would be more than I got. Also, there a very new one called Insitome DNA Test Kit: Neanderthal Genetic Traits Profile (Ancestry) powered by Helix which sounds potentially interesting. But I’m not paying up front again. Once was enough.

Inheritance. Now I know that I already knew it. Whoo hoo!

THE MYSTERY OF THE HELIX

The mysteries of life in the DNA helix have grabbed my attention.


Ever since I dove into the science of DNA — as opposed to “I’m looking for my family,” I’ve been fascinated about how it works.

I always figured we got half our “stuff” from mom, the other half from dad. How it mixed up was like the big bag of goodies on Santa’s back. You got your portion — and who you looked like? Well … it might depend on the day, year, light … and all of that.

I was right. But I wasn’t entirely right because there is a good deal more to it than that. As a start, we only get a 50-50 split between both parents in theory. In actuality, we may get much more from one parent than the other — a lot more DNA from one parent than the other.  We me get even more from our grandparents, who in theory only contribute 25% to our make up but this stuff doesn’t come in neat, divisible piles.

“Y0u look exactly like your grandmother” isn’t just something people say. You may really look exactly like your grandmother because all those alleles that make you look like you do came from her batch of DNA. It’s why siblings may look very different from each other — unless they are twins, of course. It’s why short little me has a 6 foot 4 inch son and he has a 5 foot tall daughter.

Tall brother, short me — and very short sister. Blond brother and sister. Dark-haired me. Green-eyed siblings and me with the big brown eyes. Tone-deaf brother (like father). Musical mother, sister and me. My son looked like a photocopy of his father when he was a toddler. By the time he hit his teens, he was a dead-ringer for me. Except right now, he looks remarkably like his father again … unless you see him from the side, in which case — it’s me again.

How can that be? How can we look like very different people at different times of our lives or for that matter, like two very different people at the same time?

It’s because all your DNA doesn’t kick in at the same time. That’s why blond babies end up with brown hair and dark-haired people end up with white hair. You quite probably did look like dad when you were three, but you are the spitting image of your mother by the time you’re forty and who know who you look like in old age? Different parts of the big helix takes charge during different life stages. I had wildly kinky-curly hair as a girl. Which went straight by the time I was seventeen and has stayed that way.

The same thing happened to my granddaughter. She casually said “Oh, I don’t have to straighten it anymore. It’s just went straight.” Right on time, too. It’s a late teens thing, apparently. Meanwhile, before I was 30, my hair was half gray and white by the time I was 50. Now, it’s getting a little browner again. Different DNA kicks in and things change.

If that’s not a mystery, what is?

Even with all of the things we’ve learned about DNA over the past couple of decades, there’s so much more we don’t know. Like … how does personality attach to the “how we look” segments? I always looked like my father by coloring, though the rest of my face looks more like mom. My brother looked just like my mother until one day he looked exactly like his father.

Do things like criminality, high intelligence, patience, restlessness, high energy … do these come as part and parcel of our appearance? Are they separate? Is there such a thing as “looks like a good guy? or looks like a bad guy?” Surely some portion of our traits come out of the helix, but the rest must be at least affected by environment, right? We have long since learned that environment is not the only thing that turns us into fully formed people and more than half of us is hooked onto our DNA but that can’t be all of it. So, how much of how we relate to our DNA is based on the lives we live?

So many questions and not nearly enough answers. For the time being, I’m locked into trying to figure out how this works. Garry and I have both “discovered” family … but it’s so many generations back — at least 4 — that whoever they are, they aren’t terribly relevant to ourselves right now.

Unless they have a huge heaps of money are coincidentally looking for nice people to whom they can give it. If that’s so, please … over here! We could use a little help!

I’m sorry if this sounds too complicated, but it isn’t. It’s really an explanation of why we don’t necessarily look like a combination of mom and dad and might instead look like Uncle Jim or Granny. Why your brother looks nothing like you and your son is a full head and a half taller than you, but your granddaughter is a lot shorter.

DNA isn’t evenly or neatly divided. We get all the stuff from parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and what we look like — and act like — can be a pretty wild combination of all the people who are part of our ancestry. All of them … all the way back to Africa, from which we all emerged.

SHARING MY WORLD – THE HALLOWEEN EDITION

Share Your World – October 30, 2017

Where do you eat breakfast?

Like so many others, with my laptop, my English muffin with some fruit spread or jam on it … and coffee. I almost never drop the jam into the keyboard these days.

I’ve really improved eating skills. And I can always get a dog to lick my fingers clean.

Too much information?

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want to have an evening with?

Garry will do nicely.

Seriously, I have absolutely no interest in celebrities or even otherwise famous people. I’m really happy being me with mine. Boring? Probably. But peaceful, too.

If you could be a tree or plant, what would you be?

A Triffid. Then I could take over the world while still being a plant. Does it get better than that? I don’t think so.

More realistically? I really don’t want to be a plant.

If I had no choice, maybe a giant sequoia. But I don’t like the idea of being rooted.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. 

I was totally thrilled at figuring out that I could charge my phone enough to use it by plugging it into one of the laptops. And when I saw the pie-chart on GEDmatch and realized I finally understood what they were talking about, that was even better.



I get excited about learning. Learning new things, especially things that are difficult and require mental effort are inspiring. Someone — well, more than one someone — suggested I would have been a good academic. Probably, but I was tired of school before I even graduated with my B.A., so academics were not happening for me. I tried to go for a masters — three times in fact — and I couldn’t do it. I could not sit in a classroom anymore. Instead, studying strange science stuff has become a hobby.

NOT ESPECIALLY FLUFFY — UNLESS YOU COUNT THE DUST BUNNIES

I’m trying to think fluffy. It isn’t working. Last night, we had a storm. High winds. Rain. How fluffy can things be when the rain is coming down so hard it sounds like little rocks?

We got the promised torrential rains and wind — with a 4-hour power outage too. It was the dead of night — around three, I think when it hit — and it was repaired by morning. For the first time ever, my cell phone was dead. I usually turn it off when I’m not using it, but I must have forgotten. The WiFi was down of course and the only phone number I have for the electric company is on my cell.

So — brilliant move, if I do say so myself — I plugged the phone into the laptop to got enough charge to call the electric company. I figured it was late. Although the whole street was blacked out, I might be the only person awake to notice it. If I waited until morning, there wouldn’t be (gasp) COFFEE when we got up!

I was right. No one had called, but there were several lines down and the power was back this morning. Now, the sun is out and the trees are bare. The 70 mph wind last night finished them off in a hurry.

In the course of last night’s meanderings around the computer, I was checking out a DNA research area called “GEDmatch.” It’s not an ancestry testing company. It’s more a researching humans on earth thing. It is free. So if you already have your DNA from some other organization — doesn’t matter which group — you can dump it into GEDmatch and get information about yourself and to whom you might be related.

The main problem is that this is pretty heavy scientific stuff and I’ve been staring at it for more than a week without it making any sense at all. Then, last night, I ran one more test. It showed up as a list and a pie chart. Bing! It made sense. I realized exactly what the pie chart was showing and how to get additional information on what each pie slice comprises. I love it when the light bulb goes on for the first time.



There are email addresses for people to whom you might be related, so I picked the one from the top who would be my closest relative in that heap of Ashkenazi Jewish people … and wrote a note explaining that I feel like a moron, but I’m too curious to not at least ask a few questions. He got back to me this morning. He’s trying to figure it out too.

I think he is my second cousin — or more to the point — the grandchild of my grandmother’s sister or brother. I think sister, but I’m guessing.

There are three or four more on my father’s side, too. A huge chunk of what might have been family was wiped out during the Holocaust. No surprise there. That may explain why the family never ever talked about the rest of the family that we didn’t know. It was not exactly forbidden, but it was definitely not encouraged. Without getting complicated, I think my mother found it too depressing to discuss. With anyone. Ever.

If you have had your DNA run by any company — doesn’t matter which one — you might want to check out GEDmatch. Prepare for a lot of “HUH??? Does this mean anything?” Total confusion — speaking of fluff — seems to be the initial reaction. There are some parts of it that are so completely obscure, I doubt I will ever make any sense of them. But I’m beginning to see bits and pieces of  information popping through the mishmash.

You can hook up with them on GEDmatch.com.  

You have to register, but it’s free. They do encourage donations because research costs money and research funding is hard to come by. If you have a packet of DNA from any company, you can add it to GEDmatch. After a while, you might get information you find useful. I’m getting there. It’s a giant puzzle, but it’s probably good for what remains of my brain.

MyHeritage DNA – THE LEAST EXCITING DISCOVERY OF 2017

It was my anniversary present — from me to we.

Garry and I don’t need much, at least not much I can afford. The big things are out of our price range — new toilets or a chair lift anyone? Otherwise, we have as many little things as any couple our age could possibly need … or want … or have room to keep. But then, I saw all these DNA thingies and I thought “Well, that would be different.”

So we sent them our DNA and discovered … nothing much. Not a surprise in the package.

I am Jewish. Really. From top of head to tip of toes. Garry is a bunch of European plus a goodly chunk of Africa.

I am almost entirely Ashkenazi with a wee bit of Sephardi and a hint of Baltic — probably the guy no one talks about. I had been hoping for something more entertaining and certainly more information. Some minimal analysis would have been a nice touch. What we got were numbers and a map. No analysis. Not even a summary paragraph. Nor reference material or links or anything to work with.

Garry was more entertaining than me, but nothing shocking. We knew about the Irish grandparents … and we figured there were more Europeans, too. Thus to no one’s surprise, Garry’s DNA is a broad brush across Europe and Africa.

Garry even has a 1.7% Ashkenazi Jewish in there (maybe we’re related?) … and a 2.1% Middle Eastern component. I, on the other hand, am Jewish. Except for that tiny bit of Baltic. So where does my weird B+ blood type come from?

I am disappointed. The results are so skimpy. Within the limits of what they did, I suppose they are accurate — but it doesn’t feel like they did anything. Apparently if you want real information, they want more money. A lot more money. But the thing is, if this is all the information they retrieve from the DNA, they aren’t going to give us deeper information no matter how much money you give them. All they will do is run your family tree information against other family trees and look for matches. If that’s what you want, join Ancestry.com. You’ll probably get more information there than here.

They offer links to “relatives” here, but if you want to get in touch with them — well that costs more. Of course.  There were more links for me than for Garry, but that’s because Ashkenazi Jews are closely related and have been studied rather more than most groups. Otherwise, the information MyHeritageDNA gets seems more dependent on how much data you give them than anything they retrieve from your DNA. If you tell them a lot about your family, they can scan other family trees for related information — but it’s not based on your DNA. The complete absence of any analysis — literally no analysis — made it feel like I was just getting back information I already knew. Shallow doesn’t begin to describe it.

This wasn’t supposed to be an expensive visit to Ancestry.com. This was supposed to be a DNA analysis. Now, we know we are exactly who we thought we were. Wow.

MyHeritageDNA doesn’t dig for information. If what you are looking for is something that will agree with what you know, this might be just what you need. If you are looking for a deeper or broader understanding of your ancestral history … well … this ain’t it. 23andMe gets better reviews for about the same price. Ancestry.com gets reviews just like this one, but provides nominally more analysis of results — but at a price.

Of course, any analysis would be more than I got. Also, there a very new one called Insitome DNA Test Kit: Neanderthal Genetic Traits Profile (Ancestry) powered by Helix which sounds really interesting. It’s slightly more expensive (not much), but apparently provides a lot more information.

Meanwhile, it’s official. We are us. Will the thrill never end?

DARK DEEDS IN A SMALL TOWN KITCHEN

Twenty-seven years. Twenty-seven long years. She looked down at the knives in her hand. Two simple steak knives … and he was backing up, directly into the knives. No one would believe the story, not for a minute.

“Hey! Stop! I’ve got knives in my hand. You’re backing right into the knives,” I said. The thought was just a tiny, momentary lapse …

“They’d never believe your story,” he commented as I put the knives in their sheathes.

“They have me in maximum security for the remainder, brief though it may be, of my so-called life.”

“The DNA alone would convict you,” he agreed. Good he hadn’t moved faster or it could have been all over before I had a chance to warn him …


Which bring me to what I bought for our anniversary


Garry doesn’t need clothing. Garry doesn’t need a tie or a watch. Nor jewelry, a book, a computer, or a cell phone. Garry doesn’t really need anything except possibly more hair which I promised I’d get him if I got rich from the proceeds of my book. I didn’t get rich and have not hit the lottery — unlikely having not bought any lottery tickets. Which means Garry still needs hair. Maybe in our next lifetime.

As for me, I don’t need anything anyone can buy. So, I figured there was nothing I could get that would be interesting, surprising, or unique. I was wrong.


It all started when we had Duke at the vet the other day. We got to postulating “what IS Duke?” The curled over the back tail, his funny scrunched in face scream some kind of Asian breed. Not the kind of dog you usually find roaming streets looking for a back alley girl dog for a quickie. Accidental backyard breeding? Intentional mix?

Something happened because we’ve got The Duke.

So, the vet says: “Maybe Shi Tzu? Not King Charles … no spaniel in this dog. Don’t think he’s any kind of herder … Okay. That’s it. You’re going to have to do DNA. I need to know what this dog IS,” said Dr. Marcie.

“I’d like to know too,” I said, “But those tests are pricey.”

“I think around $75 … something like that,” she admitted.

“Not this week,” I said. Although if she’ll pay, I’m up for it.

But this got me to thinking, so I looked up the DNA breed tests for dogs and indeed, they are in the $75 range. More pressingly, I have to get Bonnie clipped next week. She has reached the “stinking bag of black rags on legs” stage. Gibbs has a flat, smooth coat, so for now, he is okay. Garry pointed out that Duke is more a “hose him down” sort of guy. So rather than sending out DNA to discover Duke’s ancestors, I thought I’ll get Bonnie clipped.

But speaking of anniversaries, how about ancestral DNA for Garry and I? We may not need it, but it would certainly be different, right? Oddly, it’s less expensive to get the DNA for humans than for dog breeds. Go figure, right?

So. That’s what I did. DNA for we two lovebirds. In about four weeks, the mystery of our ancestors will unfold. The truth will be revealed! The veils of history will lift and all will be known. Or maybe not. We shall see.

As for Duke, I’m afraid he will have to wait until my curiosity goes over the top … or one of those lottery tickets comes in big.

DRIFTING THROUGH SPACE …

Storytime – Dropped from a drifting craft


Considering one thing and another, I have always been sure I could not possibly be related to Those People who raised me. And who, in theory, birthed me.

Sadly, there was always one problem from which I could never escape.

I look just like them. Both parents. They didn’t look alike, so how could this be? Apparently, you change as you age. So you can look exactly like dad when you’re three, but exactly like mom when you’re sixty. Periodically, depending on how the genetic package rolls, like one or the other — or both  — at any given point in time. I used to look like my father, but I got older. Now, look like my mother.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I wonder if I’ll ever look like me? Whatever that means.

I know nothing about what brought me into the world any more than I know what will take me out. Probably, that’s just as well. I think I lack a kind of curiosity about my fate others apparently have. I never felt any serious need to research my ancestry or get my DNA checked. What was, is finished. What will be, is not in my hands. I am okay enjoying as much of the now as I can while it’s still available.

And yet.

Every now and again, I wonder if it is possible that I was actually put here by a passing star craft. An intergalactic seed dropped from the sky that somehow, wound up in this world. With those parents. In this peculiar place. A bit of pollen falling from a drifting craft on its way to somewhere in an infinite beyond.

It could be true.


A Writing Prompt: Storytime — A Hot and Steamy Night –  by Fandango


A new prompt. Just what you needed, right? I’m calling this prompt “Storytime.” Each week I will ask you to tell a story about a specific topic. You can write about the actual event as it happened in real life — or you can create a fictional version of the event. It’s your call.

Once you publish your post, create a pingback to this post, or paste a link to your post in a reply if you’re not on WordPress. To get the ball rolling, I’ll go first. Have fun!

TECHNICOLOR DREAMS AND GENETIC NIGHTMARES – BY TOM CURLEY

A few weeks ago my old friend Ben Taylor sent me a very interesting link to a story about archiving technologies . The story was about how all of our storage media eventually degrades. Film, tape, CDs, DVDs, flash drives, and so on all decay over time. Technicolor, the company that makes films so, technically colorful, has figured out a way to encode and store media on a DNA molecule! Here’s the article.

Basically, it’s not complicated. All of our media is now digital, encoded as a really long string of ones and zeros. DNA is a double helix molecule made up of four proteins CGAT. Cytosine, guanine, adenine and thymine.

teravivos.com

teravivos.com

They can combine in an infinite number of combinations, which is why DNA is such a handy way to store all of life’s genetic information. We also have machines called genetic sequencers that can both read a DNA molecule and build one.

DNA-O-MATIC! web.uri.edu

web.uri.edu

So, what the TECHNICOLOR people did was figure out how to encode the ones and zeros onto a DNA molecule, then build that DNA molecule. How do you play back the material? Build a player that reads the DNA molecule and converts it back to ones and zeros. Burn it onto a DVD and put it into your Blue Ray player.

The cool part is that you can store over 700 terabytes of information on one DNA molecule! Which is pretty much every movie and TV show ever made. The other reason they did this was because they say the DNA molecule is stable and won’t degrade.

But here’s the problem.

DNA MUTATES!!!!!!!

rbssbiology11ilos.wikispaces.com

rbssbiology11ilos.wikispaces.com

That’s how evolution works!

If DNA didn’t mutate, we’d still be four-legged lungfish crawling up out of the surf, looking up at the sky, land and saying: “Well, this is different. Hey Phil! Come on up here. You gotta see this!”

land fish

youtube.com

Now at this point you could argue that DNA usually mutates when cells reproduce.  Sometimes the DNA copies aren’t perfect and that’s what causes the mutation. But the Technicolor DNA molecules are just sitting in a test tube. They are not replicating.

Technicolor-DNA-Archive-2

That’s true. However — there are other things that can make DNA mutate, like radiation. A stray alpha, beta, or gamma particle could come along, hit the molecule, and knock out a quinine here, a cytosine there. After a while, things could change. Not immediately, but after a hundred, five hundred, or a thousand years?

A thousand years from now a group of historians, anthropologists, archaeologists and movie critics could get together to examine a recently discovered cache of late 20th Century movies and TV shows. They were  found buried in a vault archived with a quaint technology utilizing DNA by a long-forgotten company called Technicolor.

theshoreways.com

theshoreways.com

HEAD SCIENTIST: As you all know the discovery of this cache of ancient media has given us an unprecedented opportunity to measure the accuracy of our historical records against actual recordings of history.  You’ve all had a month to watch and review media from the last millennium. What have you found?

SCIENTIST #1: Well, actually some their movies are quite good.  I just watched two fantastic movies, “Ishtar” and “Waterworld”.

HEAD SCIENTIST: Hmmm. Our records indicate they were two of the worst movies ever made.

SCIENTIST #1: I can’t understand why. Did you know that Ishtar was the movie where Betty Davis said “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.!”  It only makes sense since they were all riding camels.  And Waterworld!  At the end, when Kevin Costner helped ET get back to his spaceship? I have to admit, I cried.

HEAD SCIENTIST: I see.  What about “Star Wars’?

en.wikipedia.org

en.wikipedia.org

SCIENTIST #2: I saw the first three movies starting with “The Phantom Menace”.

HEAD SCIENTIST: And?

SCIENTIST #2: They were really good!  And funny! Casting Groucho Marx as Obi Wan Kenobi and Robin Williams as  young Anakin Skywalker was inspired!

HEAD SCIENTIST: And the next three in the series?

SCIENTIST #3: Not so much. Darth Vader and the Emperor win in the end and destroy the rebellion. It was really depressing.  The only rebel left alive was Jar Jar Binks.

twitter.com

twitter.com

HEAD SCIENTIST: What about “Citizen Kane”? Our records show that as being one of the greatest movies of all time.

SCIENTIST #4: I don’t know why sir. In the first place somebody named Jackie Chan played the part of Kane. He spent the whole movie kicking people and riding on a sled. But he did do his own stunts!

HEAD SCIENTIST: What about “Casablanca?”

SCIENTIST #5: Horrible! Ronald Reagan as Rick and Joan Rivers as Ilsa? What were they thinking? No chemistry!

HEAD SCIENTIST: OK, what about television?

SCIENTIST #6: Quite frankly only one show stood out and it was brilliant.

HEAD SCIENTIST: What was it?

SCIENTIST #6: “Gilligan’s Island.”  Orson Welles as the Skipper, Brad Pitt as Gilligan, Marilyn Monroe as Ginger,  Sally Field as Mary Ann, Helen Mirren and John Barrymore as the Howells and  John Wayne as the professor.! Brilliant casting. And who knew Arthur Miller could write comedy!

sitcomsonline.com

sitcomsonline.com

What have you done Technicolor?  What have you done?

DEOXYRIBONUCLEIC ACID

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid exists in pretty much every living organism. It is the stuff of chromosomes and carries genetic information. Our DNA is a map of who we are and will be, representing the fundamental and unique characteristics of someone or something.

DNA molecules are a schematic of who you were, are, and will be. All of you, and me, and everyone else. Even some viruses.

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DNA is programming we inherit not only from parents, but from their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents back to the mists of time.

One of the coolest things about DNA is that it doesn’t all “turn on” at birth. Which is how come we don’t look the same throughout our lives. Different genes “kick in” at different ages, so we look like mom as toddlers. Are a dead ringer for dad in our teens. Show a remarkable resemblance to grandma when we hit forty. It isn’t an illusion. It means various pieces of our programming are turning on while others are turning off.

Some basic stuff, such as eye and skin color, are fixed. But — for example — hair may change both in texture, type, and color many times. Mine was dark as a baby, lighter as a young adult, grey in my forties, then white in my fifties. Now, it has begun to turn brown again — patchily, but definitely brown. It has been very curly, almost straight, and wavy. Thicker, thinner, silkier and rougher.

The changes are never finished. And not only signs of age. The shape of our eyes and skull. The set of our jaws. Whether or not we keep or lose our hair.

24 or 25 ... Owen was a toddler and this was Maine on a summer's day

Just when you think you know one thing … what you look like … suddenly, you don’t look like that anymore. You look in the mirror and it’s … Mom?

Spring forward 25 years. Who do I look like? For 20 years, I looked like a clone of my mother. Now, finally, I look like me. At least that’s who I resemble today. Who know what DNA is lurking in my chromosomes? What’s next? I’ll let you know when I know.

GENETIC BREAKTHROUGH ON HAWAII FIVE O!

The new episode of Hawaii Five O we watched tonight is titled “Ho’oilina.”

As the story goes, it is the fourth anniversary of his father’s death. While Steve McGarrett is visiting his father’s grave, he meets a woman who helps him reopen the last unsolved case his father worked before his death.

ellie_mcg_grave10b

The old Hawaii Five O wasn’t a great show, but guys really liked it. The new one is nominally better acted, but it could hardly be called “realistic.” Better than its predecessor. Pretty to watch. It is, after all, Hawaii. Garry enjoys it and I don’t mind.

This week, though, it totally blew me away because the woman Steve McGarret meets at his father’s grave is a tall, blond assistant district attorney. In the flashback memory of her father’s death, the same woman is a tan Hawaiian — perhaps Chinese? — girl.

That’s so amazing. Who knew DNA could produce such an extraordinary transformation? I mean … wow. Garry says it’s bad casting. I call it a miracle.

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW THAT WILL GET YOU

Hand-Me-Downs – Clothes and toys, recipes and jokes, advice and prejudice: we all have to handle all sorts of hand-me-downs every day. Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life.


The family

The most important stuff I got handed down to me — other than my DNA, which has turned out to be a mixed bag of goodies — were attitudes. Culture. Habits. Taste. Sayings and a few useful tips.

My mother gave me a love for books, as well as an expensive — nearly lethal — appreciation for the finer things in life. Without, sadly, leaving me the money to afford them. She also left me her far left knee-jerk liberal world view and a saying I have never quite escaped: “For everyone, there’s someone. Even you.”

Thanks mom. You have no idea how much confidence that’s given me.

Dad? Not my favorite person, but he did pass along some good jokes and knowledge of how to tell one without blowing the punchline. He also taught me how to throw a meal together using whatever I have in the fridge. Because knowing “what goes with what” is the most important thing to know when you do a lot of cooking.

He also bequeathed me a firm — grim — determination to be as unlike him as I could be. Plus one great saying: “It’s not what you don’t know that will get you in the end. It’s what you do know that’s wrong.”