Sunday, June 26, 2016

Where Did That Come From?


Awhile ago my brother Mike had enough curiosity and spare cash to sign up with Ancestry.com for a DNA test.  The results really surprised him, knowing what he did of our family history, so he sent me a copy, pointed out the anomaly, and asked if I knew wherethehell that had come from.

Now a brief sidebar for our family history: my Dad was the son of Polish Jewish and Hungarian Jewish immigrants, and Mom was... interesting. First, she was a professional musician.  Second, her father was a ne'er-do-well third son of a minor British/Austrian aristocrat named (as far as my grand-aunt remembered) Von Schello.  Her mother, another professional musician, was -- and this was a big family secret -- a Metis:  that is, mixed Canadian French and Chippewa Indian.  Nothing was recorded about granny's father, but her mother was a Chippewa medicine-singer.  That, Mom recalled proudly, was where the female line of our family got their musical talent.  So, my brother and I are mixed Polish/Hungarian Jewish and Austrian/British/French/Chippewa -- in other words, typical American melting-pot.

What the DNA test showed was: about 30% eastern-European Jewish (expected, except for the proportions), another 30% western European (which would cover the Austrian and French) and then...  The that was 30% Scandinavian, 5% Asian, and 5% all over the map.  The all-over-the-map I could understand -- all of us have distant ancestors who wandered in from somewhere else, and everywhere on Earth is walking distance (or at least small-boat distance) if you have time enough.  What we couldn't figure was the complete lack of "Native American" blood, and wherethehell did "Scandinavian" and "Asian" come from?

I'm pretty sure that Mom's family wasn't lying about the great family secret of Chippewa ancestry;  in my grandmother's and grand-aunt's day a touch of non-White blood was something to be hidden.  "Indian" was the formal and honorable term, "Redskin" was no worse than vulgar, and the disparaging term was "Red Niggers".  In short, nobody would have invented a story like that about their ancestry.  So why didn't the DNA test show it?  And whereinhell did "Scandinavian" and "Asian" come from?

So I did some research about the Metis and the Chippewa (a.k.a. Ojibwa) and learned something interesting.  The Chippewa lived in what's now southern Canada and the northern US, on the eastern side of the Great Lakes, near Sault Ste. Marie.  They hunted into New York state, where my mother's family came from.  Nowadays we know that the Indian tribes were a mixture of early Asians, who came from across the Bering Straits about 12,000 years ago, and -- if ya please -- Europeans, the Clovis Point people, who came from northwestern France about 15,000 years ago.  Now that would account for the "Asian" genes, and a percentage of the "western European", but wherethehell did those "Scandinavian" genes come from?  Maybe a bit from the French (the "Normans" had been "Northmen" just a few generations earlier), maybe a bit from the Austrian side of Dad's family, maybe some from the British (Normans/Northmen again), but the percentages just didn't add up.  There was still too much "Scandinavian".

Then I dug a little deeper into Chippewa history, and found the answer. 

Eastern Canada and the northern part of the eastern US was the realm of Vinland.  That's where Leif Erikson's Viking colony was founded.  Although the colony was eventually defeated by disease and attacks of the "Skralings" (99% certainly the Iroquois tribe), there were some Indians that were happy to get along with the Vikings, to trade goods and services and... genes.  Those were the Chippewa, who mutually hated the Iroquois and would gladly befriend anyone the Iroquois fought.

So there we are;  I'm the great-X-granddaughter of Vinland Vikings and Chippewa sympathizers.  The fact that Ancestry.com couldn't read that from our DNA -- and didn't realize that all that made up a branch of "Native American" -- makes me giggle.  Didn't they realize that "primitive" people might have some complicated history?  Had they never heard of Lief Erikson and the Vinland colony?  Ah well, I suppose we can't expect microbiologists to study history too, eh?

--Leslie <;)))><         

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Anti-Democratic Faith

I seem to have set off a small firestorm on Facebook, just by asking a simple question about the Orlando shooting.  The whole post is:

"I notice that in the wake of the Orlando Gay-bar massacre, MSNBC and the usual politicians are spouting the usual boilerplate about the awfulness of 'gun violence' and how we need to make it harder for people with no criminal record to buy guns. The more realistic types are asking why the FBI didn't keep better track of a suspected Jihadist, and others are asking what can be done to stop Jihadists from attacking innocent people.

"I also notice that one question nobody seems to be asking is: out of the 300 people in that bar, why did *not one of them* have a gun of his/her own, pull it out and shoot the killer? Not one of them! Not even the bartender or the bouncer. Yes, Orlando law forbids patrons (even CCW holders) to *bring* a firearm into a place where alcohol is served, but why didn't the *bartender*, or the bouncer, keep a firearm under the bar for emergencies? For that matter, what about tasers?

"That stupid law needs to be rescinded, the personnel of Gay bars need to be armed and trained to deal with terrorist attacks, and all bars should have a policy of welcoming CCW holders."

Well, that started it, 181 comments racked up in short order, and still going strong.  The pro- and anti-gun sides lined up pretty quickly, and I was fascinated to see the nature of the arguments.

The pros quoted facts and statistics (sometimes to laborious length):  1) The bar did have one armed guard -- a moonlighting local policeman stationed by the door -- but the shooter, Omar Mateen, had checked out the bar beforehand and knew where that guard was, and shot him first;  2) Since at least 1950, all but two mass shootings have taken place in "gun-free zones", where legally everybody was disarmed and nobody could shoot back;  3) There have been several cases where armed civilians have prevented mass shootings;  4) According to FBI statistics, Americans armed with firearms prevent crimes at least 900,000 times every year (and the figure could easily be twice as high, since many such are not reported);  5) According to data from the UN (http://crimeresearch.org/2014/03/comparing-murder-rates-across-countries/) countries with low gun-ownership have higher homicide rates -- and the US ranks 111th in the world in homicide;  6)  Since 1993, when most states began allowing civilians to ear Concealed Carry of Weapons (CCW) permits, and gun purchases began climbing, the violent-crime rate in the US has dropped by almost 50%;  7)  Police have worse records of shooting innocent bystanders than CCW holders do;  8) Countries which have banned, or almost-completely banned, civilian gun ownership have subsequently seen their violent-crime rates climb, or at least stay the same -- and the same is true of American states and municipalities;  9)  The Constitution guarantees the right "to keep and bear arms" to all citizens, and its excuse -- the "militia" -- is comprised of all citizens over the age of 17;  10) Barring groups of people from that Constitutional right without conviction or at least clear evidence of a crime is "prior restraint", which is illegal;  10)  Government "no fly" lists are notoriously corrupt, and cannot be used to rob people of their rights without clear legal means of getting off the lists;  11) Given Mateen's past (examined by the FBI and written off, hired by a government-sponsored security firm, bought all his guns legally -- despite a history of bigoted and downright psychotic statements and behaviors, duly reported to the police), citizens cannot rely on the government alone for their protection from lunatics, bigots, terrorists or just plain crooks;  12) Intense firearms training for civilians has statistically reduced firearms accidents;  it should be made mandatory to everyone.  13)  "Mass shooting" statistics are exaggerated because the FBI defines "mass shooting" as any event in which four or more people are shot, not necessarily killed or even seriously wounded.  

The antis appealed to emotions, ideals, and "what everybody knows":  "Dancers and drunks with guns would have only increased the carnage in a dark, crowded space."  "I don't want untrained idiots all out there carrying all the guns they can. I personally would rather live in a civilized society where every person doesn't have to have a concealed weapon on them at every moment." "Do you think every yahoo with a gun and a couple of drinks in them is going to turn into Will Smith in 'Men in Black'? Three hundred panicked people running and screaming, shots being fired, loud music, strobe lights flashing,people falling and dying, and you think your imaginary CCW holders are going to be able to hit this shooter and not add to the body count of innocents?"  "Mass shootings are not a common event outside of a war zone anywhere outside the US." "Britain's violent crime rate has NOT been going up since the ban. Neither has Australia's. NO OTHER FIRST WORLD NATION has toddlers shooting themselves or someone else on a weekly basis. NO OTHER FIRST WORLD NATION has mass shootings (4+ more people shot in once incident) on a DAILY basis."  " so many Americans regard mass shootings as a perfectly acceptable side-effect of their right to own machine-guns."  "I heard the armed guard was also killed. But this nit-picking over details is distasteful, especially when used by NRA supporters as an excuse not to limit arms. Wake up America!" "Leslie, you are by far, the biggest jackass I've encountered in months. Let's just arm everyone, even schools and churches!  Deleted and blocked. Go suck a gun."  "More guns never make sense. Seriously, arm everyone? Even a lobotomized patient knows that's not only stupid but illogical and not ever going to happen."   "It's not that anti gun law people lost credibility. IT's Freudian psychology pure and simple. They're all holding onto their dicks. Preach abstinence only and this is the shit you get."

The patterns that emerge are very different from the usual political assumptions.  The pro-gun crowd want everyone -- including Gays and Latinos, in this case -- armed and trained, believe in common rationality, and trust the average citizen to behave reasonably.  The anti-gun crowd assume that the average citizen is ignorant, hysterical in a crisis, automatically gets drunk whenever alcohol is available, is likely to start and escalate violence, can't be trusted with weapons, and basically needs a keeper;  it's only a short step from there to assuming that the proper keeper for the masses is their own morally and mentally superior selves.  It's ironic that the party calling itself Democratic holds such anti-democratic beliefs.

By the way, the victims of the shooting themselves appear to have made their own decisions as to how to deal with the tragedy.  I've heard from friends that all over southern California there are signs popping up everywhere that show the familiar rainbow flag with the classic Don't-Tread-On-Me rattlesnake superimposed, and below that: "#Shootback".  

--Leslie <;)))><                        

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Tempest in a Pee-pot


By now that incredibly stupid Carolina law -- forbidding people to use restrooms that don't jibe with the genders on their birth certificates -- has slipped off the front page, and doubtless the governor and legislature hope it stays that way.  Alas, while the law is still there, the opposition will be too.  There's no escape, you pious fools;  get rid of that law or remain a laughingstock -- as Tennessee was for decades after the Scopes "Monkey Trial". 

Not the least of the law's stupidities is the fact that very few people walk around carrying their birth certificate with them -- drivers' licenses or other state IDs yes, but not birth certificates -- so how is anybody supposed to check them out?  Second, who's going to do the checking, anyway?  Official Pee-Pee Police assigned to every public restroom in the state?  If you've got the tax money to pay for that, you'd be better off spending it on improving your schools.

And without handy birth certificates or Pee-Pee Police, how are you supposed to tell a "transgender"/"transsexual" on sight, anyway?  Real transsexuals are quite rare;  it's a condition in which a person is born with the genes and/or endocrine system of one sex and the physique of the other.  It's a miserable condition, in which the sufferer's body just doesn't fit right, work right, or feel right until s/he gets treatment to bring his/her physique into line.  This is not helped any by the social roles expected from the different sexes in most societies;  a lot of people psychologically fit the "standards" of the opposite sex, which tends to muddy the waters.  But in any case, a real transsexual will do his/her best to look, act, talk, dress, and otherwise be like the sex s/he identifies with -- so a passing glance, or even a close look, wouldn't tell you which gender s/he originally was.  If someone who looks like a man walks into the boys' room and goes to a stall rather than a urinal, how is anybody to know that s/he isn't a born male?  Ditto for females.

The whole excuse for this squawk is the old standby, "to protect the children".  Supposedly, perverts will dress like the opposite sex so as to get into bathrooms and assault kids.  The classic cartoon shows an 8-year-old girl complaining that there's a 40-year-old man in a dress lurking in the Girls' Room.  Uhuh.  Well, what's to keep perverts from sneaking into bathrooms and assaulting kids right now?  A law about birth certificates won't help that.  The solution is to keep some sort of attendant in every public bathroom in the country, and how likely is that?

And even having attendants in the bathrooms, ready to perform "short arms" inspection on everyone who walks in, is no protection against perverts -- because the Pee-Pee Police just might be perverts themselves, using their jobs to get free ogles and gropes.  Twice, while traveling, I've had seat-mates and suite-mates pull this trick on me;  the perv notes my contralto voice and the rather large muscles in my arms and shoulders, insists that I'm really a man in disguise, and demands that I "prove" I'm really female -- by displaying my tits.  Uhuh.  I didn't comply, either time, but I know I can't be the only woman that dirty lads have tried this on.  The last thing we need is to make this game legal.

The only thing attendants in the bathrooms might prevent is actual assaults in the johns, if that.  The birth-certificate law won't do anything but create fights and lawsuits.  It deserves to be laughed to death, along with the fools who voted for it.

--Leslie <;)))><   

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Report from the Battle Front


Apricot, Avocado and Pomegranate are gopher-resistant.  That would explain why, despite all the gopher holes on that side of the property, my Pomegranates have survived and thrived.  I suppose the presence of the big Eucalyptus tree hasn't hurt, either.  Gophers don't seem to like Eucalyptus.

Anyway, after a couple weeks of gas-bombing their tunnels, I'm seeing a lot fewer fresh gopher-holes.  It's too much to hope that they've given up the territory, so I'll keep on patrolling, digging and gas-bombing.  Also, I got 20 healthy Euphorbia seeds and gave them to Sharan to sprout.  She's as dedicated to the Gopher War as I am, and she has two green thumbs.  We intend to grow as many good sturdy Gopher Purge plants as possible, and plant at least one among the roots of our particularly vulnerable fruit-trees.  I'm working on a song for the plant to the tune of "Euphoria", but this is as far as I've gotten:

"When those gophers start a-diggin' and a-pokin'
It sends 'em off runnin', a-gaggin' and a-chokin',
Scamperin' around tryin' hard to get away
From the
Euphorbia!"

It isn't much, but I'm working on it.  Anyway, since we can't get our hands on gopher snakes, and ferrets would have problems with the dog and the cats, and poisoning is generally a bad idea, we're sticking to gopher-bombs for the short term and Gopher Purge for the long haul.  It's also good to know that the Apricots and Avocados will be fairly safe on their hook when we get around to planting them (in October, the nurseryman recommends, which is when the new black Arisia Pomegranate should arrive).

The interesting fact is that the Blackberry plants that survived the trip from Larry's place seem to be undamaged too.  I would have thought that Blackberry roots would be a feast for gophers, but it seems their roots are as well defended as the rest of the plant -- which can only be handled safely with thick ox-hide gardening gloves.  In their way, they're as prickly as cactus.

I'm trying to think of which trees should get a companion Euphorbia: the Scarlet Fig, obvously, but what else?  The citrus trees?  That's a Navel Orange, another Bearss Lime, and a Honey Lemon.  Maybe the White Guava too, and possibly the Papershell Pecan tree.  The Moringa should be safe;  it comes from Africa, and the local gophers wouldn't be adapted to it.  The grapevines don't seem to have suffered. 

Hmmm, or maybe I should just order more Euphorbia seeds.  They're a bit pricey, but if they drive away the goddam gophers they'll be worth it.       

--Leslie <;)))><