“Love is the answer to everything. It’s the only reason to do anything. If you don’t write stories you love, you’ll never make it. If you don’t write stories that other people love, you’ll never make it.” Ray Bradbury
When the calendar turned to 2023 it marked the beginning of year seven for this blog.
There are times when I review my all the posts I’ve written and shake my head. How in the world did I come up with nearly 300 topics in the past six years?
Here are the statistics:
298 unique Tuesday Newsday posts
Longest Post: 1,598 words
Shortest Post: 164 words
Approximate average length per post: 1, 017 words
Approximate number of words written: 303,066
Statistics are, for normal people, kind of boring. But I decided I wanted to find, in particular, my longest and shortest posts and to get a feel for just how much I have written.
First, the longest post. This surprised me a bit. It was an article about the band Bachman, Turner, Overdrive (BTO). Now, one of the things I write about in that blog post is the fact that I was never a Mega BTO fan… which factored into an encounter with one of their band members in 1995. Of course, you SHOULD probably click on this link and go read all about it. It’s still a great story. In my humble opinion. https://barbaradevore.com/2021/11/09/bachman-turner-overdrive/
The shortest blog post is, ironically, from January 24, 2017. It was only the second post I ever wrote. The reason it’s so short is that I was still finding my blog ‘voice’ at that point. I recall looking for a topic to write about and couldn’t find anything which inspired a personal connection. So I wrote about Sutter’s Mill. I’ve never been to Sutter’s Mill. I discovered that I didn’t even reference the Infallible Wikipedia for that article. Likely the only time I haven’t. It’s a very lame article but for full transparency, here’s the link: https://barbaradevore.com/2017/01/24/thars-gold-in-them-there-hills/
Back in the early days I was wildly inconsistent. Which is why I have posts for ‘some’ Tuesdays in January and February of that year and not for others. By March 2017, however, I hit my stride and the posts poured forth.
Now here we are, in 2023, and the term BLOG is ubiquitous; everyone knows what it means, more or less. But that hasn’t always been the case. In fact blogging wasn’t invented until 1997. Yes, there is an Infallible Wikipedia article about it:
“The term ‘weblog’ was coined by Jorn Barger on December 17, 1997. The short form, ‘blog’, was coined by Peter Merholz, who jokingly broke the word weblog into the phrase we blog in the sidebar of his blog Peterme.com in April or May 1999. Shortly thereafter, Evan Williams at Pyra Labs used ‘blog’ as both a noun and verb (‘to blog’, meaning ‘to edit one’s weblog or to post to one’s weblog’) and devised the term ‘blogger’ in connection with Pyra Labs’ Blogger product, leading to the popularization of the terms.”
Finally, for all my faithful followers, you may have just noticed that I turned my formula upside down by sharing my personal story first and the Infallible Wikipedia second.
It’s good to shake things up every once in a while and keep everyone guessing! And for those keeping track, this blog post is 547 words. You’re welcome.
Once Christmas is over, it is nearly impossible to escape the end of the year evaluations and lists of everything which went right – and wrong – during the previous year. It is that moment to step back, look in the proverbial mirror, and decide which ‘resolutions’ to embrace for the next year.
Although the Infallible Wikipedia does not have a page on the most popular resolutions, I did find a list at GoSkills.com. From the article:
“Every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions, hoping to spark positive change. The recurring themes each year include a more active approach to health and fitness, improved finances, and learning new things for personal and professional development. Chances are, more than a couple of the top 10 most common resolutions will look familiar to you:
1. Exercise more
2. Lose weight
3. Get organized
4. Learn a new skill or hobby
5. Live life to the fullest
6. Save more money / spend less money
7. Quit smoking
8. Spend more time with family and friends
9. Travel more
10. Read more”
For me, it’s almost always #3 which makes it to my list each year. People who know me often say to me “Get organized? But you’re already organized.”
The truth, however, is that it takes effort and constant monitoring to get and stay organized. I was an incredibly messy and disorganized child. But over the years, I have developed some strategies which I follow that help me stay on track.
The biggest thing I do is jealousy guard the Valuable Real Estate (VRE) in my home.
No doubt this phrase is causing more than a few of my readers to scratch their heads and ask “what the heck is she talking about with ‘valuable real estate’?”
I coined the term a few years ago to describe any surface or space which was needed on a daily basis to be used, particularly, by all the members of the household.
In our house, there are several spots which spring to mind.
First, and foremost, are the kitchen counters. I jealously guard the counter space. Now, while there are some decorative items and countertop appliances on them, for the most part, the things which are out include the knife block, the dish drainer, the coffee maker, two ceramic holders with either spatulas or whisks, salt and pepper grinders, a butter dish, a food scale, and an electric tea kettle. While it may sound like a lot, for the most part these things sit at the back of the counter, leaving plenty of space for food preparation.
But, back to figuring out what is, or is not, VRE.
The first thing I ask is:
Is the item used daily?
The things which meet that criterion remain. Everything else is subject to the next question:
Can the item be easily moved and stored and is there a place other than where it currently is where it can go?
There are some kitchen appliances – like the mixer and the blender – which are too tall/large to be stored in a cupboard, so they live at the back of the counter. Fortunately, we have enough counter space that we can afford to have them where they are.
Of course there are things we have in our homes which we just like. That’s the third question: Does it have sentimental value or bring pleasure?
I do not underestimate the need for a vibrant plant to brighten a winter’s day; or a couple sets of favorite salt and pepper shakers given to me by a friend. We all need things which bring a smile to our face.
And the final question: Do I even NEED the item?
There are things which ultimately don’t even belong in the kitchen or the house as they’ve outlived their usefulness. Unless it has a sentimental value based on question #3, it’s probably time to get rid of it.
These four questions can be applied to any spot in your house. Is your dining room or kitchen table covered with mail and other junk? What about the bathroom counters? Can you park a car in the garage? Do you have a decent work area on your desk?
Let’s apply the VRE model to the dining room table. If yours is covered with stuff which prevents you from using it for eating a meal or other activities, then perhaps it is time to designate it as VRE and send in the excavation crew. The hubby and I both embraced this particular space as VRE early on in our marriage. We simply did not allow things to stay on the table.
For me personally, I enjoy sitting at the table and having a meal with family and friends. Currently there is a small Christmas tree, four sets of salt and pepper shakers, and a holiday table cloth. For the sake of efficiency we will evaluate all items together:
Is the item used daily? The salt and pepper shakers, maybe. The cloth protects the table, so yes. The tree? Just arrived there yesterday as a decoration for Christmas dinner. So, no, it’s not used daily.
Can the item be easily moved and stored and is there a place other than where it currently is where it can go?
Yes. All the items have places in the house where they are stored when not in use.
Does it have sentimental value or bring pleasure?
Yes. Everything on the table brings me pleasure to look at.
Do I even NEED the item(s)?
Nope. But #3 is the deciding answer.
I do not diminish the challenges of daily life. Keeping up with dishes, mail, paperwork, laundry, etc. etc. etc., is not always easy and certainly, not fun.
The other piece of this equation is commitment. I usually clean the kitchen each night before I go to bed. Some days, like on Christmas when we had people over, the cleaning and putting away was not finished that night. But it was all completed in less than 24 hours.
That’s the commitment. Years ago I promised myself – for my own sanity – to make sure that those spots of VRE remained clutter free.
My resolutions for 2023 are pretty much the same as they are every year: spend a bit of time and evaluate how I want to use life’s most valuable commodity: time. And one of the best ways to do that is to make sure that the VRE in my life never gets out of control.
One of the best things about traveling is the opportunity to experience what is to us, as travelers, exotic plants and animals. As I have, ahem, matured, I spend more time truly looking at the plants and am particularly more aware of unusual birds.
On my recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I was able to channel my inner Crazy Bird Lady. It was glorious.
The first day there I didn’t really focus so much on the birds. After all, birds are just part of the landscape. But then, because our son had rented an AirBnB perched on a steep hill above PV, I started to notice that these birds were not exactly like the robins, sparrows, and crows which populate our corner of the world.
It was a particularly large bird which caught my attention due, in great part, to their sheer size, their unusual tail feathers, and the quantity of them. Of course, having never seen such a bird, I went scurrying to the internet to try to identify it. I was not disappointed. Soon I found a helpful chart with pictures and names of the various birds found in Puerto Vallarta as seen here:
I pored over my chart, eventually settling on the Magnificent Frigate bird as the ones we were seeing soaring above us. According to the Infallible Wikipedia:
“Frigatebirds are a family of seabirds called Fregatidae which are found across all tropical and subtropical oceans. The five extant species are classified in a single genus, Fregata. All have predominantly black plumage, long, deeply forked tails and long hooked bills. Females have white underbellies and males have a distinctive red gular pouch, which they inflate during the breeding season to attract females. Their wings are long and pointed and can span up to 2.3 metres (7.5 ft), the largest wing area to body weight ratio of any bird.
Able to soar for weeks on wind currents, frigatebirds spend most of the day in flight hunting for food, and roost on trees or cliffs at night. Their main prey are fish and squid, caught when chased to the water surface by large predators such as tuna. Frigatebirds are referred to as kleptoparasites as they occasionally rob other seabirds for food, and are known to snatch seabird chicks from the nest. Seasonally monogamous, frigatebirds nest colonially. A rough nest is constructed in low trees or on the ground on remote islands. A single egg is laid each breeding season. The duration of parental care is among the longest of any bird species; frigatebirds are only able to breed every other year.”
I enjoyed looking for the Frigate Birds each morning as they soared high above where we were staying and watched them as they flew out and over the Bay of Banderas. It was on our third day in PV that we secured a boat trip out to the Marietas Islands for an all day tour. As it turned out, the islands are the breeding grounds for the Frigate Birds and we saw dozens of them as we approached.
The afternoon included snorkeling, an ‘eco-tour’, and my son and I both wanted to swim through a rock arch cave to an area known as the hidden beach (for an extra fee, of course!).
They took us by a smaller boat to the spot where we – only allowed to wear a life jacket over our bathing suits and a helmet – were to swim through the arch to the beach where we would be able to spend 24 minutes.
By now I imagine some of you are asking “Twenty four minutes? That specific?” Yes, that specific. The feature is controlled by the Mexican version of the National Park Service and only a limited number of people are allowed in on any given day.
To get there takes a whole lot of effort. I do not know how far we had to struggle through the rough ocean, but it was difficult. My swimming method was, mostly, backwards and on my back. At one point my son and I linked our right arms with him swimming forward and me backwards, each using our free arm and our legs for propulsion.
When we got to the beach we were tired and it was several minutes before I noticed a large bird just sitting in the sand about 20 feet away. Was it injured?
None of those who had swum to the beach knew for sure, so we gave the impressive animal its space.
We wandered around the beach and, eventually, the photographer they sent with our group snapped photos of my son and me so we had evidence that we had been there. After our photo shoot was finished I had a thought. Could we get a picture with the bird which I had identified as the Magnificent Frigate Bird?
After we were back on the boat with the larger group, the photographer came by to sell us our photos from the day. It was then that he told us that when he was back out with the next group, the bird – apparently not injured and only resting – had flown away on its own.
For this Crazy Bird Lady it seems as if that incredible creature had been there just for us. It was the most magical moment of the trip thanks to the Magnificent Frigate bird.
It was on October 18, 1964 when President Lyndon Johnson did something on live TV which benefitted the optically challenged: he wore contact lenses.
Now, for those of you who do not need corrective lenses and have never had to struggle with fogged up or rained on glasses or have never found yourself patting around your nightstand looked for spectacles, the then President of the United States wearing contact lenses might seem like a nothing burger.
But I, like hundreds of millions of people, do rely on devices to provide vision correction and contact lenses are a wonderful invention which has changed, literally, the way we see life.
The idea of being able to correct vision by placing an artificial lens on the eye can be traced back to 1508 when Leonardo da Vinci illustrated his concept in Codex of the eye, Manual D. It was unworkable. Other inventors also tried over the next few centuries.
Workable contact lenses made their way into use gradually. Thanks to the Infallible Wikipedia we learn the following:
“Although Louis J. Girard invented a scleral contact lens in 1887, it was German ophthalmologist Adolf Gaston Eugen Fick who in 1888 fabricated the first successful afocal scleral contact lens. Approximately 18–21 mm (0.71–0.83 in) in diameter, the heavy blown-glass shells rested on the less sensitive rim of tissue surrounding the cornea and floated on a dextrose solution. He experimented with fitting the lenses initially on rabbits, then on himself, and lastly on a small group of volunteers, publishing his work, ‘Contactbrille’, in the March 1888 edition of Archiv für Augenheilkunde. Large and unwieldy, Fick’s lens could be worn only for a couple of hours at a time. August Müller of Kiel, Germany, corrected his own severe myopia with a more convenient blown-glass scleral contact lens of his own manufacture in 1888.
The development of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) in the 1930s paved the way for the manufacture of plastic scleral lenses. In 1936, optometrist William Feinbloom introduced a hybrid lens composed of glass and plastic, and in 1937 it was reported that some 3,000 Americans were already wearing contact lenses. In 1939, Hungarian ophthalmologist Dr.István Györffy produced the first fully plastic contact lens. The following year, German optometrist Heinrich Wöhlk produced his own version of plastic lenses based on experiments performed during the 1930s.”
Contact lenses were, however, expensive and only the wealthy could afford them.
That started to change in the 1960’s but even then one needed to purchase contact lens insurance in order to replace lost or broken lenses (which happened all the time!)
The next breakthrough in technology – which was twofold – was the development of rigid gas permeable lenses and of soft contact lenses. Both allowed oxygen to pass through the lenses making it possible to keep the lenses on their eyes for longer periods of time. Some soft contact lenses can be worn up to 30 consecutive days.
As we’ve come to expect from the Infallible Wikipedia, there is exhaustive and detailed information regarding this topic. A link is provided below.
When I entered fifth grade it was discovered, due to the fact that my teacher, Miss Crosslin, kept the lights turned off in her classroom a great deal of the time. I couldn’t read the blackboard. Soon visits to the eye doctor commenced and a prescription was written for glasses.
For a gangly pre-pubescent girl, having to get ugly glasses was a disaster. I HATED wearing glasses. I had to endure it for two full years until, thanks to my older sister, I became aware of the miracle known as contact lenses.
Then the lobbying began. My sister had been relentless in convincing our mother that she needed contacts, finally getting them while in eighth grade.
The summer between my seventh and eighth grade year, I too was allowed to join the contact lens wearing community.
Which sounds much simpler than it was. In those days you had to ‘train’ your eyes to wear them, only being allowed certain amounts of time each day.
The very first day it was a whopping… fifteen minutes.
But I was determined to be done with glasses. All that summer I dutifully followed everything the eye doc told me to do. Fifteen minutes for week one, then twenty minutes for week two, then 30 minutes, then an hour. On and on it went until I was finally able to wear them for most of the day.
It truly was a miracle. But not without problems. The lenses didn’t fit particularly well and had an annoying propensity to pop out of my eye. I refer you back to the contact lens insurance thing. Yes, I had that. But even so, those little pieces of plastic were treated like gold.
A lost contact prompted getting down on hands and knees and scouring all surfaces in search of the errant lens.
The year I was 19 was particularly bad for lost lenses. I was traveling with the Rainbow Girls that year and I can’t recall how many times I seemed to lose a contact in my car while driving. I even had to have another girl drive me home one day when I couldn’t find the lost lens. I did unearth it later but a misplaced contact meant having to buy a new one. It was a pain.
But I didn’t care. Being able to wear contacts was always preferable to the alternative.
With the advent of Lasik, contact lens wearers had a new choice which allowed them to get out of their contacts altogether. For me, I have stayed old school, and still wear contacts. I figure I will wear them until the day arrives when I need to have cataract lens replacement.
The advancements in technology have made it so that the gas permeable lenses – for those of us who still wear them –stay in the eye and don’t pop out. Looking for a lost lens is a rare event these days.
But I kind of miss the thrill of hunting for something clear, thin, and ½ inch in diameter all while being blind in one eye. How else can I get in my calisthenics work out each day?
No one can point to the exact date when this item was invented. Without it, computers as we know them would not exist. Without it, many great works of literature would never have been written.
The concept for the typewriter can be traced back to as early as the late 1500’s when an Italian, Francesco Rampazetto, invented a device called scrittura tattile, a machine used to impress letters in papers.
The Infallible Wikipedia shares this:
“Although many modern typewriters have one of several similar designs, their invention was incremental, developed by numerous inventors working independently or in competition with each other over a series of decades. As with the automobile, telephone, and telegraph, a number of people contributed insights and inventions that eventually resulted in ever more commercially successful instruments. Historians have estimated that some form of typewriter was invented 52 times as thinkers tried to come up with a workable design.”
It was not until the 1870’s when the machine which became the modern typewriter began its ascent. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:
“The first commercial typewriters were introduced in 1874, but did not become common in offices until after the mid-1880s. The typewriter quickly became an indispensable tool for practically all writing other than personal handwritten correspondence. It was widely used by professional writers, in offices, business correspondence in private homes, and by students preparing written assignments.
Typewriters were a standard fixture in most offices up to the 1980s. Thereafter, they began to be largely supplanted by personal computers running word processing software. Nevertheless, typewriters remain common in some parts of the world. In many Indian cities and towns, for example, typewriters are still used, especially in roadside and legal offices due to a lack of continuous, reliable electricity.
The QWERTY keyboard layout, developed for typewriters in the 1870s, remains the standard for computer keyboards. The origins of this layout remain in dispute.”
By the time I was in junior high, no doubt there were papers to be written which required use of a typewriter. The first one I ever used belonged to my mother. Made by Remington, it was their Envoy model. While I’m not sure why there were different models since they all looked the same, no doubt there were features added each year which improved on the previous model.
I will admit right now that I just spent 15 minutes looking for the serial number on her typewriter. Yes, they had serial numbers. Turns out this machine, number S1161669, was manufactured in 1941. My mother was 16 that year.
From an early age I developed a love/hate relationship with the typewriter. I loved the feeling of rolling a blank piece of paper into the platen, its emptiness beckoning creation. Then with the first few pushes of the keys, words would magically appear on the paper. It was a rush!
By word three, however, a horrible thing would happen. Instead of typing say, “Amelia skipped merrily down the path,” what often occurred would be something which looked like this:
Amelia skip[ed merruly down teeh path”
Unlike word processing on the computer, once those letters hit the page, you were stuck. Then you had a choice. Rip the paper from the roller in frustration, crumple it up, stomp on it and scream, and then start over OR go digging for that little bottle of the magic fixer, whiskey. Ha ha… just kidding. I’m talking about White Out, aka Liquid Paper.
If your mistake was early enough, replacing the paper was best. But woe unto you if it happened way down the page.
My papers were ALWAYS a mess of white out.
But I digress. I believe it was my sophomore year of high school when I got an electric typewriter. Which really only meant that I could now make mistakes much more quickly.
That machine served me well throughout high school and college. Then, in 1979 I was hired as a reporter and editor for the Eatonville Dispatch and I can still recall my first day on the job when there, on what was now my desk, sat a shiny IBM Selectric.
For those who don’t know, the Selectric was the gold standard of typewriters in that era for one very important reason: you could change the fonts.
Up until then typewriters pretty much featured one font and one font only: Courier.
The Selectic did not have a static set of keys. Instead, all the letters were on a ball – imagine a small metal disco ball covered in raised letters and numbers – which could be popped off and a different ball put on.
Oh the joy of being able to choose between Presitge Elite and Courier Italic! Serif versus San Serif.
After leaving Eatonville, typewriter use becomes fuzzy. I know I worked on them at various jobs right up until I joined Microsoft in January 1982. It was only then that we had a rudimentary internal email system which I figured out how to make work like a typewriter. The best part of that was the ability to correct mistakes. It only took a few times of painting the screen with white out to learn that the liquid saver was no longer needed.
By the mid-1980’s typewriters had pretty much become obsolete in most business environments. Like the horse and buggy, the teletype, Victrolas, and a whole host of other products which once dominated the culture, the typewriter was sent to the dustbin of history. (hmmm… I think a dustbin is part of that list of obsolete things also)
One final thought on typewriters. Of all the classes I took in high school, it was typing which benefited me more than any others. Kudos to Mrs. Rigos and typing teachers everywhere.
To you I say… jjjj… ffff…iiii… aaaa … and ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog*.’
It’s a Universe full of objects hurtling through space
August 30, 2022
Chalk this week’s post up to ‘things I never knew.’ It was on August 30, 1979, when a comet collided with the sun. Whoa.
How do scientists know the date? According to an article in the New York Times from October 10, 1981, it was over two years after that the event was uncovered:
“A comet collided violently with the Sun two years ago, generating tremendous energy and scattering debris millions of miles across the solar system, scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory reported today.
The event, recorded by satellite instruments, is the first known instance of a celestial body colliding with the Sun, said Dr. Donald J. Michels. It also marks the first time a comet has been discovered by a satellite.
Dr. Michels said the collision, which occurred Aug. 30, 1979, was recorded by an experiment called Solwind. Because of delays in analyzing the spacecraft data, the event was not discovered until recently, he said.
Solwind monitors activity in the Sun’s outer corona, part of its atmosphere, by using an occulting disk that creates the effect of a permanent solar eclipse. Sun’s Heat Disintegrated Comet
‘Total eclipses observed from the Earth last no more than a few minutes,’ Dr. Michels said. ‘Solwind has been able to observe the Sun’s corona through these artificial eclipses night and day for nearly three years.’
He said the comet had passed through the instrument’s field of vision as it streaked toward the Sun and was quickly disintegrated by the Sun’s blazing heat. ‘We estimate that when the comet hit the Sun, the energy released was about 1,000 times the energy used in the United States during an entire year,’ Dr. Michels said.”
Of course even thinking about such an event is likely to cause anxiety for some of us. I’m in that camp. A few months ago my brother loaned me a movie from his collection. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. It was an oddly compelling movie which explored the concept of what individuals might do if they knew the world would be destroyed by a comet in three weeks time.
It is upon this premise the audience enters a Dystopian world where the rules and norms no longer apply. We see the coming apocalypse through the viewpoint of a character named Dodge and his ‘friend’ for the end of the world, Penny.
Thanks to the Infallible Wikipedia we also learn:
“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a 2012 American apocalyptic romantic comedy-drama film, written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, in her feature directorial debut. The film stars Steve Carell and Keira Knightley as a pair of strangers who meet and form an unexpected bond as they help each other find closure in their lives before an asteroid wipes out life on Earth. The inspiration for the title comes from a line in Chris Cornell’s song ‘Preaching the End of the World’, from his 1999 debut solo album Euphoria Morning.
The film was theatrically released on June 22, 2012, in the United States by Focus Features. It received mixed reviews from critics and was a box-office bomb, earning $9.6 million on a $10 million budget.”
Had I read the review on the Infallible Wikipedia prior to watching the movie, I probably would not have watched it. Somehow, even as all sorts of insane events occurred, I kept hoping for a happy ending. Spoiler alert: there isn’t one.
Now, for those who are interested, the next close comet/asteroid encounter that earth is predicted to have is on Friday, April 13, 2029. But we don’t need to worry – or so NASA tells us. Although it will be one of the closest encounters ever, it won’t hit earth.
Carpe Diem! I have things to do and books to write!
Between the internet and advances in DNA testing, tracking your ancestors has become infinitely easier. With these technologies, however, are risks. And sometimes people don’t want to hear what the facts reveal.
Of the two it is DNA testing which has unlocked more closets full of skeletons. But first a bit about the technology.
For anyone who knows me, they understand that while I love learning about the general science behind things, my eyes pretty much roll back in my head when the specifics are touted. In reading about DNA on the Infallible Wikipedia, my eyes were doing some pretty serious rolling back. As a writer I try to distill things down to their most basic as a service to all others who don’t want the Deoxyribonucleic acid, double stranded helix of polynucleotide chains explanation.
Thankfully, there was a second Infallible Wikipedia article helpfully titled Introduction to Genetics. Here’s more of a layman’s explanation:
“Genes are made from a long molecule called DNA, which is copied and inherited across generations. DNA is made of simple units that line up in a particular order within this large molecule. The order of these units carries genetic information, similar to how the order of letters on a page carries information. The language used by DNA is called the genetic code, which lets organisms read the information in the genes. This information is the instructions for constructing and operating a living organism.
The information within a particular gene is not always exactly the same between one organism and another, so different copies of a gene do not always give exactly the same instructions. Each unique form of a single gene is called an allele. As an example, one allele for the gene for hair color could instruct the body to produce much pigment, producing black hair, while a different allele of the same gene might give garbled instructions that fail to produce any pigment, giving white hair. Mutations are random changes in genes and can create new alleles. Mutations can also produce new traits, such as when mutations to an allele for black hair produce a new allele for white hair. This appearance of new traits is important in evolution.”
Okay, okay, even THAT required we go wandering out in the weeds a bit. I recall first learning about genetics and found the concept of one’s chances of having blue or brown eyes fascinating. In my nuclear family there wasn’t a brown eye to be found; we ALL had blue eyes – well, except for my sister who ended up with green eyes which are kinda like blue eyes on steroids. It was only when I was older did I come to understand that some 8 percent of the world population has blue eyes and only 2 percent have green eyes! And, those who have either blue or green eyes are most likely to be able to trace their roots to northwestern Europe.
Which brings us round to what is known as Genetic Genealogy. The Infallible Wikipedia describes it as:
“…the use of genealogical DNA tests, i.e., DNA profiling and DNA testing, in combination with traditional genealogical methods, to infer genetic relationships between individuals. This application of genetics came to be used by family historians in the 21st century, as DNA tests became affordable. The tests have been promoted by amateur groups, such as surname study groups or regional genealogical groups, as well as research projects such as the Genographic Project.
As of 2019, about 30 million people had been tested. As the field developed, the aims of practitioners broadened, with many seeking knowledge of their ancestry beyond the recent centuries, for which traditional pedigrees can be constructed.”
I am a big fan of DNA testing in the search of ancestors and have more than a few good stories about this pursuit. One of the early tests involved my Dad to have him test for what’s known as “y-DNA” or, more commonly, to trace the male line only. For years I had been frustrated with the DeVore family line as, apparently, my great-great Grandfather Hartley had been dropped into Wisconsin in 1848 from outer space.
Thanks to my dad’s test, however, I connected with a close genetic ‘cousin’ who shared the name and lived in Georgia! In fact all of the folks who closely matched him have that common trait: a last name of DeVore. So far so good.
Then, in early 2019, I took the Ancestry.com test, and was very interested to see where that would lead. And my sister took it and, thankfully, we were still sisters. And then the Hubby took a test and, thankfully, our cousin-ness stayed firmly at multiple generations. In fact our genetics are so far removed, the DNA matching doesn’t go back that far.
Then in summer 2019 I purchased kits for our kids. And then we waited. Finally the first results came back for our son. Our daughter got hers the next day… and then the hubby and I checked our Ancestry accounts which helpfully tells you ‘who’ you are related to and how and I blasted out the message to the three of them something along the lines of “Good News! Your father is, er, your father.”
Which brought us, as parents, all sorts of amusement since we were both 100 percent certain that would be the result.
But it also highlights one of the issues with DNA testing. Sometimes people discover things they’d rather not know. On my sister’s husbands side of the family a ‘cousin’ popped up who no one had ever heard of or met. The wife of the ‘cousin’ contacted my niece and told her they had decided the testing must be flawed. Considering the fact that both Ancestry AND 23andMe connected him not only to my niece but also one of my niece’s first cousin and, eventually, her Dad when he took the test… well, it would seem that the mystery cousin’s heritage is not what he was raised to believe about his family.
My niece and I discussed it several times and she and I concluded that it was best to drop the whole thing as the possibility of an unhappy ending was great.
Recently I had a similar mystery reveal itself in my family. There is intrigue as to why one of the DNA ‘matches’ I have seems to suggest a further apart relationship than what we’ve always believed. It’s not something I plan to pursue unless the person involved also happens to notice.
From my perspective as a historian and genealogist, however, the facts are the facts. And I always want to learn the whole story in all its messy human details. It’s in my DNA.
And a reward for all of you who read to the very end… this trailer from a 1964 Elvis movie: Kissin’ Cousins. Until a few minutes ago I never knew this movie existed. Not sure my life has been enhanced because of this new knowledge!
These two age old questions are ones which humans often start asking at a young age.
In the home where I grew up, I became aware – at about age 10 – of an old photo album. Inside the very heavy, olive green velvet book were fragile pages of black and white photos of people who, my mother told me, were my ancestors.
It was an odd thought to think that these people – dressed in old fashioned clothes and hairstyles– were related; people of a different place and time.
Thus was born, for me, a lifelong interest in genealogy and a quest to answer those two questions: Who am I? Where did I come from?
When at college at the University of Puget Sound, I took a month long intense study class (the session was called Winterim) in January of 1979 where the focus was only genealogy. With that excellent professor to guide us, class participants traveled to the National Archives at Sand Point in Seattle and pored over microfiche census records, perused the available book collections at the Seattle Public Library, and learned to craft letters to governmental agencies for information. And, of course, got a master’s class as to how to research and document one’s genealogy.
At that time there was no way to access digital databases because they did not exist. All research took excessive amounts of time and travel, often with limited results, and meticulous hand written records.
Then, in 1996, two Provo, Utah, residents changed the world for genealogists everywhere. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:
“Paul Brent Allen and Dan Taggart, two Brigham Young University graduates, founded Infobases and began offering Latter-day Saints (LDS) publications on floppy disks. In 1988, Allen had worked at Folio Corporation, founded by his brother Curt and his brother-in-law Brad Pelo.
Infobases’ first products were floppy disks and compact disks sold from the back seat of the founders’ car. In 1994, Infobases was named among Inc. magazine’s 500 fastest-growing companies. Their first offering on CD was the LDS Collectors Edition, released in April 1995, selling for $299.95, which was offered in an online version in August 1995. Ancestry officially went online with the launch of Ancestry.com in 1996.” (The Paul Allen named is not the same one who co-founded Microsoft)
Over the years, there have been numerous entertaining – at least to me – events which have occurred. Which is why this is likely to be a multi-week series of articles.
My mother-in-law spent decades researching her family lines and she, and my father in law, literally travelled in a Fifth wheel travel trailer for ten years all across the United States sightseeing and researching. She had purchased Allen and Taggart’s $300 product and used it daily.
The topic of genealogy has always been one which she and I have enjoyed discussing, ad naseum. Her impressive collection easily involves 50 large notebooks filled with carefully researched documents found throughout the United States as well as many garnered from other researchers who had made the leap ‘across the pond’, so to speak.
One thing she has always been quite proud about is her connection to one family on the first sailing of the Mayflower and the many ancestors who settled in the northeast.
Back in 1996, when she was heavily into the research, I had discovered some of the early ‘on line data bases’ and would frequently go out to Rootsweb to see if any potential relatives had posted something new.
Although I cannot recall the specifics of the event, one day I happened upon a distant relative’s family tree and started clicking backwards. Doing this often provided names and dates for previously unknown ancestors, thus enabling me to expand my family tree.
I was in my father’s line which had me back in Massachusetts. Not quite Mayflower connections, but darn close. It was a day when I ‘jumped the pond’ to England with my ancestor Elizabeth House… whose mother was one Elizabeth Hammond.
Hammond? Where had I seen that name recently? Then it hit me. Hammond was one of the names from my mother-in-law’s family which I had seen earlier that day when discussing genealogy with her! Hmmm… I wondered.
As I had her paper ancestry trees on the desk next to me, I only had to turn a few pages and there was THE connection. The one which proved that not only were my mother-in-law and I blood related but I had, in fact, married a cousin!
I think I let out a ‘whoop’ of some sort and then turned around to where my Mother-in-law happened to be sitting as she and my father-in-law were visiting, and announced that I’d found the holy grail of connections to prove, once and for all, that we were related.
Which meant, of course, that I had married my cousin (all legal since it was 10 generations back).
My poor daughter – only six that year – got the most confused look on her face when she learned that her Mom and Dad were related to each other which meant, and I quote, “Wait? How can I be related to myself?”
This caused all sorts of amusement for the family and I love to tell people that I’m married to my cousin if only to see the reaction I get.
As for my daughter’s question, the answer is that all of us are likely related to ourselves at some point. It kinda blows the mind, doesn’t it?
I must end, however, with the caveat all genealogists give. It is possible, that somewhere along the way there is an attribution for a person which will turn out to be wrong. Alas, none of us can go talk to the people involved to verify the information. All we can do is look for connections and, nowadays, to see if we have shared DNA to others claiming the same ancestors. But that IS a story for another week.
On June 21 at 2:13 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, the sun (which will be seen elsewhere around the globe, but not in our time zone) will stand still for a moment, thus marking its northern hemisphere zenith.
From then on it is, as one might say, all downhill from there.
The summer solstice is the longest number of daylight hours for us. In fact the sun will not set until 9:15 p.m. with civil twilight extending until just before 10 p.m. and not fully dark until 12:45 a.m.
While many think of the solstice as being the longest day, the change is imperceptible. In fact, the sun will set at 9:15 p.m. for the remainder of June and then, on July 1st, it will set one minute earlier.
Where the real change occurs is in the morning. Sunrise is at 5:09 a.m. on both June 20 and 21 but is one minute later on the 22nd. By that same July 1st date it will be a whole 5 minutes later. Now, for most of us, it will be unnoticeable since we are likely to be asleep.
While the Infallible Wikipedia does provide all sorts of technical information about the solstice, I like the website timeanddate.com which shows in very understandable graph form all the geeky minutiae I crave. As seen here:
Of course, all this is very interesting, but it does not explain what it is about the months of May, June, and July which speak to my soul. I don’t love fall and I don’t love winter. By spring it’s getting closer to my favorite season. June is, by far, my favorite month of the year.
I would venture to guess that I, like many in the PNW, suffer with some degree of Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD). All the hours of light (I hesitate to call it sunlight during a year such as this one where it’s been cloudy, cool, and rainy so many days) help to buoy my spirits.
It’s as if we need the extra light to carry us through the dark months of the year.
By the time I was 18 I was, intellectually, aware of the fact that the length of days varied depending on where you were. But it wasn’t until a trip with my parents and my sister to England, Scotland, and Norway in July 1980, when I personally experienced even longer days than what we have here.
We flew into Bergen, Norway in the early part of July, arriving late morning. I didn’t think much about it until that evening, after having dinner, we walked around the town… but it never got dark. I snapped a photo of my sister sleeping at 11 pm with sunlight still streaming through the window.
It was a bit surreal. Back to Timeanddate.com. A search for Bergen reveals that the sunset in mid-July is nearly 11 p.m. and that it never gets completely dark at night. As it says on timeanddate.com ‘nautical twilight’ continues the rest of the night!
As tourists, we loved it, able to explore the country all times of the day… or night. We took a ride up a vernicular and visited the harbor late in the evening which provided the closest thing to a sunset they had.
The natives, also, adjusted their habits. In the early afternoon, all the shops would close up and the locals would go enjoy the extra sunshine too! And who can blame them? Come December, they pay for the extra light with extra dark.
As for me, I try not to think of fall or winter, but just enjoy the long light and count my blessings that I live in a place where I can enjoy the beauty of a light filled summer’s evening.
Chances are you have at least one of these objects within 20 feet of where you are currently located. I would also venture to guess that there is 99.9 percent chance (nothing’s ever quite 100, right?) that if you are in your abode, you could put your hands on one of these in less than two minutes.
It’s an object we take for granted, as they are as ubiquitous as a rock on the ground or a leaf on a plant.
The object: a paper clip.
Now, we haven’t always had paper clips. Someone did have to conceive of the concept and invent them. Like many innovations, it seems as if the idea was floating around in the cosmos waiting for the right person to wonder:
“Hmmm… I wonder if I twist this little piece of metal wire into a couple of bends, will it hold together pieces of paper?”
The concept is rather ludicrous, but that is precisely what happened.
But unbeknownst to the early paper clip inventor… or I should say inventors… the idea sprang forth in different places with a few years of each other.
Those crazy Norwegians – with little else to do in the winter – had one of their own create a ‘paper clip.’ He has been widely touted as the inventor of the device and even today you can find a paper clip monument to him. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:
“Norwegian Johan Vaaler (1866–1910) has erroneously been identified as the inventor of the paper clip. He was granted patents in Germany and in the United States (1901) for a paper clip of similar design, but less functional and practical, because it lacked the last turn of the wire. Vaaler probably did not know that a better product was already on the market, although not yet in Norway. His version was never manufactured and never marketed, because the superior Gem was already available.
Long after Vaaler’s death his countrymen created a national myth based on the false assumption that the paper clip was invented by an unrecognised Norwegian genius. Norwegian dictionaries since the 1950s have mentioned Vaaler as the inventor of the paper clip, and that myth later found its way into international dictionaries and much of the international literature on paper clips.”
The real inventor of the most used paper clip design in the world was – well, unknown. What we do know via the Infallible Wikipedia is this:
“The most common type of wire paper clip still in use, the Gem paper clip, was never patented, but it was most likely in production in Britain in the early 1870s by ‘The Gem Manufacturing Company’, according to the American expert on technological innovations, Professor Henry J. Petroski. He refers to an 1883 article about ‘Gem Paper-Fasteners’, praising them for being ‘better than ordinary pins’ for ‘binding together papers on the same subject, a bundle of letters, or pages of a manuscript’. Since the 1883 article had no illustration of this early ‘Gem’, it may have been different from modern paper clips of that name.
The earliest illustration of its current form is in an 1893 advertisement for the ‘Gem Paper Clip’. In 1904 Cushman & Denison registered a trademark for the ‘Gem’ name in connection with paper clips. The announcement stated that it had been used since March 1, 1892, which may have been the time of its introduction in the United States. Paper clips are still sometimes called ‘Gem clips’, and in Swedish the word for any paper clip is ‘gem’.
(snip)…the original Gem type has for more than a hundred years proved to be the most practical, and consequently by far the most popular. Its qualities—ease of use, gripping without tearing, and storing without tangling—have been difficult to improve upon. National Paper clip Day is May 29.”
Now, I love paper clips so much, that instead of celebrating them on only one day, for me this is National Paper clip WEEK.
I’m not exactly sure WHEN I became obsessed with paper clips, but I think it started back in 2004 when I took a novel writing course. Every week, we aspiring authors could bring six or so pages of our current work-in-progress (WIP). But the rule was that you must bring enough copies to share with everyone in the class. And, it was strongly suggested, that the pages be paper clipped together.
Who knows what got into my brain, but this gave me an excuse to purchase the colorful paper clips I coveted. You know the ones: red, pink, white, green, yellow, blue, and purple… no boring silver metal for me. Oh, no, I wanted the coated kind.
Soon, when taking something to share, my WIP was clipped together all in the same color paper clips.
Then one day it happened. I was at Michael’s in Kirkland pawing through the sales bins and I found a card with six beautiful hot pink paper clips. At the top of each clip was a rosette of pink netting and a trio of tiny seed beads – in sea green, sky blue, and pearl white, sewn in the center. I was smitten. Further sifting through the bin produced a second set, identical to the first, but with light pink netting instead.
Both sets found their way home and the next week, my pages at the writer’s group were passed out with my beautiful new paper clips brightening up the room.
Needless to say, they were noticed and the pressure was on. What paper clips would she bring next?
Soon, I was perusing office supply stores for new and exciting paper clips. For a while, Staples had this large tubular structure filled with paper clips in all sorts of wonderful shapes and colors: music notes, stars, hearts, triangles, kittens, butterflies, and suns, to name several.
Many of these were added to my growing collection. And then one day I had an idea. Perhaps there was a way I could create my own specialty paper clips? I experimented with making small embroidered hearts. I cut out flowers from material I had and glued them to the clips. I added small craft gemstones.
My legendary paper clip collection grew.
With Pinterest providing inspiration, I taught myself how to tie on ribbons and attach buttons and all sorts of baubles. I started giving away my specialty paper clips as gifts.
The paper clip obsession continues to this day. The hubby just shakes his head and shrugs when the ‘bin’ of supplies comes out.
These past couple of years with my involvement in Eastern Star, I’ve specialized. The theme has been snowflakes. I’ve literally made a couple hundred snow themed paper clips which, as far as I can tell, have been well received. Either that or people are gracious enough to accept them while secretly worrying about the mental health of the ‘crazy paper clip lady.’
But no matter. A portion of my paper clip collection sits in a ‘lazy susan’ style pen holder at the back of my desk (I’m looking at it as I type!) and I find that, at least once a day, I spin the holder around to decide ‘which’ paper clip I want for some set of pages. The ‘ice cream cones’ with the white, purple, and blue striped ribbon? The wooden Valentine ’s Day buttons with the various shades of pink polka dotted ribbons? Or perhaps the flower buttons, adorable with the tiny flowered bedecked ribbons?
The possibilities are, as they say, endless. Well, at least for the crazy paper clip lady.