Deciphering Differing DNA Tests Results

“Wanna know the truth about yourself…? Just learn…your DNA code then you’ll see.”

― Toba Beta

I have always been interested, from an early age dating back to an 8th grade school project, in my family tree.  I’ve ancestors that hailed from Scotland, Ireland, England (and before that, Normandy France) and Scandinavia. But I never knew which genes from all those folk I’d actually inherited, in what percentages to know what I basically am, so I recently did the DNA thing from two companies, Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com, and have received the results:

Ancestry: 52% British (which includes England, Scotland, Wales), 17% Ireland, 15% Europe West (which includes Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein), 10% Scandinavia (which includes Norway, Sweden, Denmark), 4% Iberia (which includes Spain, Portugal), 1% Italy/Greece. Zero percent anything else.

MyHeritage: 67.5% Scandinavia, 32.5% Iberian.

As you can see, the results from both appear startling different. How can I be 10% Scandinavian with one test and 67.5% with the other, 4% Spanish with one and 32.5% with the other (not to mention all the other percentages with one, and no other percentages with the other)?

I have done some research on the web, reading comparisons on all the different DNA companies (and their methods) and both Ancestry and MyHeritage are highly recommended and comparably equal. (To be fair, there are a couple of  others just as highly rated, so do your own research if you’re interested.) I have also read how DNA is processed by the lab(s) all the companies use.

The bottom line, as best as I understand it, is that the lab(s) yield the same results. But how they are interpreted is based on each company’s algorithms, database or methods used to translate the data, and the raw DNA results will look different from company to company – just as mine do.

Further research explains: 

Differences mostly come from how each company’s computer algorithm splits up the DNA into thousands of windows, analyzing one window at a time. And how blank spots (or “no calls”) in the data affects how the DNA is interpreted and/or split up into those pieces.These no calls are a consequence of any test like the ones these companies run, which means that each test has thousands and thousands of spots that could not be read, and the same markers do not come up as no calls in different tests, each time someone’s DNA is read, you can end up with a different uninterpretable.

Also, the basic difference between these two companies is their focus: Ancestry apparently looks more for where one’s  specific DNA shows up in the world relatively recently (as history goes) whereas MyHeritage apparently looks for one’s DNA further back in origins (but much less further back than the National Geographic’s Genographic Project Geno 2.0 Next Generation test, which traces one’s DNA journey back to it’s historical roots, i.e., Africa).

For example : The closest genetic relatives of the Irish are to be found in the north of Spain. These same ancestors are shared with the people of Britain – the English, but especially the Scots in the Kingdom of Dalriada (the Scottish Highlands). People in both islands have a strong predominance of Haplogroup 1 gene, meaning that most in the British Isles and Ireland are descended originally from Spain. Also, those in southeastern England have a large amount of Scandinavian genes due to the centuries of Danish occupation, as well as the Dane and Norwegian occupations of both Ireland and the Scottish Highlands and Isles.

So, in conclusion, the results of both are very much the same, differing only on (relatively) recent location (Ancestry) versus yesteryear’s location, that of the aggregate (MyHeritage) – and it can be deduced that, based on MyHeritage’s focus on further back origins, their analysis of my Spanish (Iberian) DNA would include my British (English and Scottish) and Irish, and my Scandinavian would also include my British (English) and Irish, and the Italy/Greece of Ancestry may well be one of those blank spot/no calls MyHeritage simply didn’t read.

Final analysis, I’m probably more Scandinavian than anything else, with somewhat less Irish and English and Scottish (Iberian roots).

So, as you can see, should you decide to delve into the world of what your DNA says about you, take any of the highly rated tests but don’t be surprised or disappointed in the results of whatever test you take if it says it’s not what you expected, some other test may say something that appears to be different and something you are happier with.

But, if you do a little research, you’ll find they all say just about the same thing, just differently, and with a little effort, you’ll find out just what you are if you really want to know.

– Bill

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Perceptions Limit Our Choices

“People see what they want to see.”

― Susan Beth Pfeffer

“Two people can see the same thing, disagree, and yet both be right [or wrong]. It’s not logical; it’s psychological.”

― Stephen R. Covey

I remember when, in a college psychology class, we were given a short personality test. Not graded, just for self-knowledge. Later, the professor used the results anonymously in the aggregate, in a lecture, to illustrate differences among a random group, such as my class of some 200 people. At the end of that class, the prof called out to me to stay behind.

He told me that, of all his classes, I was the only one who answered one question differently from every other student and he wanted to ask it again just to make sure my original response was what I really meant. The question was, “When you look at this picture (of a glass containing a liquid filled to the middle point), is the glass half full or half empty?” He asked if I remembered my response. “Yes,” I said, “I wrote down that there is no way of knowing.” “But that wasn’t one of the two choices given for an answer,” he explained. I responded,  “Either answer given could be either right or wrong. There’s insufficient information in the question to determine if the glass was in the act of being filled – and therefore half full – or in the act of being drunk – therefore half empty – assuming it was completely full to begin with. ”

“That is the correct answer,” he said and explained the reason no one else gave it was because he had limited them to only two choices for an answer and they never considered there was a third possibly, a more correct one. He said I had thought logically and most people don’t, they either preceive things based on how they’ve been conditioned to or according to their own inner needs at the moment – everyone else answered either to their conditioning that given a choice of only two possibilities, only one could be correct, or, their answer was based on whether they were or weren’t thirsty at the moment. If they were thirsty, they’d say the glass was only half full. While I remained still not knowing about how half full or half empty the glass, I remember leaving him more than half full of myself, ego-wise.

I relate all this because of the tension in the world today. US and North Korea, Palistinians and Jews, Muslim extremists and the world, and liberals and conservatives everywhere. In each instance both sides have been conditioned to believe that their way is the only way and they each have the perception that there can be no compromise, the only answer to the other is to yield or…war.

We can’t allow these situations to be based on a conditioned choice of only one or the other. There has to be a third alternative, a more logical answer to each side’s imperfect perception of the other or each’s inner needs, than going to war.

Everything in life needn’t be reduced to a pass/fail basis – nothing in life is (or should be perceived as) limited to true/false, white/black, one way or no way. There is always a third way.

I may have been smart enough that day in class to figure out what others didn’t. But not now, not today, despite my inner need for peace in the world, I can’t perceive of a way to figure out what others haven’t, what a more correct, third possibility might be to resolve the tensions.

There has to be someone out there that can.

Anyone?!

– Bill

Paint, Memories, and the Wife

“It was strange walking through the empty apartment. My battered purple room was gone, Brittany’s bruised blue was gone. Two coats covered everything. It was like none of it had ever happened.”

― Kimberly Novosel

Painting. A room. Our bedroom. We (the wife and I) have been at it for five days now and we still aren’t done yet. Well, the painting part, yes (that only took three days), it’s all the preparations before and cleanup after that adds so much more time to a painting project. And that’s not including all the time it took (on her part – eons, it seemed – but I suppose, if you’re going to have to live with it for a few years, you better make the right choice straight off) in choosing the colors. Colors, plural; it was decided one wall had to be strikingly different (a dark sea-blue), yet complimentary to the other three (a very, very light gray) and the trim yet another (stark white).

It is now the second such multi-hued room, after the kitchen (three walls medium gray, one dark gray, contrasting with black appliances and white granite counter tops).

Hummm…am I the only one seeing patterns here? Patterns, plural. Accent walls? Grays? A theme, perhaps? No, not perhaps, a definite probability. Same dark sea-blue on one wall of the living room to contrast with light sandy-brown on the others, to highlight the dark-brown wood floor, gray-blue sofas, and white and brown wood French country style side and coffee tables, and white trim; the same blue surrounding the white brick fireplace with a slightly different light-brown on the others, to contrast with the same French country style white and brown table/chairs, and blond wood flooring in the dining room? Well, that’s what is being invisioned as the next paint projects.

(I’m told that the use of one or two of the same color in all of one’s rooms ties them together, as a whole. Color coordinated. But what do I know? I’m just a man. Who, like most men, isn’t particularily fashion coordinated. I’ve been known to wear a brown belt with black shoes, or a patterned tie with a stripped shirt. Hey, at least I got dressed in something more than my boxers!)

Still, I have to admit, it does look good, and I’ll confess that my wife has a good eye for such things.

But it is strange to me, seeing new coats of color on walls that were for so very long some other, their colors then so much a part of our lives spent in those rooms. Now gone. Now, with new colors, it’s like that part of our lives never happened. Now, just memories.

But, with new paint, new memories.

Now the blues, and grays, and sandy-browns all bring to my mind, remind me, of other favorite memories, those enjoyable days past spent at the beach – the blue of the ocean, the light brown of sandy shore, the dark brown of driftwood, the gray of overcast days. Fond memories. And, as we don’t get to the beach now as often as we wish, it’s as if (with a little imagination) we are (or will be when all the rooms are painted) there in every room of our house.

And that’ll be nice. I never realized before what feelings, what memories, can be invoked by a little paint. So, whereas I wasn’t exactly wanting and excited (God, that’s a lot of work!) to do a complete paint make-over house-wide, I’m now onboard with it (so long as I have a small respite between rooms.)

Thank you, dear wife. For the memories of the good times we’ve shared in our home. And new ones to come.

-Bill

Insisting on your Rights can be Deadly

“Rights’ [and] ‘privileges,’ and if I am arrogant enough to demand the former without respecting the latter I will lose both.”

― Craig D. Lounsbrough

[This is for all you bicyclists. As you read the following, know that I was once one. One who for five years rode his bike daily to work and back during rush hours, and who had so many near misses with unattentive drivers that it forced me back to driving my car and just riding my bike in suburban or trail areas for exercise. So I am no stranger to bike/car issues.]

I’ve had a spirited and engaging exchange with one of my nephews about bicycles, specifically in how they ride in lanes of traffic with autos. The genesis of the discussion began with a photo on Facebook that he posted and commented on –  it showed a painted bike lane on a road with the symbol for a bicycle painted sideways, perpendicular to the lane, instead of in the direction of the lane, making it look as if the bike should cross the bike lane into the lane for auto traffic – and to which I commented back with – I admit – a snarky remark about the photo being a commentary on either the lack of attention by the public works crew or the fact that it accurately portrayed bicyclists – especially when there are several together. I noted about how often they ride side-by-side, two and three across, or pass each other outside the bike lane and into traffic, or ride in packs (in or practicing for a race, specially on mountainous roads with blind curves), taking up most or all of a lane and put themselves in harms way with cars.

The repartee included: (He) bikes have every right to occupy a traffic lane, auto drivers need to recognize that and be attentive; (I) bikers need to recognize that drivers are looking for other cars and not bikers, bikers need to not expect anything more and need to stay in their (bike) lane (or farthest to the right), single file, for their own safety; (He) reiterating that bikers have a right to traffic lanes, even if auto drivers don’t like it. (I, finally saying), “…most bicyclists exercize awareness and demonsrtate it by how they ride [with] great caution…[but many] seem to have the attitude that cars need to defer to their right to be on the road…[and] while they have the legal right…their’s isn’t the only right…on the road, and it isn’t smart to insist on a right just because it is a right. One can be right…and still be wrong. Deadly wrong.”

I received no resonse to my final comment. Either I’d persuaded him to my argument, or he’d decided it wasn’t worth pursuing, he’d given up on me. I imagine the later.

It was only after I saw the above quote, and I wish I’d seen it before so I could’ve expanded upon it:

Under the law, there are both rights and privileges. Rights cannot be denied (there are exceptions), but privileges can be (without exception). Legally (in every state that I’m aware of) it is a privilege – and not a right – to operate a vehicle (which includes bicycles) on the public roads. As with any privilege, to keep whatever rights that may accompany it, one mustn’t abuse it, to keep from losing it.

And, as with all privileges, to insist your privilege has equal “rights” with another’s, the result might be you “lose” , something you hadn’t reckoned on, if they have more weight on their side. 

Like a two ton car versus a thirty pound bicycle.

But I’ll concede my nephew’s point, drivers should be more observant and tolerant of bikes.

If he’ll concede mine that bikers should be less expectant and demanding of cars.

– Bill

What is an “Us”?

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

― Thomas Merton

What an “us” is, is a matter of what each of the “us” thinks an “us” means. To me, it begins with an understanding of friendship.

To me, friendship is when two people find they have some things in common that both like about each other and want to share together. It also means that both realize that they are not always going to be in agreement over other things and there are things about the other that each doesn’t much like and wishes it were different…but…because what they have in common is more important, both are willing to overlook and ignore the little things that each doesn’t understand or care for about the other. Both know that there is no one who is perfect, everyone has faults and weaknesses, so what good does it do to point them out? Why would one want to try and re-make the other into someone different from what made them the person that one first liked enough to want to be friends with, to be with, to be an “us”?

An “us” is both a daily enjoyment of just being together, sharing what’s enjoyed in common when those things happen and what’s going on in each other’s lives otherwise…and…a daily compromise in living with the differences, trying to find a middle ground both can live with, never insisting the other has to give in or change (a win-win and not a win-loose)…and…a daily forgiving of the other when the other unintentionally fails to meet expectations (and asking the other’s forgiveness for even making expectations of them that they can’t meet because it’s not who or what they are)…and being there for a hug in caring and as a shoulder to cry on for the other when they need it.

To me, an “us” is – bottom line – a friendship that is acceptance for the other person for just who and what they are, without condemnation for who or what they aren’t. 

And when that truly happens, that’s called love. And love is a commitment to each other that, in spite of differences in who they are, how they might think or act on occassion that we dislike, we are still wanting them as that other part of “us”.

Where the “us” goes wrong and gets bad is when either one of the “us” starts thinking, expecting, demanding that the other should think and act exactly the same as we do.

And, if one believes in God, where is He in all of this? If each in an “us” truly believes that He brought them together to make an “us”, then what recourse do either have, except to love one another, to accept each other as they are, both what’s good and bad – just as He loves each of us and accepts us for who and what we are?

Do we need to thank Him daily for what He’s done, putting “us” together? Yes. Do we need to ask Him daily for strength to overcome our failures to each other – and to forgive as He forgives us for ours towards Him? Yes.

Maybe that needs to be done together.

Then both know they are thankful God made “us”.

– Bill

A.I. and Gaydar

“I can tell my kind of people by their faces, by something in their faces.”

― Ayn Rand

I have no idea who Ms. Rand meant as “her kind” of people, or what the “something” was about them she could recognize facially. But we all look at other’s faces, trying to decipher some clue about the person, especially when we don’t know them. We look for and try to interpret every wrinkle (are those smile or frown lines?), lips (are they relaxed or pursed in frustration or anger?), eyes (are they wide-open in surprise, half-closed in contentment or squinting in wariness?) But such things (except, perhaps, the wrinkles) are situational and subjective and easily misinterpreted. Based on my own experiences over the last 70 years, I know I’ve more often than not been mistaken. Maybe I’m not very good as a judge of the inner goings-on by merely observing the outer person.

I suppose the most clichéd recognition example might be what’s called “gaydar”, the “radar” that gays supposedly have, that, when seeing someone new and unknown, allows them to recognize their “kind of people”. True or not, I wouldn’t know. I certainly don’t have it. But I’m not gay, so why would I? I’ve always assumed that such “recognition” was a sum of factors physical (mannerisms, dress, speech, etc.) But now, apparently I could know – if I cared – by taking a person’s picture and scanning it through a computer program employing Artifical Intelligence, “A.I.”, containing algorithms that – apparently – can say if someone is gay or not, based solely on their face. Now, that may sound like a boon to those gaydar-deficient gays who too often mistakenly come on to straights, much to each other’s dismay and  the sometimes subsequent ugly responses. 

But, it has ramifications well beyond that. You may want to read about it at:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/08/ai-gay-gaydar-algorithm-facial-recognition-criticism-stanford

The Cliff Notes version: “A Stanford University study demonstrated that [an] AI algorithm could correctly distinguish between gay and straight men 81% of the time and 74% for women, suggesting machines can potentially have much better ‘gaydar’ than humans… [However the] Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Glaad, two of the most prominent LGBTQ organizations in the US, slammed the study…that could be used to out gay people across the globe and put them at risk… Michal Kosinski, co-author of the study and an assistant professor at Stanford, argu[ed] that the machine-learning technology already exists and that a driving force behind the study was to expose potentially dangerous applications of AI and push for privacy safeguards and regulations… [And, also that] the findings support LGBT rights by providing further evidence that sexual orientation has biological routes and that being gay is not a choice…’It’s a great argument against all of those religious groups and other demagogues who say, “Why don’t you just change or just conform?” You can’t stop, because you’re born this way,’ he said.”

Okay. It might identify who is and who isn’t gay. We therefore need privacy safeguards and regulations to prohibit “outing”, as one’s sex life is nobody’s business. And a unintended benefit to gays is it offers possible further evidence to the growing body of scientific studies that demonstrate that homosexuality is not an optional mental choice as much as it is a biological hardwire for some.

But, unmentioned in all this is, what of the straights or gays that the AI program can’t identify? Or, more importantly, mis-identifies? Would they have some inner angsty existential self-identity crisis – “Could I be (Not be)?”, “I Am?”, “I’m Not?” And how would that play out among family and friends who thought they knew them (surprize !)?

Maybe they’ll even offer a downloadable Iphone or Android mobile phone camera app for the nosey curious. If there’s money to be made, you can bet on it.

“A.I. might be straight out of science fiction, but it’s going to turn into man’s worst nightmare.” (Anthony T. Hincks.)

I couldn’t agree more.

– Bill

Feeling Undeservingly, Uncommonly Special

“I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough.”

― Nicholas Sparks

I am a nobody by society’s standards, nothing special. 

Whatever good that has happened to me has been largely serendipitous, just as whatever bad has happened has largely been by accident. By just about every standard, I am quite the average common man and when I pass out of this life, the world will not erect any monument, no statue, no public recognition that I ever existed, and my name will be forgotten (if it was ever known).

That I may be a somebody to some – my parents, wife, sons, daughter’s-in-law, grandchildren, sisters – has been my only hope, my only conscious desire, that in their lives I might be more than common, special in some small part (and, hopefully in memory, when I’m gone.)

But there is one thing that makes my life uncommon, special, a very uncommon woman, uncommon in so many ways – selfless and giving, nurturing and helping others where she sees their need, seeing the good in everyone and everything, and overlooking and forgiving of others when they stumble. 

An uncommon woman, my wife.

Tomorrow will be Saturday, September the 9th. And as I never post on Saturdays, and as this will be my last posting until then, I’ll take the time now to say that it will be the 44th anniversary of the day she said, “Yes,” to my proposal of marriage, and to tell the world…

She has always been more, as a wife, lover, and companion than I could have ever expected or hoped for. I can only thank her for giving this undeserving, common man her love above all, which has made me feel uncommonly special. For me, that is enough, I need nothing else in this life. For that, I love her with all my heart and soul.

– Bill