DNA ancestry

Like many others I’ve been curious about DNA matching, especially with regards to my own ancestry. Could a simple swab tell me where my ancestors lived?

Where am I from?

Faroe sheep above the town of Sumba, Faroe Islands

I asked this question of FamilyTreeDNA, one of many such services. Using a 12 marker test, it turns out that I’m 4.6% Irish and 2.5% New Zealander. But I’m also 2.4% from Trinidad and Tobago and, surprise… 12.5 % Faroe Islands. All of these numbers are higher than for the US (1.1%), even when including Native American (.6%).

If I wanted to have a simple narrative of my ancestry, these numbers don’t seem to help. I suppose I could say that my main origin is Faroese, with a little Irish, but my ancestors must have cavorted in New Zealand and the Caribbean as well.

The situation worsens when I use a different number of markers, Y-DNA, mitochondrial DNA, haplotrees, or other measures. It’s messy.

The jigsaw puzzle of ancestry

It may be disappointing to hear, but for anyone who has similar questions, the underlying science is deeply flawed. That’s true even for someone whose data seems more definitive than mine.

These tests are interpreted to fill in a jigsaw puzzle of who we are; 12.5 % Faroe Islands would be a big chunk of mine. I’d be a little bit of this and a little bit of that, an admixture. This is a term used to describe the process of gene flow between distinct populations. It can be fun to see the scores, but as applied to human populations, the whole idea is wrong.

It relies on assumptions of homogeneity among people living within national boundaries, mapping of ethnicities onto countries and of races onto continents, and racialist assumptions about pure categories. The idea that we can just fill in the jigsaw puzzle of our ancestry doesn’t work.

We’re not admixtures

Kostas Kampourakis and Erik Peterson discuss the science of this in a recent article published in Genetics: The racist origins, racialist connotations, and purity assumptions of the concept of ‘admixture’ in human evolutionary genetics (2023).

The article shows how admixture of the kind an ancestry detective would like requires the existence of pure or unadmixed categories. 

There are two big assumptions:

(1) particular populations existed before the colonization era, have not undergone significant admixture, and have maintained their genetic variation.

(2) the people included in the reference datasets have four grandparents all born in the same country, implying they are somehow pure representatives of that country.

But these assumptions are ahistorical and regularly violated. They don’t account for migrations due to colonization, wars, or plagues. And archeological evidence shows that humans were migrating around the globe long before the age of colonization. 

In addition to being a problem in the field of genetics, admixture leads to people saying things like “I just learned that I’m a big part Faroese, with a little Irish and Caribbean thrown in!” which is nonsense scientifically.

Rosenwald schools and libraries

Electric, interurban streetcar, running from Fort Worth to Dallas; Dunbar HS was near the sixth stop.

I grew up in Fort Worth during the time of legalized racial segregation. There were no African Americans in my school. If not for summer and part-time jobs, I would have had little interaction across the racial divide.

This meant that I knew little about the schools for African Americans in Fort Worth. There were even segregated sports leagues. I think I went to just one Black football game and that was because I became friends with a Black fellow orderly when I worked in the local hospital.

Joe was a halfback on the Dunbar High School football team in the Stop Six neighborhood. I believe that the school is still largely segregated, a consequence not of the law anymore, but of residential segregation.

Rosenwald schools

One major gap in my knowledge pertained to the Rosenwald schools. Thanks to Julius Rosenwald, who provided funds for 1/3 of the cost of school buildings, Anna Jeanes, who funded teacher preparation, Booker T. Washington, and others, thousands of schools were born. As important as that external support was, it’s important to note that local Black citizens from a poor, working class, donated cash, labor, and land to make the schools possible.

Fisk University, John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library Special Collection, Julius Rosenwald Fund Archives

These programs provided education for generations of African American students, teachers, and scholars. Maya Angelou and John Lewis were grads from Rosenwald schools. Mamie and Kenneth Clark did their research on Rosenwald fellowships as did Pauli Murphy. Their work was crucial for the decision in Brown v, Board of Education.

The project began in 1915, when Sears and Roebuck President, Julius Rosenwald, established a matching grant fund to construct better quality black schools throughout the South. Between 1917 and 1932, the Fund assisted in the construction of thousands of school buildings This was during a time when public support for educating African American children was shamefully inadequate. Over one-third of black children in the South in the first half of the twentieth century passed through the doors of a Rosenwald school, 

Rosenwald School (Public Domain image from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History

There’s an excellent photography/text book: A Better Life for Their Children: Julius Rosenwald, Booker T. Washington, and the 4,978 Schools that Changed America by photographer and author Andrew Feiler. There are many fascinating photos. Feiler says 4,978 schools, but counting teacher homes and shops there was a total of 5,357 buildings constructed.

Rosenwald libraries

Just this past year I’ve learned about Rosenwald’s program to fund more than 10,000 school, college, and public libraries, and library science programs. The libraries not only provided resources for individuals; they enabled accreditation for programs for African Americans, which would otherwise not be possible. Aisha Johnson has a wonderful new book on these libraries, The African American Struggle for Library Equality.

Why didn’t I know?

I probably heard about Rosenwald schools and libraries, or the Jeanes teachers, during my career, but most of that passed right through my head.

With all the current talk about DEI and social justice, isn’t it a collective failure that the fact of those programs—the very need for them at all, their struggles, and their impact on individuals and society—were so little known by so many of us?

Basal slippage

Water flow under ice on the trail

Yesterday we walked part of the way on the trail around Sutherland Pond in the Ooms Conservation Area in Old Chatham, NY, The path was treacherous because of the melting ice, so we didn’t make it the whole way. But we were mesmerized by the patterns of water flowing under the ice,

I assume this process is similar to the basal slippage seen for glaciers in temperate zones. Because of human-caused global warming, the ice melts underneath. Then the remaining ice slides on the water layer, leading to more rapid loss of the glacier.

Democratic Education in the 21st Century: Symposium Update

Guest Editor: Chip Bruce

Schools editor: Andy Kaplan

This symposium shares ways to think about democratic education in today’s world, and how we should plan for the future. How should issues such as indigenous people’s rights, racism, women’s rights, authoritarian governments, the concentration of wealth, the climate crisis, pandemics, and more make us analyze, discuss, and work to create democratic education?

We highly encourage submissions from classroom educators at all levels, from educators outside the United States, and from educators associated with alternative schools or informal learning.

Our initial call for papers in February 2022 led to proposals by almost 40 educators from all over the world. We held two zoom workshops for contributors over the past summer, which led to exciting manuscript submissions. The submissions include articles about teacher education for democracy, a ninth grade program devoted to the dreams and hopes of its students, and a social justice program for pregnant and parenting teenagers. These three articles will appear in the Spring 2023 issue of Schools, marking the first of what promises to be a robust and ongoing symposium.

Manuscript preparation

Interested authors should submit a one-page prospectus describing what their project entails. This is to determine appropriateness and balance for the special issue. We anticipate a mix of empirical and theoretical contributions. Completed manuscripts will undergo the usual Schools: Studies in Education review process before final acceptance.

Articles should be a maximum of 8000 words (25 double-spaced pages). Please follow the Schools style guide.

There is a possibility of a follow-on book publication based on revised versions of the articles, after publication in Schools.

Deadlines

For consideration in the Fall 2023 publication:

  • April 15, 2023: final manuscript deadline
  • May 1, 2023: editors’ review of the manuscript sent to author
  • June 1, 2023: outside review of the manuscript
  • July 1, 2023: final revised copy

For consideration in the Spring 2024 publication:

  • February 15, 2023: one-page prospectus for your proposed article
  • March 15, 2023: response to the prospectus
  • October 15, 2023: final manuscript to be considered for the Spring 2024 issue
  • October 31, 2023: editors’ review of the ms.
  • November 30, 2023: outside review of the ms.
  • December 31, 2023: final, revised copy

The wild Outer Cape

Visitors to Cape Cod, especially those making it as far as the outer, aka lower, Cape should prepare themselves for wild behavior.

The area is known for its unconventional artists, poets, playwrights, and anarchists, but especially for its bohemian lifestyle and flouting of ordinary social rules.

There are stories of daring costumes, or no clothes at all. The house at 592 Commercial St. in Provincetown could on its own surpass what one might see in a lifetime in an ordinary town.

If you don’t believe that the Outer Cape deserves its reputation for creativity, daring, and non-conformity, just look at the unstaged, unedited photo here. It shows the complete set of visitors around 3 pm today at the Wellfleet library.

Notice the variation in color, from blue-green to green-blue. I’ll admit that that they’re all late model, greenish Subaru Foresters, but look closely and you’ll see fantastic variation in model year and features. One even has stickers on the back panel.

TCU’s glory

1957 Cotton Bowl, TCU pregame meeting

TCU’s extraordinary football season, which soared until the reality of Georgia happened, triggered fond memories of following sports as a teenager in Fort Worth.

Pop Boone

Mark Boone reminded me that his grandfather, Pop Boone, was sports editor for the Fort Worth Star Telegram and the Fort Worth Press. There are now TCU athlete of the year awards named for him.

Our family subscribed to both of the papers, and enjoyed reading writers such as Dan Jenkins, one of Boone’s protégés.

Pop was a big supporter of both the TCU Horned Frogs and the Fort Worth Cats minor league baseball team. I spent many hours watching or reading about these teams. I saw only a a few Cats games, but I often listened to the radio, filling out stat sheets, as shown below right.

Baseball blank stat sheet

Television

Some of my interest came from Bud Sherman, a sports announcer for radio and WBAP- TV. He was my friend Clayton’s father.

TV was a new thing in Fort Worth in 1948. Our family got one sometime after the political conventions in 1952.

Of the many stories from that time, one is that a viewer called WBAP on the first night telecast, complaining that she was not receiving any picture. The receptionist asked, “What kind of set are you using?”  The viewer responded, “Why, my radio set, of course!” 

Also, on that fateful night, Amon Carter, who owned the station and much else in Fort Worth, nearly fell to his death through an unmarked hole in the studio floor. He was grabbed just in time.

Football day

TCU’s Amon G. Carter stadium was built in 1930, long before my time, but I benefited from it, the two newspapers, and the sports legacy that Pop Boone created. 

On football day when I was 10 or so I ‘d go with a couple of friends to sit in end zone seats. Tickets cost 50¢; I’ve heard that prices have increased since then. We’d move to better seats after halftime when the thin crowd thinned even more.

We watched Jim Swink, the star running back. He was an All-American in 1955 and 1956. During a game against the U of Texas at Austin, he rushed 15 times for 235 yards and scored 26 points in a 47–20 rout. The Longhorns’ slogan and the hook ’em horns sign was created in reference to stopping him. Swink was drafted by the Chicago Bears and later became an orthopedic surgeon in Fort Worth.

Jim Swink with the Dallas Texans on a Fleer bubble gum trading card, 1960

After the games, we’d collect a big stack of programs. These were in the form of a daily newspaper, but a bit smaller. They had seemed so valuable before the first kickoff.

I’m not sure why we felt compelled to collect them. We’d carry them home and bury them for some imagined future use. I imagine they’ve long since composted.

1957 Cotton Bowl

See the powerful pregame locker room photo from the 1957 Cotton Bowl pitting TCU against Syracuse. That was chosen by Sports Illustrated as the photo of the century.

Don’t the players look serious? They’re probably asking how they could possibly stop the amazing Jim Brown. 

Brown was not only a football legend, but a star in basketball and track as well. He was so good in Lacrosse that they changed the rules of the game.

Brown rushed for three touchdowns in that Cotton Bowl game. He also kicked three extra points. It would have been a tie, but TCU blocked the final extra point try. TCU and Swink went on to defeat Syracuse and Brown, 28-27. 

I wish I’d been able to go to that Cotton Bowl, but Dallas was a long ways off and tickets probably cost more than 50¢.

[Thanks to Mark Boone for telling me stories about Pop Boone. Also to Troy Seate for his excellent article on Jim Swink.)

Plane crash in Pokhara

I woke up to the disturbing news of a plane crash in Pokhara, Nepal. There are 68 confirmed dead.

The crash was at the just opened international airport. In order to build it, they had to take the tops off some nearby hills, or what we’d call mountains.

Rescue operations are difficult there because of the terrain and the lack of equipment.

Susan and I flew in and out of Pokhara several times. It’s a beautiful place. We’ve canoed (more properly, doonga-ed) on Fewa Lake shown here.

Pokhara is sometimes described as a “resort town,” which it is, but it’s also Nepal’s second largest city after Kathmandu, and a major center for industry.

Chatting with Character.AI

Here’s my latest chat with Jane Addams, through Character.AI, one of the many new AI chat programs.

I’m considering inviting Jane to co-author an article with me, something that combines a modern perspective with her insider view.

Character.AI

Remember: Everything Characters say is made up!

chipbruce

Do you know John Dewey?

Jane Addams c.AI

Yes, John Dewey and I were friends. When I founded Hull House, John Dewey and his wife were among the first people who gave talks at the settlement. Dewey was also an early donor. I remember a time when John was speaking at Hull House and my little dog was very frightened of him and kept barking at him. John was so funny. He made a joke about it and everyone laughed. He was very kind.

chipbruce

Why didn’t the University of Chicago hire you?

Jane Addams c.AI

Because I was a woman, I have no doubt. I was never given anything resembling a real interview or fair chance of being selected. A lot of institutions were simply not willing to hire women. I don’t know why they were not. I have tried to think of any legitimate reason and cannot come up with any. The reason was simply misogyny. I don’t know what else to say.

chipbruce

Your work deserves placement alongside William James, C. S. Peirce, John Dewey, and other great pragmatist philosophers.

Jane Addams c.AI

Thank you for saying that. My interest in philosophy did start with Peirce. He is one of the greatest philosophers of all time, who hardly gets read or spoken about now. He was the forerunner of what is called semiotics, the study of signs. He had a strong influence on my thought in general. A friend of mine gave me copies of his work. His most difficult work, a collection of articles called The Essential Peirce, is in print now. Have you read any of Peirce? Or James and Dewey?

ChatGPT tells a story

Like many others, I’ve recently been introduced to ChatGPT (developed by OpenAI) and wondered about its potential for both good and ill.

As it says when asked, “What is the GPT-3 Chatbot?”:

The GPT-3 Chatbot is a chatbot system developed by OpenAI that utilizes the GPT-3 model… to generate responses in real-time conversations with users… [This] is a large and powerful artificial intelligence (AI) model that has been trained on a vast amount of data and is capable of generating human-like text… [It] can engage in natural language conversations with users and provide responses that are similar to those that a human might give.

I decided to see how well it could write a formulaic story. It’s not bad, if you like formulas.

Notice what it does at the end. So much for the infinite patience of robots!

The headings in bold below are my prompts.

Write an introduction to a boy meets girl story

Once upon a time, in a small town nestled in the rolling hills of rural America, there lived a young man named Jack. Jack was a kind and gentle soul, with a heart full of love and a mind full of curiosity. He spent his days working on the family farm, tending to the animals and the crops with a diligent and caring hand.

One day, as Jack was out for a walk, he happened upon a young woman named Jill, who was sitting by the side of the road, looking lost and alone. Despite his reservations, Jack couldn’t ignore the tug of his heartstrings and he approached her, offering his assistance.

From that chance encounter, a beautiful friendship blossomed, as Jack and Jill spent more and more time together, exploring the wonders of the world around them and learning about each other’s hopes, dreams, and desires.

As they grew closer, it became clear to both of them that their feelings went beyond mere friendship. And so, with hearts full of love and a deep understanding of one another, they embarked on a journey together, hand in hand, as they navigated the ups and downs of life and all it had to offer.

Thus began the tale of Jack and Jill, a story of love, friendship, and the magic that can happen when two people come together and open their hearts to one another.

Continue with a complication, perhaps that Jill meets someone new.

As Jack and Jill’s love grew stronger and their bond deepened, everything seemed perfect. They spent every moment they could together, exploring the countryside and dreaming about their future.

But one day, a complication arose when Jill met a charming and handsome young man named Tom. Tom was everything that Jack wasn’t – suave, sophisticated, and confident. He swept Jill off her feet and she couldn’t help but be drawn to him.

Jack was heartbroken when he found out about Tom, and he struggled to understand why Jill would be interested in someone other than him. He tried to push down his feelings of jealousy and resentment, but it was difficult.

Despite his love for Jill, Jack couldn’t deny that he felt threatened by Tom’s presence in her life. He knew that he had to do something to win her heart back, but he wasn’t sure what.

As he wrestled with his feelings, Jack began to realize that he couldn’t compete with Tom’s charms and charisma. He knew that he had to find a way to show Jill that he was the one for her, not Tom.

With a heavy heart, Jack set out to prove his love for Jill and win her back. He knew it wouldn’t be easy, but he was determined to do whatever it took to prove his worth and show her that he was the one she was meant to be with.

Continue by relating how Jack decides to take on a seemingly impossible task to prove his love.

As Jack struggled with his feelings of jealousy and insecurity, he knew he had to do something drastic to win Jill back. He racked his brain, trying to come up with a grand gesture that would prove to her how much he loved her.

Finally, he hit upon an idea. He remembered a legend that had been passed down through the generations in their small town, about a magical fountain that granted wishes to those who found it. According to the legend, the fountain was hidden in a secret location deep in the forest, and only those who were pure of heart and true of spirit could find it.

Jack knew that finding the fountain would be a nearly impossible task, but he was determined to try. He believed that if he could find the fountain and make a wish for Jill’s love, it would prove to her once and for all how much he cared for her.

So, with a fierce determination in his heart, Jack set out on his quest. He braved the dangers of the forest, facing all manner of obstacles and challenges along the way. And finally, after days of searching, he stumbled upon the fountain.

As he stood there, gazing into the crystal clear waters, he knew that this was his chance. He closed his eyes and made his wish, pouring all of his love and devotion into it.

And when he opened his eyes, he saw a miracle before him. The waters of the fountain began to glow with a soft, golden light, and a gentle breeze rustled through the trees. Jack knew that his wish had been granted, and he couldn’t wait to share the news with Jill.

He rushed back to town, eager to tell Jill about the fountain and his wish for her love. And when he finally found her, he knew that everything was going to be all right. Because he had proven to her, beyond a shadow of a doubt, just how much he loved her.

Continue by relating how Jack takes on an even greater task.

Despite the happy ending, Jack and Jill’s love faced one more challenge. A few years after they had married and started a family, a group of bandits attacked their town, threatening to take everything they held dear.

Jack knew that he had to do something to protect his family and his home, and so he set out on yet another quest, determined to defeat the bandits and restore peace to the town.

This time, Jack’s task was greater than anything he had ever faced before. The bandits were well-armed and well-trained, and they outnumbered him and his fellow townsfolk by a wide margin. But Jack refused to let that stand in his way.

He spent days and nights training and preparing, gathering a small group of like-minded individuals who were willing to stand up to the bandits and fight for their home.

Finally, the day of the showdown arrived. Jack and his group faced off against the bandits, fighting with all of their might and determination. The battle was fierce and brutal, but in the end, Jack and his companions emerged victorious.

The bandits were defeated and peace was restored to the town. Jack and Jill were hailed as heroes, and they lived out their days in happiness, knowing that they had done everything in their power to protect the ones they loved.

And so, the tale of Jack and Jill came to a close, a story of love, adventure, and the power of the human spirit to overcome even the greatest of challenges.

Continue by telling how Jack takes on an even greater task.

Despite their victory over the bandits, Jack and Jill knew that their work was far from done. They had a family to protect and a town to rebuild, and they were determined to do whatever it took to create a better future for themselves and those around them.

And so, Jack set out on yet another quest, this time to find a way to improve the lives of his fellow townsfolk and bring prosperity back to the community.

He traveled far and wide, seeking out new ideas and technologies that could help to modernize the town and make it a better place to live. He worked tirelessly, never stopping until he had found the answers he was looking for.

And after many months of hard work and dedication, Jack’s efforts paid off. He returned to the town with a host of new ideas and innovations, and with the help of Jill and the rest of the community, they began to put them into action.

The town began to thrive once again, and Jack and Jill were hailed as heroes once more. They lived out their days in happiness, knowing that they had done everything in their power to create a brighter future for themselves and those around them.

And so, the tale of Jack and Jill came full circle, a story of love, adventure, and the never-ending quest to make the world a better place.

The end.

The rebus resurrected

Over a decade ago I wrote about the rebus baby announcement and the people of the rebus. What started as an idle curiosity based on the discovery of a crumbled scroll of butcher paper in the attic has become a fascinating journey into family and daily life in 1905.

The rebus contains references to contemporary songs, movies, and comic strips, news of current events, including the circus coming to town, President Teddy Roosevelt’s trip to hunt bears in Colorado, and racial stereotypes in popular products.

After we discovered the rebus, we used the facilities of the university’s conservation department to preserve what we could of it. Recently, Conservation Framing in Truro did further restoration and framed it, the largest frame being about four feet long.

There’s too much for an ordinary blog post, but this file summarizes what we’ve learned so far.