Results of our DNA testing

For a long time we have wanted to do one of the 23andme DNA tests for ancestry.  Over the summer we ordered three of the kits (we couldn’t have Jordan do one because he wasn’t with us).  The kits cost us about $100 each.  [But there is a sale right now — buy one, get one free!  Just follow this link.]  The box came in a few days and we spit some saliva into the tubes and mailed them off.

Around a month later we all had our results and there were some surprises.

First, mine showed an even more European heritage than I was expecting.  I knew that as far back as I could go that everyone seemed to be from England, Germany, the Netherlands… but here are my results.

94% of my heritage is from NW Europe — currently Britain, Ireland, Germany and Scandinavia and 61% is from Britain and Ireland.  I’m about as white as you get.  This may account for some of my genetic superpowers contributing to my hangover resistance, but counter to my ability to tan easily.

We had Jacob’s test done because it seems like whenever we travel he ends up looking like a local.  In Nepal last week and older woman kept telling me he was Nepali.  In Thailand we had a driver swear that Jacob had Thai ancestry.  We suspected he could have Mongolian or another Chinese ethnic minority like Tibetan ancestry.  But his results just give us more uncertainty.

His DNA is 85% Chinese  …and 8% Korean.  The results also show that he has 2% southern European DNA.  I think that is probably a Silk Road influence.  His results are shared via the DNA relatives tool through 23andme and there are already 18 people connected that are 3rd or 4th cousins.  It is just a matter of time before some closer relatives take a test and we can find out more about where he is from originally.

Ganesh immersion in Chennai

Today was the culmination of Ganesh Chaturthi (I believe yesterday was the end of the Muslim celebration of Bakra Eid and tomorrow is the height of Kerala’s Thiru Onam — India has no shortage of festivals) and that meant immersion of the Ganesh figures in the ocean.  Jacob and I didn’t spend much time there but I captured this…


 

The unanticipated expense of nesting

We moved.  Not far, just a few blocks away from the home we had for our first four years in India.  Things have been a little disruptive as a result.  

Before departing for the summer we packed most of our things.  We knew we would return and need to move immediately.  When we landed in Chennai we went straight to our new home.  Not everything had been moved many things had. We just had to find our bed sheets and get some rest. The next couple of days we spent unpacking, moving furniture, and getting settled.

This place has a big lawn so we now own a lawn mower and string trimmer which we didn’t plan on buying.  I would like to limit the number of continents that I own a lawnmower on to two.  

Sexism in the waiting room

Our boys had to get physicals done for school so we went to a nearby clinic.  We didn’t have their blood type information so that test became part of our scavenger-hunt-like wander through the hospital.  Jordan, who has a fear of needles, decided he wanted to go first and get it over with.  Pepper rubbed his back and shoulders as he had his head down and didn’t watch.  An older man in the wakting area (seated just two feet behind Jordan) noted Jordan’s fear and told him “boys don’t cry” and to “be a man” because he was a man and never cried.   

It took me no time at all to be shouting at him that men and boys do cry.  That I cry.  He flexed his bicep and held it up pointing to it saying he was a man.  Pepper was telling me to stop.  I visualized making the man cry which in my mind was quickly followed by my arrest.  I backed down.  I know I can not change him.  But I do not need either of my boys believing that they should not cry or that such gender stereotypes should be tolerated.  

Cyclone Vardah – our experience in Chennai in December 2016

For the second December in a row, Chennai had disaster strike in the form of a natural calamity.

For a week I watched this low pressure system build up over the Bay of Bengal using this wind visualization tool (use your mouse to move around and scroll in and out) and this cyclone and hurricane mapping site.  It ended up ramming right into Chennai.  Our home was just south of the center so the winds were actually coming from inland and heading to the sea, which I had never considered a possibility.

The cyclone rolled into Chennai on Monday the 12th.  School was closed by mid-day, but we were not able to leave until the Head of School because our car was being repaired and we were getting a ride with them.  Fortunately a neighbor took Jordan and Jacob home before we were able to leave.  We were without power before we arrived home and water on the roof had pooled and was coming in under the door.  I’ll let my video tell the story…

More cost comparisons for Chennai

Here is a collection of some recent expenses compared to some regular US prices.  I posted some a few weeks ago and continue to be curious about what things would cost in the US.

So… we should definitely stop buying Lego at the store in the mall.  And no more beer.  But the savings on our beef prices more than make up for the bacon expense, so we can keep doing that.

The comparative savings on fruit and vegetables here is incredible, especially compared to what I’m used to paying in Alaska or what we were willing to pay in Mongolia.

We splurged on a Blendtec blender

Almost every weekday for almost six years straight, Pepper has made smoothies for breakfast.  Summertime and vacations we usually take off from that routine, but it still probably comes to well over 1,000 uses of a blender.  With no sign of that changing, we decided a long time ago that we needed a blender that made the task even better.

The problem is that finding a high quality blender was difficult because we needed one that runs on 220 volts.  I finally found a commercial restaurant supply company that imports from the UK and bought the Blendtec EZ600.  We’ve used it for a week now and are really happy!

Things that frustrated us about our other blender (a Panasonic):

  • Cleaning the jar required disassembling.  Then when reassembled sometimes it would leak.
  • That leak poured over the base which had a number of spots where milk and yogurt settled and festered.
  • Cleaning the blades was a little dangerous.  (The Blendtec has blunt blades.)
  • It had a short cord which frequently came unplugged.
  • The jar cracked.  It didn’t leak, but like having a functional phone with a cracked screen, it is annoying.

Things we didn’t know we would like so much about the Blendtec commercial blender:

  • One button operation.  Pepper puts in the ingredients, presses a button and walks away.  It stops automatically.
  • Power.  Oh gosh, what power.  If you’re not familiar with their YouTube channel where they put things like iPhones in the blender then check out how it pulverizes things.

If you’re looking for a place to buy a Blendtec blender in India, I suggest Kiwi Bar.

Music of 2016

Here are the songs that I used to get me through long nights of work, the commute to the school and the occasional workout.  See my 2015 list here.

There are ancient tracks (from 2011) that I did not know from Rusko called Everyday. and plenty of more modern tracks.

But there were two artists that made my 2016.

Just a few more one-off (so far) artists.

 

The US National Parks I have been to

With my other measures of my travel (countries and UNESCO World Heritage sites) I realized that even though I have been to almost all the US states (I think North Dakota and Hawaii are the only ones I have never been in) there are other great measures of my travel — US National Parks.  So here is a list of all the parks along with when I was there (many are estimates).

  • Acadia, Maine
  • American Samoa
  • Arches, Utah in 1988
  • Badlands, South Dakota in 1996
  • Big Bend, Texas
  • Biscayne, Florida
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado
  • Bryce Canyon, Utah in 1988
  • Canyonlands, Utah in 1999
  • Capitol Reef, Utah
  • Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
  • Channel Islands, California
  • Congaree, South Carolina
  • Crater Lake, Oregon
  • Cuyahoga Valley, Ohio
  • Death Valley, California/Nevada
  • Denali, Alaska in 1994, 2015
  • Dry Tortugas, Florida
  • Everglades, Florida
  • Gates of the Arctic, Alaska
  • Glacier, Montana in 1996
  • Glacier Bay, Alaska
  • Grand Canyon, Arizona in 1988, 1998, 2008
  • Grand Teton, Wyoming in 1988, 1998, 2016
  • Great Basin, Nevada
  • Great Sand Dunes, Colorado
  • Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, North Carolina
  • Guadalupe Mountains, Texas
  • Haleakalā, Hawaii
  • Hawaii Volcanoes, Hawaii
  • Hot Springs, Arkansas
  • Isle Royale, Michigan
  • Joshua Tree, California in 2004, 2011
  • Katmai, Alaska
  • Kenai Fjords, Alaska in 1994
  • Kings Canyon, California
  • Kobuk Valley, Alaska
  • Lake Clark, Alaska
  • Lassen Volcanic, California
  • Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
  • Mesa Verde, Colorado
  • Mount Ranier, Washington in 1994, 2017
  • North Cascades, Washington in 2017
  • Olympic, Washington in 2017
  • Petrified Forest, Arizona 1988
  • Pinnacles, California
  • Redwood, California in 1998
  • Rocky Mountain, Colorado in 2006
  • Saguaro, Arizona
  • Sequoia, California
  • Shenandoah, Virginia
  • Theodore Roosevelt, North Dakota
  • Virgin Islands
  • Yoyageurs, Minnesota
  • Wind Cave, South Dakota
  • Wrangell-St. Elias, Alaska in 1994
  • Yellowstone, Wyoming, in 1988, 1998, 2017
  • Yosemite, California
  • Zion, Utah in 1988

That’s 17 out of the 62, just over a quarter of the nation’s National Parks.  New goal: add at least one new park each summer we’re back.  Looks like Florida and California should be in our plans!

Ryan McFarland's travel, thoughts, projects and more.