16 January 2017

27 December 2016

Rogue One nitpicks


In the beginning of Episode IV, Captain Antilles and Pricess Leia are obviously lying to Vader when they say the Tantive IV is on a diplomatic mission. But it's at least a plausible lie. Now, in the final scene of Rogue One, Vader actually sees the Tantive IV flying away with the Death Star plans aboard. Any plausibility for the diplomatic mission lie is completely obliterated.

The second nitpick is a bit of a continuity problem.: Vader interrogates Captain Antilles: "Where are those transmissions you intercepted?" Later to Leia: "Several transmissions were beamed to this ship by rebel spies." Of course, with the final scene of Rogue One, we learn that the Tantive IV didn't intercept any transmissions--they were physically carried aboard.

04 December 2016

Who I am: DNA testing and paternity (part 3)

This is one in a series of posts on the search for my biological family.


My previous Y-DNA test was a 37-marker test, and showed 179 possible matches. I recently paid for the upgrade to the 67-marker test, and just got the results back this morning. According to this test, I have 22 possible matches, but at a genetic distance of 4-7. What this means is that none of the people I match are particularly close. For example, at a genetic distance of 4, the probability that I share a common ancestor with a particular person only reaches beyond 50% at seven generations.

Some of the more common surnames that appeared on the 37-marker test have disappeared. Some are still there, but again, the larger genetic distances does not give me much confidence in the results. Also, there are fewer results because fewer people have done 67-marker (or 111-marker) tests.

Even before getting back these most recent results, I had considered it likely that I would eventually pay for the 111-marker test. But now you can perhaps see, as I do, why this would probably be a waste of time. The test would surely give me fewer results, but they would all be at considerable genetic distances (7+) and unlikely to give me any useful information. What these tests results have demonstrated is that no one who is genetically close to me has taken a DNA test with any of these companies, so no amount of further testing by me is going to uncover anything.

Back to square one...

29 November 2016

Who I am: New PA law allows adoptees access to birth records


My mom sent me a link to this article. It's a big deal:
A new state law removes a legal hurdle for adult adoptees trying to learn their true identity and family medical histories.
The law, approved in early November and fully taking effect in one year, enables individuals who are 18 and over and were adopted as children to apply for a copy of their original birth certificate from the state Health Department.
As the article indicates, it may be up to a year before the law is fully implemented, but at that point I will have access to my original birth certificate.

In the 20+ years (off and on) that I have been searching for my birth parents, this is potentially the biggest development of all. Wow.

17 November 2016

Who I am: DNA testing and paternity (part 2)

This is one in a series of posts on the search for my biological family.

As I explained in a previous post, the second DNA test that I did was a Y-DNA test to match other males with a most common recent ancestor (MCRA). My Y-DNA test was a 37-marker test, and showed 179 possible matches. Ideally (assuming a high confidence test and males who consistently pass their surname), a Y-DNA test would match you to other individuals with a single surname and a single MCRA. Ideally, this would tell me my biological surname. As you can tell from the multiple surnames among the results, the 37-marker test is simply not precise enough to answer my question. As a result, I recently upgraded my test to a 67-marker test. The results should come back sooner  (~two weeks) because they can do the test with the previous sample I provided. And if the 67-marker test still doesn't provide enough precision, there is a final 111-marker test--but I'd like to avoid those costs if I can.

09 November 2016

2016 election in review

Well, perhaps I should stop making election predictions! I thought Hillary Clinton would win, but I'm not at all surprised that Donald Trump won. 

In the end, this election turned on the ability of Trump to break through Hillary's "blue wall" in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Along with Indiana and Ohio, the rust belt was the difference in this election.

It's worth taking one more look at Trump's closing ad. I think this ad will go down as the defining ad of the campaign. Take a look and see what you think.

05 November 2016

2016 election prediction

I misread the polls badly in 2012 and thought Romney would win a close election. It turned out it wasn't that close. For all of the reasons I discounted the polls in 2012, times 100, I really don't know what to think of the polls this time around. All of the convention wisdom has been busted this election cycle. Undoubtedly, the race has tightened considerably within the last two weeks. Is it enough to push Trump over the edge? Possible. Most of the prediction sites have given Trump something like a 35% chance, which is up from the teens just a few weeks ago. We're definitely in margin of error territory. A Brexit-like result is certainly not impossible here.

Still, though, despite all of the winds in Trump's favor, a few strands remain. First, Hillary Clinton has likely banked many millions of early votes. This is likely to preserve a small number of votes that might have left her within the last week. Second, the surge to Trump appears to have come not from undecided voters, but from Republican-leaning independents who are coming back to the base (from candidates like Gary Johnson). Third, the path to electoral victory is strategically easier for Hillary as compared to Trump. There are simply many more options. Trump has to basically run the table on all of the swing states.

I think Hillary Clinton will win this election. Here is my predicted electoral vote map:

The closest states on this map (in order of decreasing electoral votes) are: Florida (29), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4). RCP's "no toss up" map has Nevada and New Hampshire currently leaning toward Trump, but I think they'll ultimately end up on the Clinton side.

Now, with that being said, here is Trump's best chance of winning. As you can see, it comes by the narrowest of margins, but isn't all that far-fetched--in fact, all I did was start with RCP's "no toss up" map on Saturday, November 5th (Clinton 297, Trump 241) and flip Florida's 29 electoral votes to Trump. Florida is so close that this single flip (which is entirely possible) would change the outcome of the election. These predictions show just how close the election might possibly be:


Again, I think Hillary Clinton is likely to win. But if Trump can pull it off, the map will likely look like this one above.

Who I am: What's in a name?

This is one in a series of posts on the search for my biological family.


I want to take a short detour from DNA and genealogy to discuss what is simple to most people, but surprisingly less so for me: my name.

My original birth certificate would ordinarily have my birth name, and the names of my biological parents. As an adoptee, I am not entitled to it (presumably for these reasons). As a result, the birth certificate I do have is re-issued with my adopted name. This is well enough for all the identification reasons someone would need their birth certificate for, but it's not particularly helpful for my search.

When I took my birth certificate to get my Maryland driver's license some years ago, the DMV clerk pointed out to me that my birth certificate had no middle name. Now, ever since I was adopted, I have used James as a middle name. It's one my birth parents gave me. Nonetheless, it's not on my birth certificate, and (because of that) it's not on my driver's license. But it is on my passport (which, presumably, I needed my birth certificate or driver's license to obtain).

That's a long-winded way of wondering: I have been using a middle name for nearly 4 decades. What is my name? Do I even have a legal middle name?

I took a test this morning and had to register without my middle name because the test registration had to match my driver's license. Apparently, the force of using my given middle name for 40 years is not good enough for some things.

Whether I have a middle name or not doesn't seem to have ever caused me any problems. If I need a middle name, I have my passport. Otherwise, I don't appear to actually have one. Nonetheless, one would think that your name is fundamental to who you are. For me? Not so much, apparently.