Discovering My Incredible Genetic History

Discovering My Incredible Genetic History

[The following article contains no factual information of any kind. Not a scintilla of truth. We felt a journalistic responsibility to thus inform our readers. We fear Mr. Jones is starting to lose it. – The Staff at VFTB]

This is a map of the areas of the world where, according to my DNA report, I may have had distant ancestors. Pay particular attention to that island off the east coast of Africa, Madagascar – the one spot with which I appear to have no connection.

This is a map of the areas of the world where, according to my DNA report, I may have had distant ancestors. Pay particular attention to that island off the east coast of Africa, Madagascar – the one spot with which I appear to have no connection.

If you are inclined to research your genealogy, be forewarned. There’s a lot of misinformation and hype out there. Learn from my mistakes. Not long ago I signed up for a service called Ancestree.com. The report came back concluding that my roots trace back to a ficus. Turns out the company was a rip-off luring bad spellers who were looking for Ancestry.com. I’ll never make that misteak agian.

That’s why I decided to sign up with 22andMe. I know what you’re thinking: Don’t you mean 23andMe? Turns out I’m also bad at math. Anyway, 22andMe offered results in less than a week, for half the cost of the more reputable service.

On the plus side, unlike the more well-known genealogy outfits, which typically require a saliva sample, this company did not ask for any of that fuss. I only had to send in a toenail clipping, a 16-ounce urine sample, fifteen strands of hair, and a photo of me dressed like a pirate. In retrospect, that probably should have been a tip-off.

When I received my results, they were somewhat disappointing. Not quite the kind of information I was hoping for. The analysis said I’m 99.995% Caucasian (what a shocker) and fit the profile of an under-achiever with self-esteem issues around my career choices. (I have to give them points for accuracy there.) They also concluded that I have a proclivity towards making impulsive online purchases about my ancestral background without doing adequate research. Perhaps most surprisingly, it also evaluated, “You’re not as funny a writer as you think you are.” I found that oddly critical for a DNA report.

The data indicated that my lineage originated from one of the following very narrow regions: Northern Africa, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia, South America, North America and Tonga. So I know once and for all that none of my distant relatives originated in Antarctica. That is such a relief to know.

My DNA profile indicates that my most direct relative from the Middle Ages was probably this guy in the hoodie, second from the right, plowing a field. He could neither read nor write. Thus began a succession of low achievers.

My DNA profile indicates that my most direct relative from the Middle Ages was probably this guy in the hoodie, second from the right, plowing a field. He could neither read nor write. Thus began a succession of low achievers.

The summary went on to say – and I know this may astound you – that many of my forebearers had extensive facial hair, although slightly more so on the males’ side. Even more precisely, the report determined that my mother had always hoped I would become a doctor and my father never really loved me. Wow, this DNA stuff can get incredibly specific.

I had hoped for a bit more illumination about my actual genetic history. Fortunately, I learned that for an additional investment of a mere $250 – accompanied by a nose hair sample plus a photo of me in drag – 22andMe could furnish a much more in-depth DNA analysis. The hardest part was explaining to my wife why I needed to borrow her sun dress.

Two weeks later, I received a more exhaustive assessment – I mean, it went on and on! It provided a fascinating portrait of my primogenitors. It appears they are 42% less likely to have sweaty feet; 39% more likely to have a craving for sweets; 53% more likely to have owned a cat; and 85% more likely to make poorly timed investments in the stock market.

My distant relatives more than likely included Celts, Germans, Slovaks, and people who were afraid of the moon. They were at least 70% likely to have had one or more black acquaintances. Among my Scottish lineage, they were 75% likely to have had the snot beaten out of them by Vikings. (I know what you’re thinking: Did the report actually say, “snot beaten out of them by Vikings?” Yes, it did. I would never make up something so personal – because I’m a professional humor writer.)

The findings went on to disclose that a closer review of my genealogical bloodline indicates I may have been related to European royalty, like a past King of France or a Danish prince. In fact, and I found this part particularly intriguing, it appears that some pretty famous and powerful people, including Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, King Richard the Lionheart, Queen Victoria, Leonardo da Vinci and even Cleopatra were all people who my ancestors were perhaps marginally aware of.

If you go back far enough in my genealogical history, I’m related to this dude. Now that I look more closely, I totally think I have his eyes. Handsome critter.

If you go back far enough in my genealogical history, I’m related to this dude. Now that I look more closely, I totally think I have his eyes. Handsome critter.

This narrative also listed the last names of people who were likely to be my second, third, fourth and even fifth cousins – who, for an extra fee, 22andMe will invite to connect with me and exchange our genealogical profiles. I was intrigued to see unusual names from countries all over the world, such as Latvia, Spain, New Zealand, and, surprisingly, Tonga.

In retrospect, I’m still not sure this was worth the expense, not to mention the hassle my wife gave me for cutting up her dress so it would fit me. I don’t think I acquired many insights into my heritage, although I feel painfully more aware of my genetic baggage.

I just received another email from 22andMe. In this offer, they claim that for just another $500 – along with a copy of the deed to our house – they’ll provide an even more detailed report. Maybe with these findings, once and for all, I will be able to relocate my long lost relatives from Tonga. I miss them so much.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2020

You Have the Right to Remain Silent – My Recent Run-in with the Law

You Have the Right to Remain Silent – My Recent Run-in with the Law

[The following is an approximate re-telling of a recent traffic stop I had with local law enforcement for a moving violation. The events of my run-in all happened exactly as described below. Well, almost exactly.]

traffic-stop-speed-limit-signIt was 7:22 am on a Wednesday. I was driving northbound on Main Highway like I always did this time of week. But this time, there was a problem. I was running late for my regular Wednesday meet-up with a buddy of mine. Let’s call him Terry, because, well, that’s his name. Terry was waiting for me at our regular rendezvous, a place called Terry’s Corner (honest). My buddy Terry is a big deal in this small town. But Terry was going to have to wait. Because, like I said, I was running late.

I knew I shouldn’t have downed half a six-pack of Mountain Dew Live Wire first thing in the morning. My heart rate was through the roof as I raced down the highway in my silver Toyota minivan, desperately trying to make up time. I saw the speed limit sign. It read 50 mph, just like it always read this time of day. Some things never change. I looked in my rear view mirror. Drivers were climbing up on my tail. Maybe I was just imagining things, but it looked like the guy behind me wanted to run me over. My heart started pounding. My palms got clammy. I could barely hold onto the steering wheel.

My mind buzzed with all the things I had to do today. Little did I know that my agenda was about to take a major U-turn – because just as I was writing the previous sentence, I zoomed past a parked trooper. In that instant, the cop pulled onto the highway, flashed his lights, and started in hot pursuit.

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My Address to the Graduating Seniors – Coronavirus Edition

My Address to the Graduating Seniors – Coronavirus Edition

[Author’s note: Since 1997, it’s been my tradition to give a graduation commencement speech – whether I’ve been invited to or not. This year, in light of the Coronavirus quarantines, I gave my speech remotely. Below are excerpts from this year’s stirring oratory. You might want to have a Kleenex nearby. – TEJ]

“Dear students, faculty, staff, and mascot of this great institution. It is indeed an honor to almost be here with you for this video commencement address. Thanks for attending – I know you’d rather be playing Call of Duty.“

“Dear students, faculty, staff, and mascot of this great institution. It is indeed an honor to almost be here with you for this video commencement address. Thanks for attending – I know you’d rather be playing Call of Duty.“

Congratulations, Class of 2020. I am deeply honored to be your commencement speaker. Due to the current health crisis, I almost had to bail and ask my close personal friend Barack Obama to fill in. Luckily, I am virtually here for you via Zoom, though I long to be strolling on the hallowed grounds of your renowned university, checking out the Tri Delts.

I greet you from my couch in my man cave, draped in formal commencement speaker garb – cap, gown and fuzzy bunny slippers – filled with pride for what you have achieved – well, most of you, anyway. Accompanying me is my trusty feline, Bonkers. Wave to the camera, Bonkers.

First a point of business. While a cap and gown are optional for this unique graduation ceremony, a dress code of boxers and bras is a tad too informal. So, for those of you with your video cameras on (Bonkers has counted 67 so far), I would thank you to please don a bathrobe.

Our nation is living through a nightmare unlike any in living memory – more upsetting even than the 2011 breakup of The White Stripes. I have faith that we will survive, providing we stick together (albeit six feet apart) and remember to WIPE and WEAR. Wipe down everything you touch and wear a mask. Oh, and remain in your parents’ basement until a vaccine is found – which according to my doctor’s latest estimate looks like October 2023.

Speaking of parents, join me in acknowledging all the sacrifices they’ve made over the past two to three decades, preparing you for this moment. From teaching you to ride a bike to helping you erupt that volcano in 4th grade (let’s face it, your mom did most of the work), to chewing out your English teacher for not giving their angel a B+, your parents were always there to support you. And they will continue to do so, for God knows how much longer. Let’s give these heroic folks an enthusiastic round of applause – by clicking on the clapping hands icon at the top of your screen.

Today we reflect on the past four years – or seven in the case of you accounting majors who flunked statistics, changed your major to astronomy, bailed on that and committed to astrology, only to discover there have been no job openings for astrologists since…, well, since ever.

Whether you pursued a degree in engineering, psychology or Medieval French Poetry, there is one thing you all have in common: a future with limitless opportunities in exhilarating enterprises, such as delivering groceries or restocking the cleaning products in Costco – both of which are booming these days.

Disappointment abounds. No hanging out at the mall, no concerts or bar hopping. Such a bummer that the final frat party blowout was cancelled. Nice try with your good pitch citing the germ-killing benefits of ingesting massive quantities of beer. Consider celebrating with your mates via Zoom. On the positive side, you won’t need a designated driver to get home.

Thanks to the economic collapse (and your impressive 2.3 GPA), that dream job you were hoping for in Silicon Valley has evaporated, like a puff of smoke, carried off by the wind, elusive, never to be found…. I apologize. I was thinking of my book deal that just got canned. Even worse, your graduation trip to Italy had to be scrapped because of the pandemic. My advice: Don’t underestimate the pleasures of a hometown staycation. I hear some pubs and parks may reopen later this month. And Frisbee golf is making a comeback.

It’s entirely normal to have pangs of dread about what is to come, given your lack of any discernible skills and a college debt that exceeds the GNP of Cameroon. Add to that the looming beef shortage, threats of nuclear attack from North Korea, the alienation of our NATO allies, and the specter of Trump’s re-election, it’s no wonder you’re a tad on edge. However, I say, “Have hope. Think of your glass as half full” – okay, maybe 10% full is more accurate.

Though your situation may appear bleak, there are plenty of reasons to feel hopeful about the world today – if you happen to be wildlife. It’s an incredible time to be a peacock or mountain goat. They can roam almost anywhere they like lately.

As you embark on this next exciting chapter of life, I countenance you to go out and make a change. And by “go out”, I mean, go outside to your backyard and get some fresh air. And by “make a change” I mean your clothes. You’ve been wearing the same T-shirt and sweatpants for three weeks. Take a shower, while you’re at it. I can smell you from here.

Eventually you will change the world. But for the moment, just change your expectations instead. I hear Amazon is hiring forklift operators.

Graduates, I encourage you to remain positive – unless we are talking about COVID-19, then by all means, I pray you’ll remain negative. Don’t forget to wash your hands, use Purell, and practice safe social distancing. And think of all the rent you’ll save by living in your parents’ basement for the next 24 – 36 months.

In closing, my advice as you stare into the abyss that is your future, is … um … uh … Sorry. I got nothing. Nada. I’m just glad I’m not graduating this year. That would totally suck. So, good luck. There’s a 57% chance things will get better … someday.

Now please take a second to click on the RATE ME button. If I earn 4.5 stars, the university will email me a $100 Target gift card.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020! Go make yourself useful. You can start by emptying the dishwasher. It’s not going to empty itself.  [CLICK. The speaker has left the meeting.]

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2020

Zoom for Seniors

Zoom for Seniors

Dear Senior Citizen, Welcome to the exciting world of Zoom. If you’ve never had a Zoom video call, don’t worry. It’s easier than beating Betty Smith at BINGO, even when she plays with 10 boards.

Dear Senior Citizen, Welcome to the exciting world of Zoom. If you’ve never had a Zoom video call, don’t worry. It’s easier than beating Betty Smith at BINGO, even when she plays with 10 boards.

Welcome to today’s lesson: Zoom for Seniors. If you’re 65+ and would like to learn how to turn your computer into a videophone, this will be an exciting adventure. However, if you thought you had signed up for Zoomba for Seniors, you’re in the wrong class. And it’s spelled Zumba. You might want to consider our Spelling for Seniors class, as well.

What exactly is Zoom? If you ask my 24-year-old tech-savvy daughter, she’ll tell you it’s a video-telephony and online chat service using a cloud-based peer-to-peer software platform for teleconferencing, telecommuting and social relations. My daughter is a geek. In case her explanation is a tad too technical, let me simplify: with Zoom, you can see and talk to your friends on your computer.

Everybody’s doing Zoom, even Zumba fans. This is thanks in large part to the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent shelter in place mandates. If you’re not familiar with the “Coronavirus,” may I suggest our introductory lecture series, What’s Been Happening Since You Crawled Under a Rock. Employers use Zoom to conduct team meetings, professors to deliver classes to their students, and the rest of us to complain to our friends that there’s nothing to do – all without wearing pants.

Zoom is surprisingly easy to use. Let’s first talk about system requirements. I’m not talking about your digestive system, though you could talk to your doctor via Zoom about your acid reflux. I’m talking about required devices: a smart phone, an iPad, or a computer with a web cam. No, a web cam is not for detecting spiders in your house, though I can envision a market for that. A common question I hear from seniors is, “How do I attach my rotary phone’s twisty cord to my Zenith TV’s rabbit ears?”

I now realize there should be some pre-requisites for this course, such as a rudimentary knowledge of life and technology in the 21st century. In short, no, you can’t use a rotary phone. You need one that can connect to the Internet. If you’re unfamiliar with the term “Internet,” how exactly did you find the website for this class?

If you are still using a phone like this and planning to place a Zoom call, let me just say, you’re adorable. However, may I suggest upgrading to a phone that was not in use when Ozzie and Harriet were still the rage on TV.

If you are still using a phone like this and planning to place a Zoom call, let me just say, you’re adorable. However, may I suggest upgrading to a phone that was not in use when Ozzie and Harriet were still the rage on TV.

Next, you will need a Zoom meeting invitation. Anticipating your next question, no, it won’t be delivered by the USPS or UPS or even the USPCA. It will come in an email. The invite will give you a link that you simply click on to join the video call at the appointed time.

What’s so great about Zoom? For starters, you can actually see the person you’re talking to! And the call is free – even if the other person is across the country, across the world, or in your garage, borrowing your power tools without asking. That’s because you are talking over the Internet. I know, it’s almost as amazing as the Ronco Pocket Fisherman you bought your wife for her birthday in 1984.

Another cool aspect is that several people can be on the call at the same time! So if you and your Elks cronies – all 67 of them – want to have a virtual hangout, you can with Zoom. That is, assuming you all have email and a Wi-Fi or broadband connection. Clueless about the terms “Wi-Fi” and “broadband”? Might I suggest you switch to a bird watching class instead?

Zoom has some handy features including “chat,” which lets you type messages to other people on the call. But remember when you type a chat message to Charlie about how Archie cheats at golf, Archie will be able to read your message, too – unless he left his glasses in your garage when he borrowed your power tools.

Some pointers about using Zoom. First, you want to adjust your camera so the other person can see you. As interesting as your ceiling may be – or your boxer shorts – most people prefer looking at your face – and by your face, I mean your entire face, not the top of your receding hairline.

Second, be sure the microphones are ON, unless you all are versed in lip-reading.

Third, know how and when to turn OFF your video. Just as you can see your grandkids or your buddies or your boss on Zoom, they too can see you. So, if you feel the need to pick your nose or get up to grab a beer, wearing nothing below the waist but a pair of black socks and Crocs, consider pausing the video first.

Which brings me to Zoom etiquette. Newbies tend to talk over each other, especially if there are a bunch of you on the call. It’s best to wait until the other person has stopped talking before you begin your diatribe on the demise of the nation at the hands of our youth (your grandkids excepted). Also, you might want to shave. The grunge look doesn’t work for seniors.

For the adventurous Senior, try a group Zoom call. Together you can discuss fascinating topics like, “Anyone having trouble with their dentures?” and “Whatever happened to Carl? He was here a minute ago.”

For the adventurous Senior, try a group Zoom call. Together you can discuss fascinating topics like, “Anyone having trouble with their dentures?” and “Whatever happened to Carl? He was here a minute ago.”

Don’t worry if your first Zoom experience is a bit bumpy. That’s normal. It’s daunting to figure out any new technology, like Zoom or a plasma TV or your 10 ft. inflatable snow globe. That’s why I recommend recruiting your seven-year-old grandson. He can ensure your maiden voyage goes smoothly, helping you log into the session, testing your audio, and reminding you to put on pants.

Finally, just remember, if you’re struggling to navigate a Zoom call with your old pal Benny, you’re not alone. He’s every bit the technology rookie that you are. Benny too is confused why he can’t hear you and wondering whose forehead he’s seeing on his computer screen (um, that would actually be Benny’s). He’ll get the hang of it, and you will too – before the next century, or your money back.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2020

Fifty Shades of White

Fifty Shades of White

50 shades of white - crayonsWhen I was first learning how to color in 1st grade, my art teacher taught us about red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black and white. Pretty much all the colors I’ve needed ever since. Then I got my first box of 64 Crayola crayons. It blew my mind. So many colors I had never imagined. One called Reddish Orange. Another one called Orangish Red. And Indian Red, which I could not in clear conscience draw with until they renamed it Native American Red.

Recently I learned that Crayola has actually retired 34 colors – including Lemon Yellow, Teal Blue and Thistle. Did you know that for the rest of eternity there will never be anything drawn in either Burnt Umber or Magic Mint? And yet for reasons unfathomable to the normal brain, they continue to crank out that annoyingly wimpy color, Periwinkle.

They’ve replaced the retired colors with nouveau-sounding ones like Asparagus, Bittersweet, Inch Worm and Tumbleweed. What the hell color is Inch Worm?

It’s hard enough for my 8-color-palette brain to grasp the difference between Sage and Mint. More astonishingly, for all the colors in Crayola’s 64-color box, I’ve discovered there are literally hundreds of shades of white. When did that happen?

My artist wife and I were discussing what color to paint her art studio. Apparently, it’s important that artist studios be painted in neutral tones like white – I have no idea why. I had suggested Bubble Gum Pink, but apparently that’s not quite neutral enough pour ma femme artiste. No, she insisted, it had to be a shade of white. A shade of white? Hmmm….

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