’17 A To Z Challenge – X

Challenge2017

Letter X

For reasons unknown to me, X has always stood for the unknown.  This post will be short, because I don’t know even more about X than I don’t know about anything else.

Even when Wilhelm Roentgen discovered electromagnetic waves that were previously unknown to scientists, he just called them X-Rays.

When pirates buried treasure, X marked the spot on a map, because, without the map, the location would be unknown.  If they’d marked the location with a Taco Bell, I could find that treasure-chest quick and easy….though there’d be a hard decision to make.  Dig up the treasure first – or have lunch at Taco Bell?  Probably dig up the gold and jewels first, and use them to pay for lunch.  Save some for a second course over at Pizza Hut.

If you are illiterate, you ‘sign’ documents with an X, because the ability to read and write is unknown to you, and then someone else must witness your signature.  Mom and Dad rented a mobile home from a man in Florida who signed with an X.  I’ve never met anyone quite that unschooled but, despite the ready availability of free education, some winners that I have met weren’t far above it.

DNA

I downloaded a prompt of Xenophobia, but with the number and degree of weird specimens that I’ve met locally, you’d have to go pretty far afield to come up with something better that I might fear or hate.  More and more people are doing what I did, getting a DNA test.  An amusing number of racist, white-supremacists are getting back results that show that they are actually 23% (or whatever) Negro.  😯  😳  I wonder how many heads have exploded under those pointy little white hoods.

It is unknown to me why road intersections are called X-crossings.  Anywhere except in this strangely-laid-out city, my squirrelly, OCD brain insists that streets should meet at right angles.  They should be called t-crossings….except that the Bible thumpers would then insist that each intersection represented the Holy cross, and we would need priests, instead of traffic cops.

Perhaps they all started out as plus signs (+), and just got drunk, or stoned, and fell over.  As Canada makes marijuana legal on July 1 (Happy Canada Day – if you remember it) we’ll see more of that.  Traffic lights will be replaced with bags of Doritos.

What a terrible thought! I think I’ll just X it out and invite you to return later, for the adventures of Y.

 

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A To Z Challenge D

Challenge2017

I have some alien DNA in me, though I think many of you have suspected that for some time.

For the letter

Letter D

I think I’ll write about DNA

DNA

I woke up the other day. (And congratulated myself for doing it.) I crawled out of bed, threw on a grubby tee-shirt and a pair of track pants, went downstairs and began the ‘feed and water the animals’ routine, including me.  I walked into the living room. I sat down in my big easy chair.  I picked up the day’s newspaper – and absently scratched my right leg.

WOW indeed!  Just from gently touching it, it was now intensely itchy – and a burning kind of sore.  A spot about the size of a silver dollar, 6 inches above my knee was hard, hot, red, swollen and inflamed.

When I complained, the wife told me to come over to her chair and pull my pants down. There were times in the past that that could have led to something interesting.  The only way I know that is because I have it written down.  I can’t remember.

This thing had an even redder spot in the center. What the Hell was it?  Necrotizing fasciitis – that ‘flesh-eating disease’?  Better not be.  I’m so chubby that it could die of indigestion.  A cat scratch?  There would have been more than one, and a scratch, not a single point.  An insect bite?  I seldom go outside, and when I do, I wear heavy jeans and boots.  A bedbug bite?  There’d be more than one, and the sheets are clean.

In my It’s In The Jeans post, I already showed how much alien human DNA I have in me.  I don’t need any non-human DNA.  I don’t want to be like that guy in the Alien movies, and have a mouthful of fangs erupt from my chest.

When I mentioned it to the wife’s podiatrist a couple of days later, he suggested it might be a boil. I still have a scar on my right forearm from a teenage boil.  This ain’t growing, and it’s no boil.  When the wife looked at it, her best guess was an ingrown hair, and she promptly proceeded to do exactly what we tell teenagers not to do with a zit.  She applied two thumbnails, and popped it.

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Like teenaged zits, she forced some of the poisons back into the surrounding flesh, making it look almost like a bruise. I spent the next week, slathering antiseptic cream on it, trying not to scratch like a kid with chicken pox, and hoping that my DNA was stronger than any old alien DNA.  I’m back to what passes for normal, but perhaps only because the alien broke his lease, and abandoned this condemned structure.   😉

Oops! Was I supposed to put a medical warning at the top??  Sorry about those photos.  Eye and brain bleach is available in the lobby at reasonable prices.

The Evolution Of Archon

Paul's Baby Pix

A tourist flags down a New York taxi. He climbs in, and asks, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The cabby responds, “Practice man, practice!”

How did Archon get from the happy, smiling, enchanting little baby above, to be the Grumpy Old Dude he is today?  It all starts with a good genetic background, goes through more than a half a century of formative social interaction, and is molded into place with constant, “Practice, man!  Practice!”

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It may have started here. This is my maternal grandfather and grandmother.  I’ve always thought that his dour look came from being a dark Scottish Pict among the skirt-wearing, fair-skinned Highlanders.  Recent DNA testing revealed that ¼ of my genetic makeup is from Ireland.  I would imagine that thinking yourself a ‘good Scot’, or even a poor Scot, and finding that you’re descended from poteen-swilling, colleen-chasing, superstitious, banshee-herding idlers, would put a scowl on your face.  I know it put one on mine….or was that already there?

This photo was taken in the mid-1930s, in the parkland adjacent to their home. If you can see in the upper, right-hand corner, two tall Poplar trees about a block away; this will be where my Mother returns from Detroit in a couple of years, and purchases her home and property.  She met and married my father.  He got a job and moved in with her, and about ten years after this shot, they produced me, in my Home Sweet Home.

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When Mom returned from Detroit, she brought along with her, not only a divorce settlement, but a daughter from her first marriage. Shown here, she’s about 10, along with my Mom and Dad, about Christmas, 1944, clustered around the real center of attention, the recent arrival, that little Ray of Sunshine and Bundle of Joy, the Archon-in-Training ….pants.

Already sulky about losing a father in a divorce, her mood soon soured further when she found that she’d gained two new half-brothers in a remarriage. Her never-ending whining harshed my tiny mellow, and her shrill, constant complaints about, “Those boys! Those damned boys!” quickly got on my little nerves.  I was well on my way to a world-class Old Grumpitude.  Either that, or the fact that my Mother didn’t tie the laces on my little walking shoes and I tripped over them and fell on my handsome wee face.  There’s always some reason to be grumpy– if you search hard enough.

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This photo is of my Mom and Dad some 60 years after the one above. The reasons they’re happy and smiling, is that they’re both retired, I’m the one in the room taking the picture and my sisty ugler isn’t there.

I don’t really know why I continue to be such an old grump. I have you, my regular readers, and faithful followers.  A young lady recently set a new personal record.  She followed my blog – for the 20th time.  She used to have her own blog-site, but shut it down.  She follows me – and a day or two later, WordPress disconnects and un-follows her.  She re-follows me – and a day later my stats fall again.  We’ve done this dance now, twenty times.  Now that’s dedication!

It’s probably been because I’ve been out for treks in the blogosphere, leaving grumpy footprints comments hither and yon, but there was a period following my Five Long Years post, where I gained 90 followers in 90 days.  (Not including Rita Repetitive)

You’re probably wondering, ‘What can I do, to make Archon less grumpy?’  You’ve already done it.  Visiting my site, reading, liking, commenting, all constitute Step 1 of my 12-step Grump-Addiction loss program.  Now it’s up to me to take the other 11 small steps.  I’ll get right on those – after I’ve had a snack and a nap.  😉

It’s In The Jeans

DNA

…and when my Mother and Father both took their jeans off, and created me, they each contributed a fairly varied set of DNA genes to my formation.

In my ‘Who Am I?’ post, I made some educated guesses as to what races had contributed to my makeup, based on family lore, and the daughter’s research on Ancestry.ca. Last Christmas, the wife and kids got together and purchased a DNA kit for me.

After my usual several months of procrastination, I finally spit in the cup, mailed it off to Dublin, Ireland, and waited 6 to 8 weeks for the results to come back.

ancestry-dna

As you can see from the above, there are not too many surprises. Some of my genetic makeup comes from the Romans, and their Eastern Mediterranean, Greek, Turkish, non-‘Italian’ compatriots.  Some comes from the Spanish Armada fiasco, although the chart shows no African Moorish contribution, so there’s no ‘Black Scots’ in my background.

There’s a bit from here, and a bit from there. Not that I really give a damn, but my ancestors seem to be all white.  The Scandinavian input came, not only from the Norsemen raiding and invading, but from the Northern Germanic tribes, the Jutes, Angles and Saxons, who were invited by the Britons to come to the island and help repel the Norse.  They did so well at that, that they stayed, and helped themselves to the country, becoming the Anglo-Saxons.

The biggest shock was finding that 26% of my ancestral input was Irish. Despite the Scottish name of Stewart, it’s possible (probable) that my maternal Grandfather wasn’t a Scottish Pict, but an Irish Gael.  Short, stocky, dark, and always looking disapproving, it’s no wonder he had nothing good to say for Highlanders.

I had thought that the red hair that runs through the family was from Scotland, but lots of Irish colleens have red hair also. I imagine that both races have contributed to the fact that, about every third child, no matter both parents’ hair color, is red, including Strawberry-tress-adorned daughter, LadyRyl.

Animal, Vegetable, Or Mineral?

DNA

OR; What I Got For Christmas 2015

I got knowledge, or at least, the chance to obtain knowledge. I just hope I get proof that I belong on this planet, although I may not be happy with some of my relatives.  “Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!”  Not if the Christians have anything to do with it.

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Since I don’t need anything, and anything I’d want would be too expensive, the family got together and bought me a DNA kit.  Companies like 23andMe (because of the 23 pairs of chromosomes in each human cell), and Ancestry dot Com/Ca sell kits which they send to you.  You provide a DNA sample, and they provide information.

23andMe stresses that their results include warnings about genetic diseases, like Tay-Sachs Syndrome, and Sickle Cell Anemia. We got our kit from Ancestry dot Ca.  Their advertising doesn’t mention these, although I may yet be pleasantly surprised.  They don’t seem terribly worried that you may die of some horrible disease, only who you’re related to when it happens.

I wondered how I was to provide the DNA sample. Did I prick my finger like diabetics?  Would I have to go to the nearby clinic to have them draw a small vial of blood?  The son reassured me that it was just like you see on CSI.  You swab the inside of your mouth, and send them the sealed swab.

We were all surprised to unpack a small plastic tube with a spit-cup on the top. You fill it with saliva, break an ampule of stabilizer and mix it, and send it away.  Despite using the Canadian website, the package came from the Mormons in Utah.  What I have yet to discover is, why it gets sent to Dublin, Ireland for processing.

The results break the world down into 23 subsections, and tell you what percentages of your genes come from each area. After the assumptions I made in my ‘Who Am I’ post, it will be interesting to see how right (or wrong) I was.

As bad as the Lowells and Cabots of Boston, Mormons are fixated on who you are related to. Included in the fee is a limited family tree, going back a hundred years. “You may find cousins you didn’t even know you had.” Or I may find cousins that I didn’t want to know existed – and don’t want to know that I exist…highwaymen, scam artists, pirates, Ted Cruz, people who voted for the Green Party.  “Hey cuz, could you spare $3500 for bail? I promise to pay you back as soon as I get a job.”

I’ll post the DNA and kinship results when they come back. Some of you may prefer to admit that you are descended from monkeys, rather than admit that I dangle from your family tree.  I think some of my ancestors were hanged from mine.  Of all my relations – I like sex the best. They say that knowledge is free, but I think somebody’s going to pay. 😛

Near CAT-astrophe

My dog is dumb as dirt, but he’s hyper and insecure.  He barks at everything, and has no concept of home-territory.  He yaps at butterflies and birds if they enter his yard.  He barks at and chases, but never catches the resident bunny, who always escapes through a tiny hole under the six-foot wooden fence between us and the neighbors.

I’m sure he barked one day when a cloud went in front of the sun.  Birds on the power lines across the street irk him, and, when hot-air balloons used to launch from a nearby park, we almost had to put him in the basement and feed him Valium.  That’s HIS SKY!

When I have to rush out through the French door to shut him up, and pacify the neighbors, especially at night, I have developed a technique to push it closed.  I don’t want it to slam into the frame, so I give it just enough of a quick push to just touch, or remain an inch or two ajar….usually.

When we’d had our little female cat just over a week, Dumb-Dog got mouthy one afternoon.  I rushed out, got him shut up, and forced him back inside, not realizing that the door had been open three inches.  Several minutes later we heard the most piteous yowling outside.

SDC11016Not used to freedom, little Contessa had gone exploring, down off the deck, and into the basement window-well below the living-room window.  I went out to bring her back in.  Already skittish about being picked up, and overwhelmed by the Great Outdoors, she wanted to get in the basement window.  When I tried to reach her, she started leaping for the living-room window, six feet over her head.

On about the third or fourth jump, I caught her in mid-air, and quickly turned for the door.  It was like catching the Tasmanian Devil.  She shredded both hands and wrists.  I put her back down as quickly and gently as I could.  She went back to the window-well.  I went back inside, dripping blood across the deck and kitchen floor.  The wife washed me down, applied antiseptic salve, and used up a First Aid kit worth of gauze and tape.

With her still yowling outside, I went to the garage, donned a pair of welding gauntlets I own, and sallied forth again.  Again, after several leaps, I caught her in mid-air and headed for the door.  She left marks in the heavy gloves, but settled down soon after being tossed in.  Total time spent – more than a half-hour.  Total blood lost – ???!

Fast-forward to about a week ago.  I let the dog out about 3:30 AM, as we were getting ready to go to bed.  He immediately began barking and facing the fence.  I thought the rabbit had escaped again, but he kept it up.  I went out to smack his butt and shut him up.  He wasn’t looking down the rabbit hole.  He was staring up at the neighbor’s pear tree, just beyond the fence.

I thought perhaps he’d seen a bat, so I looked up….and came eyeball to eyeball, a claw-length away from a possum as big as a refrigerator.  Okay, a bar-fridge!  Not exactly running, I headed the dog towards the house.  The door was gapped a tiny bit, and three male cats crouched inside, watching – and then I heard MEEOOW from the front gate.  Oh Shit!!

With the dog inside, I grabbed a flashlight and went back out.  Sure enough, a little pair of green eyes watched me from the fence corner.  Slowly I advanced, so as not to spook her.  Just as I leaned down to pick her up, she scuttled towards the house, and stuck her head in a spot between it, and one of my water barrels.  Like an ostrich with its head in the sand, if she can’t see danger, it can’t see her.

I dropped the flashlight, grabbed her with both hands and headed for the door, post-haste.  She’s become habituated to me handling her.  She didn’t like it, but this time she didn’t force me to leave DNA evidence behind.  In fact, the transfer went so quickly and easily that I had time to wonder if I’d just dumped somebody else’s lost cat into my house.  That’s all I’d need, one more, in a house with four cats and a dog.

Possums are not common this far north, and not in the city.  The wife says she’s seen one on the sound-berm.  I’ve seen the rare one as road-kill, but never a live one, and definitely not at moustache-hair range.  I’m lucky it was just a possum.  The neighbor lady says we now have a racoon, half as big as the dog, in the neighborhood.  All’s well that ended well, and, of course, I was able to go straight to bed and to sleep immediately, after that double-header heart-stopper.

Protection From Demons

Oops, sorry!  That title should read Protection, From Demons.  When the glaciers marched into and out of this region ages ago, they dug up and left behind a lot of stone.  This is one of the most geologically varied areas in the world.  When we moved here, I hired a separate van to move 3000 pounds of rocks that we’d obtained over the years, to be used for landscaping and garden accents, quartz, marble, sandstone, agate and shale, often with fossils in it.

Over the years, we have also purchased a variety of garden figures.  Not silly little gnomes, these guys have some character, like the characters who own them.

Igor 2       Igor

This is Igor.  He came to us blind, because he had one eye closed, and the other one missing.  We provided him with a blood-red marble to see with.  He spent years beneath the wife’s magnolia bush, which didn’t do well in sandy soil near the river, when we lived on the other side of town, but has grown and branched and bloomed in the clay-ey soil here.

a New Magnolia

The first photo shows the small, but blooming plant 15 years ago, before we moved.

Bare Magnolia TreeThe next shot is the same shrub, transplanted, after we moved, 12 years ago.  Not much more than a stick, we didn’t hold much hope for it.  You can see a couple of the accent stones we brought along.

 

Magnolia [2] 2009The blooming shot is from five years ago.  It blooms in the spring before it leafs out.  The last pic is from the same spot as shot number 2, giving some idea of how it continues to grow.  It’s a shrub magnolia, not the tree variety, but 14/15 feet tall.  We get some re-blooming, especially on the sunny top, mid-July/Aug.

Magnolia 1, 2013

 

Igor bade goodbye to years of Halloween trick-or-treaters.  He’s an anorexic 7.5 pounds of fibreglass and resin, easily talked into walking down the street with a teenager, like a three-pound pottery angel which disappeared off a flower table on the front porch.  Or maybe she was just embarrassed by the company she was forced to keep, and flew away.

Goliath [1]Goliath

When we had the chance to adopt Goliath, we gave him a Moonstone evil-eye – and Igor’s spot under the magnolia.  Goliath is 75 pounds of pure concrete, promising a hernia or broken foot to any potential thief.  Igor moved to the back deck.

Go Away

Go Away (front)

Back on the deck, he moved in with “Go Away”, my personal mascot.  I was going to use his photo as my gravatar, but decided on something a little more welcoming.  There are (un)welcome mats which also read Go Away, but it’s cheaper just to ignore the doorbell.  Back beside Go Away, is the wife’s final word to her flowers, “Grow Dammit”.  Seems to be working.

GrowDamnIt

They are watched over by Winged Victory, who can’t fly off the fencepost because of a six-inch spike up his little fiberglass ass.  He was the painted display model and the last of his discontinued line that we brought home from a Mediaeval Faire.  He is a grotesque, because only waterspouts are correctly named gargoyles.

Fence Boy [1]Winged Victory

Continuing in the son’s hear-no-evil, etc. theme, are the matched set of concrete goblins which he purchased.  I managed to set them out in the correct order.  The child whose head is full of even more useless trivia than mine, says their Japanese names are Mizaru, Mazaru, and Mikazaru.  Some sets include, “Do No Evil”, with the hands over his crotch.  As well, there’s the vertical, resin, green and white frog-set version.  He has others, indoors.

See No, Hear No, Speech No 1 Froggies

Back around at the front, keeping intruders out of the washroom window are two of three concrete goblin-lions.  They’ve been out there 24/7/365 since we bought them.  Sadly, the third must have had a crack, and this spring, freezing split it into three unequal pieces.  For backup, they hang out with a demented Sesame Street-like character the grandson formed in pottery class in grade eight.

                          Window Sill Grotesques [2]

If anyone manages to get through the window, without upsetting the goblins, or our cats, they are not welcomed inside by Hellboy’s younger brother, Redboy.

Red BoyLurking near the door, waiting to trip up unsuspecting Jehovah’s Witnesses, kids selling school chocolate, and other ne’er-do-wells, is The Thinker, looking like he just climbed down off an Aztec sacrificial pyramid after ingesting a bit too much peyote, and thinking about who he’ll have for lunch.

Porch Thinker [1]Thinker

Providing a stumbling block in front of a three-tier brass plant-stand and the aforementioned plant table, at the end of the porch, is Todd The Toad.  While not much for rending undesirables limb from limb, after the rest of the Wrecking Crew do their number, he eats up any incriminating DNA evidence.  He hopped home with us all the way from the three-ended bridge in Zanesville, Ohio.

Toad

Tod the Toad [1]Having written about a Yankee transplant in Kentucky whose God-fearing neighbors wanted him burned at the stake for having two little concrete demons out at the end of his driveway, it occurred to me to wonder what the neighbors thought of our unusual “pets.”  One weekend, when the neighbor-lady’s father was visiting from Buffalo, I asked if they were offended or worried in any way.

Logical thinkers, they had no problems.  The dad asked, though, “Shouldn’t they be facing outwards?”  He don’t know us very well, do he?  On the wall, just inside the front door, is a small parchment which reads, “Remember, as far as anyone knows, we’re just a nice normal family.”  They’re there to protect the rest of the neighborhood from us!

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