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23&ME GENETIC TESTING UPDATE, WOW!

Below is a reprint of my story about my 23&me experience from Allvoices. At the time I’d just tested with 23&me. It was an incredible experience. The information added to my life. Dollar for dollar it’s been worth it. It’s been several years since the testing. Since the latest controversy about 23&me I wanted to reprint my story for others to read. The graphic above was added to my site after an enthusiastic reception by thousands of readers. I have borrowed it for my site asking forgiveness rather than what ever it is you ask for, for using the graphic but it feels right. So, read on.

Somethings I’ve learned since the story, of course, but most everything I wrote is spot on several years later. For instance I’m pretty darn sure now that my father is my real father, and anyone who knows me could’ve told me that but hell I wanted to know. I found out that I’m related to my son-in-law, quite Appalachian, there. I’m not Jewish I’m 99% northern European with 2% American Indian. On my father’s side, my two brothers tested, and they are 99% European, 1% African.

Our family shows high to average amounts of Neanderthal genes. Now tell me would you ever get that kind of information in a doctor’s office? Early on the test didn’t say specifically that we had Neanderthal genes. It showed up in other DNA programs that enthusiasts had built to study their genomes. I was hesitant to add that we might have Neanderthal genes at the time. Later 23&me added graphics to show everyone who tested how much or how little Neanderthal genes they had inherited. It was great fun!

Good news for Alzheimer’s genes, low risk. I show an intolerance to wheat. That was the biggest find for me. I’d toyed with starting and stopping eating wheat products, even though wheat will send my brother to the emergency room, I still doubted that I had a problem because the symptoms were so hard to pin down. Stopped the bread, the wheat, and I am so happy to say I feel not just better for it, but wow! I’ve bought some Glutenease now, and take it when I eat a verboten pizza or roll, but I can say that knowing that I’m prone to Crohns Disease changed my life.

Sure some of the information might change in the future when more is known, and some of it might not be correct, but very large part of it made sense to me — it rang authentic. I got more diverse, more useful information, more interesting information from the 23&me test than a doctor would have time or resources to test for, for the small price of $99. When does a medical customer ever get out of a doctor’s office for $99? And I didn’t expect a medical outcome. I don’t expect a doctor to know everything or tell me everything about my body, because that isn’t possible. Why expect perfection from an early effort at genetics? We are early adopters who realize the potential. As early adopters we were a group mostly of educated professionals. We were not rubes who had to be protected. For me this test was great fun! I didn’t expect to be wowed! but I was and still am.

I’M AN EVERYDAY JOE WHO TESTED HER DNA WITH 23 & ME

I’m not an adoptee looking for parents, I’m not dying from a genetic disease that needs a fast cure, I’m not a student molecular biologist or an armchair scientist, I’m definitely not a genealogist tracing bio-ancestors. I am not über educated.

I’m one of the curious who came to 23and Me, a genetic testing site, co-founded through what looks like a gutsy move by biotech analyst Anne Wojcicki, and imbued with the aura of Google and 23andMe investor, Sergey Brin , Co-Founder of Google.

I came to look and stayed.

I waited until testing fell to one hundred dollars, a price too good to pass up. I’d call myself a pioneer homesteader; one who came after the true pioneers who blazed a trail for me starting in 2007 on 23andMe, who did a lot of the hard work defining the forums, and asking questions of the staff, and asking for changes that improved the site.

And, I brought my family with me, in all our dysfunction and scientific ignorance. We are important, though, and those like us are important because we are a trend. We appear when an idea has found its time and its time has come. Personal genetics’ time has come, and along with it, predictive medicines’ time has come. And, I don’t think it’s the vision that Pharma and doctors nor the FDA had in mind. Nevertheless, plug the dike all you like this personal genome thing is too cool, too personal, too useful, too empowering to overlook or diminish.

Three months ago I paid for the 23andMe genetic test that included risk percentages for illnesses, including breast, colon, and skin cancer, which I was sure I would never have. No one in my family had them. Everyone I knew died of heart attack, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, COPD or aortic aneurysm, and something odd my grandmother had that included dementia that I could never accept as Alzheimer’s.

I sort of feared Alzheimer’s disease because my youngest daughter had already begun preparing mentally to care for me when-and-if, and I wanted to spare her that hell, which knowing me, she was pretty sure would be hell, but mostly, my family did not live long enough to get it, so I didn’t worry much about that either.

Three days after my sixty-fourth birthday, I got my results – the first results of many of my family who would test. I’d fretted the closer it got. I waited six weeks and in those weeks I had time to think about what I might find. I hoped that I would find Basque, a Spanish-French nationality, in my family. I read about the Basque and wanted to be one. I wondered about Aspergers and Autism or ADHD in some form, and was I Jewish?

Where did these odd questions and expectations come from? I don’t know but they did make more sense after I got my test, and found genes to match some of what I wondered about. I expected heart attack to be high up on the list. No surprise there. Not such a bad way to go for those you love, if it’s fast, and if I had to choose between Alzheimer’s and a quick exit, I’d take it. Yet, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know my risks the closer it got. And on the other end of it I wondered if the science was far enough along to get past my skepticism. Would all this be a hodgepodge of smoke and mirrors? Or would something valuable come of it?

I pretty much knew in my heart my father was my father, but I wanted to see it in pictograph, in black and white genetics, so I asked my brother to test. I had a night or two of fitful sleep around my birthday, two days before it posted, not from paternity worries but from risk factors I might not have anticipated; then when I saw my stuff post the angst disappeared, and curiosity and anticipation set in. It’s kind of like having your first child, and worrying you might not be able to do this thing, that maybe it wasn’t a good idea, and then you see the child, you hold the child, and it is so full of promise, you never think those things again.

In earnest, I mostly wanted to know why I was so eccentric. Born in a small, rural town in West Virginia, into an eccentric family that inordinately valued books and ideas, and into a family culture that was mostly alien to those around us, and into a family who was surrounded by Baptists and Pentecostals, but who were not outwardly religious in a traditional sense, and did not participate. I wanted to know why I was different. Why my family was different. Why my children were also different.

Some women and some people can drop themselves into a slot and fit like a key in a lock: click. I hadn’t found the door that fit with my key, and it didn’t look as if I would. On every Myers-Briggs personality test I scored as the rarest of rare, a female ENTP – a human salmon who swims against the current it’s whole life. I wasn’t sure how far research had gotten for personality traits but I’d at least wanted to see what the early research on personality said about my genes. Did I have the infamous DRD4 marker, for a risk taker; did I have a tendency for ADHD?

Why do I score so high in abstract thinking and seemed to lack the concrete ability to do more than basic math, yet loved math theory even though I could not fathom most of it? Did I have some kind of genetic glitch? Seriously.

And, the one medical issue I wanted to confirm was do I have the gene for Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroid disease: too many in my family take thyroid hormone and are diagnosed with thyroid disease and autoimmune issues; my brothers, my sister, me, my children. It has taken a chunk of our lives. So I thought.

As I clicked on the left column, medical risks were listed first, and below that fun stuff like traits; color of eyes, tongue rolling, photic sneeze. Parkinson’s disease was the scariest to open. Alzheimer’s didn’t show up on 23andMe health risks at that time. I assumed I was okay (later results showed a decreased risk). I clicked on the locked Parkinson’s report, I sighed maybe, but I didn’t hesitate to click. I didn’t have the high risk gene marker. I let out a deep breath.

I quickly ran down my many high health risks: Celiac, high; Crohns disease, high; colon cancer, high; heart attack, high; no diabetes; Behcet’s disease, a red arrow pointing up. What is that? I look it up. It is more of an Arabic disease not common in the US, rare even, that helps me understand maybe my grandmother’s illness, but not where it came from. She wasn’t Arabic, and furthermore, our family isn’t Jewish; so I was a non-Jewish adult with a risk for a prevalent Jewish disease? Crohn’s disease?

Next Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, typical; plain old thyroid disease, typical; thyroid cancer, typical. If I didn’t have a high marker for thyroid disease was it possible that the diagnosis was wrong? Might that be why I’m having such a problem getting well? I’d spent most of this winter in bed, sick, fatigue, trying to get my thyroid levels to stop bouncing up and down from one lab to the next. I’d been sick since 1992, on and off. I didn’t see what I expected in health risks. No Hashimoto’s thyroid risk but plenty of other cancer and autoimmune disease.

Inexplicably, it wasn’t the cancer that upset me, even if I didn’t expect it, the thing that got me, was the alopecia, hair loss. I’d had a nightmare before I received the test that I had inch wide strips of hair missing from my head in corn rows, and a big pile of knotted hair stuck in my hairbrush, as huge as a toaster, and there it was alopecia, as one of my higher risks. Every time I brushed my hair after that I cringed until my daughter said you know that amount hair loss is normal.

I put the health risk area away for a month. Just put it aside, emotionally, and looked at Ancestry Painting and Relative Finder, and exchanged emails with genetic genealogists, some, who had been around since 2007, old timers, who were waiting breathlessly for the next boatload of 23andMe immigrants for them to compare to their genes.

On both sides, our family is from the US going back to the 1700’s. Yet, my brother is R1a1a, or northern European with 1% African genes. I am U3a1 or northern European on my mother’s side, descended from a very old clan of women from the Jordan area and the Caucasus Mountains, and maybe the Roma . And, I can say, if my mother resembled these women or acted like them, they have white-white skin with dark black hair and characteristically, are of a fierce, protective mothering temperament. Strong, independent women.

In Relative Finder I am related to a lot of males with Basque genes. On the female side I’m related to lots of Jewish women, and Bedouin. By now, I have nearly 800 relatives in Relative Finder of various degrees from third cousin to distant cousin. My brother is related to nearly the same number in his Relative Finder account. (Men automatically learn both their father’s and mother’s haplogroups or lines they are descended from. When women test, they find only their mother’s line, women have to test a father, brother or uncle to find their paternal line.)

I have quite few Brits for relatives, and some Irish, Finnish, German, Cuban, even a Macedonian. I’ve contacted maybe fifty people or they have contacted me about family genes that we share even though genealogy is not a favorite pastime for me.

After I downloaded my password protected gene cache from the 23andMe site – and burned it to a DVD – further searching with the help of the site not associated with 23andMe, took me to an Kamaran Island off Yemen where an ancient relative once lived.

And I had to ask myself if the Behcet’s mutated SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism), which can cause dementia like my grandmother had, and her mother had, could be sent down the line from earliest times from an ancestral migration through Arabia to reside in my body? Passed on through parent after parent through ancient times to modern times. I was thinking in terms of a few hundred years not thousands of years. It was a concept that was alien to me. What about Crohns disease. Did I have Jewish ancestors? I had no family history of Jewish family.

Since I knew nothing about genetics, and wanted to know the basics, I began reading. I read a book by Craig Venter [Unlink], genetic pioneer, A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life, whose book I really enjoyed, and who I am guessing has about as much trouble fitting in sometimes as I do, and truly made me feel better about myself, and I read books about the imperfect, but perfectly interesting Watson, and his co-discoverer, Crick, Cambridge geneticists, who uncovered the DNA double helix, and a slew of other scientists, so I could understand some of what I was seeing, and appreciate what genetic scientists have accomplished to make this a personal biology.

I read fourteen books on the history of genetics and genetic biographies, like Misha Angrist’s book Here is a Human Being, and Bryan Syke’s Seven Daughters of Eve, and The $1,000 Genome: The Revolution in DNA Sequencing and the New Era of Personalized Medicine by Kevin Davies .

I Googled Geneticist George Church’s Personal Genome Project, and looked up DNA terminology, and asked genetic genealogists questions. I asked dumb questions that I knew were dumb but I wanted an answer. I asked smart questions, too. I asked questions as long as someone would answer them. I looked up each new gene or SNP that I found in the news. Still do.

Taking time to learn how to navigate 23andMe helped me understand that the 23andMe site is a layer upon layers of possibility, set up for the beginner to the enthusiast, to the researcher, and I could understand some of it, and could hope to understand more. I began to see it for the treasure the 23andMe site is with all the flaws that might be inherent in an early system. And when I saw my genome represented with my chromosomes on the screen in “browse raw data,” it was one of the most exciting experiences of my lifetime. I’ve stopped worrying over paternity. I’ve seen lots of things to explain my personality.

I don’t have DRD4. I do have genes associated with ADHD, Schizophrenia and Autism. I think I have the Neanderthal gene MCPH1. But don’t quote me on that. I’m still learning. I learned that I had gene MTCO1, which results in up regulation of marine oil that reduces adipose fat in the abdomen, which I’m guessing might mean that if I eat fish my metabolism will work better. I’ve learned that I’m meant to be lean. I’m sure these studies will be up for grabs and changes in the future. But that’s all right because I’ve begun thinking about my health and who I am differently because of the personal genome test, and the ease of use designed into 23andMe.

The biggest surprise was the changes I made to my health and to the way I think about the rest of my life. This test has changed my life. I had to take a closer look at Celiac and Crohn’s disease and consider that with that high a risk I had to give it some consideration. My brother had to have a special diet to control his celiac disease, and it had been years since he could eat wheat.

I was sick I wanted to get well. I’d already come to the conclusion that my well periods were due to the things I “didn’t eat” as opposed to what I did eat. My up and down health seemed to coincide with eating and not eating wheat foods. As a test, I ate fish and spinach and blueberries, and non-wheat breads, and suddenly I was no longer ill. Ill health that had dogged me, taken me to my knees, curtailed my business, and personal life; but my illness evaporated with the no-wheat diet.

The medication, thyroid hormone, I thought I would have to take for the rest of my life, was no longer necessary. I started swimming, walking, not sleeping most of the day, I could think clearly, I stopped going to the bathroom immediately after I ate. I cannot tell you how valuable this genetic test has been for me and for my daughter, whose health also gotten better with a no-wheat diet. I think it means a longer life for the both of us. I know it means that I have a better quality of life.

When I saw those risk numbers beside Crohn’s, I thought about my brother’s celiac disease, and realized, perhaps, many of the other high risk diseases might be an affect or part of a larger problem from wheat intolerance, and the subsequent inflammation, such as maybe, colon cancer, and inflammatory heart disease, and lupus, celiac disease, who knows? inflammatory breast cancer? Stomach cancer?

I quit wheat then and there. No, it wasn’t necessarily scientific, but I will not look back. I have had it out of my system for three months, now. When I eat it I know what to look for: swollen abdomen, diarrhea, flu like symptoms, gas, deep fatigue and sleepiness, and nausea. I would not have quit wheat if not for the 23andMe genetic test. I’d thought I might have a problem but always I rationalized myself back into garlic bread sticks and Danish filled pastry, and whole wheat cereal. I think the test may have saved my life in subtle and not so subtle ways. I have a life now, at least.

When 23andMe offered their kits for zero up front and a monthly subscription of $9.00 a month per person, this April, I bought five more kits for my family. In all I think we will have tested 11 family members and one non-family member, who will likely become related through marriage.

Over a year, my cost is $108.00 per relative. I didn’t particularly have the money at the time but I felt that I couldn’t afford not to grab this chance for other members of my family to be among the genetic pioneers. And, how soon would it be before the FDA decided to appropriate control of my family’s human genome to medical Machiavellians or expedient corporations, who don’t allow us to have access to our genomic information? The FDA hearings during April 2011 didn’t look promising. And could my grandchildren’s health and lives be changed with predictive medicine if our mutations were known?

I thought so. So, I agreed to allow 23andMe to study my data. My brother has done the same. My daughter abstained. Other family members have opted to not release their genome for study. I think it’s important that some of us do this. It isn’t for everyone but I’d like to think by 2020 that in some way my contribution helped my children and grandchildren live longer healthier lives.

If not, I will not have played it safe, and not played it greedy, I will have shared my genome with the hope that good comes from it – knowing that there are no guarantees in life. And, by then the FDA issue about whether an individual should own their own genome, uncensored or whether the government should own that information, and only a doctor should be allowed to access it, and charge the owner for each peek, should be a historical footnote.

It is my family’s decision, what we do with our genomic information, not the FDA’s, and because it is our decision, and because we can learn from our genome about our own biology, we might prolong our life, or improve our quality of life, and with predictive medicine, the medicine of the 21st Century, genetic information might change to accommodate not only my family of early adopters, but all people. I participated in 23andMe, January 24, 2011. After I tested my life changed, and my health changed for the better. I’d like to yell from the highest building. Go get tested. It might change your life. In some cases it might save your life.

To read Shirley Grose’s comments on the FDA regulating the human genome, May 2, 2011, go to http://www.regulations.gov, Docket number FDA-2011-N-0066, Comment Tracking Number: 80c3dc1d

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bluegreen underwater

Life at the Speed of Light

Sitting here in a cushy chair staring at a screen for half-a-day, reading whatever I want to read, I get a little philosophical, and that’s not difficult to do when I read geneticist, Craig Ventor’s book that attempts to answer the big question “What is Life? I start from disorganized ignorance, and get off the track from there to politics.

I start out wanting to understand words and concepts from Craig Ventor’s recent book ” Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life, a good read by the way about how he lead his team to create synthetic life.

I highlight phrases and terms that I want to know more about like resistivity or resistance in current flowing through an object as it applies to life, and a periodic, repeating pattern or DNA, and then I come across a phrase asking “what is life, that discusses the Erwin Schrödinger “lecture to the thermodynamics of life.”

In defining life, it seems Schrödinger was unhappy associating human beings with low entropy, so he created a new rule for humans, and perpared lectures about it. The 2013 book,  Life at the Speed of Life  by J. Craig Venter, is an attempt to answer the question that Schrödinger asked in his 1944 book that influenced so many future scientists, “What is Life.”

This pastiche takes me to another search that turns up The Natural Order of Things, which has  a nice twist, wherein, Matt Ridley says that “Darwinian selection explains the appearance of seemingly ‘designed’ complexity throughout the world — not just in biology but in the economy, technology and the arts.” And, where at some point he famously says, “living beings are eddies in the stream of entropy.”

And of course I couldn’t stop there, so I applied it to politics. And the question I asked myself, are democracy and freedom, then, an expected and persistent eddy in the stream of entropy or a fluke?

Political eddies in the stream of entropy

Is then Democracy an eddy in the stream of entropy, like a living being? Democracy and freedom almost seem a fluke at times. Democracy, however, continues to persist despite the obstacle flows, rocks and boulders, if you will. It does not seem to get swallowed up in low entropy; instead it has evolved quite nicely over the centuries, regardless of our impatience or the blood spilled.

And how about resistivity in Democracy? Do some groups, cultures, people’s possess more resistivity than others? Is it due to education, or education and hard fought battles for independence? And I’m not suggesting American exceptionalism for America is without equivocation a melting pot of the world, and rationally cannot claim exclusivity since we originate from the rest of the world population.

My mother’s DNA is European and American Indian. My father’s DNA is European and African. Our last ancestor from another continent left Amsterdam in the 1500s and Ireland around 1700. We are American born, yet our cells are citizens of the world.

If I go back thousands of years I am from Haplogroups U and R, some of the oldest peoples who started with a journey from the Caucasus Mountains and a Siberian steppes, carrying a smidgen of Neanderthal in their DNA. Geographically I’m an American, but as an eddy in the stream of entropy I’ve recombined many times over, picking up a half-dozen origins of ethnicity, and so have the whole of Americans.

Seeing ourselves as eddies in the political stream

Is the DNA of freedom and democracy encoded in all our blood? *Halliburton drilling states that a difference exists between rocks filled with hydrocarbons, which are poor conductors of electricity compared with those filled with salty formation water. Are we a different kind of rock? Do we have what it takes to resist entropy of democracy.

I think we do. And for most of America’s history, internally, with the exception of the American Civil War, mostly we’ve achieved it with intelligent resistance such as that of Martin Luther King Civil Rights movement and the Women’s suffrage movement in the last century. It is my belief that an expanding world democracy as well as American Democracy, is enduring just as sure as DNA because it is encoded within us, in the dignity of each and every one of us.

 Footnote

*[Resistivity is the ability of a substance to impede the flow of an electrical current. This is a very important rock property in formation evaluation as it helps to differentiate between formations filled with salty waters (good conductors of electricity) and those filled with hydrocarbons (poor conductors of electricity). Hence, a difference in resistivity exists between rocks filled with hydrocarbons and those filled with formation water. Resistivity and porosity measurements are used to obtain values of water saturation to help evaluate producibility of the formation.]

EricSchmidt

 

 I expected to read details, hitherto unknown to us, about that weird country, North Korea, in Eric Schmidt’s book, The New Digital Age. After all, North Korea is a hot topic, and Schmidt, recently, had a bird’s eye view of it.

Schmidt is on the short list of a very few Americans to experience North Korea intimately, notwithstanding the blinkered Dennis Rodman, who attended a North Korean “celebrity sporting event” a month before Kim Jong-un threatened nuclear annihilation to four U.S. cities: Washington, Colorado Springs, Colo., Los Angeles and Honolulu.

Or, let’s not forget the photo-op of ashen-faced, hostage negotiator, ex-president, Bill Clinton who stood on stage beside the elder, Kim Jong-II during a tense hostage situation. We are curious about North Korea, as-is, on a day-to-day basis, rather than a sanitized distance. Schmidt entered the inner sanctum.

Yes, there were many quotable lines about North Korea and the future of business in Asia in The New Digital Age, but for the rest of us, seeking ephemera, the chapters were like dry lake beds encrusted with cracked mud. 

Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen dual authored The Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business. The book was published this April, several months after Schmidt’s business and sightseeing tour with his daughter, Sophie, to North Korea.

Since books are printed in bits instead of ink, mostly, nowadays, it seems like Schmidt and Cohen could’ve updated their Kindle version to include more North Korean local color before it was published; could’ve added a page or two of local kitsch slash melodrama for those readers who are so very curious about, but will never see the innards of North Korea; with those edits in mind, Schmidt could’ve let his daughter write the book.

Daughter, Sophie’s hot-wired blog post written after her visit to North Korea with her father, Eric Schmidt, was far more fun, informative, and readable than Schmidt’s and Cohen’s book. You might like to visit Sophie in North Korea or read Eric Schmidt’s Daughter Recounts the Duo’s Bizarre Trip to North Korea, a Gizmodo story. It’s lively.

Seemed like the Schmidt-Cohen combo was possibly cautious about letting loose Google secrets or damaging a future working relationship with that Manchurian Candidate-kind-of-country, North Korea. Or something.

A Kindle search for the phrase ‘North Korea’ in The New Digital Age leads to no less than thirty-four instances. But for all those talking points the authors might have been describing a dull gray, nondescript, electrical box that every body owns.

Yeah, we know the North Korean government filters their public Internet. Give us details we can chew on. Give us concreteness. Give us gossip, any morsel, scrap, tedious leftover. Linsday Lohan gets better coverage than that bad-boy, North Korea, after a Schmidt visit.

Maybe informed readers with insider views to Google, and the future, read more into Schmidt’s lines than disappointed reviewers read. I’m sure, reading between the lines totally titillates CEO’s and those who like to guess what Google’s next move is about — readers get that, but a good read that broadens our understanding of the future, sprinkled with some bling-bling, and magic dust, particularly, when describing North Korea is what most readers expected.

A few reviewers on Amazon reviews were disappointed. We were in the minority. Below is the gist of my comment left on Amazon:

Bought The New Digital Age book on Amazon Pre-Order because I thought it was a book I might enjoy a lot. Rarely do this. The first chapter was interesting enough, but the writing kept me, the reader at a distance.

After the first chapter I would find myself flipping through other books in my Kindle. I didn’t get much past the first chapter, though I sampled later chapters to try to find a place to anchor my interest. I gave up on it.

Had just finished reading James Merkosi’s Burning the Page with little effort; I read it page for page, and gave it a good review on my blog. The distance between the two books on the WOW scale was wide. I read Burning the Page without a bump, but there was nothing but turbulence in the cockpit when I attempted to navigate The New Digital Age.

20130315-DSC_0226

Internet computer conversation has changed. I like to tinker. But, lately, it’s like standing in a room full of people chatting up something interesting like Mountain Lion 10.8 OS X when without notice you are alone. Everyone suddenly exits to see something more exciting outside the building. You wonder over to the window to see what all the babel is about. On the lawn techies are crowding around this seven-inch rectangular mirror thing that’s got everyone mesmerized. No mess of cords: simplicity.

That’s how I felt as a tinkerer before Nexus 7 Tablet arrived at my place. Alone, behind times. OS X was no longer fresh. I was on the line about abandoning Snow Leopard 10.6.8Mountain Lion 10.8 was more of the same, a buggy system that requires updates to fix the bugs that the last version didn’t fix. Shades of Windows. My 2006 Intel dual core PC is to this day a work horse, ahead of it’s time when I bought the $1500 motherboard and power supply fashionably ensconced in what is still a bad ass black X Blade case.

It became clearer everyday that if I wanted to stay current with OS X I had to buy more hardware like a sound card, video, or buy a motherboard, and Mountain Lion OS software. I adopted a used Mac desktop from a family member who couldn’t fix it. It just quit. Took it apart to find a tiny bit of solder missing on a fragile metal object that made it not fixable, at least by me.

Windows 7 shelf date came and went, OS X grew a dull patina starting with boot, too. When Google Chrome developers decided to dump OS X Chrome browser, and it acted finicky when video played, that was it. What is a middling, not serious tinkerer to do? Buy a $180 video card. Throw good money after bad? TonyMacX86, goodbye. You’ve been a great site!

I de-tethered from my desktop. I want battery life that is as promised. Nexus 7 has 10-11 hour sustainable battery power. My HP Pavilion DV7 lasted three hours when it was new. Writing a simple column on battery only was a pain. No goofing off with housework to return to a black screen from where the battery had fully discharged, and lost text.

In two years the HP battery was dead, anyway. I either had to spend more dollars to replace it or stay hooked to an outlet. That’s for a device that is stationary, runs too hot to balance on my lap, and runs the power hogging OS, Windows 7. HP runs Ubuntu or a Linux, too, of course, and can do OS X, but like Windows those have lost luster. Drag that five pound monster to Starbucks, and all the fun is missing.

I wanted a genuinely portable tablet like the Amazon Fire, like the one I bought for my daughter. Kindle Fire is has an elegant design, limited browsing power but is a damn good first in an affordable 8 GB tablet. Ever since I booted the Kindle I’ve wanted to break it, to root it, but since it was her gift, bricking was not in the spirit of the gift. This spring Google announced Nexus 7. The reviews read like every nerd’s dream, every spec covered most of my bases, and those things that were not covered, new apps like the Nexus Media Importer and the new OTG hardware hack written about on forums, made possible the last wish on my list.

The final Lego fell into place when Larry Page (I think) dropped a tidbit about wired Ethernet as a possibility. A hack made possible by the On The Go or OTG cable. Our Internet is wired. If I were to run the wireless I had to interrupt the household Internet for fifteen minutes to get online for minimal browsing, and email. OTG, an unpublicized option, made my decision final. The Nexus 7 Tablet 16 GB was my next computer system. I didn’t have the cash to spend upgrading hopelessly clunky systems.

The OTG cable hooked into Ethernet, and a 50 ft. cable, LOL. (and Belkin USB Ethernet adapter.) A wireless tablet is nice but a wired tablet is really nice. I wanted the option to tether my phone, ditto. Bluetooth, ditto. I wanted the option to type on a keyboard for speed or thumb-type-touch for convenience. I wanted to connect at Starbucks without weight or complexity. And I wanted to try the apps tech writers raved about.

Google gave a $25.00 gift certificate to spend on Google Play with purchase. Spending someone else’s money is fun I’ve got to tell you. Google’s money was spent well. It was a win/win. Google educated me about their App Store and Google Wallet in a direct meaningful way that it would have taken me years to get to.

I bought my first apps, yes, I know this is sad, but these were the first Apps I’d needed to buy since I own an inexpensive Samsung phone. I have never owned an iPhone or iPad, nor have I wanted to own one. Those systems are too slick — to limiting — too expensive.

A big chunk went to Quick Office. And a good choice for a writer. At first it didn’t seem that way. Now, after three weeks, Quick office is a ritual. After I check my email, browse the news, I open Office to write. I get a choice in file formats.

I save doc files compatible with 1997-2003 Office — my current software version. Upload the docs to Google drive or email them to my personal email account without ever exposing my business account to Android’s ever-open email access. Download the files to my HP laptop, which is looking useful again, and print them. Or I could print them from the cloud. Or upload posts to my blogsite Technosociofile.blogspot.com. The Nexus 7 Android OS, Jelly Bean 4.1, ecosystem is consumer friendly.

Google has thought the Nexus 7 Tablet strategy through. They’ve integrated their ecosystem, which is remarkably like the one I want, to make email simple, browsing fast, an ecosystem that has open frontiers to explore. It’s not a walled-in community on the level that Amazon built.

Kindle books are a must. The reader is backlit. Kindle is awesome on Nexus 7. Sunlight. I can sit under the canopy at Starbucks to type or browse. Google needs a shipping and customer infrastructure to match their product but as a frontier-settler-nerd this works exceptionally well for me. I had one disappointment.

The Nexus 7 official case covers were sold out at $20. I ordered the swiss army knife for Nexus covers from a company named CrazyOnDigital, described as a “Rotating Stand Leather Case Cover for Google Nexus 7 Tablet (Black)[Smart Cover Function: Automatically Wakes and Puts the Nexus 7 to Sleep” from Amazon. Got it in a few days at a cost of $14.85. And it absolutely revolutionized productivity on the Nexus.

And, behold another computer system has come to my attention, the Raspberry Pi. Gotta have the $35 credit card size motherboard to make a HDMI home theater. Android Ice Cream Sandwich works for video on the Raspberry Pi. If only it played sound. Google’s AudioFlinger is missing. Debian works pretty good for now. Oh, well, another day. Another OS. Reprint from defunct blog at blogspot.com.

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BURNING THE PAGE: THE EBOOK REVOLUTION AND THE FUTURE OF READING. It shows us how magic came to be. It tells the story about a modern day sorcerer, Jason Merkoski, who spent his life working on the “front lines of the ebook revolution.”

Like FAHRENHEIT 451 the page was burnt, destroyed in the most anarchic invention in the twenty-first century, the Kindle book. To save the page it was deconstructed from atoms, and resurrected to bits.

From paper to zeros and ones. From print to Kindle, and later from bits to bits, conceived on a screen and published onscreen. James Merkoski and the Amazon team quietly changed our lives, and changed a world-wide paradigm that’s been the thread woven into our daily life for centuries – the bound book.

It’s a narrative about the Kindle-dot-com – Amazon, about “Google, Jeff Bezos, and the ghost of Gutenberg. It’s a true story of the eBook revolution—what eBooks are and what they mean for you and me, for our future, and for reading itself,” but mostly it’s the intimate memoir of an inventor entwined w/ the memoir of the Gutenberg invention, the book from beginning to present.

It’s a love letter written to the book as we’ve known it and an elegy to it’s passing. It’s an imaginative glimpse into the new technology that has revolutionized reading and writing books; it is the socialization of books.

Digital books were available before the Kindle; only the Kindle caused a revolution in reading. Before that digital texts were the province of disparate publishers of history books, technical manuals, and fiction books, mostly from established writers like Stephen King. eBook publishing was reserved for the few forward thinkers, sometimes self-publishers, the techno-savvy who, early on, published eBooks in the digital space as a PDF file, a file both awkward and serviceable. The personal Kindle reader, and app, and the flexible-format MOBI file revolutionized eBooks.

The Kindle incarnation proved it could almost displace the much-loved book bound in leather, paper, and cloth with distinct smells and feels, and an almost living presence to bibliophiles. It begrudgingly won us over.

Burning the Page carries forward this astounding history that has happened right under our noses, in writing, story, and a style that begets “pastness, presentness, and futureness, joined by association” tying all these concepts together. It’s a complex style that works as best I can describe it.

Amazon Kindle books have breached the “third digital revolution” described by Neil Gershenfeld, “in which matter and information merge”, where things are turned into bits and bits are turned into things. James Merkoski captured a Gutenberg moment in his book just as one epoch is ending and another beginning. Book lovers and Technosociofiles will not want to miss this one.

stories that matter

THE EMERGENCE OF NOVEL IDEAS. Below is a blurb from the new site MATTER, which will introduce you to a journalism subscription concept that I’m excited about. It features emerging ideas on the fringe of our knowledge. If you’re like me you like to read magazine length, in depth stories about science, technology and the future. If you’re like me sometimes you like to listen to these stories or parts of them while you’re doing something else. Now you can. If you would like to download science journalism the length of a novelette to your Kindle or reader, you can. Read DO NO HARM, Why do some people want to cut off a perfectly healthy limb? Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID). for your introduction to MATTER, a Kickstarter project that consolidated MEDIUM and MATTER.

Stories that MATTER


MATTER is the new home for in-depth writing about the ideas that are shaping our future. We publish a single piece of extraordinary long-form journalism every month, from tales of corporate misdeeds and untold environmental scandals to stories of radical new scientific ideas and the people behind them.

We also think it’s crucial to find smarter ways to fund this kind of journalism. That’s why we’re building a community of readers, contributors and supporters who agree. For just 99c each month you can be part of it too.

Sign up today, and you’ll get:

• Access to all of our stories, including each month’s new release and our archive.
• Audio versions of every story, so you can listen on the go.
• E-book editions to read on your Kindle, iPad or Nook.
• The MATTER newsletter full of amazing links and tips from great writers.
• Editorial Board membership, so you can help shape the topics we cover.
• Exclusive Q&A sessions with the authors and editors of every story.And it’s easy to change your mind: you can cancel your Membership at any time with a single click.