Special Assignment

I asked my friend Violet the year this took place, and she believes it was 1965.

Violet's Vibes

This is a true story of a defining moment in my life from my book, In the Right Place: A Gallery of Treasured Moments (Carr Twins & Co. 2006). This revision is as fitting today, January 15, 2018, as the nation observes the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, as it was when first published.

The scene: Proof machines clatter and a check sorter hums with activity outside the manager’s door in a bank Operations Center. A West Coast transplant to the Deep South is being briefed on her new assignment, a dark secret that is about to change this workplace forever.

“James wants to see you in his office when you finish that batch of deposits,” my supervisor said.  Except for annual performance reviews, a summons to his office was rare and seldom good news.

“I asked you here to give you a special assignment,” James said. “Because of…

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Women: Get in touch with your Viking warrior selves!

Only in 2017, was it revealed via DNA analyses that the ancient remains of a Viking warrior was not male but female. According to a national geographic article, “More than a millennium ago in what’s now southeastern Sweden, a wealthy Viking warrior was laid to rest in a resplendent grave filled with swords, arrowheads, and two sacrificed horses.” Modern scientists assumed the warrior was male. Viking lore and sagas suggested there were women warriors, but archaeologists evidently imposed current gender roles to dismiss the idea as embroidery to myths.

Since the discovery of the Birka warrior in the 1880s, the assumption of male remains continued until 2014, when Anna Kjellström presented at a conference her findings that close examination of the pelvic and mandible bones were consistent with a female’s. When archaeologists defended the long-held view it was male, they tried to explain away her claim, but another archaeologist, Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson did careful DNA research establishing the gender. In fact, game pieces found in the lap indicated she was involved in planning tactics.

Expected gender roles have varied with time. Pioneer women  worked in the fields although suntans were consequently non-fashionable. Being pale meant being wealthy enough for wives and daughters to remain quietly indoors. Laura Ingalls Wilder wore long dresses and sunbonnets with large bills when outdoors.

It is unbelievable that the right to vote took a one-hundred-year battle.

The Rosie the Riveter period was followed by a considered effort to get women back home to make way to provide jobs for the men coming home from war. Never have there been more ads to prevent “waxy yellow buildup.”  Not only must floors be waxed to a shine, one must occasionally remove layer upon layer. Not everyone fell for it.

Women are currently showing their political muscle against sexual abuse and requiring sexual favors for job security and promotion.

This blog was written in honor of the upcoming nationwide Women’s Marches on January 20th. I’m tempted to carry a spear with last year’s sign with the coiled snake and Revolutionary War slogan  “Don’t tread on me.” Hmm, maybe I can put spear points on the ends of the poles of the sign. Yes, I like that idea. Now if I can only find a Viking helmet..


Affairs in your family? No, then gene testing is a family affair.

 I gave my husband and daughter gene tests with 23andMe for Christmas. I did mine a few years back as a birthday gift. It sounded like fun, better than a visit to a fortune-teller. I found no surprises: 99.9% European with 1/3 German and French. When my sister had the idea of giving tests to her family, I went back online to see my report and discovered more than I remembered. The German and French meant my ancestors came from a region, parts  of which ended up in the two different countries..

As more people are tested, more information is added to your reports. They include  predictions based on statistics about folks with similar genes. I am likely to smell asparagus in my pee. I never knew  anyone  couldn’t. All my predictions were correct except one and that was my hair color. Each time I go on there’s new information and new surveys.

Many companies perform gene testing and it pays for family members to use the same one as more ancestral genes can be identified. To my surprise my sister bought me and our other sister a test from Ancestry.com. They were cheaper by the dozen so to speak. I’m curious to see how all the results compare..

I recently read an article on ear lobes and genetics. It appears that geneticists are obsessed with attached versus unattached ear lobes.  I guess it’s just an easily studied trait, but correlations with certain diseases have been proposed.

There are those who worry that your information won’t remain private, and that the government will end up knowing more about you. I am not concerned. Not sure there’s more they’ll find out that’s not in the census data nor doubt they care about hair color and asparagus scented pee.

What creeps me out is not only myself but my hubby  shopping online and subsequently seeing ads for the  product. I recall one teen’s father incensed over her getting ads for diapers. It turns out the marketing world found out she was pregnant before her parents.

I did agree to allow access to my data for research purposes without identifying me in any way. I think it’s useful to society as a whole to know more about our genetic consequences. At any rate, it’s fun.

Happy New Year!


Do you ever feel like being silly? It’s good for you.

Look what stares into our family room.



It’s well known that laughter is good for your mental health so being silly must also qualify. So today’s post is devoted to my recent silliness.

We bought a cover for a patio heater. Covered, it reminded me so much of an alien, I couldn’t resist enhancing that impression. He stands on our deck just outside the sliding glass doors in our family room. Every time I pass I smile.



I think it all started with the launch party of my new book, Lower World. I decorated with jellyfish balloons, removed the handle from a duster that reminded me of a sea cucumber, stuffed a balloon to create a cock-eyed squid, and bought balls that not only look like sea urchins, they bio-luminesce as many of the creatures in the ocean deep are wont to do including my characters.


Jellyfish Ornament



Several years ago, my daughter’s gift was a collection of starfish and other shells for an ocean theme for our tree. I found some shells in centerpieces that made perfect jellyfish bodies so now our tree sports jellyfish as well.





Tonight is kind of a silly night at my book club as we decided to wear ugly Christmas sweaters only to learn that today is indeed ugly sweater day. My hostess wants us to wear fancy slippers so I attached them to my plain jane old black isotoners.


Click on the first website below if you like, and learn about the limbic system and how the amygdala and the hippocampus are involved in laughter, the second related to a study of habits. Or, you can take my word for it that the silliness lifted my spirits.

“Your body cannot heal without play. Your mind cannot heal without laughter. Your soul cannot heal without joy.” .Catherine Rippenger Fenwick

So try a little silly right this very moment and chase the many world troubles away for another day.



OMG, Origami Robots!

Scientists are exploring uses for robots that can be enveloped in an exoskeleton made from folding a thin sheet of plastic. Cuts are made into a sheet, and then applying heat makes them fold up. The robot can effectively become a rolling ball, a boat, or a glider. They can be developed to have super strong  muscles according to Daniela Rus1, but making tiny robots may be the most promising as a tool to serve humans.

One of the projected exciting uses is in medicine where once inside a human body, an appropriately designed robot could perform a variety of procedures without a single cut with a knife. These include surgery, collection of tissue samples, removing a foreign object swallowed by a child, and dispensing medicine to a particular body site. A magnet inserted into the tiny robot  will allow it to be controlled.

The robot could be frozen in an ice pill, which will melt in your tummy and out will pop the robot reporting for duby.

I first heard about it on NPR’s Science Friday and had to look it up. Check out this source  to see one of these things scuttling around a dinner plate. If I saw one on my kitchen floor, my first instinct would be to stomp on it.

Despite looking like darting insects, part of their beauty is their cost benefit. They are affordable for education and manufacturing marvelous toys. Too bad they’re not yet perfected with Christmas coming up.


  1. Director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT




PS I’m changing my blog pattern to every other Saturday from the 10th, 20th, and 30th of the month. I’ve noticed more readers on Saturdays.;

Hard to believe these things exist, but they do in the deep dark depths of our oceans

Goblin shark is scary ugly

How would you like to meet this guy on a casual swim after dipping your toe in the water?It’s hard to believe how many truly odd creatures live in the depths of the ocean—where the sun doesn’t shine, no less.  I’ve mentioned all of these in my book, Lower World so I thought it would be fun to display them. BTW, the price of the e-book will be $2.99 if you preorder by the 25th and the paperback is available now at $10.99 before my official launch date and celebratory party. After the launch on the 25th the costs will be $7.99 and $13,99 respectively.

Perhaps the strangest living being in the book is the human-like beings who live under the ocean floor and have developed a sophisticated by dysfunctional society.; Anyway, here are more oddities.

Do you have greedy genes?

More, more, more

Can you inherit a tendency to be greedy, to work your proverbial arse off to get ahead financially, or is it something else? You never got enough atta-kids when you were young so you maintain your self-worth through accumulation of valuable stuff? I wondered about it recently when I read a column by economist, Paul Krugman. He argued the recent tax reform proposal, which benefits the super wealthy, wouldn’t make them any happier,  I’ve heard the argument before. After some people have so much money they don’t know what to do with, they continue to seek more and more not because they need another yacht, but because it’s a way to keep score.
If you’re the CEO of Snicky Snacks and make 10 million per annum, you’re not happy since the average CEO earns 12.2 million per year. Everyone thinks they are above average so believe their salaries should reflect that. Krugman argues Scrooge McDuck won’t be happier because all  wealthy get the same advantage.

Many personalities are genetic as every parent knows and behavioral science agrees.  I was aware that traits like optimism vs. pessimism, outgoing vs shy, and fearful vs. courageous, were well-studied. But, I thought who would do a study on greediness?

I was wrong..A gene has been identified that correlates with selfishness.   I found a book by Richard Dawkins called The Selfish Gene.  He explores genes for selfishness and altruism, written in 1972 and updated twice. I ordered it as it sounds interesting.

In fact, scientists  search for genetic evidence for all kinds of traits. As an example economists are  interested in spending habits. If it’s true that money is a way of keeping score for the wealthy, then perhaps it’s due to a competitive gene.

In the past the study of separated identical twins dominated the research, and in fact, income is more closely correlated with identical twins vs fraternal twins than IQ. I’m not sure income disparity is due to greed, but there’s likely a correlation. However,  with more information about our DNA, we may one day be able to predict all kinds of behavior.

I recall one savvy saying , “it doesn’t matter whether it’s nature or nurture, either way the parents are to blame.”