I Am a Proud Caveman

The news that many humans have some Neanderthal DNA has created a wave of bandwagon articles by numerous media outlets. I am very skeptical and also have been of most of the theories surrounding the history of hominids on planet Earth.

Wired magazine, on its Underwire blog, has a bit on the news.

Neanderthals mated with some modern humans after all and left their imprint in the human genome . . . ”

This is according to biologists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. Neanderthals were “stocky hunters that [sic] dominated Europe until 30,000 years ago.” Of course, this is all subject to change, based on interpretation.

Just last year, when the biologists first announced that they had decoded the Neanderthal genome, they reported no significant evidence of interbreeding.”

“This is probably not the authors’ last word, and they are obviously groping to explain what they have found,” Dr. Ian Tattersall said. He is a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Reg Henry of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a column on the subject. It’s made its way into at least one Canadian newspaper, The Province in British Columbia. Unfortuantely his thoughts aren’t as insightful as I’d hoped.

Indeed most women today will tell you they have dated a Neanderthal at some time in their lives. . .

That cultural bias needs to be put aside. My inner Neanderthal pleads for understanding. It is no crime to resist change or to have a big brain but not think much.

There’s also nothing wrong with having hair all over your body, although those of us whose hair stopped short of covering our heads think it is a cruel joke that nature has played.

What a wonderful life it must have been, marred only by the attacks of wild beasts and the scoldings of primitive liberals.

Of course, my dear mother would not approve of me linking our family tree to that of Neanderthals. She would insist that it was all on my father’s side and want me to make that distinction clear in her honour. Dad, however, would have been amused.”

A friend told me a couple of nights ago about Walgreens offering genetic testing kits. Since, I have heard via the BBC or NPR on Oregon Public Broadcasting Radio that the company will not be selling these because, according to news sources including The New York Times, of a challenge from the Food and Drug Administration.




It’s my younger brother’s birthday today, so after wishing him well on Facebook, I decided to check out what was happening the year he was born — 1977. Besides Wikipedia’s general page dedicated to that year, there’s a page on the music of 1977.

Bohemian Rhapsody, made famous again by the Mike Myers and Dana Carvey vehicle Wayne’s World, was declared ‘The Best Single Of The Last 25 Years’ by the British Phonographic Industry. Phonographic, now that’s a hip term. Today the group is still known by the initials BPI.

Some of the more controversial moves were presidential pardons. One was President Ford‘s pardon of Tokyo Rose. This was followed by President Carter pardoning Vietnam War draft evaders.

The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers to win the NBA finals 4–2. Bill Walton was named series MVP. May 25Star Wars opens in cinemas and subsequently becomes the then-highest grossing film of all time.

And, finally, the television miniseries Roots was shown on ABC.


‘I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live.’

The Washington Poison Center is tracking cases of hemlock poisoning. Five cases have been reported, according to three media outlets covering the story: the Tacoma News Tribune, The Bellingham Herald, and The Associated Press.

“That was an unusual number for us,” said Katie Von Derau of the Poison Center.

One woman “apparently put hemlock in a salad she ate, thinking it was something else . . .”

It’s scientific name is Conium maculatum, and it’s “the same poison that killed Greek philosopher Socrates.”

The center and the Noxious Weed Control Board have partnered to warn the public about mistaking hemlock for edible plants. It is sometimes thought to be parsley, parsnip, wild carrot and anise, which have similar flowers, leaves and seeds. Poison hemlock is in the same plant family as carrot.

That whole plant family is either very edible or very deadly, and it’s important to know the difference. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.”

The white flowers and leaves look like a cross between Italian parsley and a fern. All parts of the plant are poisonous and affect the nervous system.

It “grows along roadsides and waterways, in pastures and playgrounds, in vacant lots and cracks in the pavement.”

Poison hemlock is common, second as a noxious weed only to tansy ragwort in Pierce County.

“I have found it in people’s gardens, however, sometimes lovingly cultivated, either for its attractiveness or under the mistaken impression that it is one of its edible relatives,” he said.

David Westerlund of Bellingham nearly died from it.

He . . . put what he thought was a carrot in a bowl of fermented vegetables. . . He expects to make a full recovery, but is lucky he wasn’t killed . . .”

Westerlund didn’t think “something toxic or deadly could be in my garden.”


Velma Edith Goodell Kaufman (1914-2010)

The last of my maternal great aunts, Velma Edith Kaufman, passed away on Saturday after a long and fulfilled life. Her maiden name was Goodell. Velma was born December 1, 1914, in Bradley, South Dakota. She was the daughter of Bert and Nora Goodell.

Velma was living at Countryside Senior Living in Sioux City at the time of her death. A death notice and obituary were printed in the Sioux City Journal. Occasionally I’ll browse the front page of the Journal via the Newseum.

She loved to sew, cook and paint. In her later years, she took up oil painting and many of her family members enjoyed her paintings. She loved to travel, but most of all, she loved spending time with her children and grandchildren.”

She attended the Evangelical Church in South Sioux City, which is actually across the state line and in Nebraska, and was buried in Memorial Park Cemetery. The last remaining sibling is her brother Lee of Rapid City. I visited Lee and his wife Inez a few years ago while on a trip with my parents to a family reunion in the Black Hills.

In 1987 I, with my parents and siblings, attended Velma’s 50th wedding anniversary in southern California. She married Francis Clair “Mike” Kaufman in 1937 in Clark, South Dakota. I knew him as Uncle Clair. This is what my mother had called him for years. At the time they lived in Norwalk.

Sometime during the 1980s they visited our family in Oregon. Uncle Clair was one the hardest working, industrious men I ever known. He and I worked together pulling the weeds out of the crevices on the sidewalk where it met the asphalt of the street. He showed me what tools to use and how to do it.

He also helped with the major project that summer, painting the house. My dad decided on a deep brown with white trim. We put so many coats on the thirsty wood that it was basically encased in paint. The house hasn’t been in need of paint since and, although our family hasn’t lived there in years, it is pretty much the same as it was when I was growing up, minus a few trees and other plants.

I didn’t know much about Uncle Clair. I discovered from death notices published in a few newspapers that he was a long haul truck driver for Hirshbach Trucking. Unfortunately I still haven’t found a complete obituary for him. He died on August 19, 2001, in Fresno, California, where they had lived for many years.

I have posted Velma’s obituary on the Goodell and Kaufman mailing lists hosted at RootsWeb. While relocating to Pennsylvania recently, my brother Paul stopped in Sioux City to visit her and other relatives, many we hadn’t seen since the eighties.

In July of 2003, Velma’s granddaughter Jenny posted a message on a Clark County, South Dakota genealogy site query page. I’ve tried contacting her but the AOL email address posted is no longer operational. My grandmother, Bernice Frances Goodell, was Velma’s older (not by much) sister.


A Personal Mission Statement

FranklinCovey, part of the Stephen Covey empire, has some good free resources on its website, including a tool for creating a mission statement. James Cathcart, a FranklinCovey employee, has written why a mission statement is so important on the company blog

There’s also a lot of material on mission statements and inspiration, including examples from Ben Franklin to Gandhi.

Here’s a list from Franklin’s various writings, mostly from his autobiography:

Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”

Using “a short list of active statements” beginning with “I shall” or “I will” is one way to go.

Here’s Mahatma Gandhi’s mission. It’s very Yoda-like.

Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:
I shall not fear anyone on Earth.
I shall fear only God.
I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.
I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.
I shall conquer untruth by truth.
And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.”

Writer Erma Bombeck also has a page on the site. 

If I had my life to live over,” written . . . near the end of her life, details the values Bombeck wished had guided her daily decisions . . . 

If I had my life to live over, I would have talked less and listened more. I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded. I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace. I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth. I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed. I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage. I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains. I would have cried and laughed less while watching television – and more while watching life. I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband. I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day. I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime. Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle. When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.” There would have been more “I love you’s”.. More “I’m sorrys” … But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute… look at it and really see it … live it…and never give it back.”

There’s also an anonymous section. Here’s some selections from various people: 

No empty chairs. 

About the world
About life
About people
About myself

My family
My world

For my beliefs
For my passions
To accomplish
To do good
To be true to myself
Against apathy

The boat, don’t
let the boat rock me
Be a rock

Be Remembered 

Nothing less.”


Friends of the Chemeketa Library, A No Go?

Recently I contacted some folks at Chemeketa Community College about starting a nonprofit group to help support the library. It would be one way for me to give back to the school, since I am a graduate and frequent library user, using everything from the computers to books to specialized databases.

Here’s my original message:

I am interested in starting a community-based support group for the Chemeketa Library, modeled after the Friends of the Salem Public Library and the Salem Public Library Foundation. Who should I contact about this?”

Reference Librarian Kathleen Veldhuisen seemed supportive.

I am forwarding your inquiry to our director, Natalie Beach,  as the most appropriate person to begin a discussion with about a library friends group. . . . Thank you for your goodwill towards the library!”

Sadly the response from Natalie Beach (natalie.beach@chemeketa.edu), the Director of Library & Tutoring Services, was underwhelming to say the least.

Dear Mr. Hill,

I appreciate your inquiry about a library Friends group. The Friends of the Salem Public Library is a wonderful, active group and a great asset for that community. You may not be aware that Chemeketa has its own Foundation that provides similar support for the college and for the college library. I do not see a need for a secondary Friends group at this time, but thank you so much for your interest in Chemeketa and the library.



My response to her wasn’t as diplomatic as it probably should have been, but I didn’t brandish as much firepower as I sometimes do.

I am disappointed in your response, but not surprised. A community-based group could help with all sorts of things, including fundraising. The Salem Library Friends group raised nearly $60,000 in 2008 while the Salem Library Foundation is approaching $2 million in assets. The foundation gave the interest and other donations totaling around $90,000 in 2008. Let me know if you change your mind or have any questions.”


Old Government Posters, Military History and Military-Commissioned Dr. Seuss Drawings

Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post has posted some details on the Government Printing Office blog on his blog, the Federal Eye.

“Sure, there are plenty of government blogs, but it’s rare to find one driven by one author allowed to let his creativity and personal interests run wild,” he writes.

I’ve been checking out the GPO blog for a few weeks now.

“[I]t’s bookmark-worthy for history buffs and Beltway nerds who love old government posters, military history and military-commissioned Dr. Seuss drawings.”


The Chemeketans

I just went to a session on backpacking essentials put on by The Chemeketans, an outdoor enthusiast club mostly related to hiking. While in what’s called the den, a nice space for meetings just above the Cooke Stationery Company, I noticed a display on the history of the group sitting on top of a book case. It is organized by decade, starting in the 1930s and ending with the 1990s. The club was officially organized in 1928 and currently has about 700 members, according to their website. I’d post the direct link, but the site is using frames, which is not only archaic, but also very annoying.