Travel

We Are All Connected: My DNA Journey

UPDATE 5/11/2014
Saw this article today and did some investigation.
A variant of the gene KLOTHO (KL) is known for its anti-aging effects in people fortunate enough to carry one copy. Now researchers find that it also has benefits when it comes to brain function. The variant appears to lend beneficial cognitive effects by increasing overall levels of klotho in the bloodstream and brain.” Also, Klotho (KL) is generally considered to be a tumor suppressor gene in breast and pancreatic cancers.

Turns out I have the variant. I would never had known that had I not been able to login to 23andMe and discover that I had it. Cool, heh?

Three years or so ago National Geographic produced a fascinating show called The Human Family Tree as part of its Genographic Project. If you haven’t seen it I don’t want to introduce any spoilers, but it was the first show like this I’d watched that told real stories about the amazing connectedness of humans. It also had surprises in it that obviously changed the worldview of some of its partcipants!

That show was a big deal to me since it was the first spark of my internal fire to learn more about DNA and my own family tree.

23andme-kitAfter this show I became very intrigued by the work going on at 23andMe. At the time, the ‘swab’ kit (for sending in your DNA) cost $499 so I decided against it at the moment. In the fall of 2011 they dropped the price to $99 so I signed up.

It was fun to see the results but the key with 23andMe is that the participants have to answer survey questions…over-and-over-and-over again. I’m willing to do it since I benefit from other people doing the same, but it did become a daunting task after awhile. Still, I was able to see what others in my maternal/paternal haplogroups suffered from so I have at least an idea of what sorts of illnesses I’m prone to having.

I’ve also connected with 3rd, 4th, and 5th cousins. One woman who is a 3rd cousin, for example, connected with me and she lives in California. I looked at her profile and, in a long list of surnames she was connected to, was the surname of my maternal grandmother’s parents! So my great grandfather’s family in Norway had a male who, um, ‘connected’ with a woman in her lineage and passed on that familial DNA. Cool.  Read More

Our 2011 Family Trip

We had an amazing trip to Germany, Austria and Poland and yes, if the internet access had been easy to obtain and ubiquitous, it would’ve made the trip A LOT easier and more enjoyable. Click the photo below to open the Flickr album with pics of our adventure:

Our Family Trip to Germany, Austria & Poland, Summer 2011

Louis C.K. on Why Appreciate ‘the Amazing’

Comedian Louis C.K.  has this very funny rant on how people don’t appreciate technology, flying, Wifi on those flying planes and more. This is EXACTLY what I’d love to say to people when they complain about their smartphone while they’re riding in a car (“it, like, is totally slower than my home internet“) but you’re in a CAR going down the HIGHWAY AT 75MPH! Or those who complain about the nearly 13 hours it takes to fly from Minneapolis, MN to Narita, Japan (“oh my butt is so sore“), a trip that took weeks by train and then ship less than 75 years ago!

My 2011 Road Trip

treasurecityAfter coming to the realization that the compulsion to jump in the car with my new camera and head out on a road trip was not going away, I took off for a week and did it.

The following slideshow is not representative of the 700+ photos I took—many of those taken were done for dramatic and photographic effect—but these select ones give an overview of this adventure.

The most profound thing was all of the history I discovered and had reinforced on this trip. I’m still absorbing what transpired on this road trip and may post about it again soon.

Click the photo below to view my Flickr photo album:

Steve's 2011 Road Trip - 1

Virtualizing Your Organization as a Risk Management Strategy

Depending on where you live or work, chances are natural disasters, avian flu pandemics, earthquakes or other catastrophic events won’t impact you, but have you done any planning for the possibility something could happen besides making certain you’re in good standing with your insurance company or that you can locate a copy of the organization call tree so you can notify others of a business or organization work stoppage?

Over two years ago, I had the privilege to be a leader of a session at the Collaborative Technologies Conference in Boston (now called Enterprise 2.0) on “Business Continuity and Collaboration” which focused on what are typically two discrete and separately funded initiatives in any company.

At the outset, I laid out my premise that business continuity investments are usually made to ensure that information technology and telephony systems have backup, failover and redundancy so the company isn’t suddenly out of business if disaster strikes. To a very limited degree, work processes (and the people that perform them) are detailed along with possible ways in which they could continue to function in the event of a disaster, all in an attempt to ensure the business keeps going.

Continuing on with an overview of collaboration investments, I briefly laid out how these are typically driven by the desire to make work processes more efficient and reduce cycle times, but also to find ways to drive more innovation with people that connect and work with each other.

The problem? In almost every single organization I’ve been a part of or involved with as a consultant, these two don’t intersect and leaders don’t seem to realize that unless the people in their organizations have the company, directory, work processes and information at-their-fingertips and are using these systems day-in and day-out, if there is a disaster there’s no way they’ll be learning it then!

The opportunity? That these systems should be ones that are funded together as both innovation infrastructure as well as business continuity systems, and that people should be using them all the time. If virtual collaboration systems such as VoIP, groupware, web conferencing, webcams, and other “2.0-like” communication methods are something that everyone uses and knows how to work with at home or within the organizations walls, then if disaster strikes they’ll simply find an internet connection, log on and do their work.

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EFF Pioneer Awards

Last night I attended the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Awards. Just simply being at this event and absorbing the vibe was meaningful for me and I’ll bring forth a perspective that may be atypical and worth putting into the conversation about EFF.

Nearly four years ago was the first time that I donated to EFF and began my support of this organization. Though I look like “a suit”, a Republican and a mainstream sort of guy, I’m an independent, a closet liberal, enjoy some Libertarian leanings and am quite open to growing in my perspective as I learn — especially legally and politically — as we all push against the membrane of the future.

Five or so years ago I became more enlightened. I was stunned by the multiple, parallel, onrush of efforts by copyright holders, Congress, world intellectual capital bodies, governments globally as well as intelligence communities, to command, control and infiltrate all aspects of the Internet.  As I started to try getting my head wrapped around even a few of the issues, I realized that there was NO way that I could be competently informed about even ONE of these issues shaping our future….let alone dozens of them at a time!

Enter the EFF. I learned that here was an organization whose mission was to be that competent, informed entity who’d act to intervene, stop or shape the debate about the most important issues facing us in our digital future. With more and more of our relationships, commerce, free speech, entertainment — you name it — being created or delivered digitally, I (and you) could either pull the covers over our collective heads or get involved…and support those who’ve rolled up their sleeves, dug their hands in the muck and are in the fray.

So that’s what I did.  Last night was great for a lot of reasons and validated (in spades) the vital importance of this organization and the people who’ve dedicated money, support and all or part of their lives to the mission.

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Mobile Global Grid: When the World is At Your Fingertips

Like me, if you’re paying any attention to the signs, trends and foundational elements upon which innovation in technology occurs, then you have to be seeing what I’m seeing…it’s sooo close.  Do you see it?

Right there. Don’t see it yet? OK then, let’s push against the membrane of the future together for a minute.

If you look now you can just make out a mobile device, connected to a ubiquitous wireless network (that you can use even when you’re miles from a major metro area, off the autobahn or Interstate highway system, or at some point in the future on the Serengeti plain in Africa) and is so simple to use that you’re able to connect and re-connect to the global grid in an instant and have all the world’s knowledge at your fingertips.

When you’re in your car, at a restaurant, a dinner party, at a business meeting, at school…anything connected to the global grid you’re authorized or able to grab is yours for the snagging from a device in your hand.

We’re partially there now and more is coming.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, Apple’s eagerly anticipated iPhone is the closest concept yet to a just beyond the membrane of the future simple to use, multi-function device that will be useful for the masses to leverage our currently decent wireless network…and is one set to expand dramatically.

According to GigaOM today, there are distinct chunks of spectrum that hold the promise of mass geographical coverage and expanding the grid. An increasing number of mobile communications online applications are proliferating (e.g., this list at eConsultant). The World Wide Web Consortium’s Mobile Initiative adds even more fuel to the fire of a mobile, global grid.

Couple that with the always-on, always-connected, culture of participation (see “Rise of the Participation Culture“) and you have a brew from which all sorts of possibilities come forth!

Though I look like some geek when I do this, at least twice a week I’ll be in a conversation and someone will say something like, “You know…that ocean…the one by (country here)….what’s that called?”  I’ll whip out my Treo, go to Google, enter a search string and, I swear to God, almost instantly I can find a reference to that country and there’s an obvious link that contains the data where I can answer that question. It’s a bit of a conversation stifler at the moment as I futz with the device, but I’m pretty good at glossing over my thumbing on the Treo, we carry on the conversation, and I circle back to the fact and insert it into our discussion. Works great.

Did this at a dinner party one evening awhile back when people were struggling with an artist and a song. No one knew, the conversation continued, and about two minutes later I mentioned the artist. “OH YEAH!” came the head-slap comments and we carried on. Trivial in the scheme of life I realize, but extend this to the DOZENS OF TIMES PER DAY that I look something up on Google, use Google Maps, find a phone number on Directory Assistance, send SMS messages, send a photo/blog post to one of my private client blogs, use Instant Messaging….all from applications that run on my Treo!

So how is this going to transform the world? In ways predictable but mostly ones that are not. Who knows what will be the killer application for the always connected world — especially when better geotracking is in the mix?  What I do know is that some of it is already here…and if you push just hard enough on the membrane of the future you’ll have a good indication of what’s coming.

Off to New York City…

Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today
I want to be a part of it – New York, New York
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it – New York, New York

I wanna wake up in a city, that doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill – top of the heap

These little town blues, are melting away
I’ll make a brand new start of it – in old New York
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you – New York, New York

New York, New York
I want to wake up in a city, that never sleeps
And find I’m a number one – top of the list, king of the hill
A number one

These little town blues, are melting away
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it – in old new york
And if I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere

It’s up to you – New York, New York

New York

TSA and Secure Flight

In a post today from noted security expert Bruce Schneier, he examines the Transportation Security Administration’s “Secure Flight“. It’s a pretty sobering read.

As I’ve expressed previously on this blog, I’ve been specifically steering clear of discussions of politics (e.g., geopolitics), macroeconomics, and other areas where I actually do connect some dots but those dots are in areas in which it seems prudent to be distant. It’s pretty clear to me that a climate of fear is slowly rising in the U.S. and, one could argue, concern over our terrorism-related tactics domestically, treatment of those suspected of having intelligence as well as our foundation-lacking motives to take over and build a strategic position in Iraq has already manifested itself in to distrust globally.

I’m concerned that a continued raising of a climate of fear and accelerating profiling of the American citizenry will raise barriers to internet innovation (in my view an engine for the economy) right here at home as well as abroad. We’ve already seen moves by the government to ensure that the internet can be monitored globally with initiatives like Echelon and the highly controversial domestic Carnivore system. I believe that this increase in monitoring the internet has profound and troubling security, privacy and trust implications. These negatives could materially and negatively impact the U.S. use of internet-centric innovation by businesses and organizations which absolutely must compete on a world stage.

Every time I fly I’m struck by the illusion we all have that we’re somehow safer and less prone to terrorist attack. Isn’t it curious when you realize that all the Dept of Homeland Security color-coded alerts that occurred in the runup to the last election occurred at major holidays — when the maximum number of travelers would be in our airports afraid of terrorism? Isn’t it also interesting that — since the election — there haven’t been any warnings of note? Does that mean our investment in the TSA has stopped air terrorism?

In a talk on IT Conversations with Mr. Schneier some time ago, he pointed out the obvious: that our overwhelming investment in airport/airline security is like padlocking the barn door after the horse has bolted and is long gone…and that terrorists would simply look for other targets minimally secured (and there have been numerous stories written and produced about the lack of security at other main targets). One example of this was the knee-jerk reaction by the transit authorities nationally after the London bombings. I worry about the Mall of America in my own backyard as well as other sensitive targets I’d rather not point out in public.

If what Mr. Schneier describes (TSA building a draconian extensible and scalable data warehouse for collecting information for “profiling” passengers) is true which I believe is the case, the implications of this far exceed the boundaries of protecting air travel, will raise the climate of fear amongst the US citizenry and add to the dim view many countries in the world now hold toward us.