2018

“How little improvement there has been in human evolution.”

Earlier this summer, I decided to take a look at my genetic ancestry via the fine folks at 23andme.com. I bought two kits, one for me, and the other also for me in hopes of seeing how precise they could get with two samples from the same person. So they shipped out a couple of kits. Long story short, 30 minutes after the last time you ate, drank, smoked, gargled, or brushed your teeth, you spit in a tube. Then you seal it up, put it in a box, register the sample on the internet, and ship it off. Then you wait.

The first sample was taken at 4:47pm on July 26th and was labeled “Vincent.” The second sample was taken at 8:00pm on July 26th and was labeled “Dominic.” These are my first and middle names; they are not reflective of different personalities or identities or aspects of my being or any other such thing. Actually, that’s not true. “Dominic” is more sullen, but less morose. So I took the two samples, sealed them up, put them in boxes, registered them on the internet, and shipped them off.

The results came back this week.

One feature of 23andme is that it allows you connect to other users and compare your genetic ancestries. So I connected “Vincent” to “Dominic.” It correctly recognized that I was me, and that the relationship between the two samples was either “self” or “twin.” That was impressive. But despite the very explicit, boldfaced statement that “You share 100% of your [i.e., “Vincent’s”] DNA with Dominic,” there were some discrepancies.

Here are the results, keeping in mind that the “you” in the left column is “Vincent,” i.e., the 4:47pm me:

Screenshot 2018-09-27 at 8.50.44 PM

In a little over three hours, I became about 5 percentage points more Italian, about 4pp less Irish, about 2.5pp less Western Asian and North African, about 0.7pp more Balkan and 0.1pp less Siberian.

Oh, and I turned a teensy bit more Neanderthal:

Screenshot 2018-09-27 at 9.37.55 PM

How could this have happened? I could chalk it up to the mild imprecision that results from combining commercial-grade genetic testing with amateur, non-sterile sample collection. Or I could take a look at the “Ancestry Timeline” feature. Here’s “Vincent’s” timeline:

Screenshot 2018-09-27 at 8.39.37 PM

And “Dominic’s”:

Screenshot 2018-09-27 at 9.07.47 PM

In that three-hour window, someone could have altered the timeline. I don’t mean someone at the lab messed around with the results, I mean time travel. I think, if I’m reading this correctly, that at least one of my Irish ancestors from the original timeline went back to the mid- to late-1700s, killed or otherwise neutralized my would-be Siberian ancestors, and mated with some Balkan person, making him or her my ancestor in the new timeline. But if this is the case, then (A) how did the Irish ancestor get the time machine, and (B) why would I still have any evidence of the original timeline? And how does the Neanderthal stuff fit in?

This is silly supposition, of course. It’s just as feasible that the Irish time traveler corrected the timeline, wiping out an alternate history in which I had Siberian rather than Balkan ancestry, so I shouldn’t really commit to one story or the other. Either way, it was a fun though somewhat pricey exercise that made me feel more connected to you humans.

World Cup Russia 2018: Fin.

We now enter the long, dark four-and-a-half-year-gap-between-World-Cups of the soul.

That was a pretty darn good final, and a pretty darn good World Cup overall. Not my favorite of either. I preferred the 2006 Final because it was far more dramatic (click here for my write-up from back then). I preferred Italia ’90, maybe because that’s the first one I followed– American coverage back then was so bad they had commercial breaks during the action– maybe because of the ancestral connection, but mainly because it featured a far better villain. The big storyline was whether Maradona could will his team to victory despite negative play, despite him being a horrible a@#$%^e, despite losing the opener to Cameroon, despite losing their starting keeper to a broken leg. He almost did. Thank God for West Germany.

Anyhow, back to the present. It was a pretty entertaining game. Croatia played well, but France had better players, more energy (it helps to not have to play three consecutive overtime games), more shots on frame, and more goals in the net. The end. The fact that France’s first goal came off a dive takes a teensy bit of shine off their trophy, but their other goals were legit.

An irony: both of Croatia’s goal-scorers also gave up goals. Mandžukić was “credited” with the own goal, and Perišić’s handball led to France’s penalty. I was reminded of the ’06 final, when Materazzi gave up a penalty early and scored off a corner about ten minutes alter. I hoped the parallel would extend to a Croatian victory, but… it didn’t.

France is a worthy champion, and given their youth they’ve got to be favorites to win next time. In the meantime, I’ve got four years to figure out what my students are going to do while I’m watching games in the middle of the workday.

Also in the meantime:

  • FIFA should keep tweaking VAR. I was pleasantly surprised with it this time around, but hopefully they’ll find a way to make those decisions faster.
  • They need to work harder at increasing scoring and reducing time-wasting.
  • They need to crack down harder than ever on diving.
  • They need to replace the yellow card tiebreaker rule.
  • And they need to schedule the Qatar 2022 games for whatever works out to be 5 PM and 8 PM in my time zone. I believe that’d be 8 AM and 11 AM over there.

I foresee no difficulties.

World Cup Russia 2018: Calling the Final.

I was half-right. I called Belgium and Croatia in the final, but the Frenchies beat the Belgians in a sort-of boring game. Proud to say I got Croatia right, though.

England looked like they over-relied on Route One. Against weaker teams, that can work. They beat Panama badly, and they would’ve beat Tunisia worse than 2-1 if the ref had made a few more calls. They were able to draw fouls near the box, win free kicks, PKs, do well on corners, etc. Against teams closer in skill, that didn’t work as well. Belgium beat them twice, Colombia could’ve beaten them if they’d played more seriously throughout the game. I’m not the best analyst, but in England’s last two games, the semi and the third-place match, the front line really looked like a bunch of poor decision-makers. They made wrong decisions about whether and when to pass or shoot, and they took too long to make decisions– even the right decision. On several occasions, the young guns up front held the ball just a fraction of a second too long and missed the opportunity to shoot, to play through, to pass to a wide-open teammate. Again, that’s not based on any expert-level detailed analysis, but it sure did look like Southgate’s triangle and circle buttons were jammed.

I think Belgium, France, and yes, Croatia have been the class of the tournament so far, and I’d like to throw in Brazil when Neymar was playing seriously instead of flopping. England’s not at that level yet. Given where they landed in the Round of 16, they went about as far as was expected.

Barring a disastrously embarrassing performance tomorrow, either team would make a fine champion. They’ve both earned their way to the final… despite Belgium’s whining about France’s performance in the semi. All this nonsense about France playing too far back? Pfft. Belgium had 60% of the possession that game and got off some good shots, but France completely out-shot them. France shot more, both on- and off-target. Same number of offsides, Belgium had one extra corner. This wasn’t like ze early German performances, where one team completely and unquestionably dominated play but the other managed to score. This was much more even. France just won.

I’ve probably been a bit unfair in singling out Mbappé for flopping, because so many players on so many teams do it. But it’s frustrating to see such a talented player turn to that level of diving and flopping so early in his career. It’s disappointing to think that instead of seeing the next Messi or Ronaldo, we’re going to see the next Neymar. And yes, Messi and Ronaldo dive on occasion, but Neymar has become notorious for it, thus the comparison. So, Mbappé, please grow up and play great.

I’m rooting for Croatia to beat France for three big reasons. One, it’d be neat to see a new champion. Two, Croatia’s dark jerseys are the best in the tournament. And three, this Modric guy reminds me of a dorkier, less appreciated version of Pirlo. But France is better, and they have played well, so for the first time in the knockout round, I predict they’ll win.

World Cup Russia 2018: Into the Semifinals.

My predictions from last time:

Sweden and Russia […] might’ve been able to Rudy or Rocky their way past their next opponents, but I think England and Croatia just had their mettle tested and will play spirited games. England should beat Sweden and Croatia should beat Russia.

…Belgium and Uruguay are talented without over-reliance on superstars and spirited without being undisciplined. Screw it: Belgium over Brazil and Uruguay over France.

Three out of four ain’t bad (even though I got all four 2014 semifinalists right before that tournament started). The Croatia-Russia game was intense. I thought for sure that Croatia was dead meat when Subašić’s hamstring started acting up– how could he possibly stop any shots if he couldn’t push off that leg? Magic spray, magic sponge, and voila, he did great in the OT and the shootout. Kudos to him.

The especially nice thing about Belgium’s win over Brazil was that the threat of a second yellow cured Neymar of his diving. Once he realized the ref wouldn’t tolerate it, he got serious. Hopefully he keeps it. He stopped diving, he bounced back up after fouls, and he led as relentless an attack as I’ve seen in this Cup, but it was too little, too late.

I’ve gotten France wrong twice in a row, thinking weaker but older teams would overcome them. Nope. They’re a good team. They’re favorites to win. Unfortunately, Mfloppé seems to have picked up Neymar’s mantle with his embarrassing dive. Not a good sign for a rising star.

The picks are getting tougher with each round, and I’m in the odd position of not really caring who wins. A Belgium-Croatia final would guarantee a first-time champion, yet England-France would give me some pretty good meme fodder for my APUSH class this year.

I think Belgium will beat France. They were losing big late and came back against Japan, they built a big lead on Brazil and held off a desperate and ferocious attack. They’ve shown poise and maturity, and that has to win out over youth eventually, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it? France is good, but Mfloppé just absorbed all the distaste I previously had for Neymar. So I pick Belgium. I look forward to the Hitchhiker’s memes if they win.

I think England is better than Croatia, but they’ve become very reliant on Route One. I think Croatia will handle that better than anyone England’s faced yet. Plus, Croatia’s black and blue jerseys are awesome. I pick Croatia.

Belgium v. Croatia in the final. We’ll know by Wednesday.