The taste of olives

23andMe sent an email to say that they received lots of kits at the same time as mine, and it will take them longer then usual to get around to the processing. Must have been a popular Christmas present.

While I wait for analysis, I’m invited to familiarize myself with the 23andMe online experience by means of the Mendel family. This is a real family (but hidden behind Gregor Mendel’s name) of European extraction, whose DNA analysis serves as a typical sample of what the customer should expect to find when their data is loaded into their account.

I find that Greg Mendel is probably lactose intolerant, but his spouse should not be, at least not for genetic reasons. This is what I looked for first, because it’s one of the things I’m looking forward to the most. This information is listed under Traits, along with a lot of other things that are interesting, but not life-changing. Well, that depends on how you feel about ice cream. Or eating broccoli (perception of bitterness). These are all things you already know about yourself when you’re 48. Or do you? In the case of lactose, you may be genetically OK for it, but have other issues preventing its digestion. If I’m lactase typical (and therefore lactose intolerant) it will be time to just stop torturing myself with the possibility of trying that new gelato shop around the corner from Helms Bakery. If it turns out lactose shouldn’t be a problem by virtue of my genes, I can try to find out what my limits are. Maybe it’s really beano I’ve been needing lately, not lactaid?

There are lots of things in the Traits section I didn’t know about before. One’s level of caffeine addiction, for instance, and whether ear wax is wet or dry. I suppose some of this stuff would be good for parents to know. Why force kids to eat Brussels sprouts if the taste is truly offensive to them? Personally I was hoping to see olives listed somewhere, they are a food that really tastes disgusting to me, while my mom will happily eat a whole can during a holiday dinner. One of my cousins likes them, another doesn’t. That has to be a gene thing. Instead of olives, the list said “dark beer.” I love dark beer, even though it is unarguably on the bitter side. Maybe I can get 23andMe to add the olive question to one of their surveys or experiments. Not liking olives makes me feel guilty in a way that avoiding milk does not. Olives are supposed to be really delicious and good for you. On the other hand, broccoli and Brussels sprouts rank really high on my list of delicious, eat-raw-right-out-of-the-garden vegetables.

So all these traits you can learn about are good for chit-chat over lunch. The next two categories of genetic destiny are a little more serious. I’ll save those for next time.

Mysteries and Sacraments of Life

Not 15 minutes after our arriving at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church, Mom and Pop raven also turned up. They lighted on the steeple and had a quick look at the nest there – too exposed, apparently, to rain and owls – and then they flew around to the real nest, the messy looking pile of sticks and twigs atop the head of St Brendan in his niche on the church’s facade. Here they coo’d and made romance and began to tidy their last year’s work, very much “in the mood for love.” All the while, parishioners had gathered in the church below for a funeral, sleek wealthy Hancockers in sombre threads. Rituals of life and death for the avian and primate inhabitants of Los Angeles. Anthropology or ornithology or both? Corvus corax and Homo sapiens have lived these intertwined destinies for millennia now, so much alike, but physically so far apart.

Ravens of Hancock Park

RinH is looking forward to the imminent nesting season. This year we’ve decided to focus on specific nesting sites, hoping to observe them through the whole season. The nest at Apple and Fairfax is the most convenient, so that will be our primary site. However, the nest at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church was so successful last year, we can’t help but visit to see if it works again this year. One question, for instance, is why is there an unused nest on the northeast side of the steeple? Was it constructed, and then rejected? If the birds are going to re-use a nest, how to they go about it? And how on earth does do the parishioners survive a nestful of raven chicks raining down poop on the church porch.

Since ravens in Hollywood and the adjacent community of Hancock Park must be very familiar with local structures, we have to tip our hat to the very entertaining Houses of Hancock Park.