Confessions of a researchaholic

August 7, 2013

Father’s day haiku

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 7:10 pm
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A Y-chromosome
passed from dad to son
unchanged across millenniums.

April 2, 2013

Ancestry

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:25 pm
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According to my family history I am of northern Chinese descent. DNA analysis indicated that it might have to go a bit further north, across the Great Wall. Specifically, since my paternal haplogroup is C3*, it is closer to the Mongols than the Manchus (whose emperors carried C3c, a related but different thread). There is also a non-trivial chance that my Y-chromosome came from Genghis Khan, who has left a wide genetic footprint across the former Mongol empire.

To clarify, the paternal haplogroup only traces the Y-chromosome, not the entire ethnic composition. I am pretty sure it is not uncommon for northern Chinese to have some Mongolic blend.
Furthermore, my maternal haplogroup is D4e3 (likely coastal Chinese). So I am probably some combination of Mongolian and Han Chinese.

My grandfather once told me that our last name came from one of the seven warring states. Clearly, he thought we were (pure) Han Chinese. I am having fun imaging his reaction upon hearing his true ancestry.

I plan to use this to explain away my past and future behaviors.
πŸ˜€

February 9, 2013

Wedding photo of my grandparents

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 1:25 pm
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My father dug out this old photo of my (paternal) grandparents’ wedding, which took place near the end of WW2 in Jiangxi province, China.

I am not sure why, but such old photos tend convey a unique sense of beauty.

This particular one also carries some historical background.
My grandfather was a KMT air force officer, *lucky* enough to have spent the best part of his life in the most *interesting* segment of the Chinese history.
He has fought the warlords and the Asian theatre of WW2, which was almost done during his wedding. He probably thought the peace was finally coming without realizing that the commies were around the corner and a full scale civil war would break out just a year later. (As a further twist, Jiangxi province, where he stationed and married, was the origin of Chinese commies.)

It is just so romantic to get married in the middle of all these shit-storms. I can imagine the photo declaring to the whole world that “we know there is a lot of crap going on right now. But screw you all. We are getting married today. This is our world and nothing is going to stop us”.

Date: April 4, 1945
Place: Jiangxi Province, (likely) Jiujiang City (九江), China

December 27, 2011

Heritage

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:50 pm
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Yesterday, my family donated to National Central Library of Taiwan the majority of the manuscripts of my late grandfather, a prominent scholar and writer in Chinese literature.

As far as I know, we did not have a chance to talk to my grandfather about how to handle his manuscripts during his life time.
To avoid the same mistake, I plan to discuss with my father, an artist with volumes of work in oil painting, water-coloring, and ceramics, about how to deal with his stuff when the day comes.

Fortunately, such worries stop at my generation, because all my works are digital and thus can be easily accessed and archived. (Though my PhD adviser once wondered whether his digital models of Michelangelo’s sculptures will actually last longer than the physical objects themselves.)

July 20, 2011

Name

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:56 am
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“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – William Shakespeare

But this is true only if the name is not already loaded with other meanings and the name cannot reflexively influence the entity being named. For the name “rose”, it does not carry any meaning other than a specific breed of flowers that smell sweet. For the entity “rose”, it still smells sweet even if it is named otherwise (such as “dung”).

When it comes to naming, people would be an exact opposite case to roses. People’s names are usually already overloaded with meanings, and names can reflexively influence people’s behaviors and self perceptions. I have an uncle whose first name was “θ‡³ζ„š” which roughly translates to *extremely stupid*, and my grandparents told me that it became an excuse (in a funny and joking way though) for my uncle to not perform well in school as a child. (He later changed his name to something better.)

In case you wonder, it is not uncommon for Chinese parents to name their heirs negatively, as the tradition believes that doing so can help avoid devil’s attention. But whatever discretion my grandfather has for that uncle disappeared when he named me “η«‹δΈ€”, which roughly translates to *number one*, *the first*, or *the best*. Not a typical name in a culture that observes humility and conformity (and devil’s attention). Probably because of the name or probably because of the expectations, I have been trying to live up to my name since childhood, although unfortunately more on the non-humble/non-conforming side rather than on the being number-one side. And probably because of the devil’s attention, I always have difficulty accomplishing anything other than the best, even if I tried.

Every year during my birthday, I tried to find someone or something to be thankful. In the last few years I thanked my mom for the pain she has to endure to bear and raise me. But this year, I would like to thank the name that was given to me, and the family elders who came up with it. It has guided me well throughout my entire life. Every time I have doubts about myself or need to make hard decisions, my name already reminds me who I am and what I am supposed to do.

December 27, 2009

Legacy

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 6:00 am
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Human life span is limited, but one could pass on his legacy to the future generations via two means: genes or memes.

The genes carry biological codes inherited to offspring, whereas the memes carry cultural practices transmitted through minds.
Both are fundamental mediums that shape human behavior. And more often than not, one would obtain most genes and memes from his family elders.

I owe my ancestors for these nice genes that they managed to survive and pass on to me, and my parents and grandparents for these good memes that they taught me by setting up good examples.

My grandfather was quite a unique figure, having been both a (Nationalist) air force officer and a classic Chinese scholar publishing articles and teaching in universities. This gave him a rare character combination: scholarly intelligence and military discipline. Through him, I not only learned how to have each but also how powerful such a combination could be.

I never felt emotionally sad for his pass away, not only because he had lived a heck of life, but also that I know he has passed on his legacy through both his excellent genes and memes. For me, the best way to memorize him is to continue his legacy.

(In memorial of my grandfather who passed away on Dec 27 2005 at age 88.)

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