Saturday, November 28, 2009

Writing for Friends

Lately I have not been writing for my blogs. Instead I have been writing for another blog. It is Leland Meitzler’s Genealogy Blog. There, I am a special category. It is called "Thomas S. Fiske Posts" or some such thing. I asked Leland if I could put some of my Genealogy Posts on my Blog, and he said he didn’t care. So that is what I am going to do . The next few posts on this blog will be posts from Leland’s Genealogy Blog. But they won’t just be abut genealogy, they will be about all kinds of things. I hope you will visit the genealogy blog. It has all kinds of good information on it, not to mention some very good writers.

Here is the URL of the Genealogy Blog:

Intel Agencies--Another First

Every kid goes through a lot of first-time experiences. You know, first long pants like my older brothers had, first adult-size pillow, first bicycle, first BB gun and many other firsts a kid has to fight for and can almost taste before he gets them.

At the outer fringes of my youth and well over sixty years of age, I am still a kid a heart. So I really was interested in my first Spook event. No, it’s too late for Halloween, I mean another kind of spook, entirely.

You see, I was at a hamburger place recently. I agreed to meet with a fellow radio Ham and a man who said he had once been with the CIA. I wanted background material for my next book, which is highly complimentary of the CIA and US Intel agencies. I had asked the CIA and others for help with the project, so I know they know what I am doing. I have no secrets. A little advertising is always a lot of help.

So I got to the restaurant and waited for the other two men to show up. The Ham came first. Having worked in the electronics industry, George is a few years older than I and has many more years of electronic experience. I don’t know what he worked on. He isn’t allowed to tell me and he doesn’t. Maybe he didn’t even work on electronics.

We started with a pair of lemonades while we waited for Jack, the third guy. George and I sat in a booth in the back of the restaurant where we hear but could not be overheard. He chose the booth. We talked for a few minutes and I made notes. It was subtle, but I noticed that George changed topics and began to tell me about things he had mentioned before. Soon he was telling innocuous stories about physics. It was hard for me to follow. Something was plainly wrong. I thought it was because Jack had not showed up and he was stalling for time.

Eventually Jack arrived and sat down. He was very vague as well. He went to get himself a lemonade. I noticed a man sitting in a booth facing ours. He was reading a girly novel and holding the book in a peculiar fashion. I thought little about him.

When Jack returned he suggested moving to another booth. There, he sat against the wall where he could see out across the room. He and George made remarks to each other that I did not understand. I told them, “You guys are like twins who have your own private language. I wish I knew what was going on.” At that moment, the reader stood and called for a waitress. He told her there was a package under the table where we had been sitting. She came over and got it to put in their “lost and found” drawer. It belonged to Bill, so he asked her for it.

George and Jack laughed. Jack said “I’ll tell you in a minute.” He waited until the book reader left. Then Jack said, “We’re being watched. George and I are used to it. There were two men in here keeping an eye on us. One just left. He could have just given that package to us, but he didn’t want us to look at him. We can go ahead and talk now.”

Of course I asked about the two men. I felt dumb because I wasn’t aware of all that was going on around me. (I usually am aware of my surroundings, but I was focused on getting answers to questions about Spookisms I had generated while writing.)

We talked for quite a while. Another man came in, a radio Ham whom George and I knew, but Jack did not. We made introductions. And then George began chatting with the new guy. Jack said out of the corner of his mouth, “George is keeping him busy so we can talk, so go ahead.” It was such a smooth transition that neither the new guy nor I had noticed it. Once again, I was angry with myself because I missed the maneuvering.

Nevertheless, I learned new things to put in my book, which is nearing its last chapter. When the interview was about over, I gave Jack a copy of my last book and wrote a dedication in the cover to him. George wanted him to read it. He thought it might have enough interesting material in it for a documentary film. Jack produces films on the side.

Jack thanked me for the book. He was interested in my unfinished book, he said, for its documentary value. He didn’t know about Ploughshares, my current book about Caltech and its secret operations during WWII.

I looked around for more watchers, didn’t see any, and left the restaurant, happy that I may have obtained enough material to complete my next book.

I couldn’t help but wonder at whom the spooks were really directing their attention and how they knew we would be at that restaurant at that time, and so on.

It was later that I realized I had experienced another “first.” It was the first time I had been “spooked.” Getting a new bike is more fun.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

DNA Curve

(This is an edited post of May 31, as corrected by Kent Pryor, to whom I am very grateful.)
I just call it the Fiske curve because I don’t have any other name for it. Others may have found it and named it something else. In any case the curve sets out principles worth remembering about DNA findings in Genealogy. I got the data from conversations of several people on the Internet this week.

Several people on a Rootsweb List were discussing their strange findings from DNA tests and seemed to be laying down information we could all use.
One person wrote, “the 12 marker test is of almost no value, as many unrelated individuals can match at the 12 marker level.” I suspect that many people on many Lists are finding the same result, once they have obtained information from the 12 marker studies and then, encouraged, have gone on to the next step or two. This particular subject went on to the 67 marker test and found no one related who should be related, and then found four with the same DNA on all 67 markers who were not related at all. It is information like this that led me to think about some kind of a curve that would fit these data. Admittedly the evidence is anecdotal, but the facts real and have to be dealt with.

Another person wrote, “I have 180 names on my 12 marker (tests) on Ydna on my mother’s side all different names. I have the same thing you have on the 25 and 37 marker names that are unrelated and three different ones. . . I thought DNA had gone Crazy.”

With Ydna, you are following men’s DNA which would involve few name changes. But why is it that the more markers one uses, the less useful has become the data? Why is it that more detail seems to lead to more uncertainty? That is, adding markers tends to exclude relatives. This is counter-intuitive.

It appears that the curve is saying that if you have 0 marker tests that you could be related to everybody. If you have the minimum number of markers tested, you could be related to not all, but many people. And if you have many markers tested you are related to very few people, even in your own family.
This could mean several things:

1) DNA tests are not testing what we think they are testing.
Very simply put, DNA testing may not be valid in a scientific sense. It would be interesting to combine results of thousands of tests to see how much uncertainty is introduced to established, documented lines. Perhaps DNA tests are reflecting epigenetics, a condition that is not yet proven, but which is considered possible by some experts.

2) Family names and records are not a good indicator of genuine relationships.
This is the opposite of 1 (above). Essentially, it says there is little true paternity in family lines.

3) DNA closeness can be more due to ancient cultural habits than anything else.
Before the industrial revolution, there seem to have been few travelers. That is, one seldom traveled more than seven or more miles from his home in a lifetime. The result had to be inter-marriage of cousins, and DNA tests today are simply reflecting those intermarriages. However, in America, where Swedish immigrants married Italian immigrants, the gene pool swelled and would have made an abrupt change from, say, 1800 on. This change should be apparent in some DNA studies. (I am a six foot tall, blond and blue-eyed American who is in small part American Indian).
Maybe all the above is a result of poor labeling. But I think it is telling us something that we didn’t especially want to know. And that is that our precious DNA marker tests are not doing what we wanted.

Maybe O. J. didn't kill his wife, after all.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Khrushchev Lied and an American Spied

As I was writing yesterday’s post to this blog, I wondered who would be upset when my book, The Insider comes out. This is the actual story of NASA’s man who spent nine years flying into and out of the USSR during the Space Race and the Cold War. He was a space medicine scientist who was successful at keeping Soviet cosmonauts alive. He was a physician, a scientist, an inventor, and a serious man. That is why I believed my friend Tad when he told me about his adventures.

Seriousness aside, I checked his story. He had told me that on his return trips he had to be debriefed by two US Intel agencies. I found that he was attached to the NSA and the CIA for those nine years, according to their own records. The Department of State had absolutely no information on Tad except for one small document it had forgotten to purge. NASA had piles of information on Tad about his medical work in micro-gravity conditions, but it had no information about his travels to the USSR.

Tad had been a guest of the USSR at the invitation of Premier Krushchev. I wrote to authors of various books and articles about the Space Race and about “inside” information on the NSA and CIA, and I also wrote to one descendant of Premier Krushchev who knew a great deal about the USSR in those days. To date no one has told me that I am nuts. Most have said, “I didn’t know. Give me more details.” A copy of a letter from the NSA usually convinced them.

So now, as I finish my book on Tad, I wonder about the people I am going to offend. At least two countries are involved, of course: the US and Russia. Let’s look at Russia first.

Apparently, the Russian people know almost nothing about any assistance from the West. It appears from what I have read that the Russian people do not know about America’s Lend Lease program of the early 1940’s. In that program America supplied the Russians with aircraft, guns, ammunition, food and other supplies with which to fight the Germans. The Russian people do not know they were assisted in “The Great Patriotic War,” even sixty or more years afterward. The Russian people were not told the name of their space program manager until about 1985, when he died. His face was never shown on any Soviet TV, his name was never mentioned. Certainly, the Russian people do not know they were assisted in their space program by their chief competitor, the United States. Once the Russian people find out we helped them, they might be angry at their own leaders.

What about America’s allies? They might be offended when they find out we helped the USSR and didn’t tell them. More than that—we lied to our allies about what we knew. I doubt that we have come clean because no one seems to know about Tad. Of course authors of books and magazines and news articles in other countries will feel duped.

And in America, itself, there may be problems. President John F. Kennedy began this program a few months before he was killed. President Johnson and President Nixon continued the program and did not tell Congress. Those presidents lied to the US press and to the Congress in order to keep funds flowing for the space program. It may not have been a space race after all. Congress consists of the biggest bunch of blabbermouths in the US. If Congress people had known about Tad the world would have known about Tad, right after the Congress people were sworn to secrecy. There is no reason to think that NASA ever knew that Tad, formerly one of their own, had been in the USSR.

Several, if not all US Intel agencies knew about Tad. People in those agencies are all retired now and many have died. Newer members of the agencies don’t care about something that happened forty years ago. They have enough trouble with today’s problems.

Well, US Intel agencies might care to this extent: Tad’s trips to the USSR during the Cold War era were an intelligence coup. When my story is printed and people realize what the Intel people have done while claiming they didn’t even know where the Soviet secret launch was, they should have more confidence in these shadowy agencies.

Of course, there are American authors and former Soviet people in this country who write articles and books—they are sure to be embarrassed when the truth comes out. They have already commented on President Kennedy’s offer to share information on space medicine and have said that the offer was refused. Too bad for them.

But the people who really care the most about this story probably are those who make up the US president’s office. I suspect (but do not know) that President Kennedy promised Premier Khrushchev that the US Government would never tell the Soviet people that we helped them in the Space Race. There is, according to the CIA, a file on TAD that has a presidential seal on it. That means the file is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act laws.

Also, it may be that the US President does not want the US Congress to know that a previous president failed to report to Congress that we had a man in the USSR during the Space Race.

I sure would like to see that file. I have written to two presidents and asked to have a look. I even asked my congressman to ask the President. The President has not honored my request.

When Tad told me his story, he was dying. He has been gone for almost seven years. To my way of thinking he was a great American hero, a brave man who ventured into the Soviet Union without protection. He did it not once but many times during the Cold War, even when there was a sudden change in Soviet leadership in 1964 and he did not know whether he would be arrested. But by then he had many friends among the Soviet scientists and cosmonauts, and maybe they had enough pressure to protect him. We will never be certain about that, only that Tad went when he was called.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Beating Ploughshares into Swords

It’s over. My ninth book, is on the market and I can turn to more important things, such as my tenth book. And Ham radio. And maybe, politics.

My ninth book, Ploughshares into Swords, is about WWII—how civilians and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) helped win the war. A friend of mine was also a friend of several Caltech physicists during and after the war. She supplied part of the information I used. One of her special friends was physicist Carl Anderson, who discovered anti-matter.

My friend and I were talking about scientific achievements that she knew about almost first hand. She observed that I understood what had been accomplished and that perhaps I could have kept up with these Nobel scientists had I been in their fields. I knew this wasn’t true, but I certainly wasn’t going to say so. Anyway, as I was writing about the physicists and discovered what they did as kids, I realized I had done many of the same things. But I also had become a licensed Amateur Radio (Ham) operator at an early age.

Opus Nine

So as I wrote, I thought about being a Ham again and wondered if it were too late. I had not been licensed since 1954. In January of 2008 I took all the tests and passed them. Now Ham radio is cutting into my writing time.

Writing Ploughshares was work, but it was also fun, remembering the past and the hardships and comparing people’s attitudes then with attitudes today. I concluded that we are among a lot of dainty whiners in America.

Choosing the title from the Bible, where it talked about beating swords into ploughshares because it was a time for peace, I found of course WWII was a time for doing the opposite—taking scrap metal and forging it into guns, tanks and ammunition.

Writing Ploughshares was a trail of discovery as I learned new things about the atomic bomb, about the way that Caltech became a rocket factory and how Caltech built the China lake facility. No, I am not talking about Jet Propulsion Laboratory, either. I am talking about dry powder rockets fired from airplanes. There was enough fuel for those rockets stored around the area to blow Pasadena, CA off the map.

It is not my practice to write about the commonplace. I have no capacity or patience for it. So I wrote about secret or little-known facts that only friends of physicists at the time could know. In the process, I came to admire Caltech and its growth from rags to riches. I came to admire the practical physicists and administrators who shared a common vision and caused that growth. Now Caltech is synonymous with rocket science, cosmology and many other exotic fields. In a way I saw it happen.

While writing about world politics leading up to WWII, I had the opportunity to revisit the foreign and domestic policies of President Franklin Roosevelt. As writer with a background in economics, I found myself critiquing the seven lean years of the Roosevelt administration when he compounded the economic misery of the United States. In these days, I am seeing a new edition of the Roosevelt plan unfolding, so when I get back to writing on this web site I am very likely to comment on repeating mistakes of the past. But right now, I have to sell a few books and finish my tenth book.

“What is my tenth book about?” you ask. Well, during the Space Race with the USSR, the US had a space medicine scientist in Russia at its secret Baikonur launch site, courtesy of Premier Khrushchev (& Brezhnev). It is a deep, dark secret in both countries, but with reluctant help from NSA, CIA, NASA, and the Department of State, I am slowly putting the story together. Many “experts” have written that this did not happen, so my tenth book will be controversial. But I knew the NASA scientist who spent almost ten years going back and forth from the US to the USSR, making friends with Soviet cosmonauts and Soviet scientists, and helping them stay alive in micro-gravity conditions.

There is a great deal to write about, and the Agony of Writing continues despite adventures in a very vibrant hobby called Ham Radio.

The book? Oh, it is paperback, about 6X9 inches with around 324 pages and an index. It is for sale by Amazon and most dot com book stores. I can be Googled and so can my book.


Tom, AA6TF