#112: Please Mr. Postman…

112.1  Dear Stolf: My 4 grandparents were immigrants from 3 different countries. Does that make me one-third of each nationality? …from Consuela Wong-Halopowski, Neutral Park, WY

112.2  Dear Consuela: In a word, no. My heritage is quantitatively the same as yours, as shown on the left of Chart 402. Green is Italy, red is Poland, blue is Quebec…and as you can see, I am a half, a quarter, and a quarter respectively. There’s only one basic way to juggle around the grandparents, as shown on the right, and it comes out the same.

chart 402

112.3  Now our pedigrees, yours and mine, while not that unusual, are still not typical of Baby Boomers. Most of our immigrant grandparents tended to marry within their ethnic group, whereas the next generation, our parents, were less likely to do so. Thus we grandchildren are often either completely of one nationality, or half of one and half of another. In my case, my mother’s Polish mother married her French Canadian father, to the general dismay of both camps, but love is love, right? And I daresay our generation is mixing things up even more…all happily melting together in that proverbial pot.

chart 403

112.4  The trouble with thirds is that, due to our having 2 parents each, all fractions have to be powers of 2…½, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, etc. You can get only as close to 1/3 as the powers of 2 can approximate…altho if you check Chart 403, that turns out to be, theoretically anyway, pretty darn close. A fraction of 2731/8192 for example is only 4 hundred-thousands off from 1/3, or 1/25,000. And while I don’t quite know what is means, it’s interesting to note that as you increase the powers of 2, the fraction that’s the closest (marked by a √) alternates between the one slightly under 1/3 and the one slightly over. I reckon a closer mathematically analysis would explain why this happens, but I’m just not up to it…sue me.

chart 404

112.5  The question is, can this happen in real life? I chose a manageable fraction, sixteenths…and the closest you can get to 1/3 is 5/16, or .31250. A moment’s reflection suggests how you would sketch that out…of 16 2G grandparents, you have 3 ethnicities of 5, 5, and 6 individuals each. Sure enough, as shown in Chart 404, it works…you end up 5/16 red, 5/16 green, and 6/16 blue. Not perfect, but as close as you can get…5/16 is 6% off 1/3…6/16 is 12.5% off.

112.6  Dear Stolf: In perusing genealogies, I sometimes come across people named “NN”…huh?  …from Huffer McGee, Sri Lanka

chart 405112.7   Dear Huffer: Huh yourself!  “NN” or “N.N.” is Latin for Nomen Nescio. It means “I do not know the name” and is an internationally recognized genealogical notation. I like it for its reasonableness…after all, just because I don’t know the name, doesn’t mean nobody does…and certainly they knew it back in the day. You might also spy NN in college catalogs, where it indicates the lecturer of a course is not yet known…altho supposedly in that case it stands for Nomen Nominandum…or “the name is to be announced.”

112.8  Dear Stolf: I was thinking about that one-child-per-couple law they have in China…that must be simplifying genealogies a good deal…or no?  …from Boris Martinez, Oslo, Norway

112.9  Dear Boris: To a certain degree, you’re right. But as always, the devil is in the details…and the regulations over there are complicated…to the extent that only about a third of the some 1.3 billion Chinese are subject to strictly one child only. Bottom line: the number of children per couple in China currently stands at 1.8…compared to 1.6 for the UK and 2.1 for the US. By further comparison, in the 1950s (Boom!) in the US it was 3.8…and there are several regions in Africa today where it’s over 6!

112.10  The policy was instituted in 1979…and was originally intended to last one generation. Since those individuals are now mostly beyond their child-bearing years, speculation was it would soon be rescinded. But no…they announced in January of 2013 that it will continue indefinitely. But what is the policy exactly? As the 1.8 indicates, it clearly isn’t one couple/one child, period, end of story.

112.11  Indeed, “one only” applies only to urban areas, affecting some 36% of the population. If you have a second child, you must pay an annual tax, and there is a small number of families that can afford to do so. And it’s said that hundreds of government officials get away with it without paying anything…don’t act so surprised. Then there are the exemptions…if you have twins, no tax…and with fertility drugs, the number of twins born in China has doubled over the past decade. In addition, if a couple marries, and one of them already has a child, a second half-sibling is permitted.

112.12  In the realm of unintended consequences, we have what they call the “4-2-1 Problem,” which relates directly to genealogy. In China, adult children traditionally provide for their elderly parents and, if they are still living, grandparents. In a “perfect storm” scenario, that would result in 1 adult being responsible for 6 individuals…2 parents and 4 grandparents. Thus, in the middle of the last decade, it was decided that if 2 individuals are themselves only children, they are allowed to have 2 children…thus splitting those potential obligations in half. And on top of that, ethnic minorities, even in an urban setting, are allowed 2 children.

112.13   As we leave the big cities and move to the rural regions, it’s equally complicated. This amounts to some 62% of the population, and most are allowed to have a second child if their first child was a daughter…yup, you can try for a son! Others are allowed 2 children regardless of gender…and some ethnic minorities, who make out better in the city, also do so in the country, where they’re allowed 3 or 4 children. Then there are the Tibetans, about 2% of the population, who are subject to no restrictions at all. There are also no formal restrictions in Hong Kong, altho there exists a very strong campaign of official propaganda: “Two is Enough.”

112.15   Add to all of that the phenomenon of “fake husbands,” where a couple wanting a second child will get divorced, then pay a single man to…well, you can take it from there. And has all of this helped? Hard to say…the official number of births prevented since 1979 is given as 400 million…altho some experts say it could be as low as 100 million. Current population is 1.3 billion, so on the short end it would have been 1.4 billion, an increase of about 8%. Using the official statistics, the law prevented an increase of about 30%…which to me sounds significant, if true.  BTW,  the party line is that about 75% of the population approves of this arrangement…OK, fine…

Wicked Ballsy

inset 1

He’s largely forgotten today, but Fred Allen was a comedic genius with few rivals…a mainstay on radio in the 1940s, and to a much lesser extent on TV in the 1950s, mostly on panel game shows. A regular feature was his discussion of  current events with the denizens of Allen’s Alley, pictured above…missing from the group photo is Parker Fennelly as down-Mainer Titus Moody, inset top left. He’s the one who, when asked what he thought about radio, said he didn’t like furniture that talks.

On one post-WWII broadcast, they’re bemoaning the housing shortage plaguing New York City. Mrs Nussbaum (German for nut-tree) says her apartment has been overrun with “blood relatives, relatives without blood…” and all of them bedding down catch as catch can…

insert 2

Oh, indeed… 😉 😉


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s