Do It Yourself DNA Profiling – Part 2

Welcome to the second part of this series. This excerpt is also from Book Two, Chapter 7 – Polymerase Chain Reaction in The Sex Tourist:

After changing to our lab gears I rub the buccal swab vigorously to my inner cheek. I ask Nicky to do the same. I could have started with loading all the samples at once into the PCR, but I want to get my own DNA profile first. I don’t want to waste even a tiny bit of the samples I have from Lily’s body. I’m a novice and doing this process for the first time means many things can go wrong due to my inexperience. Later I will compare Lily’s DNA profile to mine. This way I would know for sure that those samples are valid and belong to her. Even if we’re not identical twins, our DNA profiles should have some similarities. Nicky’s DNA is useful as well, because later we should be able to discover straight away if she inadvertently contaminates a sample by adding her own DNA to the mixture.

Even blindfolded I would know where I am. The smell of chemicals and the “white noise” from the air conditioning system are so typical of our epidemiology lab. My nose and ears quickly adapt to them. Nicky is a great help, but we are both beginners, so it still takes more than a couple of hours just to isolate the DNA in Nicky’s and my own sample. We’re using the so called solid-phase extraction method with one of Qiagen’s extraction kit.

“Quantitation” is the next step. Too much is as bad as too little DNA. The literature says that about a billionth of a gram is the ideal quantity for PCR. Since I can’t weigh this amount on a kitchen scale, I have to use another method. Our real-time quantitative PCR equipment is going to be my kitchen scale. For this to work I have ordered another assay called TaqMan. We add it to our first PCR mix. Despite the air-conditioning I have to take off my goggles and wipe the mist off from the inside. I press the mask under my nose to wipe the sweat, and my palms are getting wet under my latex gloves too. We change gloves.

It’s time to prepare the PCR master mixtures. I have the pre-prepared mixture for the so called allelic ladder which came in the kit. The allelic ladder is like a tape measure or a ruler for measuring length. More precisely the COfiler kit I’m using now is like six rulers for the six different STR loci. Without it I wouldn’t be able to measure the length of Nicky’s or my own STRs, the lottery numbers. This allelic ladder has to go into another row of tubes in the PCR equipment and would act as a so called “positive control” too. The last two rows are the strip-tubes with my own and Nicky’s purified DNA mixtures.

It takes us another hour, but I’m learning a lot as I set up the PCR program for the second round and turn on the equipment. This PCR run is making millions of copies of seven different sections of our DNAs. Six of them are STR markers. The seventh section, a gene called ameloginin, is going to prove that we’re females. Not that we need any proof of that, but it’s going to come in handy when I do the same with my other samples. Right now certain fragments of my DNA are being replicated millions of times. In an hour and a half my PCR products are ready for the next stage. For that I need the other box. Paul is bringing it from the Netherlands tomorrow. I carefully remove my treasures, the PCR strip-tubes, and pack them in a special cooler bag for the short trip home. I wipe the last PCR run off the box and the laptop.


Do It Yourself DNA Profiling – Part 1

Have you ever wondered what’s happening in the DNA profiling labs? You would have to spend many devoted hours reading a proper textbook if you need in depth knowledge. However, I can provide you with some ideas using a series of excerpts from my thriller, The Sex Tourist. This first excerpt is from Book Two, Chapter 7 – Polymerase Chain Reaction:

Inside the PCR box, the heat is ripping apart millions of DNA strands like a myriad of disappointed punters tear up their losing lottery tickets after a draw on Saturday night in front of their TV set. The ten-minute polymerase activation period is over, and the mixture inside keeps cooling down – which doubles the amount of DNA fragments – and heating up a few seconds later, just to tear all of them apart again.

I think about the “Wheat on the Chessboard” story. The king was so pleased to learn chess, a newly invented game at the time, that he asked the inventor of the game what he wanted for reward. The inventor asked for some wheat grains. He wanted one grain of wheat on the first square of a chessboard, two grains of wheat on the second square, four grains on the third square, eight grains on the fourth square, and so on, doubling the number of grains of wheat with each square up to the last square. The king thought this was very easy until he realized that all the grains in the world would not be enough to grant this reward.

It takes less than two hours for this PCR box to grant me what the king could not. The only difference is that it’s providing me with billions of amplified DNA fragments instead of wheat grains.

The cocktail contains minuscule amounts of very special liquids supplied by various overseas companies. My thesis depends on the results of this experiment and the next. Mr. Robert Szabo, my thesis supervisor, is standing next to me as I’m preparing more components and DNA samples from infectious bacteria found in sheep for the next round of experiment. I’m using a DNA Mini kit ordered from a German biotech company.

The same company could supply me with the kit I need for my own private DNA samples. That would only be the first step for getting the DNA profile of Fitzgerald. My hope is that certain segments of his minuscule amount of DNA on the swabs are going to be copied millions of times with the help of this PCR box, to provide me with his distinct genetic pattern. I’ve read many books and spent countless hours on the internet investigating what’s needed for purifying, quantifying, amplifying, and sequencing my human DNA samples.


Could the IT Failure at British Airways be an Inside Job?

Tens of thousands of holidays are ruined. BA IT staff couldn’t get their system fully up and running for a whole weekend. The airline does not believe that a cyber-attack caused the issue. I tend to believe them. A conventional cyber-attack from the outside wouldn’t be able to crash their system this way. But what if it was an inside job?

I don’t buy the power supply failure story. On the surface, it sounds plausible as Delta Airlines last year had a similar major IT failure due to power failure issues.

However, early signs indicate some major differences. First of all, these systems always have backup power supplies which automatically kick in during power failures. Even if the backup power supply fails, and as a consequence the database crashes, there would normally be a failover site where the system could be brought back online at most in a few hours.

Among many others an article in the FT mentions the BA IT jobs which were outsourced to India last year as a possible contributing factor to this outage. Until the airline comes up with a better explanation I tend to believe that this is the most probable cause of the disruption.

It only takes one person inside an IT department to cause enormous damage to the system. All they need to know is a few commands and a privileged user account password to wipe out a whole database.

The turnover rate of IT staff in India is much higher than in the UK. While the vast majority of them are obviously dedicated professionals, I believe the BA system is extremely vulnerable to a single person with a malicious intent inside IT.


Emily Brontë and the Greatest Hungarian Poet

Emily Brontë and Sándor Petőfi lived their lives in the same decades of the 19th century. However, at the time Hungary and England were a world apart. The two poets never knew about each other. The most beautiful English poems of the century were penned by Emily Brontë. Similarly, arguably the greatest Hungarian poet was Sándor Petőfi. They both died very young, only a few months apart. I came across this information by reading the following dialog in Book One, Chapter 9 – Wuthering Heights of The Sex Tourist:

* * *

“Paul, did you know that the youngest Brontë sister, Anne, died the same year as the greatest Hungarian poet, Petőfi?” I’m so happy I can talk to Paul about literature again.

“No, I didn’t. I’ve just read in the museum that Emily and Anne died very soon after one another. I heard about Petőfi though. He wrote a famous love poem, didn’t he?”

“At the End of September. All Hungarians know it by heart, but I know the English translation too.”

“Would you recite it for me now?”

“Okay, here it goes:

‘The garden flowers still blossom in the vale,

Before our house the poplars still are green;

But soon the mighty winter will prevail;

Snow is already in the mountains seen.

The summer sun’s benign and warming ray

Still moves my youthful heart, now in its spring;

But lo! my hair shows signs of turning gray,

The wintry days thereto their color bring.


This life is short; too early fades the rose

To sit here on my knee, my darling, come!

Wilt thou, who now dost on my breast repose,

Not kneel, perhaps, to morrow o’er my tomb?

O, tell me, if before thee I should die,

Wilt thou with broken heart weep o’er my bier?

Or will some youth efface my memory

And with his love dry up thy mournful tear?


If thou dost lay aside the widow’s vail,

Pray hang it o’er my tomb. At midnight I

Shall rise, and, coming forth from death’s dark vale,

Take it with me to where forgot I lie.

And wipe with it my ceaseless flowing tears,

Flowing for thee, who hast forgotten me;

And bind my bleeding heart which ever bears

Even then and there, the truest love for thee.’

We walk in silence, while the autumn breeze blows my teardrops away. It just occurs to me that we’re in September.

“Wasn’t it unfair of Petőfi to expect his wife never to have another relationship if he died before her?” asks Paul.

“It was. After Petőfi died, his young widow re-married and many people were blaming her for that because of this poem. The poor woman was bullied and abused.”

“Petőfi is like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, but the other way,” says Paul. “I feel something similar too right now. True love has no boundaries.”

“And he died so young.”

“It’s weird that two of the Brontë sisters and Petőfi died within a year.”

“The sisters died of tuberculosis and Petőfi died fighting in the revolution. When they died Emily was thirty, Anne was twenty-nine, and Petőfi was only twenty-six. Can you imagine how the three of them would have changed world’s literature if they lived for another thirty or forty years?”

* * *

Let’s compare Petőfi’s poem in this excerpt to one of Emily Brontë’s:

Fall leaves fall die flowers away

Lengthen night and shorten day

Every leaf speaks bliss to me

Fluttering from the autumn tree

I shall smile when wreaths of snow

Blossom where the rose should grow

I shall sing when night’s decay

Ushers in a drearier day

The instinctive swiftness of this second poem is in stark contrast with the blurred weakness of the first one. This is not Petőfi’s fault. Unfortunately most of the beauty in Petőfi’s poem is lost in the translation above. I’m not saying it’s a bad translation; all I’m saying is that it’s an impossible task for any translator to achieve the same level of greatness.

Comparing and truly appreciating these poems written in two different languages is only possible if one reads or listens to the original ones with knowledge of both languages at mother tongue level.

Several other poems written by these two giants of literature boldly confront mortality and anticipate life after death. The most astonishing fact is that two of the greatest poets walking on Earth were writing their most beautiful poems in different languages at the same time.


Telepathy in Fraternal Twins

The original title of my 2 books in 1 novel, THE SEX TOURIST, is SORORAL BONDS. In this book the two main ‘characters’ (and authors) are non-identical twins. In the beginning of Book Two one of them experiences twin telepathy.

Female non-identical twins should be called sororal twins (soror is for sister in Latin). Non-identical twins are called fraternal twins, but this is correct only if both siblings are male, as frater is for brother in Latin. When the gender of the twins is different they are obviously non-identical.

Identical, or monozygotic, twins are the result of one egg being fertilized and then splitting in two. Identical twins have the same DNA and normally look very much alike. They are always of the same gender. Here are some examples of twin telepathy of identical twins:

  • A Texas man sat down with a stabbing pain in the heart while shopping, only to find out later that his twin brother had been shot in the heart in New York.
  • One sister had a bike accident and broke her ankle, and a mysterious swelling showed up on her twin’s ankle at the same time, although she wasn’t indulging in any physical activity at the time.
  • One baby would cry profusely, bringing his mother’s attention to the other twin, who was sleeping in another crib, suffering from high fever.

I found these at http://www.buzzle.com/articles/twin-telepathy.html, but there are many more examples.

One might think that having the same DNA is the deciding factor in the formation of a twin bond, but the nine months spent together in the womb could have a much greater role in it. In those crucial months they go through the whole evolutionary development getting ever closer to one another. Memories from the womb are very rare, but they do exist on a subconscious level. These twins are completely aware of each other once they enter the world.

The bond forged in the womb could get much stronger if twins grow up together. Losing a loved one is a tremendously painful and horrible experience, but losing a beloved twin is always a life changing event for “left behind” siblings. Thoughts about their twin dominate the rest of their lives even years or decades after the event. It causes regular moments of uncontrollable sorrow. Whether identical or not, the connection that twins share can never completely be understood by anyone else.


My April Fool’s Day Ad

Look who’s reading SORORAL BONDS! It is the original edition of THE SEX TOURIST with the exact same content!

For my non-UK followers:

Earlier this week they took a pic of the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon (left), which looks like a photo taken of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980’s (right). Nicola is writing a letter requesting a Scottish independence referendum to the current British Prime Minister, Theresa May, above.





The Disastrous Effect of the ‘Nordic Model’ on the Young Girls of Africa and Asia

For those who don’t know, the essence of the set of new laws on prostitution – the so called ‘Nordic Model’ – is to punish people who buy sex. The sex workers – predominantly women – are considered ‘victims’, hence they are not breaking the law. More and more developed countries are jumping on the ‘Nordic Model’ bandwagon. Sweden was the first to pass this kind of law in 1999. Finland, Norway, Iceland, Canada, Northern Ireland, France, Ireland, and most recently Scotland and Israel followed suit.

Typically the most vehement proponents of the ‘Nordic Model’ are sex workers of the past who already quit the ‘trade’. It’s easy to understand the reason. Once they’re not financially dependent on sex work, they can look back like no outsider can to the dehumanizing abuse most of them had to endure.

The most vehement opponents of the ‘Nordic Model’ are sex workers currently in the ‘trade’. Their income and safety are both jeopardized. The client base of active sex workers in these countries is shrinking. Those who buy sex are breaking the law, hence they’re criminals. Criminals are more likely to commit violent acts. Consequently sex workers earn less and are more exposed to getting hurt.

Nobody seems to notice, recognize, or study the three main negative side effects of the ‘Nordic Model’:

  1. More women who have nothing to do with sex work are raped.
  2. Increase in number of broken down marriages and divorces.
  3. Increase in sex tourism.

In a previous blog I was writing mainly about the first two points. Here I want to focus on the third one.

The main ‘holiday’ destinations of sex tourists are countries in Africa and Asia.

Here are a couple of the many articles from Kenya and from Thailand related to this issue. The authorities in these countries are trying to pass laws to reduce the number of sex tourists, so far with little success.

The main reason for girls and young women offering sex for cash in African and Asian countries is overwhelmingly the same: extreme poverty and/or the fear of it. Thirteen year old girls are selling sex for a plate of food or a couple of empty beer bottles in Zimbabwe. See these articles for example:

Young Girls Trade Sex for Empty Beer Bottles

Sex for a Plate of Sadza

Girls and women are also in mortal danger. The beachfront on the picture above is from the South African coastal town of Durban. Please take a look at these articles from that country:

Robbed and Raped, Stabbed and Shot – The Life of a Sex Worker in Durban

South Africa’s SayHerName Campaign Honors Murdered Sex Workers

Sex tourism just aggravates this problem. When the new breed of sex tourists from ‘Nordic Model’ countries visit Africa or Asia, they are no longer treated as criminals when paying for sex. They pay a higher rate than their local counterparts (but still a fraction of the price of sex in their home country), and they’re looked after with all the attention they don’t deserve. They are called ‘clients’ and are treated with the utmost respect. If they are after the GFE (girlfriend experience) they get that. Kinky acts are provided for them even without charging extra fees. They have the greatest time of their life.

At the same time most of these ‘clients’ don’t even have the moral sense of rats. Their numbers are on the rise. What motivates the newcomers? There is a simple explanation: the ‘Nordic Model’ in their own countries is turning more and more men into sex tourists. A proper study is way overdue to explore the relationship between the ‘Nordic Model’ and sex tourism.

Book Review: The Sex Tourist written by Olivia Wild

Please read this brilliant review of The Sex Tourist by Olivia Jayne Eldridge.


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