I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted!
Actually, I can believe it, but I still feel bad.
Since November: I haven’t shaved my legs are or my armpits – which has been really nice.
I’ve started vlogging semi regularly, though there isn’t much of that yet.
I’ve been streaming and recording games with Adam which has been a lot of fun.
And I started (and am almost done with now) the spring semester which includes Calculus 2, Physics 40, and Chemistry 1A
I’m having a tough time of things, but don’t really have the time or energy or words to really verbalize it.
So, this will just a a short drive by kind of update.
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In honor of Cat’s birthday yesterday, Sunday, I wanted to share a little about how she’s made me a better person, and gush a little about how great she is.
Two years ago this month, one of my favorite cousins and pretty good friend, Cat, found her way back home to the bay area after many many moons away. It wasn’t very long before proximity turned existing mutual admiration and enjoyment into a grand friendship that grows stronger with every midnight cup of hot chocolate or cute puppy picture shared. Besides for enhancing my life by being a constant source of understanding, support, and laughter, she has, without intent, bettered my emotional and social footprint on this world.
I fundamentally believe that people are always changing; every day, every minute, we are receiving feedback that affects how we perceive, how we think, and how we act. Some days we change more than others, but generally that change goes unnoticed until viewed from the distance of time. This decade of my life has held a lot of changes, but the last two years, besides for this headlong jump into my education, I’ve most significantly felt the impact of my shifting perceptions.
Two years ago I started to become more directly exposed to Cat’s gentle scent of activism in the form of critiques, musings, and efforts to be inclusive and thoughtful in her language. Now, I have always thought myself socially conscious and have been surrounded by varying aspects through the people in my life, but never before to the level at which this challenged me.
I say challenged because even though I had always been open to ways in which I could be more inclusive and progressive, Cat would notice and talk about issues I had never before thought to think about. I thought myself a humanist, or an equalist, assuming that of course it was better to only think of all the people as a whole, not realizing how necessary it actually was to focus on women, or the differently abled, or people of color, or any oppressed or disadvantaged by society. As a white, generally healthy, cisgendered person, the impact of the issues weren’t fully in my field of vision, not to claim that they are even fully now, but you generally know what you live, and I have fortunately lived a pretty charmed life.
These challenges were mostly presented in the entertainment industry, in games, movies, shows etcetera. In a way, initially, I was angry about being challenged. Her critiques of some of my favorite things, though not untrue, felt hurtful and souring. I would be annoyed while watching Doctor Who with her, or would dread the end of a movie viewed together. I was stuck in this mindset that these things she saw as “problematic” where simply the stories that the writer wanted to tell, and I felt like simply because I enjoyed the thing was reason enough for it to be fine the way it was.
Cat never pushed me or actively tried to get me to change, she loved me the way I was, and I knew she thought I was a wonderful human being no matter what; she just simply was – unapologetic and unflinching in her quest for global betterness.
Through this, I was suddenly painfully aware of the lack of people of color in my favorite television shows, or the way in which a character I viewed as a badass chick was actually a tired trope. I was angry with Cat because it was her pointing these things out that caused me to feel uncomfortable about what I loved.
It didn’t take me long though before I realized that my anger was in fact misplaced and that I could in no way blame her for removing a little of the wool that had been systematically pulled over my eyes for the last 25 years. I even got to a point where I realized I could still enjoy the things I had loved and that I could also be critical of their failings; the two were not mutually exclusive.
And as feminism is currently having this big moment, both in and out of the entertainment industry, I’m struck with how thankful I am for being in a place where I can really appreciate it and understand what I have to fight for.
So on this, the (yester)day of her 32nd Birthday, I want to share my unending appreciation for what she has opened me to, and of who she is, because I think she’s pretty fucking cool.
This update is a long time coming. I’ve been busy, between school, two part time jobs, and trying to keep my sanity; but I’ve been really wanting to let you know how everything is going.
This summer I took Pre-calculus and C++ and achieved B’s in both. I was sad to lose my 4.0 grade average, but knew that it had to come eventually.
The precalc was challenging, but I’m proud of how well I did for a compressed summer course and in comparison to the class average. I did very well with the C++ course, and would have gotten an A in the class, but due horrendous traffic, I was over an hour late to my final exam (which was weighted with the midterm to be worth over half the course grade).
I had a very brief break, and then started in on the fall semester.
I’m currently taking Calculus, Chemistry, Engineering Drafting/Design, and Advanced AutoCAD.
Calculus, is a bit of a mixed bag. I do great on the homework and understand and participate in class, but the tests are long, difficult and don’t allow calculators. The teacher is young, and new to teaching though. His only teaching gig before SRJC was a privet catholic women’s college in Montana. I think that he’s starting to realize that he may need to expect a little less from his junior college students. Although I did poorly (for me) on the last test, I actually did a little better than some other students who are the smarties in the class.
I’m really enjoying Chemisty, but it’s like learning a whole new language. I’m also doing fairly well and get “good job!” written on my tests.
Engineering is also going pretty good. I just got my midterm back and scored a 42 our of 40. Its taught by an adjunct teacher who works at Medtronics so he has a lot of good industry knowledge.
I’m also excelling in my Advanced AutoCAD course. Though this wasn’t required for my major or transfer, I elected to take it because I did so well in the previous AutoCAD course and there are good opportunities for drafting work. I’m hoping to maybe get a part time work from home job once the class is over. I think I can get a good recommendation from my teacher as well considering he stopped by my desk last week and said “You’re pretty good at this, aren’t you?”.
This semester I joined the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement program which has a lot of great opportunities from things like campus visits to information on internships.
I even just submitted my registration for an Undergraduate Women in Physics conference for this winter. I’m also hoping to be selected for a summer research internship at UC Berkeley. I have to write some essays and get recommendations from teachers to apply by the end of the year.
All in all I’m still in love with being a student and am so passionate about where I’m heading.
I managed to score a couple of scholarships that for the Fall semester paid out about $600. I also got my fall distribution of my Stafford student loans, though is a little less than last year because of the total limit of what I can take out.
We knew it would have to be like that, gradually less and less for each year I plan to borrow, hoping that scholarships I would receive would make up the difference, but I’m also driving back and forth to school 4 days a week now, about 1600 miles a month.
I’ve started looking for some kind of rental closer to school, but so far nothing has been a financially sound option to give up my current situation.
I also haven’t yet received any of my grant (free) money yet because I had to submit a special conditions form, that I didn’t get noticed needed additional paperwork until last week. When I submitted said paperwork on Monday I found out that it would be another 4 to 6 weeks for processing. This takes me through the end of the semester basically with about half the money I had last year.
I’m hopeful that I can keep things floating until my grant money comes through, or I receive aid for the spring semester.
I’m looking forward to applying for the next round of scholarships, I should be eligible for quite a few.
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I somehow was awarded another scholarship!
I’m blown away but super excited and proud of myself.
Today was the first day of the summer semester and I’m really glad to be back at it.
My brief break was both over too quickly, and not quickly enough.
Just a quick update, I received a letter from my school yesterday letting me know I’ve been awarded an engineering scholarship in the amount of $650!
I just have to write a thank you letter and attend an annual scholarship reception in August.
I’m so excited that I was chosen, and I look forward to becoming eligible for even more scholarships as I advance in my schooling.Read More
The semester is over and the grades are in!
I can finally relax a little, until the 16th when next semester starts.
I ruined the first couple of weeks of my summer vacation though.
When I finished my last couple of finals, I immediately came down with the flu and it’s had me out of the commission until now.
Even though I had to work this weekend, I finally felt up for doing a little housework today.
But, less productive. I kinda just moved things around, and make slightly more organized piles.
Oh! I did change my sheets and make my bed though! I’m so fancy.
I’m all ready for next semester though!
I’ve only got two classes, one online and one I’ll need to drive up to Santa Rosa four days a week.
With work the other three days a week, this summer is looking to be super busy. I guess it’s also going to carry on into the fall since I’m going to be taking like a million credits and won’t be able to break them down into only two days again.
Assignment: Ethics of technology: Genetic engineering and interference with the natural order. – Explain how the issue or practice operates in the novel, and take a stand and argue your position on the issue or practice.
- Yours is a well-written, well-structured paper.
- You provide convincing ideas supported by conclusive evidence.
- You have developed a graceful, concise writing style.
05 May 2014
Genetic Engineering: Humanity’s Next Step in Evolution
Human evolution took millions of years to develop our current species and, as far as we can tell, homo sapiens sapiens have been the first creatures on planet Earth to develop the technological sophistication they now enjoy. The possibilities of human advancement seem limitless and the only opposition they have is themselves. Nothing in human history has ever before set limitations. The sky ceased to be the limit in 1967 when the first manned mission to space, Apollo 1, took humans out of the Earth’s atmosphere. Why should humanity limit itself now? What is it about genetic engineering that makes people say that humans have gone too far?
In the novel Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, Jimmy, the protagonist, wonders after seeing the genetically engineered ChickieNobs and Wolvogs for the first time, “Why is it he feels some line has been crossed, some boundary transgressed? How much is too much, how far is too far?” (206). Some say genetic engineering is unnatural, some say it is dangerous, some simply feel uncomfortable and cannot create a better reason than that. The arguments against genetic manipulation are often blurred between moral and scientific grounds. However, I believe that genetic engineering is simply humanity’s next, natural step in evolution, without which their potential becomes unnecessarily limited.
With the ability to hand-pick the genetic makeup up of individuals within their species, humanswould able to achieve great feats. They could eliminate racial superiority and devastating genetic disorders like Alzheimer’s, improve strength and intelligence, and create a kind of general equality where all will be able to contribute to the betterment of humanity. This will leave them in a position to better care for those who cannot contribute due to the inevitable (but limited) social-economic divide. Once more of humanity is able to contribute to scientific advancement, the advancements will increase exponentially and provide humanity with even greater achievements – including deeper discovery of the universe, progressions in artificial intelligence, or even the elusive concept of world peace.
Oryx and Crake paints a particularly sad and exaggerated picture of what a world captivated by genetic engineering may look like. The author’s main purpose seems to be to frighten the reader into believing that genetic engineering will bring only doom and destruction. This sense of fright is easily achieved because the world depicted is seemingly so similar to humanity’s current reality, and shows a near possible future opposed to one that is more alien and too distant for the imagination. The genetic engineering featured in Oryx and Crake is not the main cause of the seeming dystopian world, but merely a guiltless accomplice to the real menace that is unchecked power. The death of the human race was not caused by achievements in genetic engineering, but by Crake’s unleashed imagination and his sociopathic nature.
Genetic engineering is featured a few ways in the novel, including as a central encompassing idea, but one of the first feats of genetic engineering that is introduced is that of the pigoon, or the sus multiorganifer.“The goal of the pigoon project was to grow an assortment of foolproof human-tissue organs in a transgenic knockout pig host – organs that would transplant smoothly and avoid rejections, but would also be able to fend off attacks by opportunistic microbes and viruses, of which there were more strains every year” (Atwood 22). This scientific accomplishment is one that is currently being explored in reality. Japanese scientists are possibly only a few years away from being able to grow human organs in pigs. Like God’s Gardeners in Oryx and Crake, there are those in Japan and the rest of the world who are opposed to the “idea of pig-human hybrids,” citing, not Oryx and Crake, but HG Well’s The Island of Doctor Moreau as the unsettling example (Wingfield-Hayes).
The progress with the pigoons in Oryx and Crake is much more advanced than what Japan has achieved so far, such that “a rapid-maturity gene was spliced in so the pigoon kidneys and livers and hearts would be ready sooner, and now they were perfecting a pingoon that could grow five or six kidneys at a time. Such a host animal could be reaped of its extra kidneys; then, rather than being destroyed, it would keep on living and grow more organs, much as a lobster could grow another claw to replace a missing one” (Atwood 22).
Despite the astonishing medical applications this achievement implicated, Atwood hinted at great upset over the pigoons through Jimmy’s narrative of his own feelings, those of God’s Gardeners, and his own mother‘s anguish. The OrganInc brochure even had a disclaimer stating that “none of the defunct pigoons ended up as bacon and sausages” in order to “set the queasy at ease” (Atwood 23). The idea of these creatures containing human genes at some point and then ending up as food brings to mind too many uncomfortable questions about cannibalism and cruelty for the people of that world to handle. Would this reality’s humans be able to stomach it any better? Recent history says no, humans are more comfortable with the idea of waste, and crave a distance from the dirty truths that make them uneasy. Even with the nutritional advantage and abundance of horse meat, insects, and pet animals, the thought of consuming such creatures is too devastating to consider for most of the Western world.
In this vein, Oryx and Crake also heavily features the concept of genetically modified food. In the real world, humanity has made most of their progress in this area. Though a widely accepted idea, it is also still greatly controversial. This practice has allowed humans to provide greater nutrition at a lower cost to impoverished nations, and increase the quantity and quality of food overall. However, despite its current and potential applications, genetically modified food, commonly referred to as GMOs, has been heavily criticized over its safety, health, and ethics for quite some time. Genetically modified food has served to introduce the concept of genetic engineering to many, but their knowledge of it generally stops there.
One of the primary uses of GMOs in Oryx and Crakefeatures the ChickieNobs, which are only just starting production in their world at the time when Jimmy visits Crake at Watson-Crick. The ChickieNobs are described as a “large bulblike object that seemed to be covered in stippled whitish-yellow skin. Out of it came twenty thick fleshy tubes, and at the end of each tube another bulb was growing” (Atwood 202). Crake, and the NeoAgricultrual student overseeing the project, likened it to the sea-anemone and the hookworm; it didn’t require growth hormones, didn’t feel any pain, and was able to produce chicken breasts over twice as quickly as the “high-density chicken farming operations” (Atwood 202). Jimmy was horrified at the sight of the creature, but in terms of high producing food in a world with dwindling resources, the ChickieNob sounds ideal. When compared with traditional chicken farming (which is cruel, dangerous and bad for the environment), something like the ChickieNob would be the perfect solution. However, there is something about the unfamiliar and new that causes humans to deem things unnatural and thus less than desirable. Even Jimmy, who was disgusted by the thought of the ChickieNobs and likened it to “eating a large wart,” considered that, “as with tit implants – the good ones – maybe he wouldn’t be able to tell the difference,” and ended up eating their product in great quantity later in the story (after achieving distance from what was the reality of them) (Atwood 203).
In terms of genetically engineered humans, the most controversial topic in the novel, it’s clear that great feats were achieved in the world of Oryx and Crake. Not only in terms of what Crake engineered into the Crakers, but also by what was available via the Street of Dreams. The ability to change height, penis length, eye color, even gender at the drop of a hat indicated remarkable control of genetics. The modifications procured from the Street of Dreams only interact with the existing human species’ genetic makeup, which is a cisgenic practice. However, what is done to the Crakers moves into an area similar to the Pigoons or the Soat/Gider which is introducing genetic material from one species to another species, commonly referred to as transgenic by genetic engineers (“genetic engineering”).
Crakers consume nutrients in a manner similar to rabbits, mate like baboons, and heal by way of purring like cats, making them undoubtedlyan altogether a new species. They are no longer homo sapiens sapiens, but instead something one might describe as being more animal than humanoid. As a mixture of the most desired traits (in Crake’s opinion), the Crakers are indisputably an unrealistic view of where humanity might end up. Without a situation and an individual with the power and psychosis comparable to that in Oryx and Crake, no one would be allowed, regardless of reasonable ability, to design a completely new and complex species in a single generation.
The most logical approach humans will take in their engineered evolution is that of small changes that will carry on and affect future generations, much in the way evolution naturally acts. The base desire to improve quality of life is what powers the progression humanity makes in this field. Humans wish to improve their own existence and that of their progeny, they do not wish to be replaced by superior and foreign beings (as was Crake’s plan).
Setting the idea of a replacement species aside, one realistic danger of genetically engineered humans might be in the widening of the social and economic divide. Proper applications would include availability to all equally, but there’s no historical indication that its introduction would be ideal. A good illustration of this possibility is featured the 1997 film Gattaca, where genetically engineered children draw a firm line between the haves and the have nots; where those lacking in perfection are severely limited in their future careers and lifestyles. The poor are unable to afford improved intelligence and perfect eyesight, and are suppressed more and more as the ability gap only widens. However, in this world, the privileged far outnumber the underprivileged, which may be the most desirable version of this situation considering the alternatives.
This danger is possible to avoid if humanity is able to create processes and practices that are easy and cheap enough to provide to the masses, the end goal being to close the socioeconomic gap. Even starting with engineering, a genetic resistance to AIDS, SARS, West Nile Virus, or other devastating but prevalent health concerns in impoverished nations would prove to create a greater long term impact than one would with simply devising better medication. Once health and mortality outcomes are improved, those communities are then able to focus more on things like education.
One can also argue that genetic engineering may give rise to the idea of eugenics, as with the Third Reich in 1930’s Germany. Some believe that being able, and having the desire, to prevent disabilities such as autism, Down syndrome, and blindness in the womb is a form of prejudice. These individuals feel that preventing disabilities is a statement that those with them have a decreased quality of life or are less capable (Seck). There are similar arguments against abortion after early detection of debilitating disabilities, though there is great difference between aborting a fetus and genetically modifying one to a standard model of normal or whole. Those in support of genetic engineering applications for disability prevention believe that “genetic engineering, if done on a purely decentralized basis by free individuals and couples, will not involve any form of coercion. Unlike the Nazi eugenics program of the 1930s, which involved the forced, widespread killing of ‘unfit’ peoples and disabled babies, the de facto effect of genetic engineering is to cure disabilities, not kill the disabled” (Seck). In addition, those with religious convictions who might feel that genetic engineering may be an affront to God could learn to appreciate genetic engineering as it could potentially decrease the number of abortions people seek, because“too often, women choose to abort babies because pre-natal testing shows that they have Down syndrome or some other ailment. If anything, genetic engineering should be welcomed by pro-life groups because by converting otherwise-disabled babies into normal, healthy ones, it would reduce the number of abortions” (Seck).
Some believe or hope that humanity will reach its ultimate potential naturally through continued evolution and feel that genetic engineering upsets the natural order (or consider it to be bypassing God). Regardless of their desire, the unfortunate truth is that because of the intelligence humanity has evolved to achieve naturally, they will not be able to make a similar great step again without artificial means, certainly not in a way which will satisfy humanity’s desire for instant gratification. Humanity has developed so many ways of circumventing natural selection in terms of health care and extension of life that in order to improve themselves they need to now take unnatural steps. Those with undesired qualities who at one point may have been a casualty of natural selection, are able to carry on their unfortunate genes, but with the addition of genetic engineering, humanity would be able to turn those genes into more desirable and contributing members of society.
It is easy to hear these arguments and take moral reproach to their sentiments simply because humans are so quick to preserve qualities of uniqueness and a sense of free will or choice. Genetic engineering does not aim to do away with those qualities; its application simply expects to improve the human experience by removing inequalities and limiting factors. In Oryx and Crake, Crake believed humanity to be beyond repair and needing of replacement, but in reality improvements can be made on humanity’s failings and genetic engineering is the way in which humans can take these significant steps.
Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. New York: Anchor Books, 2003. Print.
Gattaca. Dir. Andrew Niccol. Perf. Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, and Uma Thurman. Columbia Pictures, 1997. Film.
“Genetic Engineering.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Apr. 2014. Web. 04 May 2014.
Seck, Chris. “Arguing For and Against Genetic Engineering.” Stanford Review. Stanford, n.d. Web. 01 May 2014.
Wingfield-Hays, Rupert. “Quest to Grow Human Organs Inside Pigs in Japan.” BBCNews. BBC, n.d. Web. 04 May 2014.Read More