Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"The Best of You"

So in my Biology 100 class the other day, we were discussing genetics and genetic mutations and our teacher showed us a clip from a movie I am sure I have seen but I can't remember the title.

The scene shows a couple sit down with a guy in a labcoat who tells them that they have 4 fertilized embryos, 2 boys and 2 girls, in incubation that the couple can decide between. He said that these human embryos were orginally combinations of the two parents gametes but had since been genetically modified to determine things like skin color, balding rate, height, intelligence, and a bunch of other stuff.

The potential parents protested and said they wanted to leave some things up to chance. The doctor replied, "Don't worry. It's still you, just the best of you."

This was a little creepy, and I thought the idea was an interesting one: babies made to order. I kind of brushed it off as science fiction until I saw another clip (also in my Biology class) that really brought things home. It was about Carlos Boozer, the Jazz player, and how his first born son was born with sickle cell anemia. In order to give their son a chance at  a normal life, they decided to give him bone marrow transplants. An operation like this requires a very specific genetic match, the best being a sibling. So they decided to have another kid in order to get a donor for their first son.

This is the eye opener: they didn't want to role the dice again, so they went to a lab so that they could pick their next child. They got 24 embryos from mom and dad and then they genetically tested them to see which ones would be a bone-marrow match for the Boozer's son. Two embryos were chosen, the rest discarded, and 9 months later, twins were born. These twins were guaranteed to be sickle cell anemia free and to be perfect matches to their older brother's bone marrow.

Where am I going with all this? Well, what if the Boozers (or anyone) had wanted to change something less life-threatening, like crooked teeth? What if this procedure was advanced enough and cheap enough for anyone to afford? Within the next few decades we could easily have a choice to have a disease free, straight toothed, smart child. Guaranteed.

What would you do if you had the choice? Would you leave it up to chance or would you go for the 'best of you'?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Making Time

The other day, my little brother, who is 9, asked me if I knew of any books that he could read. I answered that I could probably point him to some good stuff. So I asked him what he had already read and what he recently finished, and I ended up recommending A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle.

He seemed a bit skeptical of such an 'old' book and asked me what sort of stuff was good about it. After thinking for a few minutes I answered, "You've read all the Harry Potter books right? Well I can say hands down that the bad guy in this book is way scarier than Voldemort."

After finishing the book (he reads really fast!), he agreed with me.

This experience has made me think back on all the great books that got me into reading in the first place. Stuff like Matilda, The Mouse and the Motorcyle, The Blue Sword, The Chronicles of Prydain, Johnny Tremain, The Secret Garden, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Phantom Toll Booth and many, many others.

I wish I had the time to go back and read them all. Now that I'm reading all this 'grown-up literature' I can't help but feel a certain longing for those books I read just because they were great stories, told in memorable ways.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Moral Majority

So I've been assigned a issues paper in my English 150 class about something to do with religions in America.


So I did some research on book banning in public schools. Especially back around 1999, there was a big push by a bunch of religious fundamentalists to ban textbooks or literature in public schools that was offensive to their religious beliefs. Catcher in the Rye was one mentioned often, which made me laugh.

I was thinking about it and I propose that we allow whatever books to be available, maybe even in school libraries. As to which literature is used for public school curriculum, I say the public votes on it. If they don't think the books are appropriate for their children to read, and the majority is with them, then why not? Put it on the shelf but not on the syllabus. I think this would help parents have more control over their childrens education and exposure, while not favoring any one loud minority.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Government Reform

My parents and I often get into very long discussions about different topics. A popular one recently has been Obama's push for health care reform.

My dad said he read in the paper yesterday that after using 'reconciliation' to get the bill passed in the Senate Obama is now planning to not send the revised bill back through the House. It's all possible because of some House rule.

My dad brought up a really interesting concern about the implications of such a forced approach to lawmaking. He said that if the bill passes and then (by some miracle) healthcare tanks, everyone is going to come back to this instance, where there was some question about the legitimacy of whether the bill passed or not.

If that did happen, if healthcare was passed on such a slim margin, what effect would it have on the government if things don't work out? Could it possibly hurt the credibility of our government?

This is obviously worst case senario stuff, but I think its worth thinking about.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Questioning the Classics

I'm right in the middle of researching for my issues paper, the climactic assignment of English 150. Our class's topic is about religion in America. I decided to do my paper on censorship, especially book banning.

So I've been reading all this literature criticizing christian fundementalists in the South for trying to ban a whole bunch of classic literature based on how it contraticts their interpretation of the Bible.

What I thought was funny is how this wasn't even an issue 100 years ago; at least I don't think it was. But as the times change, so has the diversity of our literature.

I don't blame the book banning activists but I also think as long as there are people who want to read certain books, they should be allowed to read them. That's the American way.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Liberating Prose

Right now I'm in a Tagalog language class. Thats the language they speak in the Philippines. So for my final project I have to present something about Philippine history or culture that maybe my classmates don't already know about.

I decided to do my project on a book written by the Philippines' most famous hero: Jose Rizal. He was an educated filipino in the Spanish-colonialized Philippines. He had the chance to go to France and study, and while he was there, he saw the difference between Europe and his home country. He saw how the Spanish treated his people unfairly, especially with the dominance of the Catholic church. He wanted to help his fellow countrymen realize this, so he wrote a book.

This book, Noli Me Tangere (the title is latin and means "touch me not," taken from what Christ said after he lived again), seemed nothing more than a well written love story but hidden in the prose were direct jabs at the Spanish ruling his country.

His book, and the sequel, sparked a revolution.

When the Americans arrived in the 1930s, the Spanish were already losing ground. As for the Filipino's beloved hero, he was captured, unjustly charged and put to death by a firing squad.

I'm reading the book right now and I was surprised. It's not just eye-opening, it's also great writing!