Thoughts on Post-humanism

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Some post-humanists believe that humans have already evolved beyond human. Due to technology, both invasive and pervasive at this point in time, we are now a new species – post-human. I am not sure I believe that, but I am willing to engage in the thought experiments this idea generates.

I can’t disagree with the idea that what it means to be human has changed drastically from ancient times to today. We have vaccines that protect us from diseases that would have killed us not long ago. We have plastic surgery to fix physical defects and appeal to our vanity. Our food is enriched with additional vitamins and our water treated. We even have medical conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome that can be caused by the technology we use every day.  Post-humanists would argue this makes us a new and different species from the humans of 4000 years ago. I am not convinced.

However, I am left pondering: what about pets? Are they also post-insert animal name here? I vaccinate my cats against diseases that could kill them. People pay money to have their animal’s appearance changed in some way. We shared our home with a dog that needed metal pins to replace a damaged hip. The food I buy for my pets is vitamin-enriched. Even the crickets the newt eats have been gut loaded with additional vitamins and coated in calcium. And the water I give to the cats is filtered and treated. Our pets can grow obese due to over-feeding and increasingly sedentary, or pampered, lives. They live vastly different lives than animals 4000 years ago. So are my tabby cats post-cats?

I know I will read more on the subject as I have only read a limited number of essays by post-humanists, but I wonder what others think.

Books, Books, Books

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I was tagged twice in the same day to talk about my ten favorite books, or the books that influenced me or something. Here is my list, cheating a bit.

Before starting I need to give a shout out to the book I just finished: Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek, MD and T.J. Mitchell. I laughed; I cried; I nearly lost my lunch. It was awesome.

Selecting just 10 books that I have enjoyed or been influenced by is excruciating. As I choose which ones to feature, others cry out, “what about me?” Honestly, I need my lists to be by literary period or genre. And still I will feel like I am excluding something that means the world to me. I, also, can’t just rank them. Plus, what about essays, short stories, poems, and comics/manga? That said, I tried really hard. So here we go!

East of Eden by John Steinbeck: Growing up in Oklahoma, I was forced to read many Steinbeck novels. I wish I could say I loved Steinbeck, but I didn’t. The one book of his we never read is the only one I truly love. The characters resonate with me.

The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman: After finishing Lord of the Rings, I felt drained. Books did not satisfy, and I couldn’t finish anything. I just wanted more Tolkien, and I indulged, but it had to come to an end because he was dead, you know? Dragonlance was my methadone to my Tolkien heroin. The language is not elevated and the plot simple, but I love it.

The Cigarette Sellers of Three Crosses Square by Joseph Ziemian: The true story of Jewish children who escaped the ghetto and survived by selling cigarettes to the Nazi soldiers. Not all of them escaped the concentration camps. I read this book in the sixth grade, the same age as many of the sellers, and I spent the better part of 15 years searching for a copy to own. I still dream about this book.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: This book made me acknowledge to myself and publicly, “I love science fiction.” What is amazing about this book is that space battle takes place three-dimensionally. Prior to that space battles were treated like space is the sea – one dimension, no underneath or overhead attacks. On top of the wicked explanations of space battle, Ender endures as one of my favorite protagonists. My heart still breaks for him. (The recent movie captured all of the important stuff even though it was different, and I sobbed at the end as if I had never read the book.)

Beach Music by Pat Conroy: A book about the scars life leaves on us and how to live with them. Conroy’s prose affects and infects drawing me deep into his world. I don’t know how to really describe this, but I have never forgotten it, and some nights I want to scream, “Shyla, don’t do it!”

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: The first book I was forced to read by a school that I thoroughly enjoyed. It also changed the way I look at literature and fostered the love of analyzing it that I have today. Plus, I don’t want to strangle Mr. Rochester nearly as much as Mr. Darcy or Heathcliff. (I completely don’t know what people see in Heathcliff.)

The Outstretched Shadow by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon: Honestly, this is toss-up between this book and Lackey’s Arrows of the Queen. Both feature rich fantasy worlds with magical mishaps, world ending events, and memorable characters but I believe it is in these fantastical stories that we learn the most about being human. This author’s work has made me a more compassionate and accepting person. S

Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny: I can honestly say this omnibus changed the trajectory of my life. The books are fast, easy reads, and I am not sure if the author knew where he was going from one book to the next. Still, the first five books have an incredible story. And I never would have met Neil without them.

I love all of the amazing work that is coming from the young adult genre this century. I am not sure what happened, but suddenly it seems that young adult literature is full of complex plots, characters, and themes. I could easily see Divergent, Hunger Games, If I Stay, If He Had Been With Me, or Girl of Fire and Thorns here, but the Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman is by far my favorite. It’s horrific, heartbreaking, and redemptive. Also, the characters are worth the emotional torture. During the first book, I despised Lev and thought “how will I ever forgive or like him?” By the end of the second book I was crying as he fought to get through to Miracolina. He is definitely in my top five Unwind characters.

My final selection is reserved for two books because I do recommend reading them in tandem or reading two similar books at the same time. Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers by Brooke Allen and Patriots by A.J. Langguth: I actually pair these because they are a great contrast and by the end your understanding of American Revolutionary history, the writing of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, and the philosophical beliefs of the Founding Fathers will be deep. I realize my love for Enlightenment political philosophy and extant texts is seen as odd, but what a person can learn is infinitely valuable. They certainly helped frame my current thoughts on religion, liberty, and freedom.

Honorable mentions: Aspects of Love by David Garret (Alexis is named after the main characters); On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony; The Nero Wolfe novels by Rex Stout; the works of Lord Dunsany; the works of H.P. Lovecraft; any romance novel because after you read heavy philosophy or science, you need a break; In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick; The Hot Zone by Robert Preston; anything by David McCullough; Socrates in Love by Kyoichi Katayama (similar to The Fault In Our Stars).

Lazy

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I have been so lazy lately.  My husband had surgery and getting him through all of that was draining. By the time he was better, all I wanted to do was nap. So I napped for the better part of two weeks. Then, I got started doing little things, but avoided the computer.

Then, my daughter announced she wants to have an Anime Murder Mystery Party. Everything for this party has to be created from scratch! I’ve been trying different foods and recipes (no pictures) and party favors (again, no pictures). Things are coming together. Slowly.

sootspritesI made a trio of soot sprites out of felt, which is very easy. If you want to make them all you need to do is make a pattern (basically six ovals all of the same size) or search for a pattern online. You may need to adjust the pattern to the size you want. Cut out your felt, sew it together three sections at a time. Make sure to leave an opening in your ball to add stuffing, and then sew up or glue the back. The eyes are just felt circles glue together and then to the “face.” I will set them next to a bowl of Konpeita with a sign that reads: “Please do not feed the soot sprites.”

I plan to make more plushies as party favors for Alexis and her friends.

 

I decided to make the invitations with a Death Note theme.

I decided to make the invitations with a Death Note theme.

While most of the communicating the kids do for parties and such are throw social media and cell phones, paper invitations are still appreciated by parents. So I made them myself. I made fold over cards on card stock. The outside has all of the information the parents will need: date, time, address. The interior (shown) here features information the teenagers will need.

To make the I inverted the color from a scan of the Death Note DVD set. Then, I used a website to generate the Death Note style font. I did not install the font on my computer. I am not sure how safe that is, but I did type in my words, save the graphic it generated, and then combined the various script graphics into the invitation. Each set of words was limited to 40 characters. The result was a lot of layering in Photoshop.

I wish more anime themed things were available easily in our area, but there it is.

Castle of Cagliostro Spaghetti and Meatballs

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Personal observation has led me to believe that spaghetti and meatballs is a very popular dish – in reality and fiction. The dish served as a the point of contention for Jigen and Lupin in The Castle of Cagliostro. Sadly, my experiences eating spaghetti prepared by other people, and most restaurants, has been unappetizing. I attribute this to a lack of sauce – specifically too little. Or it could be that the sauce is tasteless. Or I am just too picky of an eater. Today though, I am sharing one of the ways I prepare spaghetti and meatballs. Serve it in a mountainous pile and you’ll be emulating Jigen.

Spaghetti Sauce:
2 – 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
1 – 6 oz can of tomato paste (Unsalted)
6 – cloves garlic, minced or pressed (Frozen will work, as well.)
.5 cup – dry red wine or cooking wine (Cooking wine is very salty and not especially tasty, but it works when you have no real choice. You can smooth it out with one-two teaspoons of sugar.)
.5 cup – chopped onion
1 tbsp – fresh or frozen basil (if fresh or frozen not available, use dried)
1 tsp each – dried oregano, thyme, marjoram, and rosemary
1 tsp – Red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp – Olive Oil
Parmesan Cheese (for serving)

1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium-low heat and add onion. Once the onion begins to soften, add garlic. Cook until fragrant.

onionandgarlic

 

 

sauce2. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, and wine. Cook until smooth and bubbly. Turn heat to low. Simmer 15 – 20 minutes
3. Add dried herbs about five minutes before serving. Mix well. Don’t add too early in the process or you will lose the flavor.
4. Cook spaghetti in boiling water until desired tenderness. Note: olive oil and salt are unnecessary. If sticky pasta is a concern, before draining save a half-cup of the starchy water from the pasta water. Return the water to the pan with the drained spaghetti. The starch water will prevent sticking.

Sometimes I add fresh mushrooms and peppers as well. Cook them with the onion, if you do. Also, don’t over-salt the dish. The ingredients come loaded with sodium, so add more cautiously.

Meatballs:
1 lb – Ground Beef (the leaner the better, no more than 10%)
.5 lb – Italian Sausage
2 eggs
.5 cup – onion, minced or finely chopped in food processor
.25 cup – Milk
.25 cup – Breadcrumbs
3 tbsp – Italian parsley, chopped
3 tbsp – Parmesan Cheese
1 tbsp – Garlic, minced
.25 tsp – Fresh ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Mix well.
3. Shape the mixture into 1-inch ball. Use a tablespoon to measure if needed.

meatballmix

 

 

4. Place the meatballs onto a broiler pan that has been sprayed or brushed with olive oil. The meatballs should be elevated in some way to allow the fat from them to drip below them.

meatballbeforecooking

 

 

5. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the meatballs are done. Check them after 20 minutes.
6. Serve with spaghetti and sauce.

spaghettiandmeatballs

Kingdom Hearts Symbol Cross Stitch

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Kingdom Hearts SymbolA Kingdom Hearts symbol cross stitch that I created. It utilizes 3/4 stitches around the edges. If you aren’t familiar with this stitch, don’t worry it is very easy. These directions can be followed in either order. It all depends on what works best for your stitching. However, when I was learning I always followed the order I will be sharing. Still do what is easiest for you. Also, complete all of the full cross-stitches before working on the other stitches.

1. This stitch is a combination of a quarter stitch and a half stitch. quarterstitchstart

2. It is easiest to start with the quarter-stitch. Check your chart to see which corner the quarter comes from. You will need to start at that corner. Bring your thread down in the center before the thread would reach the normal corner.

threequarterstep1

3. Next complete the half stitch. Again, check the chart so that your stitch is facing the correct direction. That’s all there is to it.

quarterstitchstep2The rest of the KH stitch is easy as well. You could finish in just a few hours. I recommend using a blue that you like the best or DMC variegated or variations floss. Happy stitching.

khgiraffe

The symbol with DMC delft blue variegated floss.

finishedkh

Slow Week In Store

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Most of my sewing space in one picture. I have little room in front of the green, plastic bin that I use to iron fabric.

Most of my sewing space in one picture. I have little room in front of the green, plastic bin that I use to iron fabric.

I have a slow week in store. Due to my irrational fear and hatred of ants, I have the exterior of my house regularly sprayed against them. The interior is sprayed as well, but only parts at one time. This week the pest company needs to spray parts of the house that include my sewing studio space. The space is tiny – 5.5 feet by 8 feet. With every item put up properly the four available walls are stacked up like Tetris. Each item balanced precisely.

When I am working on sewing project, there are pieces of it everywhere. My “sewing studio” fills up quickly. Everything on the sewing table goes to the floor. The ironing board wedges in the “long” open space. Things get moved into the kitchen if I need more room. A mess is birthed in about 3.3 seconds.

Before and after major projects I clean the area all up again. It’s like starting with a blank slate; calming the mind and centering the energy. At least that is how I feel. In between big projects, when I am tackling smaller pieces, all bets are off.

With the bug guy coming, I can’t have that. So everything has been put away until after he has visited. Sad, I know, but no mess to clean up day of and no chance of him finding a pin in his boot.

Generally I use the bug guy visit as an excuse to do intense, deep cleaning of the house. So that unfortunately will probably be what happens.