Ever here of the Gros Michel Banana? As known colloquially as the Big Mike, it was primarily grown in South East Asia, become a common export to Europe and America during the 1800’s, and was probably the most commonly sold breed of banana in the west up until the 1950s. Then the Panama disease descended upon the plantations, and the monocrop industry was basically shut down permanently. They’re still grown in some tropical areas, just no longer on a global industrial scale.

The banana most people around the world get as an export is the Cavendish. This banana is similar in appearance to the Gros Michel, but is noticeably thinner and having a different ripening pattern. It also has less flavor; the average Gros Michel is reported to be much sweeter, more consistently creamy, and to have a less noticeable seed area. It was also more robust and physically suited for long distance travel.

Of course, the Gros Michel could not withstand the fungal infection known as Panama disease, which rendered it all but extinct. The blander and less hardy Cavendish was more resistant to the disease, so it rose in prominence.

However, it’s possible that we will have to soon find a substitute for our current variety of banana as well. According to reports from within the next two decades, a new viral form of Panama disease has manifested that is deadly to the Cavendish variety. The problem with bananas is that they are breed and reproduced via monocultural cloning, so there’s not a lot of genetic diversity, and anything that can kill one plant will likely kill every other.

In 2008, Dan Koeppel suggested that we “say goodbye” to the banana, recognize that it is an exotic food product that always had the potential of “slipping” out of our grasp.

I heard somewhere that there are plans to genetically engineer both Cavendish and surviving strands of Gros Michel to be more disease resistant. I guess we’ll see how that turns out. Perhaps I should do as Koeppel suggests and learn to live without bananas and focus more on products that can be grown or made close to home.


When Captain America got frozen during the Second World War, the “Big Mike” was still the most commonly eaten banana in America. I wonder how his first exposure to the Cavendish went? From his point of view, it probably seemed that this new future world is so strange that even the bananas were wrong.

Anyway, speaking of Marvel characters, the Black Panther movie is coming out this upcoming Thursday (well, the Thursday after this was posted at any rate.



Gros Michel: The Lost Banana your Grandfather Loved

Your Favorite Banana is Facing Extinction

Yes, We Will Have No Bananas – New York Times



February So Far

It is currently February Tenth, just four days before the post-Catholic Western World goes about celebrating love, infatuation, and all that crap. I recently looked up Saint Valentine just to see what he was all about. There’s not much reliable information, just that he was martyred and buried someplace near Rome, and that he’d allegedly been conducting illegal Christian marriages in the Empire. Also, there may have been some other saints with a name derived from “Valentinus” as well. Traditionally, the day of Saint Valentine was celebrated with a feast, as was that of other martyred saints with a designated day of remembrance.

I don’t plan on doing anything special for the holiday this year. Maybe next year.

February also happens to be Black History Month, a time when the often ignored stories, struggles, and historical perspectives get to be brought to the fore. Per usual, the student organizations have been providing some interesting show-casings to go with the month.

Just this last week we had the 2016 documentary I Am Not Your Negro showing in the art building auditorium. Based on an unfinished manuscript by writer and social critic James Baldwin, the film is a deep and powerful look back on the complexities and struggles surrounding the Civil Rights movement, as seen by someone who was there and experienced it. It is a very illuminating film, and Baldwins observations and understandings are still very applicable to (if not eerily predicative of) the current state of American society.

We’ve also had screenings of other films such as Black Girl, a 1966 french film about a young woman from Senegal who moves to France to work as maid for this wealthy upper-middle class family. She expects to experience the adventure and wonder of living in this new, exotic land, and is quickly disappointed with the reality of being some well-off family’s maid. While I won’t give away the ending exactly, I will caution that it isn’t a happy one.

Yet another film that stuck with me was a documentary called Broken On All Sides, a film that covers the problem of overcrowding in prisons such as those in the Philadelphia county jail system, as well as the broader problems in the criminal justice system that have resulted in such mass incarcerations. It covers the problems with discretion of law enforcers that lead to more arrests of nonwhite people, the use of crowded prisons to store people AWAITING trial alongside those already convicted, and the tendency of ex-cons to be legally discriminated against in a manner not-unlike that of the Jim Crow era.

There was also a pre-release showing of the horror film Get Out that I was unable to make due to studio work. I think I might try to catch it in the theater (once the actual theatrical release comes around), if I can find the time for it.

Speaking of the theater, BLACK PANTHER IS COMING OUT THIS THURSDAY!!! Don’t know what else might be happening that day, but I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Black Panther ink drawing
Black Panther fan art by yours truly

Geminids Meteor Shower

This year, the Geminid Meteor Shower will be visible from nearly all parts of the globe in the late hours of tonight, Dec. 13, and the wee hours of tomorrow, Dec. 14. If the night sky is clear tonight where you live, then it ought to be quite the sight to see. Incidentally, it’s asteroid parent body will be getting pretty close to the planet as well.

The Geminid Shower gets its name from the Gemini constellation, from which the meteors seem to originate when observed streaking across the night sky throughout history. Unlike most meteor showers, the Geminids do not originate with a comet. In the late 20th Century, it was found that the parent body of the Geminid meteors was an asteroid currently designated as 3200 Phaethon, which happens to leave a trail of dust and debris in its orbit that happens to intersect the orbital path of the Earth.

It is not known for sure how 3200 Phaethon got its particle trail (but the bottom-most link has some possible explanations), but apparently their showering on Earth is a relatively recent development (Jupiter’s gravity well helped twist it our way), with the first recorded reports occurring in the 17th century. It was also apparently a lot less intense then than it is now.

While the asteroid dust will burn up prettily in the atmosphere, none of the particles are probably big enough to produce meteorites, so nobody has to worry about their heads getting hit by space rocks. #200 Phaethon isn’t likely to crash into us either (but might come close enough to view with a telescope!).


Meteor Showers Online – Geminids

Geminid Meteor Shower: Dust from an Asteroid


P.S. Sorry to be a downer, but just a reminder that tomorrow (December 14, 2017) there will be that in house vote on whether or not the FCC should repel its rulings on Net Neutrality, which currently limit service providers from blocking or slowing down access to the web unless consumers pay for premiums.



Net Neutrality: Jeopardy Approachs


As a denizen of the internet, I am very much fond of the existence of Net Neutrality. I very much like that I can that some company is not controlling what sites I can and cannot access, that there are no extreme limitations in my country on what I can learn from the greater web and with whom I can share it, that those who provide me with internet are not actively censoring what websites I can access (I could probably do with less spying, but that’s not why I’m irked today).

For the most part, the point of Net Neutrality is that companies should not have undue control over your internet usages and access. Sure, a company can supply you with faster access for a fee, but if allowed too much control they can actively block or or manipulate the sort of websites you are able to visit or discover.

In 2015, after years of debating, advocating, and denied proposals, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a set of rules that would allow for strong and sustainable upholding of Net Neutrality (second link down from top). In the past any such development was often blocked by companies such as IBM and Verizon, who apparently see it as detrimental to businesses that deal in broadband internet access. There has also been argument in the recent past that such regulations prevent progress of internet technology by discouraging competition on the marketplace between internet service providers.

None the less, we did have regulations put in place that treat the internet as a utility and therefore something that to which everyone deserves as equal as possible access.

It was announce back in November that on December 14th of 2017 that Congress is going to be voting on a proposal by the FCC chairman Ajit Pai to repel the Commission’s current policy regarding Net Neutrality in the United States. Perhaps it could allow for an internet-provider free market, but it would definitely upon up greater risk for companies like Verizon gaining a stifling monopoly, crushing hard on startups and entrepreneurs.

Faulty or not, the concept of Net Neutrality is meant to protect our human rights in the digital world and preventing the massive corporations from throttling and stifling websites and services that don’t benefit their agendas.

Want to express support for Net Neutrality? You can start here.







This started out as a rough draft about study habits (especially bad ones) during finals week back in May of 2017. Due to the weariness of the coinciding studies and final projects, I put it off. And put it off. And then a summer’s worth of craziness came and went, and this unfinished blog post slipped almost completely out of mind.

Therefore, I hastily reworked this musing on studying into one about procrastination:

Humans will procrastinate on various things for various reasons. Perhaps it is a boring assignment, perhaps it there is enough time that it does not need to be started right away, or perhaps they think something else requires their attention more. I think we all know about rationalizing a decision; question is, where does the underlying cause of that decision come from?

The Evolutionary and Biological Perspectives of Psychology focus on the possible causes of behavior rooted in genetics. We know that personality develops from a basic temperament that is probably rooted in genetics, and any behavior patterns we have that are genetic in origin are obviously derived from some behavior that was advantageous to survival. In fact, a lot of behaviors that are counterproductive in modern day humans can be easily viewed as genetic predispositions gone wrong (for instance, paranoia is probably advantageous for an environment full of predators, while an addiction to sweet and fatty food is probably due to the fact that such foods were both very rare for are ancestors and contained more nourishment than grain or seeds alone).

Perhaps procrastination is derived from a genetic predisposition that allowed for the conservation of energy. Perhaps this same genetic factor is basal for being able to think ahead and prioritize a hierarchy of tasks.  It is probably the former, since studies show that levels of mental difficulty for a task happen to have an actual intrinsic cost, which is partially why we prefer easy tasks to hard ones.

However, genetic predispositions don’t exist in isolation. The field of epigenetics shows that genetic information can be activated or deactivated depending on environmental factors (for example, the child of two tall parents may not grow a lot if he or she does not received enough nutrients). Also, predispositions aside, a lot of personality and behavioral tendencies are gained from interacting with the environment. If someone does something a certain way, it is because they learned over the course of their life that it was acceptable to do so.

How does one learn procrastination? How does one learn any behavior? Through reinforcement and punishment, of course. If a certain pattern of behavior produces positive results, then that behavior is going to be repeated more often than similar behavior that does not produce results. In theory, punishment discourages one repeating certain patterns of behavior (if punishment is ill-thought out or doesn’t explain why the subject is being punished, then the undesired behavior will persist and everyone will just get more stressed out). Therefore, if the results of procrastination produce something that is perceived as rewarding, then it is going to persist. Why would procrastination be rewarding? Well, the last minute rush of meeting a deadline is enjoyable for some, especially if the results are favorable.

There is more to learning than just reward and punishment, however. There is a physiological component that I think shouldn’t go overlooked.

The human brain is a complex mass of interconnected pathways, each associated with some process or another, all of them plastic enough that they can adjust to some degree in order to acclimate to changing circumstances. If a specific pathway or set of pathways is used often, then that pathway will gain new connections, and consequently gain strength as a neural process. Also, the more a thought pattern is repeated and strengthened, the greater the likelihood one will immediately default to that neural pattern instead of another one when making a decision.

Incidentally, the brains ability to strengthen and modify neural connections allows it to reassign skills to different parts of the brain, allowing stroke victims to relearn basic skills they might have otherwise lost. It also explains why people who “know” better develop substance dependencies.

For example, if someone usually plays video games rather than study for a class, their neural patterns concerning video games are going to be stronger than their patterns that concern studying, which means that they are more likely to make the decision to play video games first (perhaps they will come up with a good rationalization, but rationalization is usually just a person’s justifications for an emotional choice that they have already made).

The more reinforced a behavior is, the more one is motivated to choose it. For the most part, we are motivated by that which either fills a biological need or produces results that we find psychologically fulfilling. These involve the same parts of the brain, for the record, but the secondary psychological needs (such as money) are the results of classical conditioning (learning to associate a new stimulus with preexisting reactions). This is a gross oversimplification, by the way.

Social influences also are a major factor concerning human behavior. In general, humans learn what is proper behavior from the observation or the instruction of others. Being social animals, human behavior is often influenced by the real or imagined presence of other humans and what expectations one thinks they might have of them. In ambiguous situations, we follow the leads of those who seem to know what is going on. When among peers, we act in accord with them in order to fit in and avoid being ostracized.

Therefore, it is not uncommon for justifications of behavior (to oneself or others) to end with the phrase “–but everyone else does/is doing it.”

Now, back to the individualist point of view. A person’s behavior is often a mix-bag of inherent predispositions, environmental conditioning, learned attitudes, and various other influences. How well is able to overcome or adjust with this influences to change behavior depends on one’s mindset and views on personality.

If one believes a trait like intelligence to be inherent, then they are going to treat a task they cannot complete as proof that they are not smart enough to complete it, so they then move on to some other task that they can complete. Someone who views intelligence as a  constantly development trait, however, will treat an incomprehensible task as a challenge, so they will actively work on learning how to deal with the task. Neither is particularly wrong in the viewpoint, but certain perspectives on life can provide more opportunities for progress than others.

One’s overall emotional state also influences one’s decisiveness (obviosuly). Sometimes repeated behaviors result from a root issue; sometimes it is just the external influence of the weather messing up one’s mood. Either way, the issue is not going to be resolved unless the individual becomes consciously aware that an issue exists.

There are many reasons that a person might procrastinate, and none of them are mutually exclusive. Perhaps one is more predisposed towards it than someone else, but that does not mean that it is inherent to them; anyone can learn not to procrastinate if they can find the motivation and strength to do so. Instead of thinking about how hard a project is, think about how easy small parts of it would be. Instead of putting it off until later, start now and keep coming back to work on it. Do not think that you are stupid; think that you just don’t know something yet.

Of course, there are most likely people with better advice for this sort of thing. Even some of the stuff here might be of help.

In the mean time, I am going to work on some art history notes and communication exchanges that I have been putting off in favor of reading Silmarillion fanfiction.



Last year’s Psychology 101 textbook and notes


Isolationist Tendencies

While I probably enjoy a good party or hangout as much as the next guy, I am not a true extrovert, and I occasionally find myself seeking out solitude in order to relax or just be alone with my thoughts. Sometimes, you just need to get away from the excitement to really enjoy yourself. Of course, this sort of physical isolation is only temporary, and rather different from the sort of habitual environmental obliviousness (and conditioned social isolation) seen in people nowadays.

iPhones, computers, and web-based social networking are a major staple of the Twenty-first Century. They have really changed how people interact and connect with each other, and we’ve all grown used to it. Most communication is done via text-based messaging over distance, and it is not uncommon for pedestrians to walk about staring at their phones. Audio and video messaging are also not unheard of, and it can be quite disconcerting to hear someone wearing earbuds suddenly start speaking as if to thin air when in reality the other participant is just elsewhere.

Such electronic devices are very distracting, as every other PSA on texting while driving has probably mentioned. Contrary to what some might say, the human brain cannot multitask; it can only switch its focus one thing at a time, and rapidly switching focus between two different tasks means the amount of concentration on each task is reduced.

Therefore, it is stupid easy to sneak up on someone texting on their phone or listening to music, possibly more so than two people having a conversation (sneaking up on people is lots of fun).

However, there is more to digital communication than just obliviousness, some of which I find interesting, some of which I find scary. for example, in teenagers, a recent study showed that the number of likes an image got factored more into their own preference for the image that what it actually depicted. Apparently Twitter and Facebook make kids more susceptible to blindly conforming to the majority (not that their predecessors where much better). Also, personal self-esteem these days is often dependent on validation from peers, usually in the form of likes or responses to posted content.

And then there is social isolation. Social network technology is great for keeping up to date on who’s who and what’s where, but the attention given to it cuts us off from those around us. While what causes what is not exactly certain, studies show that there definitely is a link between use of social media and feelings of social isolation. Perhaps social media is the causes, perhaps it is just the retreat for those prone towards feeling loneliness. I suspect it is somewhat of the latter, but with the added addition of that it does nothing to effectively alleviate one’s loneliness.

With texting or online interaction, you have a great deal of control on what information you give about yourself, but the degree of separation needed for such also precludes the potential for intimacy. Of course, the amount of distraction and feelings of connection involved is enough to keep one from actively seeking to connect with somewhat in the physical world, especially when the internet can provide a safe retreat from in-person awkwardness, which otherwise would just be weathered and would allow for the strengthening of personal connection. This is probably a much more serious matter concerning parents and children; it is frustrating for a youngling to try to make eye contact with a parent who is too busy checking their email, or to feel like they are being dismissed when the parent is currently too busy online to interact with them.

Fun fact about loneliness; those who know how to handle being alone feel it less often. The problem with social media is that it helps promote a mindset where personal validation is directly tied to feedback from others, yet the degree of separation provided by the screen of pixels means that one is not getting the full-on experience of truly connecting to a person. At the same time, retreating into one’s phone is not going to foster any skills at handling conversation or social interaction.

Personally, I think most people could benefit from a decent walk in the woods, either alone or with a friend, just so they can easily detach themselves from their virtual lives. It is also a good idea to focus more on the other people around you when having a meal with family or just hanging out with friends. Chances are, if you are on your phone or computer, you are missing out at quite a bit of stuff happening around you (says the guy alone in his room, typing at a keyboard).

Granted, I do not find new media to be wholly evil or detrimental. I very much like social networking and the fast communication, resource sharing, and gossip gathering for which it allows. However, every seemingly good thing has a tradeoff, and the more you use it, the greater the tradeoff gets. Therefore, I would assume that it is best to use it in moderation, as well as to make sure it does not interfere too much with physical interactions.




Border Crossing

I recently read about this claim floating around about how a significantly higher number of people had been deported under the Obama administration than any other. Statistically, it is true that the numbers are higher. However, according to, this is due to a change in the definition of the term “deportation” rather than an increase in the number of people being deported. Before the Bush administration, someone caught in the act of crossing the border would just be turned back without being put on record. As of the Bush administration, however, such people get fingerprinted and officially deported.

There are, of course, other variables that must be taken into account, such as the fact that the number of people apprehended by Border Patrol officers has apparently risen since 2008 (coinciding with a slump in the amount of illegal crossings of the Mexican border), as well as the fact that the ICE has a quota of detainees that it needs to have its custody daily (established in 2009 by lawmakers who thought that there was not enough being done to deport unlawful immigrants), which means that they have been reaching deep into the legal justice system to round up any criminals potential eligible for deportation. This can possibly be part of a trend started in 1986 by the passing of the Immigration Reform and Control Act that encouraged the deportation of any immigrant guilty of an applicable offense and had allowed following legislations to bias against the discretion of a judge to grant relief from deportation in certain cases.

The number of people entering the US from Mexico apparently had gone significantly down back in 2015. According to this article I read, the net flow of mexicans entering the US was currently negative, meaning that immigrants who had entered previously were now moving back to Mexico in greater numbers than the people entering. Tougher Border Patrol practices were cited as a reason for less people entering, while a desire for reuniting with families was mentioned as a main reason for returning. A factor that influences both is the fact that opportunities in both Mexico and the US are now viewed as about the same by the citizens of the latter, which means that less desperate people are motivated to seek out their fortunes in the strange land up north. In some cases, the reason to return was apparently because there was not much opportunity for work in the US.

As the number of people from Mexico declined, the number of people immigrating from elsewhere apparently rose a bit, so the rate has been more or less stable in the past few years. As usual, more information about the topic can be found in the links below.

As of the tail end of 2016, uncertainty about the current administration could also be considered a factor in the decrease in immigration from the south.

For undocumented children raised in the US, the current atmosphere is one of anxiety and uncertainty. The immigration policy known as “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” provides limited protection from deportation for illegal immigrants brought in as children, as well as allowing them to earn money and attend schools. The Trump campaign site had promised to end DACA as part of the overall plan to toughen down on illegal immigrants, although it currently still remains in place.

As far as the wall across the border we’ve all been hearing about is concerned, while designs have been made, physical construction cannot begin before congress approves of it, and the President Nieto of Mexico consistently has stated that his country will not be paying for it as the US President has claimed. If the US government has to fund the entire project, they are going to make up for it with increased tariffs, increased travel visa /border crossing fees, and just a general border adjustment taxes on us citizens.

On a personal note, it has been almost five years since my passport expired, and I am currently working on renewing it.


Migration Flows Between the US and Mexico have Slowed

5 Facts about Illegal Immigration

Undocumented Students in US Face Anxious Future

Donald Trump’s Mexico Wall: Who is Going to Pay for It?