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

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.






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?


Reading the Kama Sutra

So last Valentine’s Day, I received an interesting gift in the mail from an exe; it was a dog-eared copy of an old translation of the Kama Sutra, with a troll-face sticker on the inside of the cover. I have no idea why she thought doing this was funny, but it turned out that I found the book rather interesting (if a bit of a long read).

As you probably know, the Kama Sutra is an old series of texts written in ancient India by a philosopher known as Vātsyāyana. The book’s title apparently translates as “the binding thread of desire” and the contents is around Kama Sastra, which translates as “the science of desire”. Point is, it’s a manual that concerns maintaining good romantic relations and a healthy sexuality.

Kama is basically one of three goals in life that one should seek to attain during their existence in order to make the most of it. The other two are Dharma (following the commands of Hindu holy writ) and Artha (the acquisition of property, art, wealth, friends, and the like). These three areas are to be engaged in at separate points in life so that they harmonized rather than conflict with each other. Apparently it is recommended by some that one practices Artha and Kama during the youth and middle ages while following the path of Dharma later in life in order to achieve Moksha (release from the cycle of rebirth, which seems to me to be connected with Nirvana in Buddhism).

Incidentally, apparently one most also study arts such as dancing, singing, tattooing, painting, riddles and enigmatic conversation, cooking, acting, and other creative endeavors alongside the science of desire in order to enhance ones ability to woo and maintain the affections of another. A pity that I don’t know any good jokes about sapiophilia, but I can definitely buy into this. There is also an elaboration on the various categories of women that one should not

Of course, this is all from the introductory first part. Part II is about Sexual Union, and its first chapter is titled “Kinds of Sexual Unions According to Dimensions, Force of Desire or Passion, Time Kind of Union”. Obviously, this is where things get more into the nitty-gritty of Kama. For dimensions, we have the three categories of penis length and corresponding vagina depth and the ways in which they should or should not be paired together. Following that is a listing of the various kinds of passionate people that exist and the various heterosexual pairings they may form, as well as the pairings that should not form as they would not be happy unions. The next few chapters respectively concern the various aspects and types of embrace (touching, holding, etc.), the types of and places for kissing, marking and scratching, when and with who it is or is not appropriate to bite, the various positions for good congress, and more technical stuff that you can more-or-less find in any book that claims to be based off of this one.

With Part III, we leave behind the methods of physical pleasure and dive into the art of finding a wife. Due to cultural and temporal dissonance, I doubt that much of these is applicable to world societies at large, which is probably why modern publications that reference to Kama Sutra do not seem to include such a section (of course, it is more likely that they are just marketing it to people only interested for the sex tips). Still, I like the fact that there are bodies of text dedicated to the proper courtship of a women and of building trust and confidence in one’s spouse-to-be. It is for these purposes that all of those aforementioned (and some unmentioned) creative arts should be put to good use by the suitor. The second chapter of this section further elaborates on the practices necessary for a man to attract a woman, while also providing insight for woman on how they should go about attracting a man. Incidentally, for some of the man’s endeavors the aid of a female friend may be required. The endeavors of the girl, meanwhile, seem to have been a point of contention among the author and other scholars (something about there being no dignity for a girl who actively pursues or something). The perspective presented here deems it alright to show affection so long as it’s done in a seemingly demur fashion (by the way, I’m significantly oversimplifying most of the content here).

The following chapter concerns the forms of marriage, and the whos, whats, and hows of making them work. After that, we got the first chapter of the fourth section, a chapter which concerns the manners in which a woman behaves in order to be considered virtuous, and how a proper wife should behave when her husband is away. Besides the obvious, this includes avoiding the company of female beggars, “loose” women, and witches, as well as proper conduct when in public or private company. There’s also some stuff on when are for what to she should shop.

After this, we get elaborations on the conduct of widows, the divorced, and those who are getting remarried. This doesn’t seem to have to much to do with desire at first, but considering how the science of desire is what this book establishes as a fundamental part of married life, it is appropriate to include the methods of handling the end and restarting of such unions. Meanwhile, I would say that the inclusion of the conduct and manners of a king’s harem members is a no brainer.

Further into the book, we have elaboration on the ways to acquaint oneself with a desired woman, as well as the proper behavior to engage in for each of the different ways she might react to the man’s advances (the latter of which is written about in a chapter titled Examination’s of a Woman’s Mind”, which to my approval explains stuff like how one must not continue with pursuit if various signs of reciprocation are not observed). Apparently a go-between may be involved in the pursuit, possibly a female friend of the man who manages to gain the confidence of the woman in order to function in a manner similar to a shill (not so much a wingman). I suppose that help from a third party is an old tradition among the courting, especially when said courting involves those not too familiar with each other.

There’s also information on how royals of both sexes may maintain a harem, what sort of consequences there are for sneaking into one’s harem, and how a man should keep his wife from having one (some kings hire sentinels to keep the royal wives from taking lovers, a fact that I find kind of ironic). It is from here that the Kama Sutra moves on to the subject of courtesans and how they maintain sexual pleasure while also using it to further their goals and such. Apparently there are set standards one needs to meet—both physically and intellectually—in order to either be a courtesan or worthy of associating with one. There’s like six chapters in the part concerning the nature and proper conduct of a good courtesan; the next few chapters concerning making oneself more desirable to the opposite sex, plus “medicinal” methods of increasing pleasure during intercourse (not sure if they work or not).

There is much information in this collection of texts that concerns the natures and manners of the relations between men and woman as viewed by the old Hindus. The values are culture specific in multiple spots, but the practical information and basic concepts seem like they could be of almost universal usefulness. Really, how many other sources do you know that include in depth writings on how to form and maintain stable romantic relations as well as tips for better sex? As someone who has failed at romantic endeavors quite a few times over, I think there is much here that from which a considerate individual can learn.

At the very least, it provides a new way of looking at something that I feel is familiar to the point of being taken for granted in western culture these days.

By the way, anyone interested can purchase a similar translation to the one I own here


Concerning Alternative Facts

In the legal profession, the term “alternative facts” may refer to two or more competing sets of facts for the two sides of a case. It can also mean a set of inconsistent facts put forth by just the one side that show there’s sufficient evidence to support both alternatives. In the latter case, inconsistent facts may provide a basis for alternative pleading.

As of 2017, the term has become defined online and in political context to be another euphemism for falsehood, originating with US press secretary Sean Spicer and his statement about the turnout for last month’s presidential inauguration.

In his first official briefing as press secretary, Spicer delivered a statement accused the media of deliberately falsifying reports covering the size of the crowd attending the inauguration, using trick angles and framed shots to make it seem like few showed up (many other members of the new administration went on to make similar claims of the reports being “lies”). Spicer claimed that Trump’s inauguration had had the largest audience of any president in history, both in person and across the globe, period. He also claimed that the reports couldn’t be accurate because it wasn’t possible to count the crowd.

Spicer’s statement was rather inaccurate. While estimating crowd size is tricky business (ticket sales alone wouldn’t provide much insight), comparisons of aerial photographs and public transportation figures to at least Obama’s inauguration show that the numbers had gone down significantly this time around.

The fact that not that many people witnessed the inauguration should not be a major deal, as it is technically not a direct reflection of the candidate’s abilities as a leader. However, it appears that the now current president’s publicity team where banking on the ceremony being the greatest in american history.

Anyway, when White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway was question about Spicer’s falsehood-containing statement during an interview with Chuck Todd (moderator for NBC’s “Meet the Press), she defended Spicer by claiming that he had merely been stating “alternative facts”. Naturally, this resulted in the term, along with “spicerfacts”, becoming a trending hashtag on tweeter, always paired with a deliberately (and obviously) false statement. Incidentally, it was the trends on Facebook that got me curious about the term. 

Conway made another statement recently that quickly got tied in with alternative facts, when she referenced a nonexistent “Bowling Green Massacre” as one reason for Trump’s immigration ban. Said massacre was supposedly carried out by two Iraqi who came to America through the Iraqi refugee program, and it apparently resulted in Obama placing a six month ban on said program.

While two Iraqi men were arrested in Bowling Green, Kentucky on charges of federal terrorism, there had not been any massacre, nor evidence on a plan for one. Said men were indicted for attempting to provide Al-Qaeda in Iraq with weapons and money (a 2013 Justice Department release concerning them can be found in the links below).

After Conway’s statement was debunked, a clip of the interview went viral. Conway later apologized on twitter for gaffe, claiming she had meant to say “terrorists”. She also criticized the amount of media coverage she received, stating that “honest mistakes occur”, while pointing out mistakes the media had made concerning the Trump administration.

There are a couple different definitions of fact in the dictionary. The main one is basically information that has objective (provable) reality, and the others basically relate to provable existence as well. A reasonable explanation that cannot currently be proven is speculation or conjecture. Something that contradicts all available evidence can be called a falsehood or inaccuracy. Sometimes, the information provided in media is false, and even the accurate reports often have some bias to them. However, this can be fixed by providing  more coverage of actual events than just calling any and all reports wrong. To personally get a good idea on what the news is or isn’t saying, one can easily cross examine multiple reports from independent (as well as contradicting) sources of information.

As far as the current president is concerned, the information being provided is basically all falsehoods, and the various reports on the size of the audience for his inauguration were apparently particularly galling for him. Frankly, if he hadn’t made such a big deal over the news coverage, chances are less people would have noticed or cared about it.

When he went to give a speech at Langley back in January (to mend bridges with the CIA), quite a few minutes of it were devoted to attacking the media. According to him, any criticisms he had made about the intelligence agency made in previous weeks falsehoods made by the media (Spicer’s statement hours later probably derived from this, only his rhetoric obviously received more notice). The meandering speech makes no mention of his previous mockings of the CIA on Twitter, as well as the possibility of him not reading agency briefings. On the bright side, the appointment of Mike Pompeo was apparently well received.

In early February, President Trump basically declared the press to be the enemy of the people. Many presidents before have made some statement of their dislike for the news media, but declaring it an enemy of the people seems to be taking it a bit far, even in comparison to earlier comments by the president on the lack of credibility present in it. Considering that previous holders of the title “Enemy of the American People” included such entities as the USSR and Al-Qaeda, this statement has quite a lot of people worried.

Freedom of the press is a form of expressing the right to freedom of speech, which makes it a fundamental aspect of a democratic society. Censorship of the press by the government is a sign of a more fascist, authoritarian state, such as Nazi Germany or Italy under Mussolini’s rule. Of course, the presidency has not begun to literally go out and hunt down those that openly disagree with it’s version of reality, but there does appear to be a feud brewing.

According to Steve Bannon, the new administration is most certainly going to push against the “corporatist, globalist media” that has been working in opposition to the President’s agenda for political and social growth, and it is only going to get worse.

As of March, the President tweeted that he suspects Obama of having illegally wiretapped Trump tower before and during the 2016 election. He cited no evidence to back up his claim, but is urging Congress to investigate this along side their ongoing look into allegations of Russian hacking during the election.

Both the director of the FBI and and the national intelligence director of the time have denied that any such wiretapping took place. For such a thing to occur, the FBI would have had to have made a case to the Department of Justice, and a warrant would have to have been issued by a judge. In the case of surveillance on US citizens (which would apply to nearly everyone in Trump Tower), an order could not be made without first going through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and being approved by the eleven sitting judges (incidentally, a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant was issued to the FBI to monitor two Russian banks who’re suspected of facilitating donations to the Trump campaign; the current president’s accusations might have been based on a distorted second hand report). Without stepping way outside of his reach of authority, Obama would not have been able to establish covert surveillance on his eventual replacement.

Despite the lack of evidence or probability that the feds were running surveillance on Trump Tower during the election, the president’s people are standing by what their leader has said, and the vocal supporters are calling out Obama to be investigated. There might be some evidence of wiretapping found, but it could easily mean that some other agency was investigating something else unrelated to the candidacy (it’s a large business building with several different offices and departments; chances are at least one person there could have been suspected of something shady). For what it’s worth, Obama’s people have denied any such order from the man.

Reports can be–and often are–skewed in some way or another, especially when it comes to news sources in the US. However, it is not impossible to get an idea of what is actually going on if you cross-reference and fact check anything of substance that is included (speculation and opinion can just be ignored). As for when the people doing the reports get things wrong, you’re doing something right if you know right away that the information is not factual.