The End of the Banana

As I ate the yellow fruit, the question of how it reproduced popped into my mind. Just how does a banana reproduce anyway? As I surfed the internet to find the answer, I got sidetracked by some articles proclaiming the end of the banana.

It seems that the end of commercial bananas — those sweet, tasty ones sold in supermarkets of most developed countries — is coming soon.

You can read more about it in this article called Yes, We’ll Have No Bananas – Thanks to Selective Breeding, our Favourite Fruit can Neither Reproduce nor Defend Itself from Disease.

Bananas reproduce asexually, meaning there’s no male or female. Humans reproduce sexually, so the genetic code of both the male and female are mixed. In the case of the banana, the genetic code of the parent plant is essentially the same as the child plant, meaning they are more or less clones of each other.

So if the parent plant is susceptible to a disease, the child plant will be susceptible to it as well, since its genetic make-up is very similar.

The following is from the article I referenced above:

When humankind first encountered this fruit thousands of years ago we were probably not impressed by the almost inedible giant wild bananas. Historic mutations, rare and accidental, produced seedless bananas through chromosome triplication. Ancient humans focused on these seedless, pollen-less mutants to generate progressively more edible crops. Eventually, edible banana flesh retained only a few vague traces of the viable seeds once carried in the ancestral wild stock.

Ancient plant breeders grew edible bananas by grafting sterile mutants onto wild stems. This process was repeated for thousands of years to produce the emasculated, sterile — and defenceless — plantation banana that currently feeds millions of people globally.

Is the end of the banana near?

Life

For him, she was the light at the end of the tunnel. The one thing that kept him going, something to look forward to during the weekends. Then she left; suddenly weekends didn’t seem as wonderful. Returning home, one question he had never asked himself before popped into his mind: “What am I to do?”

Life, when one lives purposefully, seems easy — as if it were effortless; but when one finds no sense in it, everyday’s torturous. To labour over something without knowing the reason why is one of life’s most painful things. He, I believe not of the most patriotic disposition, served in the army “for her”. Now that she’s gone, serving is now a “for what?”

I quote Albert Camus:

The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labour.

Hating the Army

Is serving in the army any different? I’ve always wondered why we have to serve. Propaganda dictates we serve for the “love of our country”… I sure don’t. I serve because I have to — if I don’t, the government would declare war on me. Every single day I wake up to roll the rock up the hill, only for the rock to fall back down during the night.

Over and over this will play out, till the end of national service comes. Then after that, new problems will arise, perhaps to do with work, or studies, or maybe marital, and over and over again the pain-pleasure cycle will come about, till eventually I leave this world.

Sometimes I think life is the most wonderful thing.

Tough Times Don’t Last

Tough times don’t last, tough men do.

The saying’s supposed to make people who are suffering feel better.

Can I, however, opt to be a weak man and not go through the tough times?

How I wish I wouldn’t be given “opportunities to grow” — to go through no resistance at all, to enjoy life all the time without having any setbacks or tough times.

Give me an easy life any time; I do not wish to be any better than I am right now.

Give the pain to those seeking “opportunities to grow”, and leave me alone…

But it seems we’re all forced to grow as people, whether or not we want to or not.

Tough Times Don't Last

Tough times don’t last, tough men do.

The saying’s supposed to make people who are suffering feel better.

Can I, however, opt to be a weak man and not go through the tough times?

How I wish I wouldn’t be given “opportunities to grow” — to go through no resistance at all, to enjoy life all the time without having any setbacks or tough times.

Give me an easy life any time; I do not wish to be any better than I am right now.

Give the pain to those seeking “opportunities to grow”, and leave me alone…

But it seems we’re all forced to grow as people, whether or not we want to or not.

Picasso in the Bunkroom

As I entered my bunkroom, I realised my bunkmates were unusually silent, and each of them agape, staring up at the ceiling.

“Oh f*ck”, exclaimed one of them, B, who I was to learn later was behind this whole incident.

I looked up, and what I saw was his attempt at contempory art. What happened was this:

“Who’s camou cream is this?” asked B, as he lifted the tube of camouflage cream from the plastic bag. Up went a hand of another bunkmate, and up went the tube of camouflage cream (we just learnt grenade-throwing the day before).

“Oh shit,” screamed B, as his gaze moved with the arc of the tube’s loft. The tube went up, past the fast-moving blades of the ceiling fan, no hit! Then as gravity pulled the tube back down, bang! Instant Picasso.

Nice, but out of place

It actually looked nice, and I actually enjoyed the colour it put into our otherwise plain-white room. But reality sunk in, and I realised B’s two-worded comment summed it up perfectly. Splashed across the ceiling boards was green camouflage cream; some of it had landed on the beds as well, some flew as far as the corridor.

The next day would have been book-out day, the first of a series of holidays. We had been looking forward to this week for God-knows-how-long, now it seemed to us we won’t be booking out for God-knows-how-long.

Just before this incident, we were given company admin time, which in layman’s terms means free time. Our Commanding Officer, a 2nd Lieutenant, told us to “go up and do whatever we liked” — the ironies of this incident were not lost on us; after we cursed, we laughed.

Picasso Seeks Help

Thankfully for this Picasso wannabe, his bunkmates (whom he shares with me) are some of the most helpful and wonderful people. Immediately we went to work: a chair stacked on a table, one of us would climb up and remove a ceiling board, bring it down, and clean it as best we could.

Detergent and wet pieces of cloth were our tools for this job, and it worked quite well.

“Hey, bring this up, it’s cleaned already,” said W, another bunkmate of mine. The room had gotten rather noisy, as we had gotten into the groove of area cleaning.

Then, a sudden silence. I would not believe my eyes. Everybody looked at each other as W looked at what was once a full piece of ceiling board, now one part in his hand, one part on the floor — it summed up our hearts perfectly.

After another moment of shock (and awe, honestly, awe), we gathered ourselves and quickly grabbed some masking tape to tape it up. This though, looked ugly as sin. We then removed another ceiling board from another part of the room (one where it isn’t as obvious), and exchanged the patched up one with it.

As other people from other bunks walked past us, a creative friend of mine, D, started spinning stories.

“Cobwebs. Sergeant Chan said he saw cobwebs and we’re clearing it now,” said D. People believed.

As a final touchup to the green-stained boards (detergent works well, but not perfectly well), we applied some talcum powder, smudging it on the greenest areas.

After about three to four hours of cleaning (it was a very free day for us), we managed to make the room looking as new as before (well, almost). So thank God. The only reason I’m at home writing this today, is due to some wonderful teamwork, and creative thinking! Well done, boys!

The Path of Least Resistance

I’ve always had this theory in my head: that no matter what we do, we always do what comes easiest. In other words, humans always follow the path of least resistance.

Cups

Imagine there are two cups in front of you. The first cup contains plain water. The second contains urine (stinky, dirty, horrible, horrible urine). I ask you to pick a cup to drink from (and you, being a very compliant person, will follow everything I tell you to do). The obvious choice would be to drink from the first cup, the one containing plain water.

But if I told you that unless you drank from the second cup, your loved one would be tortured and then killed, would you still drink from the first cup? By setting this condition, I effectively increase the resistance to your drinking of the first cup tremendously — and you would probably be much more willing to drink from the second cup than you were before.

The drowning man

Now, imagine you an average swimmer — able to swim, albeit not as well as a life-guard. As you walk through a park, you hear screaming. As you turn, you notice a man struggling frantically in the water, obviously drowning and in need of help. You, being a not-so-good swimmer, first look around to see if there were other potential life-saving candidates. Being a very early monday morning, you see no one else around.

You now have to decide whether or not to jump in to attempt to save the drowning man. Your life-preserving instinct tells you that you are not a good enough swimmer, and that if you jump in, you would most likely accompany the victim into the after-life. Your herd-instinct however, tells you that you should help — if you refuse to help, would you be able to live with your conscience?

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, your next action, to jump in to help or not, will be determined by whichever action is easier for you. If you were determined to preserve your life at all costs, and were willing to fork out the price of a guilty conscience (possibly throughout your whole life), then you would let him be.

If you were unwilling to pay that price, and would rather die trying to save him than live with the guilt, you would jump in. Either way, you go the path of least resistance.

Keeping Evil Thoughts to Oneself

I listened as my friend told me how terrible so-and-so was. How he was “all talk, no action”, and that he dreaded the thought of his pairing up with so-and-so during certain times.

I wondered if I should have been listening to this.

Too many times have I been subjected through this behind-the-back bad-mouthing only to build up a certain bias against the person being bad-mouthed, even after I consciously build up resistance to this gossip.

I make it a personal promise never to talk behind another’s back, unless it benefits that other. If you talk bad behind another’s back, it shows more of your own character than the person you are talking about.

Fieldcamp

I came back from fieldcamp just yesterday. Quite far from what I had expected — it was pure hell.

It is a wonder I managed to go through all of it without breaking at some point; I was absolutely tempted to just scream and shout and act like I had really lost it. Alas, I maintained my sane fascade and pushed through… just.

It was not so much the physical aspects of fieldcamp that made it so hellish; it was more of a mind game, me versus myself. My fondness for cleanliness and hygiene, so long held sacred by me, had to be cast aside, replaced by dirt and grime.

And the feeling of powerlessness, that one cannot do anything to escape one’s circumstances, was horrible. To go against anyone ranked higher, would constitute and offence — no longer can you fight individuals; to stand up now would be standing up against the government, standing up against the country.

I wonder though, when the time comes, if I would stay and fight a war for Singapore — just what is it that makes one willing to die for a country?