the other apple

honeycrisp apples

i know it’s fall when the morning temperature drops between the speed limits of the roads that i drive & the roads i don’t drive 😉  / a more obvious sign is when a wide variety of apples becomes available in the supermarket \ i was excited to finally find the wonderfully delicious apple variety honeycrisp / i first had a taste of it from a paddlefish teammate at dragon boat camp last april

back in the philippines, apples which appear around christmastime were of the red delicious variety / they were indeed red but definitely not delicious < in my opinion, the worst tasting apple aside from having a horrible texture > \ an easy conclusion to make after having a bite of the many other apple varieties that i discovered when i came to the u.s. / i lived in apple country \ cornell university has one of the three apple breeding programs in the u.s. <the others are at the university of minnesota & washington state university> / cornell has given us 66 apple varieties since the late 1890s, including cortland, macoun, empire & jonagold \ i almost exclusively just buy gala which was created in new zealand in the 1930s & is a cross of golden delicious and kidd’s orange red

my new favorite however is honeycrisp which was produced by the university of minnesota in 1960 & became commercially available in 1991 /  it is a cross of macoun & honeygold \ the latter is a cross of golden delicious & haralson / honeycrisp is singular in being very pricey <it’s like a designer apple> \ while gala is $1.99/lb. at my supermarket here in pittsburgh, honeycrisp is $3.99/lb.!  / BUT it is well worth it for me \ because aside from being the right sweetness & tartness plus having the perfect texture & appearance, i am not allergic to it!  yey!

some 10 years ago, i developed what i found is called oral allergy syndrome <also called pollen food allergy>  \ specifically i have an allergy to birch pollen which associates with my allergic reaction to apples, almonds, cherries, peaches, carrots & nectarines / microwaving a gala has been the solution to my OAS \ because cooking destroys the protein that triggers my allergy / but i can benignly enjoy honeycrisp raw! \ [a hypoallergenic apple is currently being engineered in italy using biotechnology / it sounds like genetic modification though instead of cross breeding ]

the non-electronic apple industry is as interesting as the electronic / from both, we can look forward for ever more varieties & innovations in the future \ one of the reasons i think is the economic life cycle of a new apple type / the apple breeding programs develop new varieties that are then licensed to specific growers \ these growers are selected for specific growing conditions of the apple type / honeycrisp for example is picky about climate conditions and grow best in minnesota, michigan & upstate new york / however because it commands an attractive price, it will likely be grown in less than perfect locations & over time lose its outstanding qualities

nonetheless there will likely be others to replace current favorites \  new varieties from cornell to watch out for in 2015 are snapdragon < an offspring of honeycrisp & an unnamed apple> and ruby frost < a cross of braeburn & autumn crisp> / these are now available in upstate new york & of course at the cornell orchards

a book about the rubber tree: biopiracy in the amazon

thief at end of the world

the thief at the end of the world: rubber, power, and the seeds of empire (2008) by joe jackson is a fascinating story of henry alexander wickham who in 1876 under the order of the british empire smuggled 70,000 rubber seeds from the amazon to the kew gardens / these were used to seed the rubber plantations in asia & effectively ended the dominance of brazil & the amazon as the main source of rubber which was then a key resource for the military-industrial complex & the nascent automobile industry \ very interesting good read

the story of how henry wickham smuggled the rubber seeds is by itself compelling \ it turned out to be a game changer in world trade & economy <wild rubber production was 99.7% in 1905 and declined to 6.9% in 1922> / taking place during the glory days of the british empire, the act of usurping other nations’ natural resource & transplanting to its colonies underscored the political & economic significance of resource independence \ fastforward to the present when “energy independence” is in the united states’ political agenda

equally compelling is the story of the man himself \ wickham started off in his adventure in his mid-20s / not a very good planner & organizer but a good self-promoter & a staunch dreamer \ his obsession with propagating rubber <and other crops> in the amazon brought about hardships & tragedy not only for himself but his family / there is something to be admired about a man who would endure illness, disease & near death to fulfill his dream & persist against many odds, rejection, condescension & little reward \ wickham in his later years was knighted & spoken about as the “father of the rubber industry”

just as interesting is the question of a nation’s rights & sovereignty over its natural resources \ the transfer of indigenous knowledge of its flora & fauna without the source benefitting or compensated for the commercial use of this knowledge is biopiracy \ predating wickham’s rubber seed theft was the smuggling of cinchona seeds <cinchona being the source for quinine, the cure for malaria & yellow fever> by another british adventurer, clements markham / other cases of biopiracy: maya icbg controversy where the icbg was documenting the biodiversity of chiapas mexico with the intent of ascertaining their commercial medical possibilities; rose periwinkle, native to Madagascar and a cure for cancer; neem tree for controlling fungal infection in plants; a patent of enola bean that was revoked after causing economic damage to farmers in mexico; an attempt by a u.s. corporation to patent basmati rice

in 2001, india set up the traditional knowledge digital database containing translations of ancient manuscripts of old remedies \ the purpose is to protect its cultural heritage from exploitation by foreign companies / the philippines has done the same by establishing a national digital library containing local communities’ health practices that have been proven effective by modern medical societies

about a newly discovered nickel-eating plant

metal eating plant1

a new species of nickel hyperaccumulating plant, rinorea niccolifera, was recently discovered in the philippines <specifically in zambales province in luzon>\ by a team of scientists led by dr. edwino s. fernando of the university of the philippines in los banos / the new species can consume, without poisoning itself, 100 to 1000 times more metal than other plants \ nickel hyperaccumulation is a rare phenomenon / discoveries such as this offer exciting possibilities of practical applications: hyperaccumulator plants as green technology \ such as phytoremediation which is the use of hyperaccumulator plants to remove heavy metals in contaminated soil and phytomining which is growing & harvesting hyperaccumulator plants for the purpose of gathering commercially valuable metals

my work colleagues and i were recently pondering what the next advances in technology will be as we discussed the’s recent article on google’s driverless car \ my favorite analyst feels that it would be in transportation <love his example of “car drops me off at the airport, i tell it to go home & pick me up later,  i won’t have to pay for parking!” | then we got to thinking, hey car can take us to & from work!  we won’t have to pay for parking!> / i agree that it would be in this realm & also that we will increasingly have mobile-enabled houses & appliances that are also economically viable

and there will always be the promise of new possibilities, cures  & innovations as a result of the global scientific community’s continuing exploration, study & research of the natural world such as discovering nickel-eating plants


a pdf of the journal article is here:

from top form to zilch | mind-body medicine

from top form to zilch it was a viral thing that came fast and furious exactly a week before thanksgiving and did not leave me until two days ago \ healthy through two consecutive flu seasons, this took me by surprise / and the only explanation could be that my body had let its guard down after my first major project wound down and the rowing season ended \ my pcp agreed that stress impacts one’s physical well-being

psychoneuroimmunology < pni > is surprisingly a new field with no widespread acceptance / as the term implies there is a connection between one’s mental state & the immune system and consequently, one’s health \ pni explains why college students catch a cold or fall ill after exams / and it can also explain how happiness can boost the immune system \ i’d like to think of the mind-body connection as a coping strategy \ just keep me healthy enough to perform at a high level as long as i need to | there’s the promise of forced rest and restoration when the need is gone / a strategy that needs refinement, maybe chilling out more during periods of stress

while you were asleep

sleep sweeps brain toxins


brain toxins swept away while we’re sleeping! like a dishwasher!

this is the best science news in recent weeks / it hasn’t been observed with humans \  i wouldn’t mind being a guinea pig  /  they can do the tests during my naps \ does it work during naps?  / is there a threshold length of time for the sweeping to happen?