Last Sunday, we enjoyed a visit to Potaltik, a large garden/nature reserve on the outskirts of Comitan, Chiapas, not far from the border with Guatemala. It was not the best season for viewing flowers as the garden was in a quiet period, but I look forward to another visit in a few months when the plants are blossoming. The owners of the garden, Ceci and Jorge, are especially interested in orchids and bromeliads, and they are dedicated to preserving and promoting these plants more than anything else.
Jorge is proud of his garden, gave us a tour and told us about the orchids. I'd come across the orchid/wasp mimickry in A Thousand Plateaus by Deleuze and Guattari. They use this example of the orchid relying on the wasp, (or with other varieties, other insects and spiders etc) to illustrate their key notions of rhizome and territorialization. (Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal) An interesting read but apparently these authors don't nearly do justice to the bizarre complexity of orchid sexuality. I learned from Jorge that orchids can't reproduce without the presence of a certain fungus, and wikipedia backs him up. The orchid's parasitism on the fungi is critical to germination.
It's important to note, that unlike the honey bee, the wasp doesn't feed off the orchid. His attraction is purely sexual, and it is often the case that the visiting wasp will actually ejaculate into the orchid. He'll be fooled again by another orchid and spread pollen in the attempt to find a true female wasp. Another parasitic relationship.
Despite all the fuss and bother, human sexuality is a surprisingly simple affair. Typically, a male and female of the same species get together and they produce offspring.
Orchid sexuality is anything but simple. Life on earth is divided into kingdoms. For those of us without microscopes, there are three kingdoms: plants, animals and fungi. What's significant to me about the orchid's sexuality is that it involves a collaboration spread across three taxonomic kingdoms. I wonder if there is any other living thing, so beautiful and close to us, that enjoys a sexuality so heterogeneous, wide-ranging and dispersed.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
Just a few loosely connected items I want to bring up in this post, the first being the recent biography of Malcolm X by Manning Marable. I'd bought the original autobiography years ago but never got around to reading it. My knowledge of Malcolm came from watching videos of his speeches and the Spike Lee film. What surprised me about his life is the role of his family. His father was a dedicated political activist for Marcus Garvey, a conservative black separatist. Malcolm's conversion to Islam came about from the suggestion of another family member, one of his brothers, who told Malcolm that if he stopped smoking and eating pork, he would get out of prison. Not sure why his family playing such an important role in shaping his career should surprise me; perhaps its due to the heroic myth making that surrounds him.
Maya is the name of the 13th Mint Linux release. Number one was given a name starting with 'a', two 'b' etc. But before I go further, I have to bring up a problem I had with Windows. Anyone not interested in a slightly technical discussion, or those who have not monkeyed around with the factory installed partitions on a Toshiba laptop may wish to skip the following paragraph.
I have a dual boot system, and my Windows partition was functioning extremely slowly. Even installation was painfully slow, and installing the automatic updates on shutdown took hours. At first I thought it was malware that I'd picked up along the way, but this couldn't have been the case. Then I discovered in the Linux disk utility programme that my Windows partition was misaligned. Never heard of that problem so I checked the forums, and indeed this is an issue that Toshiba hard disks are prone to, as well as a few others. The terminal command "sudo fdisk -lu" will show if there is any problem with a misaligned partition. The forums didn't really give me any solutions, so I came up with my own. Very easy and quick once data is backed up. Using Gparted, delete the partition, and create it again, only this time, in the tab at the bottom of the page where the choice of align to CYLINDER, MB, or NONE is given, choose NONE, not the default option it should be noted. Run fdisk again to check the partition is properly aligned once Gparted has done its thing. If everything looks good, install Windows again. I did and the installation and all other read/write operations are some three or four times the previous speed.
Maya comes in to this because in the course of all this bother, I needed to reinstall the Linux. I'd lost the original Olivia 15 files in the shuffle, and decided to try the latest: Mint Linux Petra 16 KDE. (I was also keen to create a third partition, for data, accessible to both Windows and Linux.) I found Petra a very unsatisfactory choice, and I decided a 'downgrade' was needed. It's not possible to downgrade a Linux version to a previous version. A clean start is necessary. The forums pointed to Maya, number 13, the most recent Long Term Release, where support will be continued for some years into the future. Not partition alignment, but some cosmic alignment issues also seemed to point in that direction, what with me living in the heart of the ancient Mayan civilization, as well as coinciding with my reading of Malcolm X's biography. 'mx' has long been my user name when dealing with Linux. Originally it had been simply 'm' but somewhere along the way, I ran into a release that insisted on my using at least two characters. I've been mx ever since. Malcolm X played no part in the choice, but it is noteworthy that he was shot and killed on my birthday and he was born on my sister's birthday. I hope these alignments make my choice an auspicious one. So far I am pleased.