Join My Google+ community

I have started using Google+ more this year and trying out the new communities section. If you have tried Google+ in the past and did not like it, or even if you have never tried it, I ask you to give it a shot. The system seems to have stabilized over the last several months and it is growing daily. Much less dramatic than Facebook, it has its own feel and attracts different people than other social sites.

If you do decide to try Google+ head over to: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/102384480548369345288

I have created an Osprey Publishing community where members can discuss history, military strategies, and the future of publishing.

I hope to see you over there.

Posted in General History | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Story of Corn

Even though corn is used as an essential provision, along with other staples to feed the world, corn is more than food because it is also used as currency and the building blocks for a cornucopia of modern products. Corn is a crop that has changed the way we eat, drink, and live our lives. The golden kernels have grown to be integral to society. Not only does it feed billions of people, but it has been used for cash for thousands of years and as the building blocks of everyday products used by people from around the globe.

The plant originated in the Yucatan Peninsula more than six thousand years ago, during the latter half of the Neolithic Age. Corn is a purely human engineered plant, starting from what is known as Teosinte, a group of grass genus with some external similarities to the modern plant, most notably the tassels. Over the course of several thousand years of direct human farming, this tall grass transformed itself into corn as we know it. Several major civilizations of the region exploited the use of corn including the Aztecs of central Mexico; the Mayans of what is now southern Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala; and the Incas of modern day Peru.

Corn shares the world stage with wheat, rice, and potatoes, as a staple to feed the population of the planet. Although the other food stocks have fed billions, none of them stand up to the influence that corn has exerted over the globe. More and more farmers are seeing the value in corn, in more than just food but also in a global perspective of cash and resources.

In states such as Kansas, which grows 1/5th the total wheat yields of the United States, more and more farmers are switching to corn. In Africa, a country beset with hunger and starvation, corn has grown ever increasingly more abundant than wheat. In 2009, 12 percent less wheat was planted and an increase of 10.93 percent of corn was planted in the African continent. Often when we think of rice, Asia comes to our thoughts, but even in the Asian continent, corn is winning out. Rice is a rich source of calories for poor starving nations, but it is also very labor intensive and requires large quantities of water. Corn on the other hand takes less than 120 days to come to yield and can be sown in practically any terrain, environment, or temperature (except for very dry climates or arctic conditions). There are a number of reasons why rice continually declines over the use of corn, but specifically the Law of Diminishing Returns and the increased cost of hydraulic works are the chief claims. Lastly, potatoes are another source of protein to feed the world, but the plant also has many problems associated with its planting, harvesting, and distribution. Much like rice, potatoes are not cost effective in the amount of labor needed to produce, although unlike rice which requires watershed lowlands, potatoes require far more tolerant land resources than corn.

Most people do not realize that corn has become more than something you pop in a microwave oven or gobble down on the ear during the summer months. “Edible corn for humans, whether fresh, canned, frozen or in the form of cornmeal, makes up less than one percent of the American corn market, a tiny amount that nonetheless adds up to about three pounds of corn per person per day.” In the United States alone, corn is grown on more than eighty million acres of land with yields of 384 million tons yearly. Most of that corn is neither popcorn nor sweet corn, but a variety called dent corn (the name derived from the dimple on the tuft of the corn kernel). Dent is also known as field corn or deer corn. The plant in America is used in the production of plastics, from which innumerable products can be fashioned, such as plastic bottles, paper plates, and utensils. The plant’s harvest is also used in the manufacturing of corn syrup, a sweetener that can be found in bread, cereals, pasta, soda pop, ketchup, juices mayonnaise, and thousands of other supermarket items. Finally, corn has been used to make ethanol, and in the last twenty years the production of that kind of alcohol has accelerated as car manufacturers have converted automobiles from using gasoline and diesel fuel to new bio-fuels.

When the Spaniards came to the New World they were in search of gold to fill the coffers of their kingdom back home. Unbeknownst to them, time after time, these conquerors stared blankly at the true gold of the New World, and it wasn’t that of the lustrous metal that the Incans used to lavish on their buildings, but the simple plant in the common man’s backyard. “The wealth generated by plants probably has increased at a rate and in a more sustained fashion than any other American resource. In any given year – 1980, for example – the annual value of American crops, was on the order of 200 billion dollars, probably is higher than the total value of all the precious metals exported to the Iberian colonies over the course of the entire colonial period.” Often the conquerors were so close to discovering that beyond the gold ingots and silver bars, the metal would pale against the incredible power of the corn in later centuries. Instead of the gold fever that existed at the time, they should have monopolized the plant rather than precious metals.

Corn made its transoceanic move in the latter half of the 15th Century CE, but the plant was not thought of as a spoil or treasure by the Spaniards at first. It was not until Peter Martyr d’Anghiera wrote, “Affixed by nature in a wondrous manner and in form and size like garden peas, white when young,” that we heard the first mention of corn. Although Peter’s work was not published until 1511 in a book called ‘De Orbe Nova’, the word mahiz was being used excitedly throughout the old world by this time.

Another account of corn being discovered by the Spaniards, written by Juan De Cardenas, was in an abridgment of an encounter on November 6th 1492 when Columbus decided to gather a small party of explorers to search the interior of lands he thought was China. When the soldiers returned, they did not talk about large Asian cities or courts of royalty, but rather brought back baskets full of golden grain as if they were coins, called maize.

We repeatedly see how Spanish explorers took maize as payment for tribute from indigenous peoples of Central and South America, such as in 1519 when Hernando Cortes confronted the Aztecs and they were given thousands of bushels of corn along with gold and silver bars. Again, we see in 1531 when DeSoto confronted the Incans, he was given 5000 bushels of maize as tribute. Even as late as 1650, when by now the Spanish pushed into the American Midwest and the lower extremities of Canada, maize continued to show up as both a food and a bargaining tool (currency). However, even though it is obvious that the people of the New World thought corn was a hard currency, the Spaniards often would dispose of it as they did with the 5000 bushels of maize given to them by the Incans, for gold and silver metal.

It took less than forty years after its discovery in the New World for corn to make its way to tropical Africa, for which the exact date is lost because the Portuguese who brought it over did not refer to it by any given name. Corn became the common man’s currency in the escalating colonial Africa. The plant had become a commodity and a dietary mainstay, something few agricultural products possessed with such flexibility. Wherever the sixteenth century Portuguese landed their ships, corn spread. By 1517, it was grown principally around the slave-trade ports of the west in order to supply cheap fodder for the slaves during their transport and as a method of payment for trading with interior indigenous people for goods and services.

Corn quickly became the primary dietary caloric consumption in African. By the latter half of the twentieth century, corn had spread to every corner of continent, save for the very wet and very dry localities. Without any surprise the countries that consumed the highest amounts of corn are also the countries with the smallest percentages of hunger, disease, and political instability.

Africa is a diverse continent with equally rich, robust economies. One of the continuing issues with Africa, even from the start of European involvement in the early 16th and 17th Century CE to the present, is the scarcity of food resources. Most of the rural economies have struggled with water and food, with the latter often being traded as a cash commodity as more advance cultures use currency to pay debt.

For the most part livestock and fishing make up very little in the excess food stocks, with almost 80 percent of tropical Africa having less than a single head of cattle per capital. Even though goat populations are relatively larger, they still rank less than .5 per capita. With less reliable data on fishing, no direct correlation can be made suffice to say that other than in local communities along the Atlantic and Indian oceans, food from the sea make up very little of the excess food stores. The two largest commodities, traded both among internal economies and also the broader world economies, are manioc (a starchy tuber also called yucca or cassava) and corn. Yields from 1957 and 1958 show more than 70,000 metric tons of manioc and almost 60,000 tons of corn were traded. There appears to be five principle categories of food in Africa, used as a delicacy, insurance against famine, secondary staple, primary staple, and as production for cash crops. In each of these categories various foods rank higher or lower, but in almost every African nation, corn is at the top of the list for being used as a cash crop.

Today, Africa still grows corn to feed its population, but also relies on foreign governments to send relief aid often in the form of corn. “Six Southern Africa countries – Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Swaziland – were facing severe food shortages and an estimated 14 million people in the region needed about 4 million metric tons of food aid to meet minimum consumption requirements before the next harvest in April 2003.” Many U.S. companies use corn crops to feed desperate third world countries, with just one company alone producing 130,000 metric tons in 2009 of special corn biscuits to be given to countries in need.

No other place in the world has corn reigned supreme than in the United States. In the burgeoning technocracy of the twenty-first century, corn has become the Holy Grail of genetic manipulation, turning the plant into the building blocks for everything Americans eat and drink; pump into their automobiles as fuel; feed their livestock, chemically change into plastics and cloth; and biologically mutate into fiber for utilization of paper to particle board.

The United States produces nearly 40 percent of the world’s corn and has learned how to genetically alter the plant to such a degree that most people fail to realize that the plant cannot grow in the wild, but must be modified into hybrids each year to create the seeds for the next season’s planting. Each year, corn is created by mating two different corn hybrids to create a new strain of corn; often the result is a new type of corn that is better than either of its parent strains. So, even though the plant is highly dependent on mankind in its reproduction, it earns its next year’s prodigy with its incredible characteristics allowing it to be manufactured into more than three thousand food sources and four hundred non-consumable products.

Dent corn can be modified into a high fructose sugar, cheaper to produce than cane sugar. According to CornSugar [www.CornSugar.com], “sugar is sugar and that high fructose corn syrup is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose.” The website goes on to say that there is not a shred of evidence that these products are different biologically and are just as healthy as foods derived from sugar cane. The commercial use of corn syrup is as a thickener, sweetener, and humectant (the ability for food to stay soft and moist). Suffice to say, corn syrup is used in thousands of foods consumed by Americans.

At present there are more than 400 non-consumption products being engineered from chemically synthesized corn byproducts. Most plastics today are created from limited-recurring resins such as oil. Nature requires 100 million years of fermentation to create oil, but with the recent advancements in corn manufacturing in the United States, engineers hope to cut that down to less than 100 days. The first polymer resin known as polylactic acid or PLA is derived from corn and is a crystalline or amorphous sheet of plastic like material. Although you cannot eat this material, though derived from corn, it is bio-degradable. PLA products are very sensitive to heat so it makes it unusable in cooking ware, engine parts, aircraft panels, or other heat intolerant applications, but can be used as bottles to hold liquids (such as water, soda, juices), plates and utensils (such as given out at fast food restaurants), and medical applications. PLA is just the start to many similar organic chemicals that will be used to formulate new and wondrous plastics.

One of a select few manufacturers to start producing biopolymers (plastic from plants) is a firm called NatureWorks LLC. This company is at the forefront of the new science which can produce plastics that are completely bio-degradable and have very low carbon footprints on the environment. Within the last month the company began producing yogurt cups made of this new material, with a savings of 48 percent of carbon emissions over standard plastic. In the next few years, more corn will be grown to create ethanol than used for the production of food. The history of bio-fuels has been an epic struggle against the cheaper and, at the present, more easily accessible petroleum. If it wasn’t for some short sighted government officials who saw ethanol as a way for moonshiners (illegal corn whiskey manufacturers) to gain legal rights to production of alcohol, we may never have had need for gasoline. As early as 1862, alcohol was being taxed at $2 a gallon, forcing inventors like German engineer Nikolas Otto and American industrialist Henry Ford to re-examine the use of ethanol as a fuel for vehicles – even though Ford had a working prototype of the Model T running completely on ethanol. The use of alcohol as a primary agent in combustion engines was dashed in the early 20th century in America with the passage of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: basically prohibiting the manufacture of all alcohol (even for combustion). Ethanol never recovered from that stroke of the pen, even though the law was repealed years later.

Alcohol is still heavily taxed in the United States and would make its use as combustion still very expensive compared to gasoline. To circumvent the taxation, the alcohol goes through a process called “denaturing” in which the ethanol is subjected to various bittering agents such as benzoates and methanol, making it poisonous to consume. In this form, farmers are not levied tax on the alcohol. With improvements of ethanol production, the US Congress has mandated that production of bio-fuels increase from its present state of 12 billion gallons a year, to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

Today, American farmers grow corn to turn into E10 or E85, which is a mixture of gasoline and ethanol. E10 is 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent alcohol, while E85 is 85 percent alcohol and 15 percent gasoline. E10 can be used in any car today, even those that are not designated to be used for ethanol. The E85 mixture requires special automobiles and is often limited to warmer climates, with the present technology, that do not have extended frigid temperatures. It has been statistically proven that ethanol is better for the environment than carbon based fuel sources (oil), even after considering that most farm equipment still use gas or diesel for the production of the corn.

Beyond the use of the kernels of corn, researchers are now utilizing every facet and part of the corn plant. Recently, corn stalks are being analyzed for its ability to be used for medium density particle boards – used in many applications including framing homes and commercial buildings throughout the world. Analysis of the fibers suggests they have a chemical composition similar to softwood a-cellulose, common in softwood deciduous trees. The advantages, of course, is that it takes less than 120 days to grow a single harvest of corn compared to years, if not decades, for many forests.

As we move into the early part of the twenty-first century, corn is going to increase in its varied uses to feed the planet and become the building blocks for everything from clothing, plastic, fuel, domesticated feed, new construction material, and everyday consumer goods. Vast portions of the planet are still locked in a day-to-day struggle with feeding the inhabitants. In these areas, corn will still be used as a staple, as a form of currency, or as a way to barter for services. As much as corn is intrinsically bound to humanity in its survival, so too will mankind be linked to the ancient tall grass that was born in the lowlands of central Mexico because corn has become more than food, it has weaved itself into every aspect of our global society.

Posted in American Indians, General History, MesoAmerican | Leave a comment

Three Years of Weekly Games

I am not so sure what historical significance this has, but I thought I would post my weekly gaming journal to Teaspoons. Perhaps some day in the future, some gaming historian will find use of my weekly rant, observations, or clarifications on what I did. Sprinkled through the accounts are various observations on many other sorts of things.  The following is rough, spur of the moment writing with little editing.

10-25-12 Another great night with my friends coming over to play Civilization 4. We started a new game about 2 hours into the night because the current one was flawed with some bad option choices. I did the best, which surprises me because normally I am always in last place. Joe is doing good. Wade is floundering but rightly so as his playstyle is all based on free stuff and luck.
10-10-12 Had another fun time. Continued to play the game from last week. I did much better after going strictly military early in the night, capturing several cities. No end in sight for stopping this weekly foray into Civilization. I am sure one day we will put it aside, but right now we are having a blast. I have no game in mind for the future, though I would like to move beyond a computer game.
10-03-12 Over the weekend I amended the game a bit changing Slavery and harbors. The big change I made was giving a new Unique Unit to every civilization. We started a new game at a slight accelerated pace with me playing the Greeks, Joe playing Kongo, and Wade playing the Iroquois. Wade played exemplary and won a great amount of credibility. I floundered like always. Joe seemed content on being off by himself. Good game overall.

09-26-12 Another fantastic night playing Civ IV. We all had so much fun. If this can continue for another couple of weeks, it will be great.
09-18-12 Had one of the best nights playing CIVILIZATION IV in memory. We all did well and we all had fun exchanging tactics and barbs. Good battles and great fighting. We are looking forward next week to continue this fun game.
09-12-12 Played the same game and am slowing pulling myself up, though in last place we are having fun.
09-05-12 Joe, Wade, and I played a fantastic but frustrating match of History Rewritten, a Civilization IV mod. I ended up in a swath of jungle and had a tough time throughout the night. We will play next week which for me will be better. Fun but aggravating at times.

08-29-12 Trying out my new Civ4 mod, Age of Discovery2. No doubt it will be an utter failure.
08-14-12 Playing Civilization 4 with the Multivwerse mod. Joe, Wade, and I all did quite well but we were playing on easy level. Next week we will be on our standard of Noble and Marathon.
08-08-12 Still playing World of Warcraft with Joe – running dungeons with our top level guys. Wade expressed interest in coming over again and so we may alter our playing a bit? May eventually settle on Civ4 again?

07-24-12 Continued playing WoW this week. Wade did not get over because he is still feeling poorly but also because he doesn’t play World of Warcraft. Joe and I found several interesting secrets last night – coming and going out of dungeons and velium sheets (so I can use my enchanter on my other toons.
07-17-12 Played WoW.
07-10-12 Great fun again playing World of Warcraft.
07-03-12 Great fun playing City of Heroes. May play WoW next week.

06-26-12 (last game of June) Played City of Heroes, but it was a difficult night with many deaths!!!
06-18-12 Sara’s birthday so we are pushing it to Wednesday, if it happens.
06-11-12 No game this week because I am up at the cottage. Next week we hope to try Civ4 again!
06-04-12 Started out playing Civ IV but it kept going OOS. So we moved back to CoH and I played Cloudstuff for great fun.

 

05-29-12 Great fun once again – I played two healers. Dr. Cloudstuff and Atomic Soul
05-22-12 Everyone has fun. We played heroes last night. I made a new guy called Atomic Soul.
05-15-12 Fun times.
05-08-12 Both guys came over and we played City of Heroes with “good” aligned characters.
05-01-12 Confronted WADE on being overweight.

04-24-12 City of heroes.
04-16-12 More City of Heroes fun. We all went up a couple of levels. Wade is still silly!
04-09-12 Another week with Joe, Wade, and I playing City of Heroes. Joe and I had a great time – made fun of Wade. He is such a tard.
04-02-12 First time that Joe, Wade, and I got together in so many months. This time to play City of Heroes. We had a good time, if not some awkward moments when Wade tried to show how much he knows about the game. Overall, we had a great night with some interesting battles. Looking forward to next week.

03-20-12 Tried to play Civilization IV but the game kept crashing. So now we are playing City of Heroes again. Probably something we will try and play since it seems Joe is more interactive with that. I got a new power supply.
03-13-12 Still playing Civilization IV – my mod called Conquest – Still crashing on my other machine. Need to get a power supply for it.
03-05-12 Played Civilization IV: Conquest. Had a good time but crashed a few times.

02-28-12 Played CoH but not really enjoying it as much as I thought I would. I think Joe is much more hooked on it then he says – he is making a dozen toons. He is a cheap son of a bitch though, so he wont spend any money on it – nor will he do so for EQ in the future.
02-21-12 Still playing City of Heroes and have settled on two guys (me: The Oak King; Joe: Fusilier). Deleted other guys.
02-14-12 Played City of Heroes. Made 2 sets of guys: H1 and Mithril Mage. Joe made Uuo-118 and Mr. Blackboard. Had a ton of fun
02-06-12 Played another couple of games of Civilization IV but had continuing issues of OOS errors. Worked through some but still had issues.

01-30-12 Playing Civ4 but in the end, we decided to restart again and added some new rules.
01-24-12 Still playing Civ4 and having some fun.
01-16-12 Got Civ4 running again. Had a fun night.
01-10-12 Tried to play Civilization 4 but the game kept crashing. So we played EQ2 instead and had fun.
01-02-12 Played a bit of History Rewritten but my secondary computer has been crashing lately. First game went well, but then half way through the night it crashed constantly. Played EQ2 and went into a new dungeon and had some fun. Computer crashed once during that episode. Thinking it may be the power supply going bad, as it was always a bit under powered to start. Found a PSU for 40 bucks that should work.

12-21-11 Joe finally got his new computer. I set it up for him last night and he is so loving the graphics in EQ2 and in Civ4. Really great!
Changing the game night to MONDAY as classes schedules have changed.
12-14-11 Started playing on Monday nights because school is essentially over. Gives us an extra 30 minutes of game time – although unsure why, but that is what Joe says?!? We are still playing Civilization IV with the new mod and having fun; History Rewritten.
12-05-11 Tried a new mod called History Rewritten and it was fun, but I want to make some changes to it. Joe and I played on a Earth map, me being the Polynesians and him playing England. Fun so far.

11-30-11 Maybe a game tonight. Last night Joe called it off because his truck broke down and he couldn’t get it fixed. Undecided as to what to play, if we do get together – EQ2 or Civ 4?
11-23-11 Played a new mod called Rewritting History and had an absolute ball. Great mod with all new graphics. We are well pleased with it.
11-16-11 Played two games of Civ 4 – both on the Thomas War Extended Mod. Joe stunk at both of them. Both games I was doing well.
11-08-11 Played Civilization IV again and had a ton of fun playing in the original mod, Thomas’ War with a huge earth map and 10 opponents. Joe played Brazil and I played Mexico. We are both doing well.
11-01-11 Had great fun in Everquest II last night. Played some low level guys and took down three dungeons – last minute, we loaded our big guys into the game and took out several epic mobs.

10-26-11 Continued to play Everquest II. We journeyed to two new dungeons and had many hours of fun. Made some decent loot that we will probably just sacrifice to the gods or perhaps mute.
10-19-11 Joe and I continued to play Everquest II, playing our 90th level guys first for 2 hours then going on to play some tertiary characters for about an hour. Had some great BBQ chicken pizza as well. Thoughts of inviting Wade over circulated since we miss our good friend – perhaps soon I will have a new computer allowing him to play on my 2nd computer.
10-11-11 Great night playing Everquest II
10-05-11 No game because of studying for a test. Next week we are going to try and play Multiverse.

09-28-11 Played Extreme2 and it was tough – too tough?!?
09-20-11 Played Thomas War with slight modification — fun
09-14-11 Played the original Thomas War mod. Tough! Thinking of making a few small changes to the base game to toy around with. Lumberyards, meaningful roads, Composite Archers (+25% attack)….

08-30-11 Some problems late in the game, crashing. Also some issues with units if you don’t have oil. Changed it to needing specific buildings and having oil gives you a bonus to the production of units.
08-17-11 Finished game. Was very fun. We played it almost to the very end!
08-10-11 Continued our Modern Era game – awesome fun. Joe and I slugging it out with all the original AI still in the game.
08-02-11 Played a game on Modern era – a continuation of the prior week. Had great fun. Joe and I was slugging it out with the AI. At 9 PM we lost power for an hour. Joe went home and we called the game – started working on the next update to Extreme2. Wade has not come over in months, but my den is not set up any longer for more than 1 friend at a time. We could make it work, I guess, but it would be cramped.

07-27-11 A huge upgrade to EXTREME2 and had a blast playing in MODERN era. Will continue tweaking rules next week!
07-20-11 Started a new game after I was butchered in a fun older game started over the internet. May update my mod here before we play again. I also want to play some good old fashion RPGs. Found out that starting at different eras can actually be fun way of experiencing the game!
07-06-11 Didn’t do any gaming, per se but looked at another designer’s module in NWN. Very interesting, but after 6 years of developing there are still huge gaps in his mod. The guy needs to finish it and just release it. We had fun though, looking at stuff. Started a bit of Neverwinter Nights.

06-28-11 ExtremeMod ended with the computer AI winning. So we started back on the Extreme2 game we had going. That was fun. Talked about NeverWinter Nights.
06-22-11 Playing a great match in ExtremeMod – he is the Aztec and I am the Celts. We will lose but it’s great fun.
06-14-11 Good night and we finally have two adversaries that will be around into late into the game. Hitler and Mayan; Joe is the Elamite and I am the Indians (from India).
06-09-11 Moved to Thursday tonight, since I was gone off to the lake. Should be fun, if Joe does not get over then I will try and read some more Caesar.

05-31-11 Finally got to play a game and it was real fun. Played an older game that was further along and finally did one that worked for me and Joe – huge battles with cheering and bravado all around. No Wade yet.
05-25-11 No game.
05-18-11 No Game.
05-11-11 Played a bit of Age of Discovery, but there was some issues and kept crashing. Then played Extreme2 and having a blast. Still no Wade.
05-04-11 Extreme2 is done for several months – uploading it tonight. Will work on Age of Discovery next. Fun game last night with only Joe, Wade didn’t come over.

04-27-11 New Game with New Rules. No Wade
04-19-11 Just Joe and I, continued a game from the weekend. Having fun at it.
04-13-11 No game. May not game for a while.
04-06-11 Finally had a game. Great Fun.

03-39-11 No game.
03-22-11 No game because of the weather. Wade called and said he would like to start coming over this weekend again. Maybe next week.
03-15-11 Played Extreme II – I was Hitler and Joe was Xerxes. Had a lot of fun but decided to restart because the AI seemed at a large advantage with being on a handicap.
03-09-11 Played Extreme II – starting a re-make of my mod with more emphasis on UU and UBs and less on tech and vanilla units.
03-02-11 Actually had a fun night with EXTREME mod and an older save – not sure if we will when but we can play it until the end more than likely. Here in a month, I will return to writing for my Mod. In my desire for Spring, I am writing this month all in GREEN.

Thoughts of Re-Making Age of Discovery starting with the Thomas War mod.

02-23-11 No game. Joe has a big test. I played Everquest; still seems fun.
02-15-11 Tried to play the Age of Discovery, but there is something just wrong about the game. Keeps crashing. Might start a new mod – Extreme2.
02-08-11 No game again because of Joe and school.
02-01-11 No game because of the SNOWMAGEDDON of 2011. Maybe next week.

01-26-11 Wade didn’t get over again last night; partly the weather but mainly due to the fact we needed to run through the game fast. Found many problems with the mod, but making progress.
01-19-11 Didn’t have Wade over; Joe and I played my new mod “Age of Discovery”. First run was ok but need to tweak the game and add in more units.
01-13-11 Wade skipped on us, so Joe and I played Civ IV. Had fun but realized that the mod is so top heavy that it is impossible to get the AI to behave correctly.

12-28-10 Got together with Wade and Joe and we played Version 3 of my Mod with all the new ATLANTEAN stuff in it. Had a blast and everyone was yelling and screaming over their victories and defeats.
12-21-10 Just Joe and I since Wade’s machine is not working. Played Civ and had fun.
12-14-10 Great fun with Wade and Joe again playing Civ IV. We have a hot game going on and looking forward to doing it next week.
12-07-10 Played Civ again and started getting ideas on how to make it better.

11-30-10 Played EQ II last night instead of Civ. Good time but my shoulder and arm hurt terribly. Wade didn’t come over last night, but maybe next week.
11-23-10 Played EQ II last night instead of Civ. Good times and my arm is so sore this morning from clicking – like the Diablo Syndrome. I did find a new model I want to add to Civ Mod so maybe I will work on this holiday season.
11-15-10 We didn’t play Civilization today instead played EQ II. Good time. John White got Civ IV and perhaps we can have him over one night to play. Need to arrange a time for Wade to come over for dinner (Chrinese).
11-09-10 We didn’t play Civilization today instead played EQ II. Good time. Putting Civ IV on the back burner for a couple of months.
11-01-10 We had to start a new game because I made some major revisions to the mod. Wade started out strong, and to both Joe and I we were amazed that he was holding his own towards the end of the night. Joe was back on top throughout the night because he has the system down pat – which shows to me that the game has a certain logic to it and once you know it, there is no challenge to it. I guess it is time we move on to a new game on Monday.

10-26-10 Continued the game for another week – we could still lose this one. We feel the AI even though sometimes underscored can still put up a nice fight. We all did well, even Wade who finally started catching up – even though he is a utter coward and never fights anything period.
10-19-10 First game we have continued for one week to another in ages! It is very exciting and still up for grabs, although I think we can beat them unless they pull a rabbit out of their hats and win by Space Race or something. I am nearing Steampunk Technology – never had that before so it will be interesting.
10-12-10 New game. Joe, Wade, and I got a new game going. Wade is doing horribly, but won’t listen to advice. Joe and I struggle for third place. Should be exciting game.
10-05-10 New Month! Just Joe and I played. Wade needn’t come over for awhile. Had a tough night with multiple restarts. Learned allot about the game and made some good notes.

09-27-10 Just Joe and I – play a mean game of V2.0 – made some changes after we played but it may be getting mean. Gave up on Wade – he is just a tard.
09-21-10 Joe, Wade, and I started a new game using V1.55 in an Immense Earth map. Joe played the Hawaiians, I played the Australians, and wade played the Ethiopians. I actually was doing the best at the end of the night, followed by Joe. Wade was dead last – he stinks. Fun game all around – AI still seems a bit sluggish.
09-13-10 Joe and I finished what we could of a two week game – we lost, which is good because that means the game is a challenge. Tweaking the mod to version 1.5 for another release on Sept 18th.
09-06-10 Wade could not get over so Joe and I played a new game with the heightened AI. Real fun. Great night. Always fun.

08-30-10 Stopping developing for the mod and just going to play for a while and think of what changes to come—hopefully will not do any sort of changes for a couple of months. Going to play on a Immense world.
08-10-10 Modding is going well. Great fun with just Joe and I last night. We didn’t want to quit. So much fun !!

07-27-10 Great fun last night, even though we had problems with the mod and the balance. Later I was so excited to correct some mistakes – fixed the Chinampas.
07-20-10 Still having a blast modding the game. So tired of Wade and his crying and whining – not going to pursue him coming over any more. It isn’t worth it.
07-05-10 GREAT JOY IN MODDING THE GAME. NEED TO START MY OWN MEGA MOD AT SOME POINT.
06-28-10 Played around with a mod of Civ 4 that I am calling TroysAncient. Needs allot of work.
06-22-10 Since last time, Joe and I started looking into making our own Mods for this venerable game. Joe keeps saying he is going to buy a new computer but never does. The game went well – a continuation from the week before. Wade destroyed the Mayans, and Joe and I are whacking away on Rome and the Egyptians.
06-15-10 Wade, Joe, and I played another rousing game. First game, Joe got slaughtered playing Simon Bolivar. The next game I played the Vikings and Joe played England. Wade played Sitting Bull. Great night, full of laughs.
06-08-10 Wade, Joe, and I played a rousing game of Civ – Joe did very well as the Japanese. Wade did horrible as the Inuit (but the culture is very difficult to play). I tried to play Yagan of the Australians but the land mass was not developed correctly. I have corrected some features of the map for better balance for next week.
06-01-10 Joe has got the game so we are playing not on Mondays so much.

05-24-10 Wade couldn’t get over, so Joe and I played a mod called Final Frontier. Cool but not as fun as the regular game.
05-17-10 Didn’t play last night because Cherry was leaving on vacation.
05-10-10 Wade arrived a bit late. He decided to come over, rather than playing from his house. He did much better than the last couple of games, but I still pulled out in front. Joe took up the rear, but towards the end of the night he started to shine – he still needs to make up a lot of ground
05-03-10 Wade typically fouled the night up by not being able to get his skype to work then having to leave to help his mom (cant blame him for that). Will try next week.

04-27-10 HAD A GREAT TIME last night. Found out in the end that we were at a constant PEACE with all nations – so that spoiled it for us. Started a new game with that off.
04-19-10 I had JOE on a new Computer (dual core AMD with 2 gigs RAM and a 7900GS video card). Great fun all around even though my empire fumbled throughout the night with bad luck, barbarians, and horrible financial problems.
04-12-10 Getting a little old again. May give it a rest for a bit.
04-06-10 New month and same fun. WADE did not show this week because of his leg. Tried to show Joe Runes of Magic but he was not interested as he is always with everything new you want to play.

03-30-10 New game with same results, but still fun. Wade is such a dick!
03-29-10 Looking forward to our game tonight! Must destroy WADE!!!
03-16-10 New game and having fun. No game next week because of our anniversary.
03-09-10 New game without raging barbarians but with 9 opponents. Great fun. I am winning!
03-02-10 Wade came back again. First game Joe lost, second game I lost, third game I won.

02-23-10 WADE HAS RETURNED
02-16-10 we played a bit of Monster Fandango and found some issues. We then played Civ. Today is the release of the new expansion for EQ2.
02-01-10 Didn’t play test BB II—must force myself to play it next week to test. Joe got his ass beat twice in Civ – he sucks.

01-25-10 Showed Joe – BLOODBATH II – then played Civilization IV the rest of the night. Next week I want to create characters. And play through a couple of rooms.
01-18-10 Probably will skip this week – Diablo though fun is just too much clicking. Might just end up playing Civ again next week or the week after – no sense getting together if we are not looking forward to it.
01-12-10 Played another night of Diablo II – killed Diablo and now on to the real expansion.
01-04-10 Played Diablo II again. Joe does not return to work until the 18th, which I am sure will postpone our game for a couple of weeks.
Got to Act III of the game. Maybe Next week we will play test my new game engine.

12-28-09 Played Diablo II – jow starts work next week and I fear the game night will be over . . .
12-21-09 Still fighting Hitler – Mussolini is in the mix as well. Still a tough fight.
12-14-09 Tonight we finish up Hitler and destroy him?
12-07-09 Going to hopefully play tonight with Jow – Huge world, Raging barbarians, and 1 AI aggressive (Hitler). Will report tomorrow for what happened. [[Great game = Hitler is on the run]]

11-23-09 We played a game with Wade over the internet – Wade got mad when Joe attacked him he said without provocation. Joe had warned Wade a number of times about his encroachment, but Wade said he never saw them.
11-16-09 Wade never showed. Joe and I are in another pitch battle and its going to be tough. Fun as always.
11-09-09 Going to try and bring Wade and Joe over to play. Not sure if I can get this third machine working correctly.
11-02-09 Played and had great fun until the game cheated

10-19-09 Going to play tonight but the war is almost one – mop up is going to be tough.
10-12-09 Last week we had fun. Going to try and continue the game this week.
10-05-09 Going to try and start playing again – this time a new era in civilization where it is King of the Hill. No AI just us three, fighting it out for supremacy.

09-21-09 got together last week and had fun – that is what is important. Will try and organize it again tonight.
09-14-09 Not getting together with Wade this Monday, but may do something with Joe – still up in the air. Looked at playing the old Empire game, but the graphics are just too old and no multiplayer support ( I thought there was)?
09-09-09 We may try and get together to see what Champions has to offer. Maybe get into a board game or something. Maybe go to dinner with Wade? We got together and went out for burgers at Culverts. Had a fun time and talked with Wade.

08-31-09 No game once again – the era is over.
08-24-09 No game. Sadly the era is over – thinking of doing n RPG or board game in a few weeks.
08-11-09 No game once again. We are taking a breather from the game. If we ever return to it, Wade won’t be in the equation – he knows too much about the game.
08-03-09 How quickly fun turns to boredom. I have ended the group and will not get together for a few weeks. Feel sort of sad that this present era of gleeful play is over.

07-20-09 We are going to have a blast tonight in a match that has been going on for 3 weeks. Can’t wait until tonight.
07-13-09 Rousing game with Wade and Joe.

06-29-09 Last Monday of the month. Will play Civ IV old save if Wade gets over, or a new game with Joe. Remember PLAY what you want to play and not what Joe wants.
06-22-09 Not playing today or maybe this week because I don’t feel good. I may be coming down with the flu.
06-15-09 Sadly it seems that both Joe and Wade want to put nothing into these weekly forays – they are completely comfortable about doing nothing new week after week. Maybe I should just shrug and do the same.
06-01-09 Moved on to Diablo II for a couple of months. After that, maybe we will return to Civ IV.

05-25-09 After some initial problems, got the game running on all three machines. Had fun although our ages are quickly showing on this click fest. Tried a new mod – it’s OK but not terrific.
05-22-09 Going to start playing Diablo II.

04-23-09 We are now playing on a Mod called Thomas’ Wars and Wade brings over his PC to help. Real Nice! Very fun!

03-27-09 Set the TASK in motion and made my own map last night – curious how it fares with the guys.

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My Further Research

I have always been fascinated with history, and my library at home can attest to that. I have books on the Roman Republic, the battles of the Civil War, the Saxon Revolution, Napoleon’s Campaigns, the Teutonic Order, and the list can go on and on. It is a cherished moment when I can sit reading a book or magazine of a age long forgotten and try to imagine what the people and places are like. I think for many, ancient history is looked at with a jaundiced eye towards reality, in that many have a misconception of the emotional and psychological state of average inhabitants of the time. It is almost like watching an old black and white movie and thinking that is how the people of that era perceived the world around them. Unbeknownst to that misconception the early 20th century was alive with color and vibrancy. So to was ancient history! The lives of the inhabitants of that century, a hundred or two hundred folds back in time, had the same inspirations, thoughts, desires, and needs. Technology changes, but humanity rarely does.

Using this idea, I grappled with a number of ideas for my topic for the class. I truly want to use this study to build a foundation for later work. The research is not just one in a plethora of “must have” things todo that will be relegated to the back portion of my brain in six months, but rather it will be the foundation for all my future work in history. At some point one must determine the exact course of historical investigations, the plotting the willynilly course across the historical ocean is fun but in the end gets you no where. Thus, I need to peel away my love of Rome, English History, Japanese Dynasties, and get to the meat and potatoes of my study.

as an old student I have a much greater depth of knowledge than the average 20 year old college student. I have been across the country and to other parts of the world. I have read probably ten times as many books and more than likely seen a hundred times more movies than the average college student. I know the beautiful variety of history that is available from the colonization of the American West to the Chinese Emperors to the voyages of Magellan.

From a very early age, really not apparent to me at the time, I was fascinated with Non-European history. As a youth I would spend countless hours playing a game called Tekumel which was like Dungeons & Dragons but not set in a world of platemail, swords, and judo-christian magic but of strange bloody religions, stratified social groups, and technology devoid of the wheel and beasts of burden — this was the fantasy world of the Mesoamerica!

Later I stumbled on books filled with beautiful art, sculpture, and stone edifices created by mysterious peoples called the Olmecs, Toltecs, Maya, Aztec, and even the Incas. As I grew older and studied the civilizations and cultures the more I began to endear myself to the peoples of the stretch of formidable landscape: mist shrouded mountains, dry deserts, thick and lush jungles.

Thus I have decided to start my journey into understanding the Toltec, a culture germinating out of the upper Mexican highlands of the Tula and Hidalgo area somewhere around 800 to 1000 CE (AD) in what would be classified as the Terminal Class period — a time just prior to the Post Classic period known for the destruction of the Mesoamerican culture by the Spaniards. The Toltec were almost worshiped by the later Aztec culture and more likely feared by the settled Maya culture. The Toltec created incredible cities that rivaled anything in Europe, such as the glorious Chichen Itza which had a population of more than 100,000 inhabitants. Many think of the artifacts of the Toltecs as the crown achievements of the Maya culture.

On to this stage we see the growth of breathtaking art in the forms of chromatic stool pottery, friezes, statuary, stela, and plaster paintings. The question I pose is of these rich and powerful paintings did the color selection mean anything? Did the artist have something in mind when he made the background green, the head dress red, the throne a golden brown? Are the colors upon the art just as revealing to the culture of the Toltec as the inscribed hieroglyphics that can be found everywhere in their cities? Perhaps the artist was just being artistic and creative, dabbing color where he saw fit? Or perhaps there is a deeper meaning to this color? A cultural inclination of subtle nuance that elevates the color upon the vase or plaster wall that is yet to be understood. . . .

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Corn: The Story

Even though corn is used as an essential provision, along with other staples to feed the world, corn is more than food because it is also used as currency and the building blocks for a cornucopia of modern products. Corn is a crop that has changed the way we eat, drink, and live our lives. The golden kernels have grown to be integral to society. Not only does it feed billions of people, but it has been used for cash for thousands of years and as the building blocks of everyday products used by people from around the globe.

The plant originated in the Yucatan Peninsula more than six thousand years ago, during the latter half of the Neolithic Age. Corn is a purely human engineered plant, starting from what is known as Teosinte, a group of grass genus with some external similarities to the modern plant, most notably the tassels. Over the course of several thousand years of direct human farming, this tall grass transformed itself into corn as we know it. Several major civilizations of the region exploited the use of corn including the Aztecs of central Mexico; the Mayans of what is now southern Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala; and the Incas of modern day Peru.

Corn shares the world stage with wheat, rice, and potatoes, as a staple to feed the population of the planet. Although the other food stocks have fed billions, none of them stand up to the influence that corn has exerted over the globe. More and more farmers are seeing the value in corn, in more than just food but also in a global perspective of cash and resources.

In states such as Kansas, which grows 1/5th the total wheat yields of the United States, more and more farmers are switching to corn. In Africa, a country beset with hunger and starvation, corn has grown ever increasingly more abundant than wheat. In 2009, 12 percent less wheat was planted and an increase of 10.93 percent of corn was planted in the African continent. Often when we think of rice, Asia comes to our thoughts, but even in the Asian continent, corn is winning out. Rice is a rich source of calories for poor starving nations, but it is also very labor intensive and requires large quantities of water. Corn on the other hand takes less than 120 days to come to yield and can be sown in practically any terrain, environment, or temperature (except for very dry climates or arctic conditions). There are a number of reasons why rice continually declines over the use of corn, but specifically the Law of Diminishing Returns and the increased cost of hydraulic works are the chief claims. Lastly, potatoes are another source of protein to feed the world, but the plant also has many problems associated with its planting, harvesting, and distribution. Much like rice, potatoes are not cost effective in the amount of labor needed to produce, although unlike rice which requires watershed lowlands, potatoes require far more tolerant land resources than corn.

Most people do not realize that corn has become more than something you pop in a microwave oven or gobble down on the ear during the summer months. “Edible corn for humans, whether fresh, canned, frozen or in the form of cornmeal, makes up less than one percent of the American corn market, a tiny amount that nonetheless adds up to about three pounds of corn per person per day.” In the United States alone, corn is grown on more than eighty million acres of land with yields of 384 million tons yearly. Most of that corn is neither popcorn nor sweet corn, but a variety called dent corn (the name derived from the dimple on the tuft of the corn kernel). Dent is also known as field corn or deer corn. The plant in America is used in the production of plastics, from which innumerable products can be fashioned, such as plastic bottles, paper plates, and utensils. The plant’s harvest is also used in the manufacturing of corn syrup, a sweetener that can be found in bread, cereals, pasta, soda pop, ketchup, juices mayonnaise, and thousands of other supermarket items. Finally, corn has been used to make ethanol, and in the last twenty years the production of that kind of alcohol has accelerated as car manufacturers have converted automobiles from using gasoline and diesel fuel to new bio-fuels.

When the Spaniards came to the New World they were in search of gold to fill the coffers of their kingdom back home. Unbeknownst to them, time after time, these conquerors stared blankly at the true gold of the New World, and it wasn’t that of the lustrous metal that the Incans used to lavish on their buildings, but the simple plant in the common man’s backyard. “The wealth generated by plants probably has increased at a rate and in a more sustained fashion than any other American resource. In any given year – 1980, for example – the annual value of American crops, was on the order of 200 billion dollars, probably is higher than the total value of all the precious metals exported to the Iberian colonies over the course of the entire colonial period.” Often the conquerors were so close to discovering that beyond the gold ingots and silver bars, the metal would pale against the incredible power of the corn in later centuries. Instead of the gold fever that existed at the time, they should have monopolized the plant rather than precious metals.

Corn made its transoceanic move in the latter half of the 15th Century CE, but the plant was not thought of as a spoil or treasure by the Spaniards at first. It was not until Peter Martyr d’Anghiera wrote, “Affixed by nature in a wondrous manner and in form and size like garden peas, white when young,” that we heard the first mention of corn. Although Peter’s work was not published until 1511 in a book called ‘De Orbe Nova’, the word mahiz was being used excitedly throughout the old world by this time.

Another account of corn being discovered by the Spaniards, written by Juan De Cardenas, was in an abridgment of an encounter on November 6th 1492 when Columbus decided to gather a small party of explorers to search the interior of lands he thought was China. When the soldiers returned, they did not talk about large Asian cities or courts of royalty, but rather brought back baskets full of golden grain as if they were coins, called maize.

We repeatedly see how Spanish explorers took maize as payment for tribute from indigenous peoples of Central and South America, such as in 1519 when Hernando Cortes confronted the Aztecs and they were given thousands of bushels of corn along with gold and silver bars. Again, we see in 1531 when DeSoto confronted the Incans, he was given 5000 bushels of maize as tribute. Even as late as 1650, when by now the Spanish pushed into the American Midwest and the lower extremities of Canada, maize continued to show up as both a food and a bargaining tool (currency). However, even though it is obvious that the people of the New World thought corn was a hard currency, the Spaniards often would dispose of it as they did with the 5000 bushels of maize given to them by the Incans, for gold and silver metal.

It took less than forty years after its discovery in the New World for corn to make its way to tropical Africa, for which the exact date is lost because the Portuguese who brought it over did not refer to it by any given name. Corn became the common man’s currency in the escalating colonial Africa. The plant had become a commodity and a dietary mainstay, something few agricultural products possessed with such flexibility. Wherever the sixteenth century Portuguese landed their ships, corn spread. By 1517, it was grown principally around the slave-trade ports of the west in order to supply cheap fodder for the slaves during their transport and as a method of payment for trading with interior indigenous people for goods and services.

Corn quickly became the primary dietary caloric consumption in African. By the latter half of the twentieth century, corn had spread to every corner of continent, save for the very wet and very dry localities. Without any surprise the countries that consumed the highest amounts of corn are also the countries with the smallest percentages of hunger, disease, and political instability.

Africa is a diverse continent with equally rich, robust economies. One of the continuing issues with Africa, even from the start of European involvement in the early 16th and 17th Century CE to the present, is the scarcity of food resources. Most of the rural economies have struggled with water and food, with the latter often being traded as a cash commodity as more advance cultures use currency to pay debt.

For the most part livestock and fishing make up very little in the excess food stocks, with almost 80 percent of tropical Africa having less than a single head of cattle per capital. Even though goat populations are relatively larger, they still rank less than .5 per capita. With less reliable data on fishing, no direct correlation can be made suffice to say that other than in local communities along the Atlantic and Indian oceans, food from the sea make up very little of the excess food stores. The two largest commodities, traded both among internal economies and also the broader world economies, are manioc (a starchy tuber also called yucca or cassava) and corn. Yields from 1957 and 1958 show more than 70,000 metric tons of manioc and almost 60,000 tons of corn were traded. There appears to be five principle categories of food in Africa, used as a delicacy, insurance against famine, secondary staple, primary staple, and as production for cash crops. In each of these categories various foods rank higher or lower, but in almost every African nation, corn is at the top of the list for being used as a cash crop.

Today, Africa still grows corn to feed its population, but also relies on foreign governments to send relief aid often in the form of corn. “Six Southern Africa countries – Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Swaziland – were facing severe food shortages and an estimated 14 million people in the region needed about 4 million metric tons of food aid to meet minimum consumption requirements before the next harvest in April 2003.” Many U.S. companies use corn crops to feed desperate third world countries, with just one company alone producing 130,000 metric tons in 2009 of special corn biscuits to be given to countries in need.

No other place in the world has corn reigned supreme than in the United States. In the burgeoning technocracy of the twenty-first century, corn has become the Holy Grail of genetic manipulation, turning the plant into the building blocks for everything Americans eat and drink; pump into their automobiles as fuel; feed their livestock, chemically change into plastics and cloth; and biologically mutate into fiber for utilization of paper to particle board.

The United States produces nearly 40 percent of the world’s corn and has learned how to genetically alter the plant to such a degree that most people fail to realize that the plant cannot grow in the wild, but must be modified into hybrids each year to create the seeds for the next season’s planting. Each year, corn is created by mating two different corn hybrids to create a new strain of corn; often the result is a new type of corn that is better than either of its parent strains. So, even though the plant is highly dependent on mankind in its reproduction, it earns its next year’s prodigy with its incredible characteristics allowing it to be manufactured into more than three thousand food sources and four hundred non-consumable products.

Dent corn can be modified into a high fructose sugar, cheaper to produce than cane sugar. According to CornSugar [www.CornSugar.com], “sugar is sugar and that high fructose corn syrup is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose.” The website goes on to say that there is not a shred of evidence that these products are different biologically and are just as healthy as foods derived from sugar cane. The commercial use of corn syrup is as a thickener, sweetener, and humectant (the ability for food to stay soft and moist). Suffice to say, corn syrup is used in thousands of foods consumed by Americans.

At present there are more than 400 non-consumption products being engineered from chemically synthesized corn byproducts. Most plastics today are created from limited-recurring resins such as oil. Nature requires 100 million years of fermentation to create oil, but with the recent advancements in corn manufacturing in the United States, engineers hope to cut that down to less than 100 days. The first polymer resin known as polylactic acid or PLA is derived from corn and is a crystalline or amorphous sheet of plastic like material. Although you cannot eat this material, though derived from corn, it is bio-degradable. PLA products are very sensitive to heat so it makes it unusable in cooking ware, engine parts, aircraft panels, or other heat intolerant applications, but can be used as bottles to hold liquids (such as water, soda, juices), plates and utensils (such as given out at fast food restaurants), and medical applications. PLA is just the start to many similar organic chemicals that will be used to formulate new and wondrous plastics.

One of a select few manufacturers to start producing biopolymers (plastic from plants) is a firm called NatureWorks LLC. This company is at the forefront of the new science which can produce plastics that are completely bio-degradable and have very low carbon footprints on the environment. Within the last month the company began producing yogurt cups made of this new material, with a savings of 48 percent of carbon emissions over standard plastic. In the next few years, more corn will be grown to create ethanol than used for the production of food. The history of bio-fuels has been an epic struggle against the cheaper and, at the present, more easily accessible petroleum. If it wasn’t for some short sighted government officials who saw ethanol as a way for moonshiners (illegal corn whiskey manufacturers) to gain legal rights to production of alcohol, we may never have had need for gasoline. As early as 1862, alcohol was being taxed at $2 a gallon, forcing inventors like German engineer Nikolas Otto and American industrialist Henry Ford to re-examine the use of ethanol as a fuel for vehicles – even though Ford had a working prototype of the Model T running completely on ethanol. The use of alcohol as a primary agent in combustion engines was dashed in the early 20th century in America with the passage of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: basically prohibiting the manufacture of all alcohol (even for combustion). Ethanol never recovered from that stroke of the pen, even though the law was repealed years later.

Alcohol is still heavily taxed in the United States and would make its use as combustion still very expensive compared to gasoline. To circumvent the taxation, the alcohol goes through a process called “denaturing” in which the ethanol is subjected to various bittering agents such as benzoates and methanol, making it poisonous to consume. In this form, farmers are not levied tax on the alcohol. With improvements of ethanol production, the US Congress has mandated that production of bio-fuels increase from its present state of 12 billion gallons a year, to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

Today, American farmers grow corn to turn into E10 or E85, which is a mixture of gasoline and ethanol. E10 is 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent alcohol, while E85 is 85 percent alcohol and 15 percent gasoline. E10 can be used in any car today, even those that are not designated to be used for ethanol. The E85 mixture requires special automobiles and is often limited to warmer climates, with the present technology, that do not have extended frigid temperatures. It has been statistically proven that ethanol is better for the environment than carbon based fuel sources (oil), even after considering that most farm equipment still use gas or diesel for the production of the corn.

Beyond the use of the kernels of corn, researchers are now utilizing every facet and part of the corn plant. Recently, corn stalks are being analyzed for its ability to be used for medium density particle boards – used in many applications including framing homes and commercial buildings throughout the world. Analysis of the fibers suggests they have a chemical composition similar to softwood a-cellulose, common in softwood deciduous trees. The advantages, of course, is that it takes less than 120 days to grow a single harvest of corn compared to years, if not decades, for many forests.

As we move into the early part of the twenty-first century, corn is going to increase in its varied uses to feed the planet and become the building blocks for everything from clothing, plastic, fuel, domesticated feed, new construction material, and everyday consumer goods. Vast portions of the planet are still locked in a day-to-day struggle with feeding the inhabitants. In these areas, corn will still be used as a staple, as a form of currency, or as a way to barter for services. As much as corn is intrinsically bound to humanity in its survival, so too will mankind be linked to the ancient tall grass that was born in the lowlands of central Mexico because corn has become more than food, it has weaved itself into every aspect of our global society.

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Sundiata Study

Sundiata:
A Father’s Role is in the Physical Realm,
While the Mother’s Function is that of Metaphysical

The oral traditional story of the Sundiata is more than an epic of an unlikely boy ascending the throne of Mali, but it is a testament to the physical relationship of the father and the mental aspects of the mother, to the family. It is most particularly interesting when we look at Sundiata himself, who was neither very physical and had to rely on his mother’s instincts, that perhaps it is why his story has been carried down through the centuries.

Although children were identified with their mothers, and the society is as a whole was polygamous, it is keenly obvious that a fatherly relationship physically cemented the family and communities together. We learn that mothers, although not provided with great physical strength, had a mental stamina and muscle that could be just as deadly. Sassouma, the first wife of the king, it is suggested could be just as vicious as a man who carried a sword. “She laughed derisively with that fierce laughter which cuts through flesh and penetrates right to the bone” (Sundiata ,19). Throughout the story we find this vindictiveness of a scorned mother can be just as strong as the bow or the sword, in the hands of a hunter. It is the observation that the story was developed to show that a combined physicality and mental state is of premium importance for the continuation of Mali society.

In this written translation of the Sundiata we are introduced to a rather obscure griot named Djeli Mamoudou Kouyate who explains the importance of a paternal legacy, “I derive my knowledge from my father Djeli Kedian, who also got it from his father; history holds no secrets for us”

Within Mali culture, men and women had very precisely defined roles. Men were responsible for much of the heavy lifting, brute work, and hunting. They were the ones who provided the millet used in the meal. They were also responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of the house. And, ultimately, the man of Malinke society was in handling physical relations with other families. Women were responsible for the metaphysical aspects of the family. The mothers were responsible with raising the children and providing the needed instruction of family structure and life. In agrarian families, they were responsible for preparing the sauces – which entailed detailed mental lists of ingredients and recipes. Women of nobility were often political liaisons between families and kingdoms and to some lesser extent were thought of to be sorceresses or witches (xii).
In particular, the mental trust of the female character of Sogolon, Sundiata’s mother, was paramount to his success. Sogolon’s wisdom and intuition is evident throughout the tale, from providing him instruction, teaching him perseverance, shielding him from the wrath of his stepmother, and finally giving him the ambition to seek out the throne. Sogolon is chosen not because of her beauty, for which she is actually ghastly in appearance, but because of her metaphysical qualities, that were seen within the bones thrown by the hunter.

We can see in the chapter Childhood, that the King was quite concerned about his children’s’ affairs and ultimately their well being. Especially, as a king, the father was concerned with his kingdom, but more so of the well being and perseverance of his lame son. And as a father he could be seen just as concerned about his other children, giving Dankaran Touman, a new bow for him to practice hunting. The act of hunting in the Malinke society was principal to the family structure and it was essential that all males learn to hunt with some degree of skill; the use of the bow was also used for war and as paramount as possessing of game and meat, the skill of warfare was just as vital.

As of the paternal nature of the tale we hear in ‘The First Kings of Mali’, “Listen then, Sons of Mali, children of the black people, listen to my word, for I am going to tell you of Sundiata, the father of the Bright Country”, was an indication that the foundation of the strong male paternity. We take lightly these words in our culture, but to other nations this represents a link in a tangible chain from the past to the present, showing that it is the men of society that is the physical connection.

Continuing on we have the griot of the king of Mali say to the father of Sundiata, “I salute you, father; I salute you, King of Nare Meghan” in another clear indication that though he had just become the father of Sundiata that the term was also part of his title in as much as was king. When we hear the word king, it brings forth images of the lion, strength, perseverance, constitution, and endurance; in the same feign, the term father to the Malinke people resonates with those images. Mali men considered themselves robust and often cruel and knew women were beneath them, “Kings will tremble before us as a woman trembles before a man”.

In the story we see that the metaphysical attributes of mothers are her instruments; as it is said, “The more a wife loves and respects her husband and the more she suffers for her child, the more valorous will the child be one day. . . the child is worth no more than the mother is worth.

Within the chapter of ‘the Baobab Leaves’ we are told of Sundiata’s mother’s passing and the great urgency of him to reclaim the lands of his father. Later, we are told of Sundiata confronting the king of Sosso, that he was there to challenge the title. “As for you, you are coming here to re-conquer the kingdom of your father, you are fighting Soumaora,” is a classic structure of lending the physical patriarchy to ruling the kingdom. It bears the essence that the very foundation of the society is held together by the loyalty of the father to son in a physical relationship.

In conclusion, the oral story of Sundiata deals with the continuation of the physical relationships between the father and son, but also the mental relationship of mother and son. Sundiata could not have conquered his rightful kingdom if he did not learn from his father to be physical and commanding or from his mother to be tactful, gracious, and kind.

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What Happened on August 20th?

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AUGUST 3RD

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August 2nd — Anniversaries through History

August 2nd — Anniversaries through History

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July 27th Historical Anniversaires

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