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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in The Echidna Media Organization S.N.A.I.L. Project's LiveJournal:

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    Sunday, June 9th, 2013
    15:21
    So, anyone still out there?

    (9 executed | start a revolution)

    Sunday, November 27th, 2011
    21:42
    Queen ElizaBEEth

       So, I don't mean to alarm you, but sometimes I kill bees. On purpose. And get paid for it. I rain undeserved death upon them like some kind of vengeful old testament god, and then maybe I'll come home and save an individual bee from drowning in my pool.

       Or for example on Friday, I received a call that an irrigation box in a busy parking lot in Tustin was full of bees and had to receive a dose of fire and brimstone.
       After I'd killed several tens of thousands of them outright and reduced their city into a jumbled mess in a five gallon plastic bucket I happened to notice one particular bee a crawling on the ground. This bee, it so happens, was the queen bee (recognizable by the 50% longer abdomen). Something warmed the cockles of my cold clammy coal-like heart, and I took her carefully into my hand and took her with me when I departed (after having veritably salted the earth to ensure life did not continue at her old home).

       I went about the rest of the day with her on my hand. I'd had a previous pet queen bee named Bee-opatra but she only lived about 24 hours in human care. Queens are often shipped about and can live several days in a small cage with a number of worker bee attendants, but I'm curious how long I can keep one alive without the worker attendants.
       The naming convention I've come up with is pet worker bees I name as "honeybee" in other languages (ex: Melissa and Devra), and queen bees I name with bee pun queen names (Poke-ahontas and Beeopatra), so Kori and I decided this one should be named Queen ElizaBEEth. We've tended to shorten that to Elizabee.

       At the end of the day I fed her some honey (via a dab on the end of a finger, which she proceeded to lap up with her bee tongue). In her escape from the apocalypse I was wreaking upon her home she had somehow become completely covered in honey. She had managed to get nearly all of it off by the end of the day except some on her back where she couldn't reach and to which her left wing (or rather her left two wings, since I'm sure you're about to point out that bees by definition have four wings) had become adhered, rendering them useless. Kori brought bee care to a new level by using a droplet of water on the end of a toothpick in conjunction with a tiny corner of a tissue to wash off the remaining honey.
       Elizabee also had a pretty big gash on the side of her abdomen, which I feared would be a likely cause of mortality.

       We also prepared a bowl for her to live in, with two little chunks of the honeycomb from her hive. One of the pieces of comb I washed off (and it therefore retained water in the cells, they are designed such that water surface tension tends to keep water in them from flowing out, and we put some honey in some of its cells. The other comb we didn't wash and it already had some honey in some cells. We also placed some water in the bowl of a plastic spoon (with the handle broken off and removed). It appears she prefers the comb that wasn't washed, and prefers to either hang out on top of it or sometimes crawl under it. When I put my finger in she usually eagerly crawls onto it -- I think probably because it's nice and warm. They like to ideally keep their temperature at 95 degrees (though they can let it drop into the 60s without dying and will do so to save on their fuel bills. Though technically cold blooded they can actually generate heat by de-coupling their wing muscles and vibrating them, but I digress)


    Kori spends some quality time with Elizabee.


       Elizabee has now been away from other bees for nearly 60 hours and appears to be going strong. She looked a little depressed earlier in the afternoon though. Kori thinks she might be bored or lonely without other bee-friends. So I try to take her out and let her crawl around my arm every now and then. We were also curious if she would lay eggs in the cells of the honeycomb provided, but so far she has declined. Her injury may account for her lack of egg laying as it is near her egg-laying bits (I've dissected queens under microscope at Davis and examined their egg-laying bits), though she may also have taken note that she is NOT in a beehive and there are no attendant bees to care for her eggs.
       I think I'd be hard pressed to care for bee eggs myself (they would need to be fed and eventually the cell they were laid in would need to have a wax cap put over it). To that end and as a general next stage of the experiment, I'm thinking about getting some nurse bees from another hive and introducing them into the bee bee-rarium. Worker bees spend their first few days of life doing nursing activities and caring for the queen. Ideally selecting some bees the moment they hatched would be ideal for this but that would be tedious so I might just have to settle for finding some that appear to be doing those duties and corralling them.

       With the introduction of nurse bees it would no longer be a unique "how long can a queen bee survive on direct human care" experiment, but it would still be interesting since I'd still be micromanaging a tiny hive-simulation environment. Such experiments in bee micromanagement should result in greater insights and understandings of what specifically and exactly bees need.

    (start a revolution)

    18:54
    Bourbon County Odyssey
    I am on an epic quest.

    Bourbon County Brand Stout. It neither comes from a county named Bourbon, nor is that the brand (It is a product of Goose Island Brewing Company, Chicago, Il). It is, however a stout. It is thick as tar and black as my heart. Its flavours will overwhelm your senses like the smell of diesel in an engineroom, yet they are smooth and soothing like fresh rain on dirt. Short of Sam Adams' "Utopias"b (which if you can find for less than $200 a bottle I will buy from you immediately) it is the most amazing thing that will happen to your mouth, imo.

       Bourbon County Stout is only distributed in November every year, and even then is hard to find. Currently I'm down to only one bottle of 2007 BCS in my cellar (/pantry), so I'm desperate to stock up on a supply to last me through the next year.

       The search began in Bevmo. After determining that there was nothing where "Goose Island" would fall alphabetically on their craft beer shelf I ask an employee, and politely put up with him looking at the shelf himself as if I couldn't have handled that. Then as he's about to give up I prod him to look on his computer. I inform him the brewery is Goose Island and the distributor is Straub, and he sits there looking lost looking at the computer until another employee happens by, whom he asks who distributes Goose Island, and is told Straub, of course. He then determines that the Bevmo in Irvine has 200 units on order, but doesn't know when they'll come in.

       I call the Bevmo in Irvine and the guy sounds frankly annoyed to be asked such a question. He tells me "probably later today!" and I strongly suspect he just pulled that out of his posterior end.
       When I call back the next day the guy that answers the phone this time says "oh I don't think they've even bottled yet. I presume he hasn't the slightest idea what he's talking about either.

       At the local Total Wine & More they don't seem to know any more, but at least they don't try to bullshit me with fake news about it -- they tell me they don't know anything and maybe if I call back in a week they might.
       Later on I happen to be at the Total Wine in Thousand Oaks doing some other beer shopping but decide to ask what they have from Goose Island. I don't feel like getting into a world of voodoo rumours so I don't mention bourbon county. Even so, this simple inquiry causes two more employees to appear out of thin air, and after some flapping about like chickens they find the one bottle of Goose Island Pepe Nero. As they are departing however, one of them turns with a sly grin and says "no bourbon county here."

       At the local brewing supply store (O'Sheas) I've had better luck. The first time I talked to them they didn't know if they were getting any but the person I talked to at least sounded thoroughly informed of the matter. More recently O'Shea's has announced they will be getting some in "as soon as Straub can gather enough together to put on a pallet for us," and O'Shea's will then apportion it out so no one runs away with all of it (there goes my plan).


    Unrelated Picture of the Day

    And in unrelated news here's a picture I took the other day of the barque Star of India and the ship HMS Surprise (from the Master and Commander movie), taken from the schooner Amazing Grace

    (start a revolution)

    Friday, February 25th, 2011
    07:01
    Peace Corps Disqualification

       Two weeks ago was my co-worker Shane's birthday. To celebrate, several co-workers gathered at a local bar. I got there sometime after I got out of French class at 9pm. We all had a round of shots shortly after I arrived and then I slowly worked on two beers over the course of the next 2.5+ hours, because I was planning on driving home and being responsible, after all. Around 12:30 I departed. A police car was lurking just outside the bar and pulled me over about 30 seconds after my departure.
       I still don't think I had done anything wrong -- I had consumed just under the "one drink per hour" recommendation and well under the threshhold for it to actually effect me. However the officer got my blood alcohol at .09 and arrested me. I proceeded to spend the next fourteen hours learning about the joys of the cold hard concrete benches and barely palatable food of the Orange County Jail.

       Now aside from all the usual expensive and painful side effects of getting arrested for a DUI, there is another one that concerns me even more.

       When I called the Peace Corps to report the development to them,
    my placement officer cheerfully told me I did the right thing by telling them right away and transferred me to the legal eligibility specialist ... who informed me of the the Peace Corps Policy on alcohol related arrests:

    ...any arrests, citations, or other legal incidents related to alcohol or illegal drugs that occur during the application process, including up to the day of departure, will also disqualify an applicant. An applicant who is disqualified for the above reasons may reapply after one year.
    ...
    Applicants charged with or convicted of Public Intoxication, DUI, DWI, or who receive a reduced charge of, or conviction for, Reckless Driving from an initial charge of DUI or DWI, or who have a similar alcohol-related offense in their legal history, are not eligible to have their application considered for Peace Corps service until one year has passed from the date of the offense or conviction, whichever is later. This includes arrests and citations.
    ...
    There are no exceptions to this policy and there is no appeal process.


       My file has been disqualified from consideration.

       I can apply again in a year, but I've already been working on this application for a year. I don't have another year to sit around waiting for it to go through.

       And personally, I think their policy is fairly draconian and irrationally inflexible. If you are arrested for an alcohol related offense, it does not matter if it is dismissed, never charged, or found not guilty, all possible outcomes which legally speaking should render it as if it never happened. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? In this case it does not matter if you're proven innocent, you're still guilty.

       They took the time not to clear me medically until my dentist had double checked and wrote them a letter about a tiny shadow THEIR dental specialist was concerned about on one of my teeth, they sent back for me to go back to my MD three times about specific questions they had. They put my whole file on hold for awhile so I could learn French better. Why can't they extend the same specific attention to waiting to see the outcome of the DUI case? Why should my file be thrown out if I'm never convicted??


       Anyway, well Peace Corps was my plan. Now I need a new plan. At this point the plan is to apply to EVERYTHING all over again. This includes
       (1) back to taking the Foreign Service Exam every time it's available, and also sending out applications to every UN agency and similar international organization I can think of. I'd like to think my degree in International Relations isn't completely useless...
       (2) I've already dusted off my LSAC account to apply to law schools over again. In addition to international law programmes, this time I will also be looking at maritime law programmes
       (3) What is probably the most practical is a job in the apiculture / beekeeping industry. There seem to actually be a lot out there, ranging from seasonal laborers to highly skilled beekeepers wanted to lead beekeeping operations in large operations. With my experience I probably have a decent shot at a pretty decent job on the higher end of these things. In addition to my current experience, my current boss is sending me in April to get certified in queen breeding and artificial insemination, which will be a huge feather in my beekeeping resume hat;
       (4) Another idea I'm very excited about is potentially going to one of the maritime academies. I would come out with a bachelor of science in "marine transportation" and a "third mate unlimited" license, which is the beginning of the ladder to be a captain of the largest of ships. Of the class of 2010 at the California Maritime Academy, 97% were employed in their field three months after graduation, with an average starting salary of $69,000. Sounds a lot more useful than my current apparently-useless degree! Unfortunately it would mean going to school for another four years, which seems kind of silly since I already DID that. But then again apparently 9% of their entering transfer students already have a bachelors degree so I guess I'm not the only one. Anyway I love being at sea, I loved being a watch officer, I love every piece of homework I get for my coastal navigation class (and have yet to make a single mistake on either homework or a test!), so I think I would really love doing this.


       So yeah. In conclusion, my Peace Corps plans a year in the making, completely torpedoes by inaccurate benchmarks of what constitutes intoxication and Peace Corps' own draconian and inflexible policy. I still don't feel I did anything wrong, I was being consciously responsible at the time.

    Totally Unrelated Picture of the Day

    And here's Brigantine The Loofah as seen from the deck of Ketch Hawaiian Chieftain, Jan 1st, 2011

    (4 executed | start a revolution)

    Monday, January 17th, 2011
    19:41
    Sometimes I Write Stories - Devra the Honeybee

       Dorothy walks along a suburban sidewalk in a neighborhood full of lush overhanging trees on a nice sunny day. She carefully avoids tripping over the uneven rises in the concrete caused by roots, while talking on the phone. Her call comes to an end in the shade under a tree. Readjusting her aviator sunglasses she lets out a deep breath as she puts her phone back in her pocket. "Well that phone call went as well as it could have," she thinks to herself, feeling proud that she'd stood her ground on the issue. "But I'm going to need to either find a new roommate or a new place to live" she contemplates with concern, pursing her lips to the side in thought.
       Noticing a buzzing sound she turns a slow three-sixty but doesn't see the source. Then she looks up. Just inches from her head, hanging from a low branch, is a solid mass of bees about the size of a basketball. She lets out a shriek and runs down the street.



       A bee we'll call Devra lifts off from the swarm and strikes out westward, rising at about a 30 degree angle. She continues over the street and between two houses before banking left. She keeps an eye out for predatory birds, which isn't hard since her compound eyes allow her to keep a wide arc around her in focus all at once. She banks sharply right at a particular point a few hundred yards later and descends to alight on the wall of a house just below the roof pitch.



       About 25 days ago she'd first emerged from a brood cell as a new member of her hive of 60,000. She spent her first two days cleaning the hive and helping maintain the temperature in the central part of the beehive where the capped cells containing brood were located. On the third day she started to feel like she needed to help feed the larvae, partially because some of the older nurse bees had moved on to other things.
       After about a week of feeding the larva, however, Devra began to feel she was encountering more than enough nurse bees and not enough work was being done producing wax and building comb, so she began to concentrate on building. Unfortunately Devra found that they had filled up almost all the space in the cavity in the old oak tree in which the hive was located. There wasn't anywhere else to build comb and the hive was starting to feel a bit overcrowded. Sp on day five of this Devra decided it was high time to start constructing peanut shaped "queen cells" to create a new queen to allow bees to split off and create a new colony, and Devra found that her fellow builder-bees were doing the same thing. Once completed, the Queen's attendants would direct her to lay an egg into each queen cell, and simply by virtue of a large queen cell and a steady diet of royal jelly these eggs would grow to be queens rather than workers. After this project Devra rotated into guard duty outside the entrance. After a few days on guard duty, Devra found more bees coming down to do guard duty so she took to the air to become a forager.



       Back in the present, an elderly woman peers out her window at the bee swarm on the branch.
       "Leroy! You need to do something about those hornets out there! They're going to bite someone!" she calls out to her husband in a slightly screechy voice.
       "Okay okay I'll call the po-lice I guess" calls back her husband from their lime green kitchen, where he's reading the newspaper.


       Elsewhere, Devra climbs into the gap between the roof and the wall on the house she's landed on. Inside there is a cavity between the outer wall and the inner drywall. Devra crawls along the sides, taking note of the distance. The area contains about 10 gallons of cubic space -- ideal for a beehive. The area also only has a very small entrance, ideal for defense. Altogether its an excellent beehive location. Already there are about two dozen other scouts from her hive also evaluating the location.



       Two days ago the first new queen had emerged from its chamber. The old queen (whom we'll call Queen Amidala) and about 20,000 of the bees had subsequently left the hive and took flight in a giant cloud of bees. It flew only about 200 yards before settling on a branch overhanging the sidewalk. It settled in a sort of ball shape, with only a few bees in contact with the branch, most of the bees hanging on to those bees or hanging on to bees that were hanging on to those bees, etc. Somewhere in the middle would be Queen Amidala.
       The bees that had been foragers now became scouts and dispersed to find potential nesting sites. The 95% of the swarm that weren't "field bees" yet would sit tight for now. When the scout bees found a good nesting site they'd evaluate it and measure it and then return to the swarm to report their findings. This is communicated through the "waggle dance," as a bee shimmies and twirls, shakes its rump and shimmies some more, to say, perhaps "go west across the street, cross between the tow houses and turn left, turn right after three hundred yards and it'll be the next house on your left, at the roof pitch."
       Outgoing bees then will head out to check out the locations best reported by their predecessors. Eventually all the scouts will be headed to the same location.




       A police car had arrived and the officer is very anxiously putting caution tape around an area enclosing everything within 100 feet of the swarm, as Devra returns. Elsewhere an exterminator is looking up into a tree and informing a homeowner "no ma'am, that is not a swarm of bees, that is a pinecone." He walks back to his car to receive his next call, an emergency bee call from the city. He gets into his truck and turns the ignition.
       Back at the swarm, Devra begins her report: a shimmie, a twirl, shakeshake, shimmie...
       Barely has Devra finished this dance then she realizes there's at least sixty bees present doing the same dance on the surface of the swarm, all indicating the same location. This certainly feels to Devra like enough of a consensus to make a decision about. She decides its time to move things along. Though she's never been involved in swarming before, she knows the next step. She starts trumpeting.
       Almost immediately the piping is taken up by the other scout bees. A bee's flight muscles need to be about 95f in order to fly, and it can take half an hour from "cold" resting temperature to heat up. Upon hearing the piping, all the bees of the swarm decouple their thoracic muscles from their wings and vibrate them to warm them up. The entire swarm begins to buzz.

       The exterminator gets off the freeway a few blocks away. In the back of his truck he has a number of buckets in which he puts the honeycomb he removes from walls. "DO NOT EAT" is emblazoned upon the buckets because he sprays beehives with a pyrethroid gas -- a synthetic version of the natural pesticide "pyrethrum" produced by chrysanthemums. The bees it doesn't kill outright spin on the ground like tops for a minute or two before dying. Any person foolish enough to eat the infected honey should immediately go to the hospital and have their stomach pumped. People still try to eat the honey out of the back of the truck sometimes.

       The surface of the swarm is the last to heat up. As the piping bees feel the outside reach flight temperature they begin racing along the surface with their wings spread out, making sure the temperature is the same all around and everyone is on the same page.

       The exterminator truck rounds the corner and rolls down the street. He comes to stop just outside the yellow police tape. He gets out of his truck, puts on a bee suit and veil, wrapping red duct tape around his ankles to prevent bees from getting into his workboots. Putting on green rubber gloves he pulls a canister with a thin hose attaching it to a nozzle out of the truck and saunters over to the low branch at the centre of the police tape circle, and looks up.
       There's nothing there except a small amount of wax the bees had attached to the branch.

       Across the street to the west, a cloud of bees is just passing between two houses. In front of the cloud, Devra and the other scout bees dart ahead to show the way and then slow down for the cloud to catch up. A small child playing in his backyard stands and stares in awe at the cloud of bees that passes harmlessly around him.
       Arriving at their destination, Devra and the other scout bees land around the entrance and use their wings to fan out a pheromone to help the rest of the swarm find their way in. Within a couple of minutes they're all safely moved into Dorothy's wall.


  • Potential alternate ending: the true story of what might happen if a beekeeper shows up, collects and rehives the bees, including a video in which I get stung in the face.
  • Potential alternate ending: What becomes of one residual bee left behind by the departing swarm -- the true story of Melissa the Honeybee.





    Technical Notes and Fun Facts
       Special thanks to the article "Swarm Intelligence: How Tom Seeley Discovered Ways that Bee Colonies Make Decisions" in the January 2011 issue of American Bee Journal. I don't know about you but I'm just itching to get my hands on Seeley's new book, Honeybee Democracy.


    A swarm.

  • Devra is Hebrew for honeybee.
  • Note the queen does not actually make any decisions, the hive economy is managed successfully by individual bees making individual decisions.
  • Bees really do make a trumpeting noise on occasions such as this, and its audible to the human ear. And adorable.
  • (2 executed | start a revolution)

    Thursday, January 6th, 2011
    14:37
    Email From the Peace Corps Placement Office!
    Kristofer,

    I hope this email finds you well. I'm writing to you from the Peace Corps Placement Office in Washington, DC. We are busy reviewing and evaluating your Peace Corps application ... Please send me an updated resume ... How is your French progressing? ... Attached is a Skills Addendum form for you to please complete ...

    At this time, I also want to let you know that the original program to which you were nominated has been filled. I want to assure you that programs are regularly filled, and applicants regularly reassigned to different groups from which they were nominated. There is nothing you did or did not do that resulted in you not being in this program, only that our programs fill due to many different factors and at different rates. When we further evaluate your file and consider your skills and the needs of Peace Corps countries, we will re-evaluate your nomination for suitability for service within another program, starting as early as April. That being said, the earlier you submit your documents as requested, the easier it is to further evaluate your file.

    This information is not to disappoint or discourage you, but simply to let you know the current situation ...

    Best,
    [name]
    Placement and Assessment Assistant
    [address]
    RPCV Romania 2004-06



    Totally Unrelated Picture of the Day


    ...and here's a picture of a bee.

    (2 executed | start a revolution)

    Wednesday, December 29th, 2010
    18:35
    Pictures!



    Just commandeered my dear mum's laptop for a bit (I'm still computerless) and uploaded the backlog of pictures that have accrued over the past two months or so.

    THE PAST TWO MONTHS IN PICTURES!

    The above link should send you to the "last" page, that way you can see them in order. They feature such exciting adventures as: (1) the withdrawal from Bee Yard G; (2) an AT-AT battling a giant Xylocopa californica; (3) a devil beast that can explode souls with its hideous stare; (4) Moving in to Bee Yard H; (5) a daredevil bee showing off by flying straight up; (6) some plants; (8) someone else's abandoned apiary; (7) various bugs, including a praying mantis, assassin bug, potato bug, and ladybugs; (8) ridiculous shenanigans at work, possibly involving a cardboard spacecraft; (9) cannon training on the schooner Spirit of Dana Point; (10) the second attempt to reach the bees after the big rain storm (the first time we were stopped by a barricade manned by police-- this time we parked by the barricade and went in on foot -- storm damage seen on this adventure; (11) storm damage in various places including massive amounts of debris washed up on the beach; (12) the final successful attempt to get to the beeyard; (13) and other stuff besides!!


    Pictured above, the storm eroded the embankment such that the six foot cliff gobbled up where we used to drive and came within three feet of the corner hive!

    (start a revolution)

    Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
    16:43
    Floods!!

       Yesterday morning I awoke to the tremendous pounding of rain on my window. Normally we don't work on rainy days because there's nothing you can do with bees in the rain, but Dave (my boss) had called me the prior to day telling me not to come in due to rain, but hadn't called me this time, so I dutifully rolled out of bed and got in the car.
       Driving to work, I passed many places where mud had overflowed onto parts of roads, and heard over the radio that main street Laguna Beach, the principal route for Dave to get from there to work, was completely and utterly flooded. You may have seen footage on the evening news of trash cans briskly sailing along at 20 knots. Sure enough, arriving at work, I found no one there. While I called Dave, I strolled over to look through the fence beside the parking lot into the small gully where we keep one beehive. The water level had risen above the level where the beehive had been, no sign of it to be seen. And Dave was pinned at his house between flooded out roads on either side of him. Nevertheless, since I was already there and had missed a number of hours of work while in Tacoma I went in and filed paperwork all day and made sure the buckets catching drips inside didn't overflow.

       Today the rain finally let up enough we could all go into work. The creek beside the beecave had subsided enough that we could see where the hive had been -- no sign of it. I'm assuming they Noah's Arked themselves to somewhere drier.
       Dave and I hopped in the beemobile and galloped off to Bee Yard H where we have about 100 hives dangerously close to a creekbed, while our technicians Ryan and Shane set off in the other direction at a brisk canter to bail out any water that may have accumulated in Dave's boat (apparently two other boats at the marina sank overnight due to clogged scuppers and consequent flooding). Driving through town there was hardly a road that didn't have mud overflows closing lanes in part. We also passed at least one major landside that had transported a large chunk of a hillside into the roadway, as well as collapsed walls and other damage.
       Unfortunately the road leading to the beeyard was closed off by the police. ):

       In our other active bee yard, Bee Yard F, the hives are fortunately on relatively high ground but to get there one has to drive across a creekbed which is without a doubt flooded.

       After returning to headquarters, Dave galloped off again to help his dad move some of his airplanes. Apparently Corona airport is flooding, and he'd already had to move the planes to nearby higher ground at 2am the other night, but needed to move them again.

       Going on the morning coffee run, I found them mopping up water on the floor in there, and later when I was at the bank, I initially assumed half the lobby was closed off due to renovations and then realized, no, it was flood damage.



       Within the last week we've gotten more than the average YEARLY rainfall here (12+ inches, up to 18 in some places in the county).


    Bonus Question!: What are the odds that within a given 100 year period of time you'll get a so-called "100 year flood" ?

    (start a revolution)

    Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
    16:15
    1 out of 3 bites

       So last year a few different scouts from documentary producers inquired of us to potentially interview / film with us for their documentaries. That I recall we didn't end up filming with any of them but I think at least one sent someone to come interview us.

       Whenever they do so we're usually very adamant that we do not wish to be involved in anything which misportrays major honeybee or beekeeping issues, and we are very suspicious (have learned to be after many bad experiences) about just about any documentary makers intentions and/or ability not to get things ass-backwards.

       Typically the incorrect information and utter misportrayel is actually in favour of beekeeping, portrays it as more important than it actually is, and garners more interest in beekeeping and honeybees, but as scientifically minded people who are very involved with educating the public about bees, we deeply resent any incorrect information about bees being proliferated, ESPECIALLY from ostensibly informative "documentaries."

       For example, one thing we constantly come across in news items is that "Einstein said that the human race would collapse if all bees disappeared" or some such crap, as if this is an absolute fact because he said it, whereas in fact he almost certainly did not say that. Apparently newspapers don't check their facts anymore.


       Anyway, one of last year's documentaries has finished production, produced a trailer, and will be screening their film in the nearby town of Laguna Beach here tomorrow. Judging by the trailer it looks like they are flogging the "OMG THE BEES ARE DISAPPEARING, ABOUT TO BE EXTINCT, WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIEEEEEEEE" line to the very fullest extent. I've written about this at length on some other occasions, but basically the bottom line is that this is not at all even a little bit the case. There are more managed colonies in the Northwest now than there were before the onset of Colony Collapse Disorder, for example. And to make a large scale documentary as this appears to do and still think the bees are actually endangered requires one to really be putting their fingers in their ears going "LALALALALALALA" and very pointedly ignoring all the experts and only listening to beekeepers that are either really uninformed or just glad to ham it up and say oh yeah this shit is bananas.

       Additionally, all the press for this documentary mentions front and center that "1 out of 3 bites you eat has been pollinated by honeybees." Another utterly incorrect fact that they apparently didn't bother to fact check.
       There is at least an original quote to this effect though. It was by one "S.E. McGregor," a figure with the federal agricultural commission or something, in 1976. He did say "It appears that perhaps one third of our total diet is dependant, directly or indirectly, upon insect-pollinated plants." However, he did not back this up with any research and I don't think he had any idea it would be taken as the word of god for the next thirty years
       I'll quote directly from noted entomologist Keith Delaplane for more quotes pertaining to this, from this excellent article:

    ...The authors of the FAO analysis concluded that the proportion of global food production attributable to animal pollination ranges from 5% in industrialized nations to 8% in the developing world.
    ...
    One can summarize from this paper that most of the calories that sustain human life derive from non-pollinator-dependent crops. This in no way denigrates the importance of pollination at the local level. One need only imagine the economic fallout of a pollinator crash on the California almond industry or Costa Rican coffee. But is it true, sensu stricto, that human life depends on bee pollination? No.
    ...
    ut there is another mega-trend at work, and that is that global demand for animal-pollinated crops is increasing faster than the demand for non-pollinated staples. The fraction of total production made up of animal-pollinated crops grew from 3.6% in 1961 to 6.1% in 2006, and even these statistics mask a huge jump in the years since 1990[iii]. In other words, more people around Planet Earth want ice cream, blueberry tarts, watermelon, almond chocolate bars, coffee, and yes McDonald’s hamburgers - and the trend shows no sign of slowing. So, to what extent does the quality of human life depend on bee pollination? I would say a lot - if you are fortunate enough to live in an economy where bee-pollinated crops make up a significant fraction of what one considers a “normal” diet.
    ...
    In conclusion, I suggest that what’s at stake here is not something so melodramatic as Einstein’s fictitious and dire warning about the collapse of Homo sapiens. I think bee advocates do their cause a disservice when they stoke the flames of hyperbole and sensationalism. Much better to pose the question as a quality of life issue. To the extent that we value a diverse food supply with minimized trauma to the environments where it is produced, we will place a high value indeed on honey bees and other pollinators.


       Again, if you're interested, I recommend you read the entire article I quoted above.

    (1 executed | start a revolution)

    Friday, November 26th, 2010
    10:51
    The Thanksgiving Spirit!

       "The Pilgrims" arrived in North America in December of 1620. What they found in the area they landed was abandoned Indian villages, some with unburied skeletons of the dead lying among the weeds --due to diseases introduced by earlier settlers,-- and a very hostile reception from those Indians still alive. It would seem the last European to come by (one of John Smith's lieutenants, Thomas Hunt) had decided it would be a jolly undertaking to capture some Indians to sell into slavery in Europe, and had gratuitously killed a number of others.
       Thomas Hunt had intended to sell the Indians for £20 a piece in Spain, but apparently some friars in Europe managed to put a stop to these capers, and one of the indians, known as Squanto, was able to make his way back to North America, ending up at the Pilgrim's Plymouth Colony as a translater.

       In 1621 the Pilgrims celebrated what is regarded as "the first thanksgiving" in North America (there had already been a long tradition both in the New World and Europe for thanks giving feasts though). They somehow convinced some local Indians to attend.

       In 1622 Indians were again invited to a thanksgiving feast*. Their share of the liquor was poisoned and 200 Indians died. A further fifty were finished off by hand.
       Then pumpkin pie was probably eaten, though I doubt they had whipped cream.**

    * Admittedly this occurred in Jamestown, some 600 miles South.

    ** Yeah I looked up the history of whipped cream, sounds like it would need to be colder than they could probably make it in order to whip properly



    I don't usually attend Thanksgiving wearing arms and armour, but then again, I didn't just barely decide not to kill the guests THIS year

       Notwithstanding, I am looking forward to devouring some turkey/stuffing/pumpkin pie until I go into a food coma.

    (start a revolution)

    Friday, August 6th, 2010
    14:02
    The Grounding of the Odyssey

       So once upon a time we were anchored off Sucia Island. By once upon a time I mean the week before last. We had left Lake Union, Seattle, through the locks early that morning and arrived at the island around 1700 that afternoon. Coming in we passed the sea scout tallship Odyssey, -a pretty yawl almost as big as our own vessel- moored up to a mooring buoy in the little bay.
       We dropped our anchor, and after dinner we were allowed two hours or so of shore leave, being ferried to shore in groups of three by the small boat. Random fact about the small boat: the HC's smallboat is named "Pele," which amuses me because it's the name of my parents' cat -- what's more, both the cat and the boat are named after the same Pele, the Hawaiian god of volcanoes and mischief.

       Around 2000 or 2100 the Lady Washington finally caught up to us, having taken a different route that took them through Deception Pass, and having had to anchor for a bit down there to wait for the currents to be right to get through the pass. They rafted up to us (ie moored up to us as if we were a dock) and that night both boats stood an anchor watch. For anchor watch one person was on duty at all times (mine was 0400 to 0500). In addition to being on deck, everyone during their hour was to heave the lead line (6 and a half fathoms), note it in the log, take down the bearings of the same three points and note them in the log, note some other things in the log (est wind speed, direction, etc), check the bilges, etc. I got the hour before sunrise, so I didn't get the sunrise itself but I got the gathering pre-dawn light.

       Again that morning we had two hours or so on shore. The entire island is a state park and it's beautiful with really nice hiking trails. I was very excited by the thought that we'd be anchored off the island or one like it for a week for the then-upcoming youth camp.


       Returning to the rendezvous point around 1100 we see the Odyssey at the far end of the bay leaning over to a very alarming angle, and are informed our pick up is going to be delayed because the small boats are all busy pulling people off the Odyssey.
       It seems the vessel struck a rock as it was attempting to leave the bay. Attempts to motor it off only resulted in frying their transmission or some such. As the tide continued to go out the boat tilted at an ever greater angle until it looked almost on its side.
       Meanwhile our two vessels were full of boyscouts, hanging around nervously discussing how they'd miss their ipods and/or other prized possessions left on the boat, should it sink. For our part, while cheery music blasted from the ship's sound system some of our crewmembers took turns climbing to the lowest yardarm on the Lady and diving in from there, or swinging out into the water from "splashlines" coming down from the forecourse yard. It was basically like a pool party for us all afternoon.


       Meanwhile our engineers and command staff spent most of the afternoon working on mitigating the Odyssey situation. Park rangers had come out in a boat with an oil boom to put around the Odyssey but didn't know how to deploy it so our guys ended up doing that, something for which they'll apparently be paid by the state (much to their surprise)
       Low tide was at 1400, the Odyssey was pretty well sideways at that point. But water didn't come in the hatches at that point and from then on things would get better as the tide came in.
       Around 1700, once it was clear the Odyssey would be okay the Lady Washington departed for Blaine. That evening the Odyssey was able to float free from the rocks and we got her tied securely to the side of our boat (towed "on the hip" as they say), and we weighed anchor and proceeded south to Friday Harbour with the Odyssey in tow.
       Arriving there around 2200 we recognized the schooner Zodiac (picture is of it leaving the area the next morning) anchored in a little bay across from Friday Harbour and radioed them for the assistance of their smallboat. They readily sent it over (a zodiac from zodiac?) and we used our two smallboats to maneuver Odyssey on to the dock.
       For our efforts the Odyssey captain signed a salvage contract with us, awarding us "two cases of ginger beer, a bottle of rum, and merit badges" -- the latter in the form of the unofficial "superhero" merit badge apparently.
       Then we all went to the bar and drank copious amounts (but it wasn't as wild as last time we were there).




    ( More Pictures From These Adventures )

    ( The very very detailed official report )

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    Sunday, July 25th, 2010
    08:52
    Peace Corps!

       So I had an interview with the Peace Corps two weeks ago in Seattle. As many of you already know from my facebook status update, they got back to me last week and the answer is "yes."

       What happens at this stage is if the recruiter likes a candidate they find a specific program to nominate them to (and presumably talks to the program director about whether they want the candidate, because I wasn't told anything about them potentially not wanting me at this point). The recruiter described me as "an almost perfect fit" for this program -- the "almost" being that I don' happen to speak fluent French.
       But she has officially nominated me to a program. The details are a bit vague at this point but I know it's in sub-saharan west Africa, in a French speaking country. It's an agricultural extension program that's doing beekeeping. It may also involve fish farming and tree nursury-ing (which presumably someone will give me training in, since the extent of my agricultural expertise right now is keeping bees in boxes), and depending on the needs of the program could end up not doing beekeeping at all. I'm excited about whatever the adventure has in store.

       Most surprising, it starts in February. Which though seven months away is sooner than I expected.

       In the mean time I'll be receiving a "medical packet," which I believe will have instructions on all kinds of doctor visits I'm going to have to make, and there's going to be a background check on me. In the mean time I've been requested to study French as much as I can and to continue working or volunteering in an agriculture related field.


    Totally Unrelated Picture of the Day


    Lady Washington & Hawaiian Chieftain in Echo Bay, Sucia Island. Mt Baker in the background.

    (4 executed | start a revolution)

    Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
    14:38
    9 of 30 - Experimentation II

       As you know, I am extremely dedicated to scientific inquiry. As such, when last christmas a friend gave me a $60 gift card for Beverages & More, I naturally saw the opportunity for science!

       Specifically, I was going to buy as many of those little bottles of whiskey/whisky/scotch as I could and compare and contrast until I felt I knew something about the subject!


       From what I've been able to put together, Scotch IS better (imo), though I'm still extremely suspicious of their lack of an e in "whisky."


    Whiskeys I noted to be good: (in appx order)
    Glenlivet (single malt scotch)
    Glenfiddich (single malt scotch)
    Kilbeggan (irish whiskey)
    Cutty Sark (blended scotch whisky)
    Jameson (irish whiskey)
    Dewar's (blended scotch whisky)
    Johnnie Walker Black Label (blended scotch whisky)
    Johnnie Walker Red LAbel (blended scotch whisky)


    Whiskeys I can't decide if I like (in no order, because, yeah)
    Chivas Regal (? scotch)
    Macallan (single malt scotch)

    Blegh
    Bushmills (irish whiskey)
    Wild Turkey (bourbon)
    Kessler (american blended whiskey)
    Jim Beam (bourbon)
    Maker's Mark (bourbon)


       Back in college I thought I hated whiskey, but that was because I'd only tried it as shots or "whiskey and coke." Whiskey and coke has always tasted like asphalt to me. The above research was conducted sipping it straight at room temperature.


    Related
    Experimenting with Controlling Substances

    (start a revolution)

    11:38
    8 of 30 - Beekeepers

       Previous to getting into professional beekeeping, if I were to picture a beekeeper, I would have pictured a gentle nature-loving individual lovingly taking care of a few dozen beehives in a picturesque meadow.
       My first impression upon arriving at a "real" commercial bee yard? A vast muddy yard that smelled of diesel and was filled with rows and rows of hundreds of beehives. The head beekeeper was already drunk when we got there because he wasn't expecting us (it was early evening) and a number of farmhands in bee suits were hurriedly checking hives under the watchful eye of a supervisor. I nearly lost my boots in the thick mud as we unloaded our hives (this was a staging area for hives going out to pollination) and the aforementioned head beekeeper cursed a blue streak as he got stung (but didn't bother putting on any protective gear) ... and if I hesitated for a second some profanity might be directed toward me for motivation. I had about 130 stings by the time the night was over. It was not exactly what I expected.

       The thing with beekeeping is that there are two things which most distinguish it from most other career paths. Beekeepers don't have to deal directly with people very much, and beekeepers must basically laugh at pain. These two things ensure that by and large, professional beekeepers are grizzly old men who don't necessarily like working with other people and think getting stung a few dozen times in the face is just another day at work.

       My boss, Dave, is pretty crazy, but I get the impression that's about par for the course. That guy Mike we had working for us for awhile had some interesting stories about his old boss, which make Dave sound mundane in comparison.
       Apparently on one occasion he drove past another bee yard and decided to stop by and check it out. Little did he know the owner of the bee yard happened to be nearby with a shot gun ... received a shot gun blast in the chest (at range, so it didn't like, you know, kill him) before he could escape.
       Sounds a bit crazy, but beehive rustling is actually a serious issue. Just a few months ago there was a news item about a beekeeper killing another while stealing his hives in Australia. Dave once had several hundred hives stolen, only to receive a call months later from a sheriff in Oklahoma saying they'd found beehives with his phone number on them there. They actually make tracking devices you can hide in your hives to guard against this. We don't do that but we do have theft insurance on our hives.

       On another occasion Mike's former boss got bit by a rattlesnake while working the bees. He continued working for another hour or two until he was done before going to the hospital. There he was informed that at this point too much time had passed for the hospital to do anything about it.. BUT because this particular rattlesnake has a venom similar to bee venom, it was barely having an effect on him due to the tolerance he'd built up.

       The beekeeper in Redding we've bought a lot of hives from is semi-retired now because he's lost too many fingers making his own equipment (but note he didn't stop when he'd only lost one or two!). At convention someone mentioned that back when most beekeepers made all their own equipment it wasn't uncommon for half the people at convention to be missing fingers. Now fortunately there are professional woodshops we can order equipment from and keep all our own fingers. We keep our friends at Shastina Mills in business so that Dave can continue to use his middle finger as a critical element of his driving technique.


       So yeah, the world of professional beekeeping is kind of the wild west. Hobbyist beekeeping however does tend to be more along the lines of nature-loving individuals lovingly tending to a handful of hives.

       Upon my return to the muddy pollination yard I started out in, the grizzly beekeeper there was clearly impressed that I was still around after the stinging I got last time. And then thinking back to my lack of sympathy for that guy Mike when he couldn't work through his alleged "forty stings," I start to worry that I'm halfway to becoming a grizzly old beekeeper myself. But at least I finally got my picturesque meadow.



    Seriously I'd like to go camping out there

    (3 executed | start a revolution)

    Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
    22:29
    7 of 30 - Stinging Sensations
    And continuing on my theme of I-don't-actually-have-time-to-write-entries, another one from last year in emo_snal.

       But first, I accidentally left out an important detail about my last entry about the Walmart in Aberdeen -- the Walmart in Aberdeen recently BOUGHT OUR DOCK!! Crew response to this news: "...you mean.. we have nowhere to dock in aberdeen now? .... HOORAY!!"


       And now on to our feature presentation!

    Stinging Sensations

          I spent this evening reading about ants on wikipedia, because I'm a nerd like that. Ants you see are extremely closely related to bees (relatively speaking. they're in the same Order (Hymenoptera)) so I'd been wondering for awhile if they exhibited a number of traits I know bees have.

       It turns out that new queen ants do go on mating flights (yes flights, the queens and male drones are born with wings) just like bees. Then the drones die (just like bees). Unlike bees though then every mated queen ant finds somewhere to start a nest by herself. Digs a hole and starts laying eggs.

       Read up on army ants. Apparently we have them in the United States but no one notices because the species here are smaller and travel in smaller swarms and mostly at night. In Africa "driver ants" can kill people ... but they only travel 20 meters an hour so one can usually escape. There are species of birds that specialize in eating the insects fleeing in front of moving army ant swarms in South America ... and species of insects that specialize in eating the droppings of these birds!

       One thing I didn't know about army ants is many species, particulary the archetypical one have no permanent nest. They make a nightly nest out of the living bodies of their workers!!

       Also: "Members of the species has been observed using their bodies to block potholes in a path between the nest and prey. The ants will each walk to a hole and measure themselves to see if they are a fit for it and if they are, will lie across the hole to allow other members of the colony to cross at higher speed."


       Jack jumper ants (not a type of army ant) in Tazmania have a sting that can be lethal to humans and annually cause more deaths in Tasmania than spiders, snakes, wasps, and sharks combined! (such sauce!!)


       And speaking of stings...
    Schmidt Sting Pain Index (full article)
       This (completely mad?!) scientist named Justin Schmidt apparently made an index of the level of painfulness of 78 species of Hymenoptera. This of course begs the question ... did he purposefully get himself stung by all these insects?!?!
       His reviews read like he's reviewing gourmet food or a fine wine:

    1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.
    1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet & reaching for the light switch.
    1.8 Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.
    2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.
    2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
    2.x Honey bee and European hornet: Like a matchhead that flips off and burns on your skin.
    3.0 Red harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.
    3.0 Paper wasp: Caustic & burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.
    4.0 Tarantula hawk: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.
    4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.


       Now, knowing this, when I later came across a live tarantula hawk I was naturally quite excited. And of course, my immediate thought was "I need to get a picture of this thing on me!!" I quickly used my insect-whispering skills and got her to run up my arm:


    Not the best picture but it at least gives an idea of the wasp's size.

    These things hunt tarantulas, hence the name (for those of you from far and wide, I don't know if everyone knows what a tarantula is, but it's a hairy spider the size of a plate).

    The sting of a tarantula hawk has been further described by Schmidt as having "an immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations." and you'll notice the lovely Shmidt Sting Pain Index referenced above rates it the second most painful insect sting in the world.

    It was running along the ground at the time so I put my hand in front of her and she hopped aboard! Unfortunately she was still moving pretty fast so I only got one kind of blurry picture before she ran all the way up my arm and disappeared behind my neck before taking flight.

    (2 executed | start a revolution)

    Saturday, June 19th, 2010
    16:38
    06 of 30 - A Trip to the Shoreheads
    The following is another entry "from the archives" of the other blog, from last December when I was on the Lady Washington in freezing temperatures in Aberdeen, Washington:


       After morning chores every morning (every morning the entire boat gets cleaned, the deck washed (except when it's below freezing), the brass polished, and the heads cleaned) there's a little lull around 4 bells 10am when you've finished your chore but not started a maintenance project, and some people are still working on their chores. If the remaining chores aren't something one can easily jump in and help them finish (like polishing the brass, plenty to go around without getting in anyone's way), I like to use this opportunity to make my visit to the shore head.

       This usually entailed a nice refreshing walk through crisp morning air for a few hundred yards, at the end of which awaits a gloriously warm and spacious head "restroom" (We always forget they call them restrooms on land, much to the confusion of staff at restaurants and bars when we mistakenly ask for the shorehead). This walk also provides a good opportunity to call one's mother, but I usually wait until the trip back to do that, so I'll, you know, have less on my mind.

       In Aberdeen the nearest shorehead happened to be in the gigantic nearby Walmart. Some shipmates were reluctant to go in there at all, as if it was a unholy cursed place the filth of which they would never be able to cleanse themselves of. Others wisely observed "I'd gladly shit on in walmart!"
       The first time I made the quest for the porcelain alter into Walmart my first shock was how very many people were in there. I hadn't seen that many people altogether --much less in one place-- since I joined the boat three weeks ago! And the people were so.. strange! If you're not familiar with what "people you find in walmart" look like, turn to bad daytime reality court shows and tabloid talk shows (ie Jerry Springer). If you have the good fortune of having no knowledge of this just picture someone who seems to be only culturally attuned to the most obnoxious and wretched trends of modern society.
       Meanwhile of course I probably looked to them like I'd just fallen off a 19th century boat (well they'd be wrong, it was an 18th century boat!). To wit:


       Daisy later went over there dressed more the correct century* (18th that is) --

    (though she was on an official mission to try to drum up people for tours. Not surprisingly, "Wal-mart people" weren't terribly interested. We probably could have sailed in on Colombus' original vessel and they'd have preferred to attend the party at Jack in the Box)

       As I entered the Walmart restroom itself, the faucets trumpeted a greeting of sprayed water as I walked past. Entering the bathroom stall, the toilet flushed indulgently. Then it did so again as I tried to put the wax seat cover on, devouring it.
       After I finished my business I looked for the flush lever but of course there was none. I walked away from it.. nothing. I walk back to it and wave my hand in front of the little motion sensor, nothing. I do a little jig, still nothing. Okay I didn't do a jig but I moved around a bit.
       I have a strong sense of civic responsibility. This includes both the belief that one should educate oneself about and vote in local elections ... and also that one should flush toilets when one leaves. However, in frustration I'm contemplating just leaving it unflushed, when I see a little button next to the sensor.
       [More recently, the toilets in Everett were so over-enthusiastic it would regularly flush about seven times as I tried to do my business, usually including at least two attempts to eat the wax seat cover between the time I put it on the seat and can get my rump onto it!]

       The sink greets me with an enthusiastic spray. I put my hands under it and it obligingly sprays my hands with water ... for about five seconds. A little waving and it goes long enough for me to get the other half of my right hand wet. Mildly inconvenient but in about four spurts I'm able to get my hands entirely wet and move on to the soap dispenser, which thankfully is actually manually operated (how quaint!).
       With hands now covered in soap I place them under the faucet. Nothing. I wave them in front of the faucet. Nothing. I walk away and come back. Nothing. I give it a "ARE YOU SERIOUS?!" look. More waving, more pretending to arrive and place my hands under it, nothing at all. I look for a manual override button like on the toilet but there's none to be found. I'm stuck with hands covered in soap!
       Then I remember there's a drinking fountain outside the restroom. I go out there and wash my hands off, giving a passing employee a dirty look.

    * but the above picture isn't me dressed in period attire, that's just how I dress ;D


    See Also: Using a restroom in Cairo (AKA "the price you pay for that human touch")

    (start a revolution)

    Wednesday, June 16th, 2010
    09:17
    04 of 30 - Isoglucose
    And now another random entry from the archives of the other blog!

       High Fructose Corn Syrup. Good? Bad? Evil? Many people take it as a safe assumption that HFCS is an inferior substance with dubious merits. Somewhere in the background one might hear the HFCS industry protesting that no one can name exactly what is wrong with it. I didn't plan on weighing in on this epic debate today but I got to reading about it (yeah that's what I do in my free time) and thought it would be worth addressing.


    Why We Use It
       Interesting, the use of HFCS as a sugar replacement in the United States has less to do with nutritional value* or even cost of production than it does with international politics.
       As you may have noticed, through such mechanisms as the World Trade Organization, the countries of the world have been eliminating tariffs and quotas on most traded goods. However, agriculture in general has been largely shielded from deregulation, and, for unclear reasons, sugar beet/cane production specifically has been allowed to remain heavily regulated.
       Sugar beets and cane are both tropical plants right? So it follows that Brazil is the largest producer of these. The second largest? Thanks to intense subsidies, quotas and tariffs, The European Union!
       Why is this relevant to this discussion? Because everywhere else in the world sugar is cheaper than HFCS -- ie, sugar IS more efficient to produce. However due to America's own corn subsidies and sugar tariffs, sugar costs on average twice as much in the United States as it does anywhere else in the world. As such, cocoa-cola, pepsi-cola and everyone else uses natural sugar everywhere else in the world.
       More efficient to produce is better for the world because then there's more of everything to go around, so one point for naturally occurring sugar.

    * though it probably helps that it probably won't kill you


    The PR Battle
       Despite popular belief, as far as I can tell research does not support the argument that HFCS is actually bad for you (ref). However, many major companies are switching over to natural sugar due simply to the negative sentiment toward HFCS.

       A quote from this article:

    Even though there is no proof that high-fructose corn syrup is more harmful than sugar, [Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. Chief Operating Officer Ken] Romanzi said the maker of juices and other products "didn't want any negative implication that there was something bad for people in our Ocean Spray products."

    "The problem," Romanzi said, "is that perception is reality in the minds of consumers."


       On the opposite side of things, the PR departments of HFCS producers, such as the company Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), make it sound like the HFCS industry is the innocent victim of unfounded misleading attacks. However, I'd like to point out that it wouldn't even be practical to use HFCS if this industry wasn't so busy lobbying to keep up the sugar tariffs (and believe me they are).


    Scienceyness
       Always distrustful of second-hand reports, I decided to look into the science of the matter myself. As far as I can tell, "natural sugar," ie sugar from sugar beets or sugar cane, ie sucrose, is made up of fructose and glucose bound together as one molecule. High fructose corn syrup is made by, through a convoluted process, turning corn syrup into glucose, and then turning some of it entirely into fructose, and then mixing them together. This is relevant because the human stomach can regulate the breakdown of sucrose during digestion through the use of an enzyme which separates sucrose into its component parts -- but because HFCS is already broken down, the body has less control over its digestion rate.


    In Conclusion
       Anyway, so there you have it. "It" being.. probably still totally unclear. But after looking into it I'm going to go ahead and say that it appears that one can't really say HFCS is worse for you than sugar, health-wise. Flavour-wise, there may be a difference. I know my favourite beverages use real sugar but it might be just that all the OTHER ingredients they use are the best.
       So, sugar versus high fructose corn syrup? I say... use honey. I was going to say that anywaay at least as a joke but this article actually does say in one of its conclusionary paragraphs "as for tabletop sweeteners, the most Earth-friendly options are locally produced organic honey and real maple syrup"


    Bibliography (yes this entry has a bibliography -- in case you wanted to check out the articles yourself, because I know _I_ would always rather cut out as many middlemen as I can for my information)
    Natural Sugar Versus High Fructose Corn Syrup - Chicago Tribune.com
    High-Fructose Corn Syrup: Not So Sweet for the Planet - The Washington Post - (though I don't know if I buy their thesis that HFCS is evil because CORN is evil because of the environmental impact of corn farming)
    A Speculation About Why ADM’s HFCS Business is Booming. - Grist.org - (about how the use of cane sugar for ethanol, through a chain reaction, raises the market price for HFCS. It seems like ethanol use could short-cut this chain of competing substitute goods with the fact that CORN farmers are faced with a choice between making ethanol or making HFCS)
    and of course the wikipedia entries on HFCS & sugar (relevant portion of the latter being comments on subsidies)


    Picture of the Day



    Sunset in Everett

    (several more of this sunset)
    and
    Pictures I put up yesterday (including sunsets in Port Townsend and Edmonds!)

    (5 executed | start a revolution)

    Tuesday, June 15th, 2010
    13:50
    03 of 30 - Getting Stung in the Face - A Practical Guide
    And now for something completely different! A beekeeping related post from the other blog earlier this year!


    Getting Stung in the Facec - A Practical Guide

       So I got stung dozen and a half times in the face the other day at work, but that wasn't even the worst part.


       I was making the rounds at our largest bee yard, where we have some 75 hives on three sides of a large square. Sometimes bees would start buzzing around me in a way that is either a warning or just means they're gearing up for battle, I'm not sure which but I know it's the precursor to trouble. Their buzzing takes a different pitch when they're doing this or in an active attack pattern (same pitch), and it's pretty obvious the bees are flying around ME rather than going about their merry business. When that happens I stand perfectly still. Although they can still tell you're not a statue because they can smell you and are sensitive to specifically the carbon dioxide one exhales, standing perfectly still makes them notice you about 80% less and is usually sufficient to make the concerned bees calm back down.

       With the bees, you're good as long as you're good. I have this suspicion that they can sense when you're afraid or agitated, because people who are not me seem to get stung a lot more than people who are me (for example my boss usually gets himself angry or stressed about one thing or another, and then starts getting stung). But once you get stung once, you're not good. When a bee stings you it releases an alarm pheromone. So now you're marked. You know in war movies where they mark something for an air strike with a smoke grenade billowing out a plume of bright red smoke? Suddenly that's you.
       So I was walking through the hives, sometimes pausing till bees lost interest, then proceeding. And I was good. And then I was not good -- I got a sting. And then another, and another.
       Normally this would be time to walk brisky to the truck and put on a veil, but I look up to find that Dave has driven down to the water spigot down the road a bit to go get water for the bees, and the suits are on the truck. By now they're stinging me faster than I can scrape out the stingers.
       So I walk briskly to the middle of the yard, since the hives are all on the perimeter, and take off my hat. Batting wildly at bees never works and you just look like an idiot and tire yourself out. HOWEVER, when bees become tangled in your hair, they're relatively stuck and one swift bat can take them out. I wear a khaki coloured hat because my hair is dark brown --the colour of bears--, which tends to upset the bees. But once they're already attacking me, it's better to give them get tangled in hair than bounce off a hat to come right back looking for a fleshy spot to harpoon me. So I take off my hat and immediately have half a dozen struggling in my hair. Swat swat swat, one by one they drop dead at my feet and the buzzing around me subsides.

       I then walk to the hives on the opposite side of the yard from where I was and give them the walk through. I do this at a brisk pace, because although these bees aren't looking for something to sting yet, if they catch a whiff of the sting pheromone I'm now thoroughly covered with they'll be right on it. I am able to give these hives the walk through without incident (I'm just giving them a quick inspection that there's traffic in and out the entrance and no ants on the hive or other obvious problem). Dave's still not back so I walk back to where I left off on the other side, hoping if I give it a fast enough walk-by I can accomplish my mission without getting mauled.

       No sooner am I near the hives then they're all up in my face again. And not only that, but a bee crawls IN MY EAR. I quickly walk away again, somewhat very disconcerted by the bee in my ear (this has only happened to me once before, and that briefly). It feels a bit like water in your ear -- if the water were scrambling with six tiny legs and buzzing and liable to sting you. Needless to say it was NOT COOL. If the bee were to sting me it would likely die in there AND the inside of my ear would swell shut or something.
       I make an extra effort not to clench my teeth or make any expression that might constrict the ear canal. I try tilting my head so that side is towards the ground and jumping up and down, like one would to shake water out of one's ear. No luck. I know that bees usually crawl upwards to get out of places so I tilt my head to the other side, so the bee ear side is upwards, which feels a bit counterintuitive, and just pray* that it crawls out. ... fortunately it does. However the memory of the sensation is STILL giving me heeby geebies.

    * and by pray I mean just hope urgently

       I had finished inspecting all the hives, but Dave was still not back and by now there were bees following me trying to sting me on a regular basis (by which I mean succeeding every few seconds), so I walked around at a brisk pace. Running for your life of course works too, but walking at a brisk pace is usually sufficient to keep the bees attacking you from behind, which means they're mostly getting stuck in your hair and not giving you sausagelip. When Dave returned I tried to look nonchalant about it but it was obvious I had dozens of bees flying angrily around my head. He asked if I was okay and I managed a smile and said yeah ... then grabbed a veil.


    Picture of the Day


    One corner of the aforementioned square perimeter of bees

    (start a revolution)

    13:21
    02 of 30 - Underhanded

       Hello from Port Orchard, WA! We only just got here yesterday so I don't know much about this town. Seems to be the typical small seaside town up here though -- one main street with shops on it, a disproportionate number of which are antique shops, four bars, only one coffee shop (and it is more like a well lit plastic table sort of restaurant than a coffee shop). But this coffee shop has free wi fi so I'm going with it.


       Our boat's been very underhanded lately. Err I mean shorthanded ;D. Crew's been down to 9 and for a day 7 .. whereas the normal crew is supposed to be 12 and minimum operating crew is supposed to be 10. Meanwhile every day our partner vessel the Lady Washington seems to get 2 or 3 more crewmembers -- they've been up to 15 or 16 I think.

       Other than the fact that having so few crewmembers means we get fewer days off I really don't mind it. It means more running around to grab lines during sails, but hey that's the fun part! And it's nice having a close knit crew consisting entirely of people who are awesome and get along fantastically. Compare this to when I first got on board, the crew of 13 or so consisted of a number of pairs of people who hated eachother's guts -- it was not a close knit crew at all. And while the Lady doesn't have people that loathe eachother (to my knowledge), I don't think they all click with eachother like ours.

       Day before yesterday we finally got a new crewmember, a Canadian trapeze artist (!?) who has worked on other tallships before, and she seems like she'll fit in alright. Last night our new first mate arrived, he'll be taking over for Jimmy, who'll be taking over as captain, as today is our current captain's last day. So for today I suppose he's our 2nd Mate? And today we have a whopping 11 people.
       The new first mate, JB, has a long history with the organization, and has been captain before with Jimmy as HIS first mate. As the current captain has... at least not clicked socially with the crew I'm confident this new reshuffling will only make the crew dynamic even more awesome.


       We had a very fun hawaiian party for the ship's 22nd birthday last Saturday, and today to celebrate the changeover of captain and three crew birthdays within days of eachother we're going to have another epic party.
       In short, it's been good times.




    Deckhand Brecken and cook Daisy
    This is how we roll. :D

    (1 executed | start a revolution)

    12:08
    01 of 30 - Season VII!

       ::dusts off microphone:: TAP TAP, hello, anyone still here? I think posts here now get read much more via the feed to facebook than here directly, so hello facebook!


       As some of you may recall with dread, traditionally every June I participate in a little something called 30 in 30 wherein one makes 30 updates in 30 days. 30 blog posts that are actually worth reading. I had participated every June since that first fateful June back in 2004. This year would be Season VII, and you may have noticed you haven't noticed me clogging your friendslists and news feeds with posts. The combination of internet frequently being a half mile walk into town and being constantly busy has finally proven too much for me to keep up.
       However, all the original participants might be out but a new generation is keeping the dream alive! The delightful miss whirled and gallant mr hereticxxii seem to be doing a grand old job of it! And if anyone else is doing it please let me know, and/or if you want to do it but this is the first time you've heard of it, keep in mind my first season I started on the 16th of the month (the deadline is always 30 entries by the 30th)

       On any account, I'll try to get as many updates up this month as I can. And as always these days, there's more up at my other blog



    A statue in Edmonds, WA

    Pictures of the latest adventures

    (start a revolution)

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