Saturday, April 23, 2011

I'm Bringing Home A Baby Bumble Bee!

Does anyone remember that song from preschool or kindergarten? The one where a delightfully oblivious child finds a bumble bee and, unable to tear herself from its fluffy cuteness, proceeds to try taking it home to show her mother? If you don't I'll sum it up for you. There's really nothing much more to the song other than the child being stung and undergoing a hideous transformation from harmless, unknowing toddler to vengeful overlord by smashing the insect and finally presenting her mommy with its mangled carcass. It's a learning song, really. It teaches that: 1. Bees can sting, and 2. As cute as baby animals of any species may be, they can easily turn into ruthless killers (or in the bee's case, a kamikaze pilot).

Well, this week offered up some more lessons by way of bee. It all started a year ago when my husband developed a sudden fascination with the insects and honey, and possibly a strong desire to own a Hazmat suit. I would love to say that I have some sort of origins story leading up to the bee venture - one that I can release as a prequel several years after a three part series - alas, that script will be forever lost in the mysteries of life. For now, we'll blame it on the drinking water and the liberal media.

This Thursday the year of bee classes and bee magazine window shopping came to fruition as I, my husband and father-in-law prepared the bee habitat out near the barn in the house up nort'. I'll spare you the details of putting up the electric fence. Suffice it to say that it was up after developing my learning curve with post-hole digging, watching the dog clothesline herself on the wire, and preparing to call the ambulance as my father-in-law tested the electric current by touching the wire with his bare hand.

The bees came out. The suits went on. The dog and I maintained our distance. The boys had ordered two hives worth (i.e. six pounds of crawling, buzzing insects)(i.e. around 1,000 of the little buggers). As they began to smoke the transport cages to calm the bees down, they were talking out the instructions to each other. This was what I heard:

"Bert said you just have to put the hole over the hive and bang on the top to get them all down to the bottom."
"Won't that just make them angry?"
"Maybe. We'll have to see."

It was at this point that I took several steps back and became even more thankful for my zoom lens (The guys only ordered two suits, so I was going commando.). 

The bees really do pour out of those boxes. Some fly off right away. Others aim for the hive, while some just sort of flop around. They can't really see white. So they're even more baffled by the giant voids of nothingness moving around and hitting them with smoke. Once the drones and scouts were in, the guys brought out the queens in their specialized thrones - really small boxes corked with marshmallows. The other hive members will eat their way through the marshmallows in about 3-4 days. Apparently this gives them time to get used the queen's scent, although I'm personally thinking that it allows the queen a break before she becomes the royal baby machine.

And so, the bees in their new homes and the boys taking off their bee-poop covered digs (Yes, poop. There was a lot. And it's yellow.), I retired to the wonderful safety of the house where I started getting photos of the finches at the feeder from inside the kitchen. 

What's that humming sound? Is that my camera? Why is it making angry noises at me? I don't have the button pushed down too - OW! What the!? No. Fucking. Way.

I learned my last lessons for the day: 1. You're never safe from bees., and 2. Bee stingers should be flicked off with a hand or credit card, and never be plucked out, as it causes the venom sack to release.

But lessons learned, I also found my own side of child wrath: taking pleasure that not only was the bee dead, but that its last futile though was, "PROTECT THE HIVE!" Heh, heh. Stupid bee. ...Ow.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bikes: 3.5, Sarah Palin: 0

I may lose followers for this, but I'm going to come out and say it: I absolutely loathe the Tea Party. Well, perhaps loathe is a strong word. I'm not about to go protesting my neighbors' right to join them. However, I will seriously question their mental stability for doing so.

Sarah Palin and Co. descended on Madison's capitol square today. I wasn't there to catch the main action as I had more important things on my mind: beef jerky. This morning was the first farmer's market of the year. Not the best weather for it, but I did manage to get in my jerky and melted cheese fix while my heart made one last attempt to leap out my rip cage to safety. In retrospect, it's probably a good thing I didn't stay for Palin. I would have been the one choking between chortles and gasps of disbelief. The woman actually said, 

"[the Democrats] are going to win the future by investing more of your hard-earned money into cockamamie, hair-brained ideas like more solar shingles, more really fast trains...". 

GODS NO! NOT SOLAR ENERGY! Quick! Someone go buy a bunch of aerosol cans from Walmart to even out the effects! For this reason alone (but also many others I have no time to add up) Palin scored zero points on my list of things that help the world.

Rather than lose brain cells to the crowd, I spent the rest of my morning at the local green festival where I feel like checking out the bike innovations was a much better use of my time. Hey. A local Wiccan's gotta do her part to support the demonic hoards of solar power backers. :)
The Green Fair is an annual event put on by the local newspaper. It costs $5 admission, but the paper makes a point to provide attendees with easy ways to get in for free. It was freezing, windy, rainy and snowy outside, so I skipped the bike ride into town and instead got my free pass for donating a pair of my boots to the Goodwill.

This was the first bicycle invention I came across - the E-Moto. It's a line of bikes powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries. I have no idea if that combination of minerals is good or not. What I do know is that you can kick the battery into gear when you hit a hill. That way you don't have to grunt as much. You charge the batteries by plugging them into a regular outlet. Kind of cool. The company brags that it's zero emissions, but then again, a regular bike does that even better. I think this might be better marketed to folks living in San Francisco. I gave .5 points to them even so.

Moving on, I came to the next bike invention: the bike-mounted blender. Made by Dream Bikes, an organization that refits old bikes to give to low-income families with kids, the bike blender looks like it's meant to show off engineering prowess more than anything. But you know what? It makes a heck of a good strawberry and blueberry smoothie, it promotes exercise while decreasing electricity use, and it encourages teamwork, as it took three girls to operate it (the pedaler, one to steady the pedaler, and one to guard the smoothie process). I gave it one point - if only because you get a smoothie you feel like you worked for.

Finally, the coolest bike-ovation (Yay! I made up words! That one was kind of on the advertising spectrum of word creation. I feel kind of low now.), the bike water pump. Working Bikes is a national non-profit that runs bike drives all over the U.S. The donated bikes are taken apart, redesigned into more complex machines and given to villages in Africa, Latin American & South America. This set up is a smaller version of their water pump system (pedaling the bike pumps the water out of the barrel and into the tub below). Many of the bikes from WB go to making moving water easier for small villages that may not have easy access to water. Others are refitted into small taxi cabs, grocery haulers, and even electric generators. Here's a very multi-faceted one from an engineer in Guatemala. I definitely scored this one highest on the list with 2 points. Also, I don't know when I would use it, but I want one. I looked around to see if there was a chance for me to win one, and alas, no. So I quickly dashed back to the other side of the exhibition hall to console myself with another bike smoothie. ...Okay, .2 more points for the smoothie crew.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Oh, To Be Young Again...

When I was twelve I used to stand on one of those large, military green electric boxes in a front yard next to my bus stop. I would do front flips off of it with my friends until the bus came, or until our leg muscles began to give way and we had to zombie crawl up the bus steps to our seats.

It seems that if I were dead set on becoming a gymnast, I should have decided then. At twenty-six it seems that my only physical claim to fame is being able to do a fake back bend by turning my toes out and making my thighs do all the work. Well, that and I can wiggle my ears one at a time. Both of these pale in comparison to the death-defying feats performed by the gymnastics team I invited to come teach the kids this Monday. The girl above couldn't have been older than 15, and she did this without breaking a sweat, batting an eye, or vomiting up her own intestines. 

Even our kids, who had no gymnastics training whatsoever, were leaping around the equipment. While I could make the common comparison of monkeys swinging from limb to limb, that only covers the kids who performed a series of flips for the talent show last week. I choose to instead compare the scene in the gym to an entire colony of zoo monkeys surrounded by a smattering of trainers trying to achieve various levels of order. Some of the monkeys were obviously at the top of the pecking order, while the non-dominant ones seemed to resign themselves to watching, and meek attempts at headstands. Meanwhile the beta males were showing off their own prowess (to whom I'm not exactly sure) by hurling themselves at the floor with a flurry of limbs in a vain attempt to garner attention. ...They mostly just got hurt a lot.
But monkey havoc or not, I miss having that magickal flexibility that can only come with a complete lack of concern about bodily harm. I suppose that by twenty-six, you learn that falling can hurt. And after being married to a roller derby ref for almost four years, you learn that there are so many painful ways to fall. Between snapping photos I was bold enough to give my camera to one of our 6th graders, and she was kind enough to catch my own slightly difficult, if not death-defying, feat.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I Got Toys

The following is an explanation:

One day the Blue Faerie was walking through a field just outside of Madison. She pranced by some cows, and some protesters. She strolled right past her family, not to mention a giant, hulking bellydancing monster licking its lips and jingling as she passed. She even skipped Little Bunny Foo Foo who was scooping up field mice and bopping them on the heads (Him, she only really paid attention to when her mind reverted back to songs from preschool.).

All of the mundane. All of the stress and pain. All of these sleepless nights that these things caused (Well, excluding the cows perhaps. When the wind wasn't carrying their farts into the downtown.). And even the one sleepless night when it all came crashing down at 12:30AM when she realized that Elroy the hamster had either been murdered by his cage mate, or died of natural causes (Either way, Elroy's face was missing.). All of this she left behind for her new toy...

Oh, and also she left behind the fact that the hafla a few weeks ago was not thought of as confusing by all, but only by her. Apparently not paying attention to Facebook announcements actually isn't a good thing. ...The Blue Faerie should really get the heck off Facebook.

An Interjection:
I know that material items can't make my life completely and ultimately fulfilling. But damn it, they sure can make it easier to ignore your problems! I've been taking this thing everywhere I go and I love it! Just by putting it on automatic my photos have so much better quality. I went to the Como Zoo on Saturday and went a bit nuts in the herpetarium. Hence, our little poison dart pal above, and the another thing that could kill you below.

Ah, but the new toy wasn't the only thing that helped the Blue Faerie go completely oblivious to her own life. She had also recently watched the movie, "How to Start Your Own Country" with her coworker. After declaring her desk its very own nation, and waging war on the United Peoples of Americorpsia's deskland for over a week, the Blue Faerie made the strategic decision to blend the awesomeness of her new toy with the creative prowess of her office mate. A new battle was soon waged on the other Americorp's desk in the valorous attempt to increase the office bagel supply...

The past week's events may not have been a solution to her issues, but they have been a much needed mental vacation. Perhaps next week the Blue Faerie will go Goodwill shopping to prolong this period of hilarity. Oh, also, the Blue Faerie has lost eleven pounds. So that's something else she passed up in the field. Woot! :) 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Eaten by Bellydance

Every time I sit down at my computer lately I think about entering a post. I usually get as far as clicking on the Firefox icon before I succumb to checking my email and realizing that my inbox is jam-packed full of dance mail. I calculated this week's total time spent dancing or dealing with dance-related issues and come up with a nice, round eight hours. In fact, I think I've had one day this week when I haven't been dancing. It was the one day I could have spent posting, but I instead spent it spacing out and watching "Death Becomes Her" online. ...This led to further brain cell deterioration, so any post I would have made would have sounded something like this:

Cooking! And stuff! I like stuff. That's a funny, word...stuuufff... Ooh! I should Google that and see what comes up!

I just did. It was some teaching website and Maxim. Interesting combination... But at least there have been some things to break the chaos of choreographing and classes - kids. 

I love teaching little kids. They're at that age where they are curious about almost everything. They want to know all there is to know, do everything there is to do, and haven't a clue about the concept of apathy yet. Plus, the concept of, "Check it out! I'm older than you and I'm holding a shiny thing!" still works on them.

My buddy and I taught a group of kids ranging from pre-k to about 3rd grade this past Monday. One little girl saw all the scarves and toys we were laying out and was drawn to the table like, well, like a little girl to shiny things. If it were up to her, I think she would have gone lumbering out of the school with everything we had tied, Velcro-ed, and strategically balanced onto her tiny little body. Meanwhile, when we finally got the rest of the group and asked if they'd like to learn some bellydance (You know. Not in that actually asking way, but in the way that says I'm-the-guest-speaker-here-kid-and-you-will-learn-bellydance-and-have-fun-damn-it.) three of the older boys declared their intent to not learn bellydance. "We want to learn karate!" This of course, meant that for the rest of the time I reserved the right to call them "the three ninjas" and to balance my sword on their heads.

That was the one day bellydance was eaten up by the kids and wasn't attempting to eat me. Tomorrow I have four straight hours of practice and critiques, so the cycle continues.

In the midst of everything else going on, one of my very good friends is getting married next month, and is suffering every craptastrophy that can occur in the planning of a wedding. As a way to cheer her up, I have added some comments to the RSVP card...