Is “Sting” A Klingon Word?

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I started keeping beehives in our back yard last summer. I began with two, thinking if I had problems with one, the other would act as a backup. Since I am a Star Trek nerd I named them after the two planets of the Romulan homeworld — Romulus and Remus — simply because I thought it would be fun. Beekeepers often number their hives to track production. Who’s to say I couldn’t replace numbers with Star Trek planets? Besides, if anyone didn’t get it, I’d just tell them they were named after the mythical founders of Rome. Perhaps not much less nerdy, but probably more recognizable.

I had access to a respected local veteran beekeeper as a mentor. I’ll call him “Master Jack”. He’s been beekeeping since 1953 and was willing to answer any of my questions by phone and would often make stops by my house to see how things were going. I felt with Master Jack’s help I would be okay. And I wasn’t wrong. Each hive grew strong and gave me ample opportunities to learn to inspect hives, light my smoker, and harvest honey. Between the two hives we harvested 60 pounds of that sweet treat. And I only got stung three times the entire summer. I thought I was doing pretty good.

Unfortunately, due to the long and bitter cold, neither of my colonies survived the recent winter, so I had to buy new bees. My local bee-supplier makes a couple of runs to Georgia about this time every year to restock needy beekeepers in my area. I decided to double the number of hives I kept this year to a total of four. I figured that would at least double my honey harvest if not more since all four hives would start out with frames that already had wax and honey in them (left over from the winter).

Well, this last Saturday was the day to pick up the bees. My wife and I installed them the same evening, fearing the next few days were going to be windy with rain per the weather report.

packages

We got the packages back home and into their respective hives without a hitch. My wife wanted to take a more active role with the hives this year, so we got her some protective clothing, a hive tool, and she went at the whole process like she was born to it. It was going to be a good year. I could just feel it. Granted, now there was no way I could blame naming the hives on the founders of Rome because the two additional hives were clearly Star Trek nerd-motivated. Whether it is more appropriate to call us Trekkers or Trekkies is of little consequence. We are inventing our own thing — beetrekking! We now have Vulcan and Kronos hives (yes, I also spelled it “Qo’noS” for you folks who count yourselves part of the orthodoxy).

thehives2014

My optimism took a slight dip yesterday when my wife and I got into the hives to put in some syrup feeders and remove the package boxes. Everything ran smoothly at first. We pulled all the package boxes out, put in the jar of sugar syrup, and closed them up.

Until my wife messed everything up by saying “they seem to be clogging up at the entrance. Should we adjust the entrance reducers?”

For non-beekeepers, an entrance reducer is just a piece of wood that accommodates a couple of small cut spaces in it. It is placed in the entrance of a hive to limit accessibility primarily when it is just starting or during the winter. Reducing accessibility to the hive makes it easier for the bees to defend against marauders (wasps, bees from other hives, etc.) Last year I kept the reducers on the small space for a week or two, rotated it to the medium space for a couple of days, then removed the reducer altogether, giving free-range to the forager bees to enter and leave effectively.

I should have called Master Jack to see if rotating the reducer to the medium space and accommodate bottlenecking was an appropriate decision this early in the game. Instead, I tried to show off in front of my wife by making the decision on my own. That’ll learn me.

I rotated the reducer on Romulus. No problem. Remus. No problem. But if any of you know anything about Klingon’s it should come to no surprise that as soon as I rotated the reducer on Kronos (the Klingon homeworld, duh) I got stung on the tip of my finger.

“Son of a BITCH!” I hissed, which is my code for “I just got stung”.

“Are you okay?” my wife asked sincerely.

“Might as well get the first sting out of the way early in the season,” I feigned confidence with a bold declaration as I scraped the stinger away. I then asked my wife to finish rotating the reducer on the last hive, Vulcan, thinking that the alarm pheromone of the first sting may earn me another.

When she was done, we started packing up our bee tools into our tool box. I folded my wife’s gloves after she handed them to me and placed them in the toolbox, pushing them down to fit.

“Son of a BITCH!” I yelled this time. I had accidentally left the box open during our hive chore and at least one bee had gotten into it. Sting #2 — palm of the hand.

“Unbelievable,” I shook my head, disgusted in my own amateur mistakes. “Let’s get out of here.” I took my protective jacket off and handed it to my wife who was offering to take it.

I wanted to get a photo of the hives because I planned on using it for a blog about getting stung twice in one day. I stood well back from them, not wanting to give them a reason to defend and snapped the picture. That’s when she head-butted me.

Not my wife. The third bee.

Honeybee’s die after they sting, so they will usually give you a little head-butt to let you know they are thinking about stinging you. It’s a way for them to tell you to go away before they have to sacrifice their lives. Usually, just walking briskly away from the hive will satisfy them to leave you alone. Well, not this one. She was committed. I walked away from the hives and across the yard. She followed, buzzing around my head and head-butting me. I walked further. She kept following. I could tell by her buzz, there was no distance I could walk that would convince her I was harmless. I plugged my nose, clenched my eyes and waited for the heat.

“Son of a BITCH!” I yelled. Right on the eyebrow. And since I don’t have a code for “I just got stung a third time” I went ahead and threw in a couple of other fancy expletives I would never say in front of my aging mother.

So, last year I get three stings all season. The first day of this year, I get three in one shot.

I’m sure there was something I was doing to cause it, but I can’t help suspecting it might also be that we named one of the hives after the Klingon homeworld. One was definitely from that hive and I would not be surprised if the other two were from there as well. Klingons are notorious for their aggressive behavior and warlike demeanor. And now I have three stings to prove it.

Stupid Klingons.

But they say if you can’t beat them; join them. I just can’t decide which one-eyed Klingon I should be — Martok, General Chang, or that commandant from the penal colony on Rura Penthe.

That one’s for you to decide, Trek fans.

eye sting

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American Flag T-shirt Case: It’s Not About Patriotism. It’s About Kids Being A-holes To Each Other

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I thought I’d write this article and get a head start on neutralizing what I anticipate will be a social media outrage-fest concerning the recent decision out of California’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. It’s a decision many people will see as a violation of a person’s protected Constitutional rights, with a percentage of those people saving time by just describing it as a decision that’s downright un-American. The truth is, yes, it’s a decision that violates Constitutional rights, but only in a legal way that is as American as the American flag itself.

If you are unfamiliar with this case, I’ll try to give you a quick summary.

Back in 2009, Live Oak High School (just south of San Jose, CA) was having a school-sanctioned Cinco de Mayo celebration. For whatever reason, a group of predominantly caucasian students created a makeshift American flag and started chanting “USA! USA!”. This escalated into an altercation between the two groups. In 2010, on the day of that year’s Cinco De Mayo celebration, again for whatever reason, a number of non-hispanic students wore American flag t-shirts. These students were asked by the school administration to either turn the shirts inside out or not attend the celebration with the assurance of that option having no negative impact on their official school attendance. The school cited the previous year’s altercations as partial reasons for the request, as well as additional events that had already occurred that morning that led them to believe a replay of the previous year problems might be brewing. The “t-shirt” students complied with the school’s wishes one way or the other, but this led to a lawsuit against the school district (Morgan Hill) filed by some of those students and their parents (as guardians), claiming the school had violated those students’ civil rights. The original court found in favor of the school district and the families appealed. On February 27th, 2014, the court of appeals upheld the original decision in favor of the school district.

Okay, those of you who like to swim in the shallow end of an issue and want to live in a world where it is more fun to be outraged than it is to be rational and reasonable — you folks can go ahead and start gnashing your teeth, stomping your feet, and posting “this is the death of American patriotism” on the subject lines of your facebook shares. The rest of you should hang out for a few minutes.

The problem with stories like this is that they trigger the erroneous belief that we U.S. citizens enjoy absolute protection when it comes to our Constitutional rights. Well, we don’t. The government can, and does, legally violate our Constitutional rights when in its best interest to do so. In fact, they do it quite often. They just need the right reason. Really important protections, like freedom of speech and freedom of religion, demand really important and highly specified reasons to violate them. Less important protections require…well, not so much. In any particular lawsuit, the courts use different standards of judicial review to help them decide if the government had the appropriate reason to violate the particular right under dispute. In a case dealing with political expression (American flag t-shirt), the highest standard of strict scrutiny is used. This means the government has to show a compelling interest for their actions, that those actions must have been narrowly-tailored to achieve that interest, and that those actions were the least restrictive ones available.

I would be very interested to hear any valid rationale that supports a disagreement with the court’s precedent of student safety being a compelling interest for our school system. But as a father who had children in the public school system not too long ago, I should warn you that it would have to be really, really, really valid to get me to flip to your side on that one. So, until then, let’s just agree that school safety meets the compelling requirement. And with the background information of the previous year’s problems and the events of the morning at issue, it is not difficult to see how the court would find the school’s fear of student safety as reasonable. Finally, how would any of us go about trying to keep the students safe at that point? Would you cancel the Cinco de Mayo celebration completely? No, that would be too broad and over-reaching. It would impact too many students who weren’t even part of the issue. Would you just forget about it, let the students wear the shirts, and possibly have a riot on your hands? If so, I could almost guarantee you there would be a different lawsuit now that would be claiming the school failed to uphold its obligation to keep the students safe. No, the school did the right thing by asking only the students with the t-shirts to do anything different that day. And the court agreed.

Like it or not, there is no injustice here, no travesty that deserves outrage. If anything, it deserves a round of applause because the American judicial system is working quite well in this case given the laws of the day. If this case is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, I doubt that the highest court in our land would even accept it for review. This case just doesn’t have what it takes to push the envelope of controversy for the SCOTUS to devote the time to it.

What it does have, however, is a bunch of high school students who are probably surprised that being assholes to each other can grow into something that takes up so much time and money and attention. I guess it would be too late for any of them to admit this whole thing began far from the halls of patriotism where we think of lofty expressions of national pride, but rather from the halls of high school where it is it more common to think of how best to get under a rivals skin.

My Cry-meter Predicts 12 Years a Slave Will Win Best Picture

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With only a couple of days until the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces winners for the 86th Academy Awards, I was able to finally view the last of of the Best Picture nominees on my checklist and solidify my own predictions before those pesky envelopes are opened and all doubt is removed that I am not clairvoyant.

Most would agree that 2013 was one of the best years for quality films and performances ever, and it is reasonable to argue that many of nominees would have been shoo-ins for their respective categories had it been a “normal” award season. That’s why I think it only fair that since the bar has been set so high this year that losing nominees should at least be given little Oscars or their efforts. Statues about half the size would work, I think.

“The following movies/performances automatically get little Oscars because they were so good, but the big Oscar goes to…” sound the drum roll.

But because giving little Oscars is an idea probably too futuristic for today’s Academy, I have to rely on an alternative measure to vote my amateur, inconsequential, and mental ballot. It is a measure I keep for emergencies in case I come across multiple awesome nominees like I did this time around. Though I try to keep this rating measure under the radar due to potential ridicule from my friends and family, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and do the right thing. Yes, this year I had to pull out my cry-meter.

The cry-meter is simple, actually. When I have two or more choices that seem to be weighted rationally and technically the same, I choose in favor of the one that elicited a stronger emotional response from me. Basically, I pick the one that made me cry more. This doesn’t mean the movie has to be sad. I am just as likely to cry when there are any strong emotions coursing through me such as happiness, pride, love, relief, hope, etc.

I guess this would be the point in this article where I remind everyone that real men cry when it’s warranted and only try to quell tears that are naturally trying to get out of them if they are victims of a stunted sense of self-actualization. Coincidentally, I happen to be one of those “stunted” victims who try to hold back the tears until it becomes unbearable and someone actually catches me crying. Only then do I enthusiastically proclaim my liberation from macho stereotypes and participate actively in the “real men cry” side of the argument. Yeah, I’m kind of a hypocrite that way.

Anyway, this year has required I utilize the cry-meter because I have found all nine nominees worthy of the Best Picture award at some level and at least seven of those nominees in a dead heat coming up to the finish (I automatically discarded Nebraska and Philomena because, though I liked them, I don’t think they stand a chance for Best Picture against the other nominees). The Wolf of Wall Street had me laughing, offended, and intrigued all at the same time. It was an amazing carnival ride. American Hustle tickled my nostalgic side and reminded me how skilled actors can transport me to vivid realities while I’m sitting in a dark theatre. And Her shook me awake from my cinematic complacency with its originality and beautiful production design.

But there were only four movies nominated for 2013 that triggered the cry-meter. Gravity got the pipes going right at that moment Sandra Bullock’s character surrenders to the inevitable and expresses her love for her daughter. Dallas Buyers Club saw it rain a couple of times — once during a time of loss and the other during a time of hope, resolve, and appreciation. Captain Phillips even had the waterworks going for me when the good captain was in the naval ship infirmary and obviously in shock. This scene alone should have garnered a Best Actor nomination for Tom Hanks. He was robbed.

But it was 12 Years a Slave that opened the flood gates for me. I don’t think I’ve ever made an emotional connection to a movie like I did with that one. Bold, true, and hard to watch, this is the only movie that may have changed me at some visceral level. I was a different person after it was over. The movie as a whole is intense. It made me angry. It made me sad. It made me happy. It also may contain one of the most evocative scenes ever filmed with nothing more than an extended shot of the main character’s face, his eyes expressing all that is needed for us to witness his dilemma as if it were our own. Awe-inspiring.

Yep, the cry-meter redlined on that movie. Not only did the tears come rolling down, but I had to do everything in my power to hide the sobs rocking my body. It was the only movie I can remember ever going to where the mantra “hold it together, hold it together, hold it together” was scrolling through my mind as the credits were scrolling down the screen.

Of course, I didn’t want my wife to know I was crying that hard, so I told her I was having a heart attack. She didn’t fall for it.

You may have your own thoughts on all this, but my cry-meter is pretty accurate. That’s why I will be very surprised if this coming Sunday we don’t hear “And the Best Piciture big Oscar goes to 12 Years a Slave“.

An Open Call For Conspirators

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I am actively recruiting conspirators to take part in a plan to save the world.

There are no clandestine meetings, no high-risk behaviors, and no financial investments required. No special equipment is needed. No special training or sign-up sheet. You don’t even have to go out of your way at all; you can do it from the convenience of your own normal life. But you must commit to it. It won’t always be easy. At first, the hardest part will probably be just remembering you are even part of the conspiracy. But there may be some danger involved as you go, so don’t take your commitment lightly.

In return, your efforts will eventually be appreciated globally and you will be an active participant in the betterment of humankind. Sound good?

To be an official conspirator, you only need to do the following things:

1) Consider how you can help others before considering how you can help yourself.
2) Understand that all of us are in this big mess together.
3) Don’t let injustice happen without a fight.

As I mentioned before, there may be some dangerous aspects to this conspiracy. That danger comes from adjusting a couple of your priorities. Mainly, you can no longer allow personal survival to remain your highest priority. Some of us might think this isn’t our highest priority, but some of us would be wrong. Personal survival, at some level — protecting ourselves, our families, our bloodlines, our religions, our careers, our wealth, our entertainments — motivates everything we do. It is self-centered even when it seems like self-sacrifice.

The television show Doomsday Preppers is a good example of this. It’s popular, but I suspect for different reasons than I like it. I enjoy it because I think being self-sufficient and prepared for emergencies is an interesting topic. I’m a big fan of learning how to generate renewable energy, build a house that exists in harmony with nature, and dehydrate different kinds of chili. However, there is a dark side to the show as well — the “defending what is mine” side. Building booby traps, stockpiling weapons, and doing anything in our power to protect what we claim is “ours” may be attractive to many viewers, I’m sure, but that mentality supports an outdated, static, and dead-end life philosophy. If we really want to live in a world of progress, we’re going to have to come up with something else. The planet already has its fair share of people obsessed with looking out for their own interests. Any apocalypse worth preparing for is going to be hard enough without a bunch of these assholes running around making it harder for us. And who wants to live in a post-apocalyptic world populated with hotheads willing to kill other human beings to protect their chickens or treehouses anyway? That doesn’t sound fun at all.

What a real post-apocalyptic world could use, on the other hand, is a population of people trying to make the world better than it was — a population of people motivated by cooperation and looking out for others who might need help. Hell, even if you actually believe in an impending apocalypse, it should comfort you to know that it can be averted by all of us joining the very conspiracy for which I’m recruiting. It seems reasonable to believe civilization would be less susceptible to ruin if we could create an organized philosophical shift that explores interests beyond our own, interests of humankind as a whole, and interests necessary to improve the quality of life for as much life as possible. Not just our own lives. Not just the lives of people we know. Besides, teaching everybody how to develop and implement strategies to help others with their varied needs, seems a much more enjoyable, comprehensive, and effective survival technique when compared to one that focuses on reminding the kids to aim for the kill zones of the stranger walking across your property looking for a glass of water.

I am not asking anyone to get rid of personal survival as a priority completely. I am not asking anyone to be a martyr. That is reckless and stupid. Obviously, the longer we survive, the more opportunities we have to be a part of the conspiracy and save the world. But the simple act of moving our survival priority lower on the list may be just enough to give us that different perspective needed to not only save the world in the long run, but to also save ourselves from being exploited by those non-apocalyptic bullies we run into on any given day.

“You should be happy just to have a job. If you don’t like working here, you can leave.”

“Okay. Good-bye.”

As I said, this adjustment will be the most difficult part. It will take you to a place you’re probably not used to and may result in being criticized and ostracized by every other person not in on the conspiracy. The true secret in this conspiracy of shifting attention from oneself to something more unified with a broader worldview, however, is that it will eventually create a global environment that ends up protecting your individual interests better than you could ever have done on your own.

Once that secret gets out, everyone will want to join up. Until then, it’s just us. Be strong.