39th Annual Beekeeping Field Day

Bees on a frame at the VAA Bendigo Branch's 39th Annual Beekeeping Field

Today we attended the 39th Annual Beekeeping Field Day at the Harcourt Leisure Centre, hosted by the Victorian Apiarist Association’s Bendigo Branch.

Why did we go to such an event I hear you ask, we don’t own any bees, nor do we have any current plans to become bee owners… well, our friend Sue has a beehive she has kind of inherited from a former work friend who moved and had to offload a few of the hives he used to keep in his yard. So now Sue and Lana have a happy little hive sitting in their yard in Brunswick, and inner suburb of Melbourne.

The last couple of times Sue’s friend Arton had come over to help with the honey harvest Sue has felt a little like she was relying on him too much to take care of the bees which are now hers. Further, the last harvest only produced about 1kg of honey, from a hive that should probably be doing 5 times that per harvest, so Sue wanted to find out more about why that might be.

Turns out the low harvest is a very common thing this past season. The apiarists on hand said they all had a low yield of the last year due to the dry weather causing plants to not produce as much pollen and nectar, prime requirements for the honey bee. They have however, already seen bumper crops early this season, mostly for those who live near canola fields which have been in full-bloom this year.

At the event there were a lot of people selling different types of hives and lots of gadgets to go with your hive. Honey extractors, cappers, and all manner of accoutrement you might want/need for this form of animal husbandry.

Things I learnt today:

  • Bees store honey AND pollen in their hive cells. The honey is their carbohydrate supply, the pollen is their protein. They return to eat it as required.
  • An amorous queen can decide to make a bunch of male drones that the hive doesn’t really need. Drones don’t do anything other than mate with the queen. Drones are not favoured by the honey producers, because they don’t leave the hive to find food sources, they 
  • There is sometimes occasions where drones are removed from the hive, if there is space the workers will make the drone cells off the brood frames so they can be easily removed. The queen will also do this at times when the hive is too full, it can prompt a swarm, a time when a bunch of bees will move out. The bees gorge themselves on honey and then do a runner looking for a new home.
  • The queen will become fatigued as she gets older, at some point the bees in the hive may “run up” another queen by feeding pupae royal jelly causing a new queen to be born from a pupa that would otherwise have been a worker. They’ll defend the new queen until she is big enough to take out the old queen and the hive will be renewed. You can also revitalise a waning hive by introducing a new queen. The workers and drones apparently aren’t too loyal, they’ll follow whoever is the younger, stronger queen.
  • Don’t do beekeeping without protection of a bee suit and smoke. They made this point a couple of times during the practical demonstrations, I and many of the onlookers were uncovered, some had suited up for the occasion. There were swarms of bees flying around us, the was actually kind of cool, though I imagine if you had an allergy to bees you’d have been in a frightening position. The short story though is, if you’re not doing too much to upset the bees they’ll leave you alone.
  • Beekeeping is a lot of work. You have to check your hive regularly, you have to consider if your hive needs to be split by building a nucleus box, less you have the queen and lots of your bees abandon your hive. You have to harvest your honey regularly to keep the hive ticking over.
  • Kids look super-cute in their bee suits!

While I didn’t learn it yesterday, I think it’s important to remind folks that beehives are a matriarchy. The ladies rule and do all the work. The males, the drones are incidental to the process, in fact, if food becomes scarce, they are the first to be shoved out of the hive, they are far too easily replaceable when times get better again, but ultimately they are lazy, empty mouths to feed, who really don’t contribute much to the hive. So yeah, 99.9999% of bees you see out and about are female bees. Unless there is a swarm, at which point there will be a higher number of male bees, all attempting to mate with the queen, after which they will die, their lifeless bodies will fall to the ground and will never see their new home.

I really would like some bees, maybe it’ll be something for retirement. Watching the hives on display was very cool, I love looking at them and seeing how they all interact and how they make the precious golden goo we all love to eat.

The folks of the VAA Bendigo Branch have already advertised the date for next year will be 13th October 2019. If you’re a keeper of bees, or interested in becoming one, I’d suggest it’s a good event to attend. The folk there were very knowledgeable and very happy to share their learnings with anyone with questions.

We ended our day by stopping in at Malmsbury Baker with Lana and Sue on the way home for a very nice pie down by the lake in the Malmsbury Botanic Garden.

You can see all 73 of the photos I took at the 39th Annual Beekeeping Field Day on my Flickr feed. A small selection of them is shown below.

Holy Shit Batman… Titans is Dark

Titans TV

New TV show “Titans“, from the same crew that made “Supergirl“, “The Flash“, “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow“, “Arrow“, “Black Lightning“, and so many other TV shows. Greg Berlanti and his team must be the busiest people in TV.

I feel like Titans is the show he’s been working towards. It’s dark and it’s beautiful. It has a bit of a “Gotham” feel, but is a whole lot more bloody and violent.

The first episode has started the series off with questions-a-plenty. We met Robin, Raven, Starfire, and got a glimpse of Beast Boy. I’m looking forward to what’s to come…

Telesales People… what a crap job that is

Life Insurance

A few days ago I received in the mail a glossy card-based flyer from “Medibank Insurance”. I have Medibank Health Insurance and have for over 20 years. Been paying them a bunch of money each month for not a whole lot in return. So with the arrival of this bit of livery I knew a follow up call would come. It has happened many times over those years of cover.

So they were trying to sell me life insurance, income protection insurance, and funeral cover insurance… not the funnest thing to be selling.

Unlike some folks, I’m not rude or short with the folk that call. I know it’s their job and it’s not easy out there these days to earn a crust. Not to mention I have previously worked in a call centre at Optus so I know what it’s like being on the other end of the phone with a rabid customer spewing hate at you just because you called them. Though in my case 99% of my calls were inbound.

Anyway, I’m not going to take out the insurance, but I still let him tell me about it. To cover $4,500 per month of income protection, plus live and funeral, it was only going to cost $36.50 per fortnight, not a bunch… but I have two issues with it.

  1. We’re still in early days of our business, and I’m pretty sure most self-employed folks find it difficult to make a claim against these things.
  2. The low cost is always a starting point. My private health insurance, which the government makes us have, even though we get nothing for it. Has gone from $20 in the early days to now over $140 per month. Quite the increase given everyone over 30 earning a decent wage has to have it. So I’m not convinced this wouldn’t go the same way.

But yeah, I feel for these folk, and I let them have their say before politely declining. Any attempt to decline earlier tends to come across as hostile, though part of me is always thinking, if I let him go he can go and call someone who might actually buy the service.

Oh and I see it all as a scam. In this case, reading the document sent out, the cover they are providing, they aren’t actually providing. 

The disclaimer at the bottom of the document reads

Medibank Life, Income Protection and Funeral Insurance are each issued by Swiss Re Life & Health Australia Pty Ltd ABN 74 000 218 306, AFSL 324908. These products are distributed by Greenstone Financial Services Pty Ltd (GFS) ABN 53 128 692 884, AFSL 343079 and are promoted by GFS’s Authorised Representative [AR] Medibank Private Limited ABN 47 080 890 259, AR 286089.

It’s the same with all insurances it seems, maybe two or three companies run the whole thing with all of these marketing companies sitting above them. Seems weird.

Muddled Message

Kanye West is crazy right? I mean, certifiable for sure. After having a meltdown on stage a while back he had to go into involuntary lockdown for a week during which he was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.

In recent weeks it seems he’s gone a long way to reclaim the spotlight, though mostly through his crazy ramblings… yet amongst all his talk of multiple universes and getting Apple to build his vision of the iPlane 1, and him being single-handedly responsible for Adidas turning around its business, or getting Foxcon to bring their manufacturing to the US, he did say one thing that kind of made sense, though even that was muddled.

One of Kanye’s talking points in the Oval Office, was to call for the repeal of the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution. It’s the one that abolished slavery in the US. He’s copping a lot of crap for this from other African American folk who don’t want anyone to mess with the slavery laws. However, I feel, from listening to him talk a bit, what he really should be asking for an an amendment to the amendment.

You see, Kanye doesn’t want to remove the amendment so he can own himself some slaves. He’s objecting to the part of the 13 Amendment that allows prisoners to be used as slaves. I got that from the part where he was railing about the cheap prison factories. And he’s right. In the US the 13th Amendment would give prisons the right to essentially put all prisoners into unpaid servitude, AKA, slavery. And that a LOT of prisons in the US are private prisons, it’s effectively allowing companies to own these peopler for the length of their internment, having them producing wares at a fraction of the cost it would be if they had to hire a free-labour force.

So yeah, Kanye is a little unhinged, but maybe his heart is in the right place, even if his head is covered with a “Make America Great Again” hat. He has a lot of weird ideas, and he has plenty of people who’ll give him a stage on which to say them, but on this one thing, he kind of has a point, even if he’s latched on to the wrong thing to try and change it.

Meanwhile, like the Trumps, ALL of Kanye’s product line, at time of writing this, is still made outside of the US, while they continue to call for moving manufacturing back to the States. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

How Cafés Should Make Iced Coffee

Iced Coffee

We’ve been running our own business for a little over 2 years now, and around the time we started the business, I started to drink coffee… well iced coffee. I can’t stand the taste of hot coffee. The temperature of the coffee definitely affects the taste, as does the copious amount of sugar I tend to add to it.

When I started out, I was making the coffee in a 480ml tumbler with 5 sugars. I’d add 3 ice cubes and then put the tumbler in the freezer until the top started to freeze over, pull it out, and stir the frozen coffee of the edge of the glass into the unfrozen portion and have a slushy coffee.

But this is time consuming and a lot of work, certainly not something a café can be expected to do.

I have since refined the process… now I put in only 2½ sugars and I put the glass below the spout of the coffee machine, I stir in the sugar as the coffee pours and quickly put in 3 ice cubes into the glass while the pour continues. Continuing to stir.

When the coffee pour is complete I put in an additional 2 or 3 ice cubes and stir some more. When I can no longer feel heat in the glass, I top it off with some milk and stir once last time.

Now all mixed in, it’s a delicious treat of caffeine goodness.

At a café you’ll typically get a coffee with a bunch ice dropped in, it arrives at your table already cold, often with the milk still separate from the coffee. Trying to add sugar at this point is virtually impossible as a cold liquid doesn’t readily dissolve sugar, so I end up with a bitter tasting concoction,  for which you’re normally charged twice the price of an average coffee for some reason.

Not a big change I’m asking for… but it would save me from just ordering mineral water when everyone else is having coffee.

Muppets and Puppets

I stumbled across Adam Savage’s YouTube channel likely but travelling down a rabbit hole of the Internet one day, and I have fallen in love with the puppet-centric episodes Adam has produced.

A lot of people will know Adam as one-half of the “MythBusters” team. Adam is an avid Muppet fan, as we all of a certain age are likely to be and thankfully he has access to a lot of folks and he brings them to us.

One of his videos is the creation of Adam’s very own puppet at Rick Lyon Puppets.

I LOVE Muppets, Puppets, and Marionettes, I want to make some… watching these videos gets my mind buzzing all the time. I love looking at the different mechs they make, but oh to find the time to make something… I have a couple of ideas, particularly for a couple of simple marionettes that I want to get too soon.

I’ve made a Puppet/Muppet Playlist of YouTube videos that I’ll likely add to.

Tick F*cking Tock

Tick F*cking Tock

An irreverent look at the rise of the Doug Anthony All Stars (DAAS), and the unexplained untimely end to their initial run when they were on the top of their game.

It was around 13 years after they ended their run that Tim Ferguson opened up to his former bandmates that he was suffering from Multiple Sclerosis and he was unsure about how it would affect him, so he quit. They also got together and hired Commercial Roofing Companies to fix their house.

If you’re like me and you’re a child of the 80’s and 90’s and you grew up with the Doug Anthony All Stars on “The Big Gig” then  “Tick F*cking Tock” is the Doug Anthony All Stars as you know and love them.

Having reformed for a couple of specials in 2003, and 2013, DAAS finally made their real comeback in 2014, touring and lampooning themselves and Tim’s MS.

Go and watch Tick F*cking Tock” on ABC iView (if you’re Australian) or your local public broadcasting outlet.

Below is an episode of The Big Gig, featuring Wendy Harmor first broadcast 28 February 1989, it has some sound issues, but is worth the viewing for the nostalgia.

Vale Google Plus

Google Plus
Google shuttering Google+ has nothing really to do with a data breach… that happened in March 2018, even though that’s how most are reporting it. It is going away because it never made critical mass, and that’s not its fault.
We failed Google+! We stuck with Facebook when there was a better alternative that was (somewhat) less intrusive, and less demanding of our personal data (because they already had a lot of it).
These days Facebook seems a necessary evil, especially if you’re a developer of in business.
For some people Facebook IS THE INTERNET.
And in developing nations, Facebook is fostering this idea… they are basically trying to be the AOL of the past where users will log in and be contained to a single system that only lets in information it wants on its network.
So I think the data-breach is NOT the reason, Google makes it pretty clear in their blog post that it’s low consumer use compared to the cost of maintaining it. The data breach was a non-breach, yes there was the chance of it, but Google says it can’t see that anyone actually took advantage of a the vulnerability.
While I haven’t used it a lot in recent times, I will miss Google+. With it and Path going, it’s a sad time. Sure Twitter had up and comers; like Plurk (it was never going to go anywhere with a name like that), Alpha, Mastodon, et al, but they exist/ed as mere clones of the original.
Google+, Path, Ello, etc, offered alternatives presenting their individual and different fundamental ethos to Facebook. Google+ fast became about communities, Path was about close groups like friendship groups or family, and Ello was trying to be an ad-free Facebook who wasn’t interested in your data, they just wanted to give you a space on the internet, their plan was to make their money selling premium services that you could take or leave. But like the others, there was no critical mass for any of them and that was the downfall. Even poor MySpace 2.0 couldn’t get anyone back.
It seems Facebook has won and now has us all. We’ve forgotten how to use the Internet and we’re happy in our enclave of those who agree with everything we say (even when we are very wrong at times).
I don’t see a way forward and I believe Facebook is bad for the future of humanity. But at the moment, it’s what we have.