The Bees Are Dying
Today I am presenting you with a bee. Bees are cool. They make honey, and they're responsible for pollinating a whole bunch of the food we eat.
This one looks a little like a battle bee rather than a honey bee.
Because I chose a bee this week, I wanted to say something about how important bees are, and I thought of a statement by Albert Einstein.
"If something eliminated bees from our planet, mankind would soon perish."
I believed he said it. One of the first things I found when I started writing this was is it can't be traced back to old Al at all. I guess I was wrong.
Well, it's unlikely he said it according to a Snopes article. Einstein died in 1955, and the first time the quote appeared in the press or popular writing was 1994.
We've got to be careful about what we believe. It's easy to think it's something that Al said because he was a smart fella (or as my dad would say "fart-smella" - I'm sure a lot of dads said that),
Fake news is insidious because it's so believable sometimes. People make stuff up all the time, and we believe it. It's infuriating.
Snopes.com and Factcheck.org have become a couple of my best friends. These are places on the internet that you can try to find out if something's true or fake. I can't say they are always right because I just don't know but at least there are some people out there who do the research and try to get at the truth. But can we even believe them? I don't know.
I knew a guy who once who would claim some of the most outrageous stuff and stick to his guns regardless, even when faced with actual indisputable facts.
(I'm using Roger here. His name wasn't Roger - the names have been changed to be sure I don't get killed for this. You see, Roger was a volatile soul. )
Here's an example conversation:
Roger: "Yeah, when I first bought my Ford, it was a Chevy. Did you know the South Americans came up with the name Chevy Corvette? Sure, yeah, Generalisimo Francisco Franco created the name Corvette sitting in his bathtub in Cuba during the revolution. I know because one of my friends was with him in the Cuban Revolution, and he told me. I believe him"
Me, "Hey Roger, I'm pretty sure that didn't happen. Cuba isn't in South America, and I think Francisco Franco was a Spanish dictator, not South American."
Roger, "Sure, it is. It was him. Are you stupid or what? Go look it up. I'm sure you're wrong."
Me, "I'm pretty sure I'm right."
Roger, "Go look it up. I know you're wrong."
That friendship didn't last long. You can't argue with stupid. Or, as Steve Miller said, "You can't argue with a sick mind."
Some things we believe because we want to accept them because they sound plausible.
People like to believe pesticides are the reason for the demise of the bees. It's easy to hate big chemical companies and they're sneaky buggers. But there are other factors, too, like:
We're all to blame.
If you want to read a bit more about it, you don't have to go far.
Pollinators In Peril, Center for Biological Diversity
Colony Collapse Disorder, Wikipedia
More than 700 North American Bee Species Are Headed Toward Extinction, Time Magazine
Some people would say that it doesn't matter if Einstein made that statement about bees or not. If it's true and furthers the cause it shouldn't matter.
We shouldn't bandy about false statements because it bolsters our argument.
You should use real facts to back up your argument. Don't make stuff up just cause it sounds good.
I've got to stop being so lazy. I've got to start researching for myself.
Am I saying I don't believe there is a problem with bees? No.
Should we look at and try to mitigate the loss of honey bees? Yes, we should because they're in danger, they're important to the planet, and it's probably the right thing to do.
However, let's not tell fibs about it even if we mean well. Let's try to stick to the facts even if they're boring.
Should I get off my soapbox? Yeah, probably.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
Ann Osborne - Artist Of The Week
This week, you're in for something a little bit different. Off the beaten path so to speak. This week's artist of the week is Ann Osborne.
Ann creates splashy type paintings. She calls herself an acrylic painter and mixed media artist. Totally abstract. I love the random things that happen when she splashes, smacks, pours, and floats paint on a panel or canvas. I think she works mostly on panels because they're much more rigid.
I ran into Ann a couple of years ago on YouTube and her style was so random it was intriguing. She just reached over 60,000 subscribers on YouTube. She has quite a following. Here's one of her videos to get you started. This is such an interesting technique.
That Great Sinking Feeling
Dragonflies are extraordinary creatures. Why do they have four wings anyway? They're both creepy and beautiful at the same time. This week, I bring you my take on a dragonfly just because I like 'em.
However, last weekend found me under the kitchen sink.
I replaced the kitchen faucet (tap) and the RO (Reverse Osmosis) Water Filter over the weekend. They were at least 15 years old and looked like they'd never been serviced.
Water in Arizona, at least this part of Arizona, is harder than getting a straight answer from a politician. Hard water will clog your pipes and faucets and cause your water to have that distinctive yucky taste. I know our water softener isn't working. I had to turn on the bypass because it was leaking water. I guess, after a while in the harsh Phoenix summers, rubber seals and gaskets will wear out.
Off to Lowes and Home Depot. I know I've mentioned it, but just in case you haven't caught it, Lowes and Home Depot will give veterans a 10% discount. I like that.
Ordinarily, I just like to get things done. That would mean I go to the store, buy the equipment, install the equipment.
Andrea has introduced me to an all-new technique called research and comparison. She says, "It's called shopping, dear."
I'm not a great shopper. I'm an excellent buyer, though. Send me to the store for milk, I'll come back with milk. If you want 2% milk, you'd better tell me so. If you'd like 2% organic milk, make a point of mentioning it. If you rather have 2% organic milk delivered by free-range cows in the field rather than by machine, I can get that. But, if you ask for milk, you'll get milk - the kind I like.
Okay, sometimes, when I go to the store for milk, I'll go a little off-piste and bring back beer and, or a bottle of scotch as well. That's a risk you take when you send me to the store for anything.
It works, but it doesn't always produce the best results.
Andrea, in comparison, is the high priestess of retail exploration and evaluation. She'll compare everything.
So the expedition was under-way. Decisions had been made. Scott was sent into buying mode. Off to Home Depot. Home Depot carried the brand and type of softener and filter we wanted. I headed straight back to aisle 45, where the water softeners and water filters are. All the way to the back of the store.
We passed so many things we needed too. Didn't I need a pole trimmer to trim the ironwood tree out front? "Hey, there's that drill I always wanted!" "Didn't I say I wanted a new saw as well?" "Oh, wow, there's that pegboard to organize my tools!"
I guess it's all the equivalent of coming home with that six-pack of beer and a bottle of scotch.
I'm like a puppy chasing a squirrel.
With the drill, the pegboard, and the pole trimmer in the cart, I made a bee-line back to aisle 45. You do know bees don't really travel in a straight line, don't you? If they did, how would they discover new flowers?
We knew which water filter we wanted, so that was in the cart right away. Needing somebody to install the water softener, I wanted to check if Home Depot had any professional plumbers who could do the job.
So, I went to an employee in the kitchen area.
I stood beside her desk for several minutes. I startled her out of one of those inane "satin or silk, leather or lace, coffee or tea?" conversations she was having with her colleague. When she finally noticed I was there, she had that look in her eye: "Unexpected customer in the shopping area!!!"
I started to explain that I needed a plumber to install a water softener for me. She cut me off halfway through my explanation and pulled out a piece of paper. "What's your last name?"
I thought, hmm, I guess I'll play her bureaucratic game. Maybe it's necessary. Maybe it'll be fun. After playing the "fill out the paperwork form" game with her, she said somebody would call me. Don't expect them to call you today, maybe tomorrow. Couldn't you send an email? Couldn't you make a call? Could you be helpful? I guess not.
The upshot of it is, I got the water filtration system home. Again, Andrea to the rescue!
"Scott, shouldn't you take the parts out of the box and make sure they're all there?"
I explained that I wasn't going to start the project until the weekend, and there was no need to go through it now. I'll go through it on the weekend.
I got that Andrea look that said, "Don't be a fool, you're going to start the job, and you'll have to waste time going back to exchange the part. It'll happen when you've already taken the old faucet and filter out, and you're ready to install the new one. Don't you think it would be a good idea to check it now so if you go back now you could order a new one, and they could deliver it before the weekend?
Okay, I'll do it now.
Yes, you guessed it. All the fancy-schmancy fittings and fixings were missing. Arrrrrg... The next day I was off to Home Depot to return the filter and pick up another one.
In the meantime, I got a call from the water softening engineers. The young man on the other end of the phone said he was from Acme Water Filtration Company (not the name to protect the innocent). Wiley Coyote said he'd like to come out and test our water to recommend the best system for the job. I said, "Sorry, all I want is somebody to install a water softener I bought at Home Depot!".
The kid was very polite and said. "Oh, we don't just do installations. How much were you looking to spend?"
"Listen, my friend. I want somebody to come to my house. I want them to politely ring the doorbell and tell me they're here to install the water softener I've already bought."
"I don't want you to recommend an internet-ready, wifi-enabled, smart-logic, HydroOrgasmic, gold plated, whistleblowing, hornswoggling, whole home water purification system that'll do backflips into my swimming pool for $2,700!"
"I want a bloody PLUMBER!"
Wiley said their service was probably not the best for the job I had at hand - Beep Beep. He thanked me, and I thanked him.
Then, with the grace of a major league baseball pitcher, I gently laid the phone down on the floor on the other side of the house. It followed a flight path that traversed my office, the living room, the dining room, and careened off the wall in the kitchen. Not wise as the phone would cost more than a new water softener to replace.
I searched the archives of my brain and remembered some very competent folks at Paradise Plumbing who replaced the water heater here a couple of years ago. I talked to a man named Ron on the other end of the line. Within three minutes, we agreed on a price and scheduled an appointment. Water softener sorted.
That left me with the faucet and the under-sink water filter to install, and that was accomplished by me last weekend. No major hiccups.
Of course, the job started, as all projects do, with a bit of staring, some rubbing of my chin (beard), and the ritual organizing the tools.
I removed the old faucets with minimal cussing and frustration. Then it was hooking up the new.
I needed a sous-chef for the installation. "Andrea!"
You always need another arm when you're installing something under the sink, don't you?
Well, the installation, though a bit laborious, was going rather smoothly. Hook this bit up here. Tighten that bit down there. When I crawled under the sink, Andrea was laughing her backside off.
I said, "What's so funny?"
She said, "I can't see how you actually fit under the sink. The proportions look all off. It looks like you're trying to stuff a whole loaf of bread in a single slice toaster all at the same time."
To be honest, it was a bit of a tight fit. She does have some brilliant observations.
I emerged with all the hook-ups hooked up. The water was flowing nicely with no leaks. The filtration system was installed, and the new faucets were in place. Then, a rookie mistake. I can't believe I did it. I followed the instructions to the letter.
Nevertheless, as I was testing the water to see if it was okay, I noticed, it was bound to happen, the hot was on the right, and the cold was to the left. How did I get the hot and cold switched around? It was that great sinking feeling you get when you thought you'd done an outstanding job only to find out something fundamental went very wrong.
Instead of just crawling back under the sink and fixing them, I asked Andrea what apparently was, one of the most blatantly stupid questions in the world.
"Andrea, Would you mind if I just left it like that?"
Well, you would have thought I just asked if she didn't mind if I stopped brushing my teeth for the next six months.
The look I got was sufficient. You know, the look that says, "You stupid man."
But, it's true, as a guy, I would have probably just lived with it until I burned my hands a couple of times. Eventually, it needed to be done.
Back under the sink to do what I should have just done anyway. It would have saved me vast amounts of humiliation and the ritual eating of crow.
We now have a new functioning water filtration system and brand modern brushed nickel faucets topping our kitchen sink.
By the way. Here are some rules that will help you with your next DIY Project. I'm sure you'll recognize some of them.
DIY Rule # 1:
To the uninitiated and inexperienced, even things that look relatively easy, are not as easy as they look.
DIY Rule # 2:
If you do DIY, make sure you have plenty of ibuprofen, Tylenol, and Band-Aids.
DIY Rule # 3:
Don't always take the word of a Home Depot Store clerk.
DIY Rule # 4:
Watch plenty of YouTube Videos.
DIY Rule # 5:
Don't assume, because you've watched the YouTube videos, that the job will be any easier.
DIY Rule # 6:
Even relatively easy things take about twice as long as you think they will. I started the job at 11 am and finished as it was just approaching 4 pm.
DIY Rule # 7:
Don't even remotely assume the lazy option will promote domestic tranquility.
DIY Rule # 8:
Don't ask stupid questions. Of course, the hot water needs to be on the left.
DIY Rule # 9:
Be sure to have a refreshing adult beverage on hand for the end of the job. You need motivation.
DIY Rule # 10:
I do get a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction, seeing it working as it should, and knowing that I did. But sometimes it's better to call a professional. Preferably, someone you know and trust.
I continue the quest for my DIY merit badge.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
Stuart Davies - Artist Of The Week
I ran into this guy on the internet a couple of months ago. His name is Stuart Davies.
Even though his father had plans for him to become a police officer, Stuart's artistic talent was discovered early. He went to Eastbourne Art College, where he graduated. He then went off to seek fame and fortune as a freelancer. He was commissioned to paint "legal-forgeries" for people who wanted originals but could pay the million-dollar price tags. He's was very partial to Vermeer.
As many artists do, he also supported himself in his early career in various positions in an advertising agency. This job allowed him to draw and represent concepts and live an artistic life but get paid for it at the same time. He also became the Art Editor and Design Editor for "the Queen's favorite magazine," Country Life.
Nowadays he likes to paint landscapes. Mostly things out of his own imagination.
I caught up with Mr. Davies on YouTube, where he provides excellent instruction with a calm and clear style.
Never Cross The Idiot Threshold
All this activity has afforded me the pleasure of haunting the aisles of both Lowes and Home Depot.
I've got to hand it to both of them. Veteran discounts and Veteran parking spots etc. Normally, the services are pretty good. Normally, I walk away with a good feeling.
Then, for an encore, I decided the water softener and under sink water filtration system needed to be replaced.
The under sink water filtration unit is easy. I'm positive I can do that myself. The water softener, not so much. There are soldering and piping and very complex stuff involved. For me, dealing fire and cutting things like knives or saws, are skills I have chosen not to master.
We don't want Scott involved with sharp burning things when his anxiety level crosses the idiot threshold.
For example, last night while we were watching television the sound suddenly disappeared. This has been an ongoing problem since we got back to Arizona. I'd had it, it was time to figure this out.
So Andrea and I stared at the television. We scratched our heads. After reviewing all of the settings with still no results, we rebooted the whole system. After the system reboot, we had to log back into Roku, log back into Amazon, log back into the WiFi, and jump through several hoops I didn't know were there. After everything was reinstalled and we had followed the directions to a "T" the sound was still off.
I said I was frustrated. I said, "I'd like to step away from the television at this point because my level of frustration has just exceeded the limits of my tolerance." Actually, I said, "Fuck it, I give up!" And I walked away.
This was a very good move on my part since, if you're dealing with delicate and expensive electronics you don't want to accidentally throw a hammer through the screen by mistake or anything.
So, I thought I was doing the right thing. I was doing the proper thing. I was proud of myself for stepping away for the problem for a few moments.
While I was patting myself on the back I went back to the task of preparing dinner. Salad Niçoise, yum.
Andrea had opened a can of tuna and it was sitting on the counter. I picked it up and put the tuna in the salad. Things were going swimmingly. I was quite smug.
I went to wash out the can to put it in the recycling bin. What a good citizen I am - helping to save the planet and such.
I ran my finger around the inside of the can to clean it out.
Did you know those buggers are really sharp? I think I cut my finger down to the bone. (not really, I'm just a big sissy and I'm exaggerating.) Well, as with everything that I do, blood was getting everywhere.
Then, I knew it was coming. I knew I was going to get it. There it was, right on Andrea's face. She gave me that look of disapproval, disbelief, and a complete lack of surprise. She trundled off, "I'll get the plasters (band-aids)."
A momentary loss in concentration. I'm really glad I wasn't trying to text and drive at the same time.
Anyway, back to the television. The sound came back on its own. We really did nothing. It just appeared, poof! That was almost more frustrating.
Later, Andrea discovered a setting buried way down in the user's manual the way all good answers are. Her perseverance, research, and patience trumped my bullocks, bluster, and bravado. Damn, again.
So, now I'm all bandaged up and ready to attack Lowes and Home Depot once again. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” Henry V, Bill Shakespeare.
BTW - I'm having somebody else install the water softener. See, I'm learning.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
Tjalf Sparnaay - Artist Of The Week
There are several videos about him on YouTube. There's even a forty-minute documentary on him in Dutch. I watched it (there are English subtitles). I like the effort he puts into his work.
If you want a little introduction to his art, you can watch this YouTube video. It's only about two minutes long. I think you'll like it. No subtitles required.