Happy Birthday Carl Sagan

Tip of the pipette to Phil Plait for reminding me.

Today, Carl Sagan would have been 75 years old if he had not died in 1996. As a scientist, communicator, and humanist he knew the value of science and the importance of helping people understand its full implications. The notion that we need an army of Sagans to fix the problems with public understanding and acceptance of science is often criticized by communication experts as naive – we need more approaches than just his.

But you know what, it wouldn’t hurt to have a few more Carl Sagans running around. There’s room for some more scientist-communicators like Sagan on this pale blue dot.

Beeing an Atheist

Yesterday afternoon, it was my privilege to teach a class about bees to a group of young after-school students at the Eagle Heights community center on the UW-Madison campus. Ariela and I taught the same class last year, and although she was not able to make it this time, it was just as fun as ever.

First, the kids sat down (give or take) for a half hour discussion about bees, as I showed them pictures of bees doing various things with a PowerPoint presentation. I taught them how to tell a bee from a wasp, I showed the three different bee castes and what they do, and talked about how important bees are and how they make honey. It was not only a visual presentation but also tactile and olfactory experience. When it came to talking about beeswax comb, I passed around a large piece of natural comb I pulled out of one of our hives. The kids got to smell some beeswax candles, and I showed them the tools we use out in the apiary and all about the frames that make up a hive.

When we were done with questions, we adjourned to the community center’s stainless steel (yes I am jealous) kitchen where my pressure-cooker-turned-steam-generator had already been warming up. The steam powers an uncapping knife to slice open the combs and release the honey. As the layer of wax cappings dripped off, the glowing, golden cells of sweetness awed the group – who lined up to take a turn at spinning the frames in the centrifuge. After showing the gathering pool of honey in the centrifuge, I lifted it up onto the counter to let the honey flow out through the filters and into the waiting bucket.

I kept some honey from the last harvest in the bucket, so it had already settled and lost its bubbles. And one by one the kids filled their little 1/2 cup jelly jars from the spigot, excited to have a treat to take home.

Many of the kids wanted to see the bees themselves, which wouldn’t have been possible this time around, but next year, we might be able to arrange that. Ariela and I look forward to doing more classes about bees for kids – it’s great to see and hear their excitement about something that we as beekeepers are perennially privileged to experience, and I always delight in sharing a little knowledge. We were almost going to have a second bee class this year. Almost. Which is what this post is about. Continue reading Beeing an Atheist

Things I learned from Star Trek

The Onion, while lauded for its weekly satirization of pop culture and news headlines, has a less well-known component, its AV Club. While I do not often read much from this section, even though they are just down the street.

But now in anticipation of the new Trek movie coming out this weekend, The Onion’s AV Club put together an intelligent and funny review of the sociological commentary that Star Trek has provided over the years, whether written well or not. Read Space-Racism is Bad.

A few of my favorites are in there, such as a comment on the stupidity of the Borg Queen concept while talking about keeping perspective in First Contact, and some subtle lessons about both immigration and abortion rights in Up The Long Ladder. But the best part of the article was Continue reading Things I learned from Star Trek

Christmas in Wisconsin

This is the first year that Ariela and I are spending the Winter Holiday season away from our families. We decided to spend Christmas, Kitzmas, Squidmas, Festivus, and the Solstice in Madison to relax, keep warm, and save some money. Since We’ve been in Wisconsin, we’ve traveled five times to California, mostly for wedding-related business. Now that we have a house, finances are suddenly a big thing! Continue reading Christmas in Wisconsin

Dawkins in Madison

Richard Dawkins is coming to my humble city of Madison, Wisconsin! Sweet. I last met Dawkins in San Francisco one and a half years ago at the Palace of Fine Arts. It was there that I learned that if you don’t know what question to ask a big speaker, don’t wait to get in line – think of it in line! Doesn’t always pan out… but at least you get the chance.

Many people in Madison already know about the Tuesday night talk, but Dawkins is doing a little more than that while he’s here. Here are the events I’ve found relating to his visit: Continue reading Dawkins in Madison

Why I support the strike

It’s not like I watch cable TV directly. But I support the current strike by the Hollywood Writers. Why?

There’s a metric ass-load of crap produced out there. On TV and in the theaters. I’ve gone to one crappy movie too much and regretted not buying a book on philosophy with the movie instead. I’ve sat through way too many crappy sitcoms and other TV shows when I was younger. I’ve watched with dismay as “Reality TV” shows cropped up and people ate them up without thinking. Because not a lot of thinking goes into it all. Continue reading Why I support the strike