Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bees and the Birds (Api e Uccelli)

Do you ever stop and think about bees?

I don't usually but I was prompted to as I was doing a bit of late night sleep-inducing reading through 'Georgics', a relatively new bestseller* by Publius Vergilius Maro (Virgil).

*relatively, in geological time

Whilst he was busy making his 2000 year old points about how weather can affect a hive, I started thinking about how hot it gets here in the Texas summers. Do their wax cells give way and the bees all ride out in a tsunami of hot honey and melted wax? Is this one reason there seem to be fewer bees now? Does 'hot honey and melted wax' sound like an adult film title?

These and other questions were now keeping me awake, thoroughly counteracting the tranquilizing effect the book had on me just moments before.

I guess people have been using the fruits of bee labor for a while now. After artisans of thousands of years ago painted fresco walls, Vitruvius recommended using wax mixed with olive oil over it. I do this for all my pompeii style frescoes.
Wax seemed to have many uses back in antiquity, as an adhesive additive, flavorless and odor free chewing gum, a disinfectant, a carving medium for bronze casting, the list goes on.

I like to eat honey, particularly over Greek style yogurt for breakfast, what about you guys? Greek legend said that Pythagoras (the triangle dude for the geometrically challenged) ate only honey.

The symbolism of bees is ever present through history, sometimes at the highest levels. Napoleon used it on his coat of arms, and before him the Merovingian (French) monarchs going way back to mid fifth century. Even the Egyptians used the bee symbol as a hieroglyph and to indicate lower Egypt.

The ancient Greeks at Delphi had a beehive shaped stone that the priestess sat in front of as she alledgedly divined the future (some scholars indicated she was refered to as the 'bee of Pythia'). To digress, I've actually seen that stone. Not the original one, which hasn't been seen in years, but the replacement ordered from the Omphalos Store (tm).

Near Valencia in Spain a cave drawing made before recorded history was found with remarkable detail, especially for back then without Photoshop or Etch-a-Sketches or anything.

For more interesting esoteric bee-and-honey-in-antiquity knowledge and postulations, check out Andrew Gough. He draws an interesting link between bulls, bees, and stars, and there's even a Latin lesson in there somewhere.

While you are doing all of that, I might go have a Michelob Honey Wheat or two, you know, like Pythagoras would have done. But if I'm in a hurry, maybe a Mickey's?

ps - Is it just me or is there a resemblance between beer and honey?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fore! (Davanti?)

It was a sunny pleasant afternoon riding along in the golf cart on the oceanside course, Punta Borinquen. Four of us had decided to play, and so far we were all shooting well. Except for that one guy who had only played once before and was having trouble.

Azure and light green water lapped up the beaches on the north and west sides of the seventh hole. The views were amazing, even with the nearest edge of the hurricane hundreds of miles off to the east. The golf course itself was located next to an old US airbase now being used as a small commercial airstrip. I looked over my right shoulder to see a twin prop taking off. Just a great time on a fantastic course.

Two of us had teed off already and were leisurly driving up the fairway. I took a swig of the local beer when suddenly the roof of the golf cart seemed to collapse on my head. With excruciating pain and finding it difficult to breathe for a few seconds, I jumped out of the cart with hands on head. 'Stunned' and 'disoriented' were the words which best described my state of mind. Once I realized the roof hadn't collapsed and I had not been either shot in the head or struck by lightning (there were dark clouds to the south), my attention turned to the novice player who had just teed off.

Newbie was 50 yards away and had hit the ball extremely hard. The ball had rocketed at precisely the correct trajectory both underneath the roof of a moving cart, yet above the back windshield with a godlike precision that would shame NASA, JPL, and Lawrence Livermore Laboratories combined.

We are talking about a moving target less than the size of a dime, because the ball had struck the middle back part of my ballcap right where the little metal brad thing was located. The little metal thing in the center of the ballcap functioned much like a chisel to focus all the energy of the golfball to the one spot on the back of my head. I can take quite a bit of pain, but that was just ridiculously bad.

I pieced together that it had riccocheted off the metal brad and had hit the plastic top of the cart with enough force to make a large 'bang' sound. So that was why I thought the cart top had collapsed on my head. Within seconds, I had a huge lump and was a bit worried about concussion or brain swelling. Luckily, I still had some room in my skull, particularly evident since I went golfing with a newbie and didn't think to stay behind the tees when he was dealing this sort of death and destruction.