Thursday, January 31, 2008

Another Email to Global Issues Class on "Ishmael"

I had a few angry students attend class on Wednesday to review for a test. Most of the anger is focused on the book "Ishmael" again. Here is the email I sent them enititled: Some Hints.

I didn't have time to give you some helpful advice on taking the test on Friday. (Sorry about this) This is especially important for those of you who haven't taken these tests from me before. So keep the following in mind:

1. Whether you want to believe it or not, I really don't care what position you take on a given reading. What I do care about is:

2. That you understand the argument of the author fully and treat it fairly whether the author is Day, Westheimer, Kahne or Quinn.

For example, many of the "high-five" criticisms made of "Ishmael" this morning only showed me you hadn't read the book adequately since Quinn anticipates and answers those criticisms in Ishmael. Any critique you make of "Ishmael" must also take into account Quinn's answers as well. As a critical thinker, you cannot just dismiss "Ishmael" with knee-jerk responses that either distort his argument or selectively ignore pieces that don't fit into your pre-conceived ideas.

I think many of you have forgotten that I said I think "Ishmael" is a scary book. Why? Because I can't easily dismiss it and would like to at many points, just like some of you.

3. Try to avoid anecdotal evidence to support your argument. If you can't, admit that your evidence is anecdotal and leave it at that. So, for example, if you don't have systematic evidence that rich people have, lets' say, a good work ethic, and argue that they do, simply because one time you saw Donald Trump working in his garden, admit it! This is just an anecdote, a one time event, and you are building a case on that.

For those of you who want to read someone who criticizes other thinkers and does it by treating their ideas fully and fairly, read Aquinas' Summa Theologica. But remember, even Aquinas recognized he was finite.

Anyway, have fun studying,

Saturday, January 26, 2008

"Healthy Bees"

I just completed the University of Minnesota's online extension course: Healthy Bees. This beginner-focused course introduces the hobby beekeeper to the various pests and diseases that currently plague honey bees in a very entertaining, accessible way. Each module of the course focuses on one hive "super-villain", presenting what entomological science currently knows about it, the preventative measures beekeepers can take against "the villain", and suggestions on what to do should "the villain" appear in your hives. Drs. Spivak and Reuter see "hard chemicals" and antibiotics as weapons of last resort, urging beekeepers to use good apicultural management techniques, nutrition and genetically resistant bees for combating diseases and pests. As experimental empiricists, they suggest only those treatments that have been found effective in laboratory tests and do not produce resistance in the pest over the long-term. So Spivak and Reuter reject the use of many "essential oil" approaches and say that the "jury is still out" on whether the small cell approach has any significant benefits in the control of Varroa mites. They also reject the use of antibiotics as a preventative protocol.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Ishmael: Threat or Challenge?

The following is an email I sent this afternoon to my Global Issues students concerning their reactions to Daniel Quinn's book Ishmael. I am sharing this email here because I think it relates to sustainable beekeeping.

I felt alot of defensiveness in class today. To stem this off, I would ask you to look at Ishmael, not as a threat, but as a challenge. Use the "flying machine" story as an example. When human beings "discovered" the laws of gravity and aerodynamics they didn't say, "Oh, I won't believe it because I want to fly" nor "Those laws don't apply to us human beings." To do that, would've meant the continued crashing of air-machines by their inventors. Instead, what was said was, "Given these laws, how can we produce a flying machine?" Now apply that to what Ishmael says about the world hunger problem! If what Ishmael says about the relationship between population and food supply is true (and the evidence seems to indicate it is), how can we create a long-term sustainable solution to world hunger? (This is not a question social darwinists ask!) Ignoring the relationship between population and food supply will only produce an eventual crash, sooner or later. Saying the law doesn't apply to humans will only lead to this crash.

Remember, learning can sometimes be uncomfortable, since it demands examining and possibly breaking those secure comfortable cognitive boxes we place reality into (including God). Also, you don't have to believe Ishmael but you do have to understand his argument accurately without 'knee-jerk" dismissals.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Interesting Developments

I was at a farewell get-together in Fountain City last Friday and discovered an important and interesting fact: one of the administrators at my university has also been exploring beekeeping and pondering the placement of hives on campus. My university was once a county "poor farm" and still has remnants of an old orchard. This administrator has thought of "reagriculturalizing" (in a sustainable fashion) some of these areas on campus and bees are in his plan. He has signed up for the U of M's extension course and is also collecting some equipment, atleast to place on his own farm. We have begun talking about our own plans and how to work together on it. More on this later.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

All But The Cover

Metpropolis is just about built and I thought I'd share some photos of the building process thus far.

1. In this first, Monta is planing the boards that will end up as the top bars. They were slightly wider than necessary. We've had this planer for a few years but this is the first project we've used it on.

2. Monta is here pictured creating the follower boards.

3. Here they are finished.

4. In the next series of photos Monta builds the hive body.

5. Monta staples the hardware cloth on the bottom of the hive.

6. The removable bottom board is fitted. Monta's addition to Chandler's design is to add ceiling screws as a way of attaching the bottom and allowing semi-easy removable.

7. The hive with a few top bars on it.

8. In this last photo, Monta saws the legs of the hive.

All that needs to be created is the cover, add some holes...and then, of course, the bees in the spring. Our daughter, Emerald, will be painting an interesting cityscape on the sides.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Happenings today

Two bee-related activities went on today before lunch was even served. I ordered two packages of bees (Minnesota Hygenic) from B & B Honey Farm in Houston, Minnesota. I have to say I was a bit nervous about making this call. Even when I am the most confident, I do not do well over the phone to begin with and had further anxiety because I was essentially making my first "bee order". The woman who took my order put me right at ease though. She explained things clearly, and was very knowledgable. She knew my "newbie" status and made me feel quite comfortable through the whole process. I want to visit their "showroom" in the near future.

As soon as I finished my phonecall to B & B and conducted my Public Policy class, I went to the university mailboxes and found that Betterbee had sent me my order of unassembled deep frames. Monta is planning to make a Langstroth hive as well and wanted to get an idea about how frames were structured before she built the boxes using some plans we found online. The wood smelled so fine.

By the end of next week, the Top Bar Hive should be constructed as well.