Friday, February 28, 2014

Bee Problems

I've been seeing a lot of worry about the loss of the European honey bees.  For those of you who may have missed it, Colony Collapse Disorder (or CCD) is a strange phenomenon where all the worker bees in a hive suddenly disappear.  Nobody knows exactly where the workers go.
Although a lot of workers I know go to bars, so try there.
There's been a lot of uproar about missing bees, partly because so many of American food crops are pollinated by European honey bees, but mostly because people want to blame some technology or another for the problem.  In spite of the fact that CCD has been around for hundreds of years, people have blamed:

Yes, I am trying to fit as many links into this blog as I can.

Seems everyone wants to blame their pet peeve for CCD.  Don't believe me?  Here's an unrelated sexual economics video that, for no good reason, throws in an unproven theory about what's causing CCD:

I don't claim to be an expert on CCD or the economics of sex (Scratch that. I do know a heck of a lot about sex.).  However, I did design a beehive video game, so I qualify as an expert in bees.  Here's a couple of things you should know about the buggers:

European honey bees are an invasive species.
The word "European" is right there in the front!  Native Americans used to call them "white man's flies."  While there are 4000 varieties of Native American bees that are doing fine, we're only cultivating the European ones.  Why is that a problem?  When you cultivate a single, invasive species you get a susceptiblity to diseases. 

Remember the Irish Potato Famines?  Potatoes were invasive to Ireland and were suddenly wiped out by potato blight.

Remember Gros Michel bananas?  They were wiped out by the Panama disease.

If we want to save our pollinators, we should diversify.

Bee hives are portable.
A while ago, I was reading about seedless grapes.  See, people like seedless grapes more, so they cost more.  How do you grow a seedless grape?  You just don't pollinate them, which becomes a problem when the neighboring farm hires a beekeeper to visit by with his hives.
Yes, that's a truck full of bees.
See, beekeepers drive their hives around to farms so their bees can pollinate the crops.  It's great for most farmers, but it screws up the plans of seedless grape growers (bees are notoriously bad at reading the signs, even if they say "DON'T POLLINATE MY GRAPES!").

So, if we want to keep our plants pollinated, we could just start driving them around more.

In short, I'm not too concerned with CCD.  Are you?

Friday, February 21, 2014

MPAA Ratings Are Insane

I hate ratings systems.  They promote censorship ("Ban all {films, television, games} with a certain rating!" is a cry you hear often) and they're too vague to be helpful to parents. I also have proof that the people who make ratings are categorically insane.

The image above is an MPAA poster describing their rating system for movies.  It came out many years ago, when they had just invented the NC-17 rating and thought they needed to explain them to audiences.

Let's take a closer look at it, shall we?
It starts with the G rated movies.  As you can see, the MPAA is suggesting people bring their giraffes to a movie.  Personally, I'd hate to be sitting behind a giraffe in a movie, but the point is the MPAA thinks it's okay.

I want you to pay close attention to the rabbit.  Why is a rabbit in a movie?  Probably the same reason there's a giraffe.

Moving on to PG.  The kids are gone, except for the two that are going with their family.  The giraffe is gone as well.  Giraffes only live about 20 years in the wild, so most are too young to go to PG movies alone without a chaperone.  Perhaps the MPAA is trying to make a statement about the fleeting nature of life in the wilderness.

The rabbit, on the other hand, is still at the movies, right next to the kid who is too small to be seeing something shown onscreen.  See? The MPAA is saying.  You can take your rabbit to a PG movie, but cover your daughter's eyes at some parts.  Perhaps the rabbit is older than the kid?

And we're at PG-13, the rating they invented because the word "blockbuster/tentpole that you'll end up seeing no matter what the rating is" was too obvious.  Notice the only people watching it are the family (now half covering the other kids' eyes) and some creepy guy in a bowtie.

Obviously, the rabbit is old enough to see a PG-13 movie, but not old enough to see all of it.  How does the daughter know to cover the rabbit's eyes when her own eyes are covered?  Ask the MPAA.  No, really, ask them.  I want them flooded with letters about this issue.

R rating.  The two parents have ditched the kids (and the rabbit) and have changed their clothes (probably a date night).

The NC-17 rating, which the MPAA created for artsy movies that have some nudity but never make any money.  The married couple is still there on a date although, for it truly to be an NC-17 movie, they should be looking bored and disappointed.

And the rabbit is back.  The rabbit, who is too young to to go to an R-rated movie or see a PG-13 movie without an adult is at an NC-17 film alone. And he's wearing a disguise.  That's right, the MPAA put out a guide to film ratings that suggests underage rabbits should sneak into disappointing, pornographic art films.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why the people who make ratings systems are insane.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I Need Your Help

This is a call for help.  I need to find an old family friend.  Okay, it's an ice cream truck, but not just any old ice cream truck.

For years, when my children would leave school, the ice cream truck would be there waiting, playing its music.  I don't know the name of the song, but I always thought it sounded like:
Trick or treat,
Smell my feet,
Give me something good to eat!
My children would beg, and I would often give in.  Eventually, I created a rule: we'd only go once a week.  My youngest would always get a giant popsicle big enough to make it hard for him to hold.  My oldest would carefully size up all the options, looking for the treat that was largest.

The guy always gave me something for free for being such a swell dad (or something): an ice cream bar or a popsicle I'd stick in the freezer to bribe one of the kids with later.

Time passed and we came to expect him to always be there.  We'd talk while the kids chose.  I asked about the music he played to attract children; turns out he could play all kinds of songs.  Eventually, he saved up enough money to buy a new, Mercedes ice cream truck.

Then, over a year ago, he disappeared.  Days, weeks, months went by and no truck at our school.  I tried to think back to anything he said that might tell me where he went.  Once, he told me he made more money at other schools and parks; had he gone somewhere else?  A parent had complained to me that he took up parking spaces and distracted her kids; had she chased him off?

Sometimes I'd hear his music play in the distance.  A few times, I got in my car and tried to follow the sound, but never found him.  A few months ago, terribly late to an appointment, we saw him driving by.  My children begged me to follow and burst into tears when I didn't.

That was the last time I saw him.

I've decided to try and track him down.  I want to get his cell number (he was often on the phone) so I can ask him where he is when we need him.  It's not going to be easy to find, though.  I only have this clue:

His complete phone number, address, and business name.

Yeah, you'd think that would be enough.  However, I've called the number twice and, after I ask if this is the number for the ice cream truck guy, someone says "no" and hangs up.  I've tried searching for "David Ice Cream," but there is none listed.  I searched on the address and found something called "Me Ice Cream" in San Jose.  It seems to correspond to this sign.
I'm not sure what to do next.  Go out to San Jose to bang on the door?  Drive aimlessly around until I find him?  If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

And if you see his truck, ram it off the road and get his number for me!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What Common Valentine's Day Gifts Really Mean

It's Valentine's Day next week and if you're like me (and, let's face it, you're not), you're probably wondering what crappy present to give your sweetie.  The problem is, of course, that whatever you give her (and, if you're like me, you're giving gifts to a "her") has a secret subtext you don't know about.  Before you give any gifts, use the following chart to make sure you don't send the wrong message with your carefully-chosen present.
What it really means
You look like you don't care how much you eat.
I saw a florist as I was driving here.
I have more money than sense.
I have no money and no sense.
Stuffed animal
I see you as a child.
I'm uncomfortable spending money on someone else.
I have even less money than the guy who bought you a card.
Gift card
I don't know what to get you (alternate: I'm Jewish).
I'm a pretentious asshole who can't just buy "perfume."
I think you smell bad.
I'm tired of you always being late.
My novel Pinhole
I think you're brilliant, beautiful, and the center of my universe.
I consider you my "sex provider."
I'm tired of hearing you talk.
I'm richer than you, and I want you to remember that.
I like you better when you're/I'm drunk.
I forgot to wear a condom.
I'm going to leave this on your end table like we agreed on the phone.
I've read this list and I gave up.  Wanna screw?